HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >

Dined alone. Tip added to bill!

ocaladevil Dec 14, 2007 05:02 AM

I was in Miami last weekend. I stopped at a nice "upscaley" restaurant a short distance from my hotel for dinner. When the bill arrived they had already added an 18% gratuity, with a suggestion to add. I consider myself an above average tipper. I enjoy fine dining and dining alone when I'm out of town or when my wife is out. I thought this was irritating and presumptuous. I've seen gratuities added for large parties, but never this.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. h
    HDinCentralME RE: ocaladevil Dec 14, 2007 05:13 AM

    There are many threads on this forum which cover this topic. (Try searching "automatic gratuity" or "autograt").

    Bottom line for me: Unless a "service charge" (i.e. not a "tip") is disclosed verbally and/or on menu prior to dining you are not obligated to pay it. You may "tip" the amount you want by altering the credit card slip or by paying cash.

    1. b
      BlueHerons RE: ocaladevil Dec 14, 2007 08:37 AM

      South Beach is notorious for adding gratuity everywhere. I can only think of a couple of places in South Beach were it wasn't added.

      It started because their international clientele wasn't tipping properly so in order to keep help, most establishments added the automatic gratuity.

      7 Replies
      1. re: BlueHerons
        Leonardo RE: BlueHerons Dec 14, 2007 08:44 AM

        Too bad so sad, as far as people not tipping properly. That's no excuse for this tactic unless it's posted before ordering.
        This practice is pure fraud unless the menu states the compulsory tip.
        Part of the problem with scams like this is that consumers are too meek to speak up and complain.

        1. re: Leonardo
          dolores RE: Leonardo Dec 14, 2007 08:57 AM

          Similar to the 'we're adding 18% if we seat you after 11:00pm' idea.

          IF I miss the verbiage that alerted me to either, I would complain.

          IF I see the verbiage that alert me to either, I would walk out.

          In both cases, I would never go back.

          I wonder, what patrons do restaurants who do this hope to attract?

          1. re: Leonardo
            Cat Chow RE: Leonardo Dec 14, 2007 12:14 PM

            Well, to be fair to the international clientele, tipping is neither a custom or expected in a lot of countries. In fact, some people will be offended in some countries.

            That being said, shame on tourists who expect people from the U.S. to be up to speed on their customs and get all discombobulated when you don't follow them, then come here and don't follow some of our customs...namely, TIPPING

            1. re: Cat Chow
              Azizeh Barjesteh RE: Cat Chow Dec 14, 2007 02:53 PM

              It's a common belief among servers that tourists and foreign clientele know that tipping is expected, but "pretend" that they aren't familiar with this whole tipping concept. It's hard to believe that tourists find out where all the hot spots are and where the good places to eat, shop, and hang out are... but never came across the tipping practices.

              I agree with you, regardless. It's your job as a tourist to familiarize yourself with the customs of the place you're visiting. I'd never go somewhere new without first hitting up the internet or some guide books.

              1. re: Cat Chow
                Brit on a Trip RE: Cat Chow Jan 1, 2008 06:31 AM

                Hey, Cat Chow, we Europeans love it when you Americans are not up to speed on our tipping customs.

                We pay a serving staff a proper wage; add our 12.5% service charge to the bill and then, when you don't know our customs, you go and add a further 18% tip. Please keep coming to European tourist hotspots - our servers need you for the luxuries in their lives.

                1. re: Brit on a Trip
                  jfood RE: Brit on a Trip Jan 1, 2008 07:10 AM

                  Oh Brit. Our pleasure and given the current exchange rate the extra tip at 18% is the equivilent of >30% a few years ago. For a New Year's Resolution all of us are asking that the term "The Ugly American" be changed to the Glorious Tippers.

                  Probably back in the UK for some lamb next week. :-))

                  Happy New Year

                  1. re: jfood
                    Brit on a Trip RE: jfood Jan 1, 2008 09:09 AM

                    And a happy new year to you, my NJ friend.

                    Have a good trip - I'll look out for your report on the UK board (I may have changed my username by then - but I'll still be banging the drum for our regional produce.)


          2. jfood RE: ocaladevil Dec 14, 2007 09:17 AM

            The bigger question is - Are you OK with the tip?

            If you enjoyed the meal and the service and the tip is resonable, pay it and move on?
            If you want to leave more, then do it?
            If you want to leave less because of something tht occured, speak with the MOD.

            But if you were happy with everything and the tip is in line with what you would have left, then smile, pay, and move on. Life's to short to worry about non-events.

            And when you return because you enjoyed it, then there are no surprises. Should it be on the menu, sure it should have but to complain about seems like you are looking for a gotcha. You seem to be above that nonsense.

            8 Replies
            1. re: jfood
              psb RE: jfood Dec 14, 2007 09:40 AM


              i think the presumption -> irritation reaction is reasonable. we often react to
              "what might have been" even when there isnt "material damage" ... somebody
              runs a stop sign in front of you etc.

              and in this case i think the explanation about the internationals is pretty
              reasonable. i think that would cause me to ex post reconsider.

              1. re: psb
                jfood RE: psb Dec 14, 2007 10:05 AM

                Hence jfood's use of the word "surprises" in the last paragraph that assumes the first would have been a surprise.

                Jfood is tired of reading all the "presumptives" that are permeating these threads lately. He just wants to go out for a meal, enjoy the company and food, pay the bill plus tip and go home with Mrs jfood. Life is too short.

                1. re: jfood
                  dolores RE: jfood Dec 14, 2007 10:20 AM

                  Yes, life is too short. And restaurants that pull this sort of 'nonsense' should be dealt with accordingly.

                2. re: psb
                  Cheflambo RE: psb Dec 14, 2007 10:51 AM

                  Usually I agree with jfood, and he makes a good point. However, in this case I think I might resent the presumption that I would NOT tip (yes, I know about the Europeans' proclivity for not tipping and why).

                  1. re: Cheflambo
                    jfood RE: Cheflambo Dec 14, 2007 11:13 AM

                    correct in resenting, no disagreement there. But can not get to presumption on the data provided since jfood was not present.

                    but how to handle the situation is the question.

                    If there is no upside to aguing other than feeling better, why? you would be in the same position 15 minutes earlier with no aggrevation by just paying and possibly mentioning in passing to the MOD of the way out. and you know better for next time.

                    Is it right not to make mention on the menu? nope. Are you going to change it? nope. and jfood would ask if it was on the menu and just missed (it happens) or the MOD decided to auto-grat that night. Don;t know from this chair.

                    jfood had this exact conversation with mrs jfood about a month ago when leaving a resto. Bill was received, auto-grat of 18% included and he paid. On the way out he mentioned to the MOD that he should consider placing something on the menu so as not to put his servers in an uncomfortable position. MOD thanked jfood. Mrs jfood asked what happened and jfood explained. A little smile on her lips (yes he is trainable). In the old days jfood would have made a scene, but no one was hurt (maybe some protocol violated), but no biggie and it cost jfood absolutely zippo, why increase the BP?

                    They enjoyed their meal, they paid what they would have, server was not at fault, so why should he take the hit, and the MOD was politely informed. Hindsight is 20-20 and jfood is proud of his mature handling of the situation.

                    1. re: jfood
                      Servorg RE: jfood Dec 14, 2007 02:11 PM

                      I have had a laugh or two with my wife when this very, very rarely occurs because I usually say "We saved about 3% on the tip just now."

                      1. re: Servorg
                        alkapal RE: Servorg Dec 15, 2007 06:05 AM

                        funny, servorg!

                        autograt undisclosed to consumer before ordering? fuggedaboutit!

                3. re: jfood
                  ccbweb RE: jfood Dec 14, 2007 02:58 PM

                  I agree completely, jfood. More often than not, any automatic gratuity is, in fact, somewhat lower than what I'd have left if left to my devices/mathematics. My general reaction to automatic gratuities when I didn't expect them (ie, not a large party or a pre-ordered dinner or some such out of the ordinary dining situation) is to pay the amount they've included if I was happy with the service or, as you note, speak to the manager if I feel the service was substandard and unworthy of the automatic gratuity.

                4. Chew on That RE: ocaladevil Dec 14, 2007 10:32 AM

                  Boo! That's not okay! That almost asks for a 36% tip because you may not have realized it was there...

                  1. ktmoomau RE: ocaladevil Dec 14, 2007 11:34 AM

                    I wouldn't have a problem with it unless the service is bad. South Beach does tend to get a much more European population than many other places in the states and in many states in Eurpoe gratuity is already factored in, and so I understand. I completely agree with Jfood. I normally tip 20% so I might add some if the service was very good. But I read all my bills there are so many errors. Here in Washington DC our food critic will often point out the number of mistakes he finds on bills, amazing. And I have caught a number of errors, as well. Very important to read. But if you were not happy and would to pay less I would either talk to a manager or scratch out their totals and write new ones in.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: ktmoomau
                      Cat Chow RE: ktmoomau Dec 14, 2007 12:17 PM

                      It's not just the Europeans, but the Latinos coming in from Central/South America. In a lot of these countries, there is no tipping.

                      1. re: Cat Chow
                        sparkalina RE: Cat Chow Dec 14, 2007 12:28 PM

                        True...but I have never traveled to a foreign country without reading a travel guide that explains the custom in said country.

                        1. re: sparkalina
                          Cat Chow RE: sparkalina Dec 14, 2007 12:41 PM

                          that was my point earlier (if I understood you right). We as U.S. travelers are expected to KNOW everyone's customs when we travel and god forbid if you don't, but the folks coming to the U.S. from other lands don't seem to reciprocate...

                        2. re: Cat Chow
                          Sam Fujisaka RE: Cat Chow Dec 14, 2007 03:11 PM

                          Cat Chow, are you kidding? We (in South America) tip more than you guys. Always.

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                            Cat Chow RE: Sam Fujisaka Dec 14, 2007 03:23 PM

                            Not when I was in Ecuador! Granted that was 12 years ago! I'm guilty of generalization, tho, Sam. that being said, don't they add it as "servicio" automatically vs. leaving a space for "propina"? That is what I recall from Colombia, although again, I could be wrong...last time I was there was 1994.

                            No tipping in Guatemala or Costa Rica...the exception would be places frequented by americans...then they expect it! But at a comedor? That would be something!

                            1. re: Cat Chow
                              Sam Fujisaka RE: Cat Chow Dec 14, 2007 06:51 PM

                              I've been here since 1994, work all over Latin America (and elsewhere). I'm talking about more up scale restaurants (no Americans) where tipping takes place. Tips in most local/comun y corriente eateries almost don't exist.

                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                Cat Chow RE: Sam Fujisaka Dec 15, 2007 07:31 PM

                                Fair enough Sam, I respectfully defer to you ;) I have not lived continuously in Guatemala since '87, have not been south of Costa Rica since the mid-90's...and when I do travel outside of the U.S., I travel as an American...so I do tend to tip as I would here in the U.S. unless it is quite obvious from either prior reading or just observing once in situ that tipping is not accepted/welcomed ;) Props!

                      2. s
                        Shayna Madel RE: ocaladevil Dec 14, 2007 02:36 PM

                        I live in New York City, more particularly in Queens county, which has been said to be the single most ethnically diverse county in the entire country. Restaurants here in Queens do not, as a general rule, automatically add a tip of any percentage to bills, unless for large parties, which policy is typically either posted (think pizzeria with table service) or printed in menus. The same policy seems to generally hold at the restaurants I have eaten at in Manhattan and on Long Island.

                        Does Miami/South Beach have that much more of an international/European clientele than the NY metro area? And if they do and if the restaurants insist on imposing their idea of the correct amount for a gratuity on all guests, why can't they just put it on the menu, plain and simple? An American restaurant should have to worry about offending non-Americans unfamiliar with our customs simply because there are some words at the bottom of a menu? Come on. What about those of us who know about the custom of tipping and are accustomed to deciding how much we are going to tip based on level of service? Isn't the lack of a warning offensive to us?

                        Well, now that I think about it, maybe I am better off not being advised in advance, so that I have a better argument to make if I have to take it up with the restaurant manager if I don't think 18% is appropriate.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Shayna Madel
                          invinotheresverde RE: Shayna Madel Dec 14, 2007 03:33 PM

                          Shayna, the managers will always remove an auto gratuity if you're not happy with your service.

                          I think areas with a huge foreign clientele SHOULD use an automatic gratuity; there are too may waiters making $2.50 an hour getting stiffed. Just imagine the poor waiter who's waiting on some "big shot" Euro who's spending like crazy (due to the weak dollar) and then leaves no tip. This is more common than you think.

                          The restaurant can't target certain ethnic groups with auto-grat, so automatic gratuity for everyone! Again, if poor service is received, I bet my hat the manager will remove it.

                          1. re: invinotheresverde
                            Shayna Madel RE: invinotheresverde Dec 15, 2007 08:00 AM

                            And I repeat, it is not common practice in the single most ethnically diverse county in one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world.

                            I am not so confident that managers will "always" remove the auto gratuity. I should not have to get into a pissing match with a manager over why I do not want to tip the full auto gratuity amount, assuming the manager is available to speak to. It puts me , the customer, in a very awkward position and it wastes my time. I understand that part of the reason that there is an auto gratuity is to protect the help, but why is it that the restaurant staff is put first, what about the customer?

                            1. re: Shayna Madel
                              invinotheresverde RE: Shayna Madel Dec 15, 2007 08:39 AM

                              Have you worked in a restaurant? The manager will ALWAYS remove automatic gratuity if the customer isn't happy with the service. Any place that won't doesn't deserve your business.

                              Restaurants haven't always added auto-grat; something caused them to add it. Years and years of bad tips from travelers have continually hurt waiters. You and I both know restaurant owners aren't about to pay waiters more than standard waiter pay ($2.63 in MA), so it's the waiter who's going to hurt finacially.

                              As long as it's disclosed on the menu, I don't see much of a problem.

                              1. re: invinotheresverde
                                Shayna Madel RE: invinotheresverde Dec 15, 2007 08:02 PM

                                I have not worked in a restaurant. But I do not believe that EVERY manager in EVERY restaurant will remove an automatic gratuity and I still believe that it should not be the customer's obligation to have to ask a server who just gave lousy service to find a manager and get that person over to the table and be put in an awkward spot, particularly when the patron was not forewarned that no matter what the size of his/her dining party, that a gratuity would automatically be added to the check.

                                Yeah, it could be that years of bad tips from travelers caused restaurants to start with auto gratuities. Or it could be that with a minimum wage that has stayed relatively flat for years, restaurant owners were trying to figure out an angle for their employees to make more money without costing them any more money. Or both.

                                That said, I do agree that if it is disclosed on a menu, it's buyer beware, to some extent, but it appears that in the instance described by OP, the practice was not disclosed. And gee, I am sorry if visitors are put off by the fact that we who live here in America full-time like to know what and when we are being charged for things.

                              2. re: Shayna Madel
                                dolores RE: Shayna Madel Dec 15, 2007 09:27 AM

                                Because they're highway robbers without a gun? Because they assume that they, the restaurant, can do whatever they want (rush the patron, e.g.) without the patron speaking up?

                                The more I read about what restaurants perpetrate on unsuspecting diners who SIMPLY want to go out and have an enjoyable dining experience, the more I fear for the decline of eating out as a pastime.

                            2. re: Shayna Madel
                              olia RE: Shayna Madel Dec 15, 2007 08:51 PM

                              I agree with shayna, in NYC i have yet to see an autograt for a party of less than 6 lets say (even then only saw it a couple of times).
                              Actually I'm on a side of autogratuity as long as its clearly visible on menu/check -- as someone who regularly hosts/goes out with people from other countries, it is much easier if the tip is already included in the total so you don't have to play the "tip police" at the table (or multiple tables) and make sure everyone adds an appropriate $$$ to their order.
                              Even aside from dealing with foreign tipping issues, I'd find it easier myself to just pay the total (round it up to total dollar) -- personally i haven't experienced many horrible service issues that would warrant a <18% tip -- of course i can see that as a possible issue, but then talking to a manager would seem appropriate.

                            3. Veggo RE: ocaladevil Dec 14, 2007 03:52 PM

                              Isn't this one more step toward the emerging institutional paradigm of extracting the maximum amount possible from every breathing person while they have you in their web?

                              1. steeltowngrl RE: ocaladevil Dec 14, 2007 04:11 PM

                                I would love to know how many servers get double tipped b/c the customer didn't scrutinize the bill effectively to see the autograt. This practice should be clearly stated on the menu.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: steeltowngrl
                                  Shayna Madel RE: steeltowngrl Dec 15, 2007 08:00 AM

                                  If this happens, I bet that the server doesn't get the "double" tip and the restaurant typically keeps part of it.

                                  1. re: Shayna Madel
                                    invinotheresverde RE: Shayna Madel Dec 15, 2007 08:39 AM

                                    No, the waiter gets it all, unless the customer notices the error later on and wants their money back.

                                    1. re: invinotheresverde
                                      kimmer1850 RE: invinotheresverde Dec 17, 2007 09:20 AM

                                      When I have worked in (or managed) restuarants that added gratuity to large parties I have always (and also required my employees to) circle(d) the grat in a red pen and verbally point it out. "Just for your convienience we have added Xamount as a gratuity to the total of your bill." You would be surprised how many people just don't pay attention! When a doulble tip was left I would separate it out and set it aside for 15 business days. If the guest didn't call back then the server got the money...with all appropriate tip outs deducted and distributed.

                                      I know that this isn't standard practice but it does save a lot of grief for almost all concerned!

                                    2. re: Shayna Madel
                                      dsarah3 RE: Shayna Madel Sep 3, 2009 10:37 AM

                                      totally wrong!!! the server keeps it.

                                  2. m
                                    Muskrat RE: ocaladevil Dec 14, 2007 04:49 PM

                                    f I were to get worked up about this (and I can understand why someone would) I'd pay the 18%, then tell the waiter -- better still, the manager -- that I was planning on tipping more, but the presumption of their "policy" left a foul taste in my mouth.

                                    Of course, I nomally tip 20% anyway, so I'd be telling the truth. And no point in penalizing the waitron; it's not his or her fault.

                                    1. a
                                      alliebear RE: ocaladevil Dec 15, 2007 11:02 AM

                                      Was there not something printed on the menu before you ordered your food. I've been to Miami a few times and I am aware that they add the gratuity automatically at many of the restaurants in South Beach. I have warned friends who traveled there for the first time, but I also seem to remember it being written on the menus, so it shouldn't come as a surprise.

                                      However, if it wasn't printed on the menu, I think you should speak to a manager if you disagree that an 18 percent tip is appropriate.

                                      14 Replies
                                      1. re: alliebear
                                        dolores RE: alliebear Dec 15, 2007 01:10 PM

                                        I don't think it's the fact that 18% is inappropriate, since I routinely tip 20% and go down based on the level of service, or lack of it. Or up, if the service is outstanding.

                                        I believe what is objectionable is the temerity of the restaurant to even dare to ADD an 'out of the ordinary' tip because a diner is eating alone. Do they add that same tip to two people dining together? If not, why not? I find it discriminatory.

                                        1. re: dolores
                                          alliebear RE: dolores Dec 15, 2007 03:58 PM

                                          On South Beach, in Miami, all the restaurants I went to added the gratuity automatically, no matter how many people were dining. I don't think the restaurant was being discriminatory.

                                          1. re: alliebear
                                            dolores RE: alliebear Dec 16, 2007 02:50 AM

                                            Automatically, no matter how many people were dining????

                                            No, I don't find that discriminatory, I find that attempted theft.

                                            What is the service was lousy? Then I had to go out of MY way to call over the manager and have them lower the bill?

                                            All restaurants?

                                            Wow, looks like I won't be dining out in South Beach.

                                            1. re: dolores
                                              invinotheresverde RE: dolores Dec 16, 2007 10:08 AM

                                              Dolores, I've read many of your posts in the past. I know you're very sympathetic to the poor salaries waiters receive. What I don't understand is why you'd have a problem with auto-grat in places waiters keep getting screwed by foreigners?

                                              The automatic gratuities were put in place for a reason. What's so confusing about that? Don't you want your waiter to get the pay he deserves?

                                              As long as it's disclosed verbally or on the menu...

                                              1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                dolores RE: invinotheresverde Dec 16, 2007 12:27 PM

                                                invino, I must admit, I don't know what to make of tourists who don't tip.

                                                But if mine were a tourist town, and all of my eating places had automatic tips added to the bill, then.................well, then I guess I would understand if in plain English it said on the menu: 'an 18% gratuity is being added to the price of the meal because some people don't tip'.

                                                I'm being facetious, I think, but I guess I'd have to choose the lesser of two evils, and accept an automatic gratuity.

                                                But I still won't pay a separate charge for bread...................... :O)

                                                1. re: dolores
                                                  invinotheresverde RE: dolores Dec 16, 2007 03:07 PM

                                                  It'd have to be some AMAZING bread. :)

                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                    steeltowngrl RE: invinotheresverde Dec 16, 2007 05:36 PM

                                                    So if the rest of America follows suit and autograts, where does that leave the service industry? Would they work for their tips when they know they are already receiving 18% ? Every single server out there is working at 18% tip worthy service? Maybe the restaurants should pay a real salary like they do in other countries and eliminate the burden of tipping on the customer. Just a thought.

                                                    1. re: steeltowngrl
                                                      dolores RE: steeltowngrl Dec 17, 2007 03:57 AM

                                                      Another good point, so I'm confused again.

                                                      invino, I don't think then that the autograt route would work in the interest of circumventing cheap tourists.

                                                      In light of the service I've received at very few restaurants, one in particular, I wouldn't have gotten my 18% back. In fact, I would have had to call the police.

                                                      And as stg notes, those servers who aren't normally excellent and might be motivated by my 20% tip would not give me even decent service, since they were guaranteed 18%.

                                                      Quite a dilemma.

                                                      An alternative. as stg suggests, is of course to force the restaurant owners to pay servers a decent salary. Then, though, you have the problem of the DMV, whereby the server is getting a decent salary so again we go back to the autograt. What is going to motivate the server to perform at least to my satisfaction?


                                                      I don't have an answer.

                                                      1. re: dolores
                                                        tubman RE: dolores Dec 17, 2007 05:07 AM

                                                        "What is going to motivate the server to perform at least to my satisfaction?"

                                                        Perhaps not so much with customers from other tipping cultures, but the server knows (hopes?) that American clientele in SoBe understand why the autograt is almost standard there and might want to leave an extra few bucks on the additional gratuity line to reward exceptional service.

                                                        If you start boycotting places in SoBe on the basis of the autograt, you're going to be one hungry camper.

                                                        1. re: tubman
                                                          dolores RE: tubman Dec 17, 2007 05:34 AM

                                                          No, given the explanation, I wouldn't boycott the places, but where does this leave those who only leave 15% as a tip?

                                                          But hey, I'm only one diner. If this were to become a common practice around the country, and the servers in my favorite restaurants suddenly had a personality-ectomy, then I wouldn't go back after one visit.

                                                          I doubt the above will happen, most of all because there is darned little of tourist interest in Westchester, NY.

                                                          1. re: tubman
                                                            Shayna Madel RE: tubman Dec 17, 2007 10:22 AM

                                                            So here I am, the New Yorker going south to visit the retired relatives in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale. I decide to check out some South Beach restaurants. I know that the Miami area has a culturally diverse population and that Europeans vacation there a lot, but I have no idea that there is an issue concerning (non) tipping and Europeans, having never hears about the issue despite living in New York City, where, from what I can see, a lot of Europeans seem to be visiting lately. Yeah, the server should "hope" that we American non-regulars to South Beach know the recent custom of the auto gratuity. But I still believe that if the restaurants are going to have that practice, there should be a note on the menu and the potentially insulted Europeans will just have to deal. And I still think it is an imposition on customers to have to deal with potentially cranky staff in order to get the auto gratuity removed if there is a service issue.

                                                          2. re: dolores
                                                            invinotheresverde RE: dolores Dec 18, 2007 09:12 AM

                                                            D, the auto-grat DOES work to "circumvent cheap tourists". However, businesses can't racially profile, so if grat is added to one table, it must be added to all.

                                                            If you don't like your car salesman's personality or think he didn't do a good job, do you get to reduce his commission?

                                                          3. re: steeltowngrl
                                                            invinotheresverde RE: steeltowngrl Dec 18, 2007 09:10 AM

                                                            What's the real difference between adding a (15-20%) auto-grat and restaurant owners raising prices to include the same percentage as a salary (tax issues aside)?

                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                              tubman RE: invinotheresverde Dec 18, 2007 01:43 PM

                                                              The real difference is that, as a restaurateur, suddenly your menu gives the appearance of being priced 15-20% over the competition's. Price-sensitive patrons aren't going to make the effort to find out (or even care that) the autograt is included, they just won't bother coming.

                                            2. e
                                              embee RE: ocaladevil Dec 18, 2007 02:56 PM

                                              I live in Toronto, arguably the single most ethnically diverse community in the ENTIRE WORLD.

                                              Adding an automatic gratuity, or service charge, is a rare practice. I have NEVER run into this practice as a solo diner at an upscale restaurant. With the exception of a cafeteria called Marche (see below), I have never encountered an automatic gratuity at ANY restaurant when dining alone.

                                              Typically, some restaurants will add an automatic service charge for large parties (6, 8, or 10 people being common breakpoints), for specially ordered meals, and on special occasions (e.g., Valentine's Day; New year's Eve). In these cases, they typically state this when reserving, on the menu, or in some other conspicuous way before anything has been ordered. If an auto grat appeared unexpectedly on my bill, I would not be inclined to pay it.

                                              This is not because I'm cheap. I tip well for good service and decently for decent service. I also tip poorly for bad service and I have no qualms about not tipping on the rare occasions when I have felt overtly abused. (This is NOT "stiffing" the server. You've stiffed someone when they deserved a proper tip and didn't get one.)

                                              I don't like our tipping system. Why should a server at a place where covers average $100 automatically make so much more than hard working people at places with $10 tabs? The more expensive bill does not necessarily equate to more difficult, complex, or polished service. And servers who provide superb service at a cheap resto deserve more than someone who slaps a $50 steak and $15 glass of wine on the table and is otherwise invisible. I'd like to see restaurant economics allow staff to get the pay and benefits they deserve. But I don't see this happening during my lifetime

                                              I know of restaurants which have, at various times, kept auto grats for themselves. One rationale (there were others) was that this was risk compensation for reserving a dozen seats. Servers were in the embarrassing position of explaining this (at the risk of losing their jobs) or getting trivial tips, or none at all. Customers generally didn't know this was going on.

                                              There is no way that every manager of every restaurant will automatically remove a "surprise" auto grat from a bill. And it's not fair to the server, who is caught in the middle, or to me, if I need to ask "what's this about?" and "do you actually get the money?"

                                              Marche (mentioned above) is an upscale cafeteria where patrons line up at several different stations to put together a meal. Self service all the way. I don't know whether or not the practice continues under the current management, but they used to add a 10% service charge to every bill. Their employees, whose wages were subsidized by a government "get off unemployment" program, didn't get the money. It was effectively, a 10% surcharge for the house. Your damn right I wouldn't pay that once I learned what was going on. That's an extreme case, and they did remove it from the bill without an argument, but it was wrong.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: embee
                                                BlueHerons RE: embee Dec 30, 2007 01:34 PM

                                                Hate dragging this post up again but I just want to point out a couple of things.

                                                It isn't just Europeans but South Beach is heavily visited by the rest of the world and Miami is considered the capital of Latin America.

                                                Also, there is a big difference between Queens and Toronto who both have wildly diverse populations but are not the tourist towns that Miami is. In Manhattan, I've seen automatic gratuity in many places.

                                                Lastly, people tend to party by day or night and forget to sign for tabs with is why almost all nightclubs and all restaurants by evening and nightclub after midnight places automatically grat.

                                                1. re: BlueHerons
                                                  Cheflambo RE: BlueHerons Jan 1, 2008 07:40 AM

                                                  in 2006 (I was about to say "last year") I had a similar experience that, now that I think about it, does pertain to this post. Mr. Cheflamb and I were in Key Largo FL the day before Thanksgiving. Having spent 2 days in Key West (a hugely tourist-oriented place) and seeing no autogratuities on any of our restaurant bills, we had dinner at the upscale hotel where we were staying in Key Largo (too tired to go out and drive around looking for a better place). We were almost the only ones in the dining room and after eating an overpriced and less than satisfying meal, served by an indifferent waitress, we were presented with a check that had an autograt of $10 added to it. (No, nothing on the menu indicated this). In any other situation I might have disputed this, and if I had not been so tired probably would have, but to quibble over $1-$2 difference in what I would have left seems trifling at the time, so I just let it go. But this was also a hotel that actually charged me $10 to (self) park my car in their parking lot (in Key Largo, where the parking lot was half empty, not Key West, where parking is a premium). So I went to the Travelocity website where I booked this trip and posted a review that revealed ALL these superfluous expenses. I also wrote to the hotel chain and pointed this out to them too. No response. It was a gorgeous place and our room was wonderful (larger than some apartments Ive lived in, with a lovely ocean view) but I would NOT stay there again, simply due to this. Even those of us who can afford to be nickel-and-dimed dislike the practice.

                                              2. DarthEater RE: ocaladevil Jan 1, 2008 04:42 PM

                                                I'm a 20% tipper and when I see this on my bill, I usually just pay it because its usually less (15%) than what I intend to give, so in a way its their own dumb fault.

                                                19 Replies
                                                1. re: DarthEater
                                                  dolores RE: DarthEater Jan 2, 2008 01:59 AM

                                                  Good point, DarthEater. I tip 20% as well. If a restaurant had the temerity to add an automatic gratuity to a bill without advance warning, that would be their only add-on and the last time I would patronize them.

                                                  1. re: DarthEater
                                                    invinotheresverde RE: DarthEater Jan 2, 2008 08:06 AM

                                                    YOU'RE a 20% tipper, and that's great. However, foreigners aren't. The surcharge was put in place for a reason.

                                                    Case in point: Last night at my restaurant, a table of five Germans dined. Their bill was $460. They tipped the waiter $20. We don't use an automatic gratuity at my restaurant, but for the sake of the waiters, I wish we did.

                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                      tubman RE: invinotheresverde Jan 2, 2008 12:05 PM

                                                      I usually tip from 18-20% post-tax for decent service. If an 18% autograt is in place and service is exceptionally good, I'll usually throw a few dollars more on the credit card slip so it winds up a little north of 20%.

                                                      When faced with lousy service, autograt or no autograt, management gets an earful from me. With no autograt, I'll tip exactly 15% (the bare minimum I'll tip under any circumstances) and make a point of doing the calculation--pre-tax--to the penny on the credit card slip.

                                                      I realize I don't have that luxury with an autograt in place, and sure, maybe bad service will cost me $2 or $3 more than I'd otherwise want to leave. But management will still get an earful.

                                                      The underlying concern about autograts in these threads--other than an apparent violation of our God-given right to tip whatever the **** we want to--seems to be that they don't incentivize servers to do their job well. But even with an autograt in place, the best servers still make the best tips (i.e. $ on top of the autograt) while the worst don't. So there is some justice in this world.

                                                      1. re: tubman
                                                        badbhoy RE: tubman Jan 2, 2008 12:42 PM

                                                        I don't get it. What kind of message are you sending by tipping exactly 15% for bad service? It's still a reasonable tip so presumably the server will continue to provide sub-par service for everyone else.

                                                        When service is really bad (it's only been two or three times I have done this), I leave exactly 1 cent with happy face next to the amount.

                                                        1. re: badbhoy
                                                          tubman RE: badbhoy Jan 3, 2008 06:55 AM

                                                          I have to admit that these tipping threads--and the oft-cited premise that "20% is the new 15%"--have significantly changed my manner of thinking, if not so much the actual amount I wind up tipping.

                                                          I used to start at 15% for adequate service and it wouldn't be hard to justify working it upwards to 20% from there if good service was demonstrated (or even more once putting up with my kids entered the dining picture).

                                                          Now I start at 20% (more if my kids are with me) on the assumption I'll be getting good service, and find myself marking it down towards 15% if the server is just going through the motions. Bottom line is that my tips still average around 18%.

                                                          So, what kind of message am I sending to the server by tipping exactly 15%? Something like, "Haven't you heard that 20% is the new 15%? The quality of your service is why you didn't get 20%".

                                                          After all, aren't the servers the ones who really got the 20% bandwagon rolling? Shouldn't they realize that something was amiss if they see I've painstakingly gone through the effort of only leaving 15%?

                                                          In the end, if I'm the only party to the transaction who realizes that a 15% tip is a punishment, that's good enough for me, the customer.

                                                          If the service was so bad that I need to get the MOD involved, then there shouldn't be any doubt in their mind that they blew a bigger tip by only getting 15%.

                                                          IMHO, leaving a penny is a classless act under any circumstances--did you speak with the MOD when you did this? I suppose that if I ever encountered service that was so horrible that the server should have been stiffed, I'd insist on leaving at least enough with the manager to cover the tipouts.

                                                          1. re: tubman
                                                            badbhoy RE: tubman Jan 3, 2008 09:28 AM

                                                            Well now that you've not got your point across to the server by "only" leaving 15%, I have the pleasure of being the next customer who continues receiving their poor service. Thanks...

                                                            1. re: badbhoy
                                                              invinotheresverde RE: badbhoy Jan 3, 2008 09:59 AM

                                                              Any waiter who receives 15% automatically assumes they did something wrong (at least in my part of the country, where the standard tip is 20%. YMMV in other parts of the US).

                                                              If a waiter continually received 15% tips, how long could he really chalk it up to cheap customers. Eventually he'd have to realize HE was the problem.

                                                              1. re: badbhoy
                                                                tubman RE: badbhoy Jan 3, 2008 10:20 AM

                                                                And getting the server who just received the penny tip with a smiley face is a guarantee that I'll be waited on hand-and-foot, yes?

                                                                You never did answer my question--do you speak with the MOD when you do this?

                                                          2. re: tubman
                                                            invinotheresverde RE: tubman Jan 2, 2008 03:01 PM

                                                            Again, great that you're a good tipper. I also appreciate that you differentiate good service from bad, and reward accordingly. However, ALMOST ZERO FOREIGNERS DO. That is why the auto-grat is in place. It's a simple fact. I've seen bad tips from foreigners at least 500+ times since I've been in the industry.

                                                            I agree that speaking with management about subpar service is a necessity, added gratuity or not. Customer feedback is one of the most important tools management uses to decide whether a waiter is doing his job well. Contrary to popular belief, managers can't tell a good server from a bad server based on the tips they receive; there's too much wiggle room. For example, Tub, you and I agree that 15% is a downright AWFUL tip. However, badbhoy finds 15% to be a perfectly reasonable amount. So no, law of averages be damned, the best servers don't always wind up with the best tips.

                                                            The incentive for servers to do well is to keep their job, just as it is in every other industry. If a waiter receives too many complaints, auto-grat related or not, he's out the door.

                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                              dolores RE: invinotheresverde Jan 2, 2008 03:55 PM

                                                              I understand what you've been writing invino, but why do I, in the country in which I live, have to get penalized by having to get aggravated over an autogratuity and having to fight said autogratuity if the service is rotten all BECAUSE of a cheap foreigner?

                                                              So, in effect, the person who LIVES in America (or wherever else this abominable practice is used) is penalized because the tourist is cheap. Makes no sense to me.

                                                              1. re: dolores
                                                                invinotheresverde RE: dolores Jan 3, 2008 06:44 AM

                                                                It's not JUST because of cheap foreigners. Think about it. Your car salesperson gets a fixed percentage of a sale, as does your realtor. How is your waiter that much different?

                                                                1. re: dolores
                                                                  soupkitten RE: dolores Jan 3, 2008 07:18 AM

                                                                  the autograt is not there to "aggravate" you, Dolores, it is there because otherwise the servers would make a disproportionately low wage at the restaurants in this specific tourist area. the servers may even lose money while working, and they would quit for other work that pays a reliable and stable wage. the whole restaurant/tourist/hospitality industry's dependence on these workers and the perception of this tipping problem has led to the industry norm of an autograt in this region. it is simply a mechanism to solve the problem which is occurring, keep their employees, and keep the tourist "bus on the road"-- so to speak. one restaurant's policy, or 500 restaurants' policies in the same region, is not a personal affront to you or anyone else, it is just "the way they do things there." fine by me, i'm sure if i did have a problem with it i'd simply vacation somewhere else. . .

                                                                  1. re: dolores
                                                                    janetofreno RE: dolores Sep 3, 2009 10:23 PM

                                                                    You know....I'm not sure its fair to call the foreigners "cheap." At least in most places in Europe tipping is not customary; the gratuity is included in the bill. People will sometimes leave a few coins or "round up" but that's it. These may just be folks who don't know any better.

                                                                    Perhaps a better alternative in areas/ restaurants heavily frequented by foreign visitors might be a nicely worded, polite note at the top of the menu. "Welcome to Restaurant X. It is not our policy to add a gratuity to your bill. However, an 18% gratuity is customary in this communty." (or words to that effect.....

                                                                    1. re: janetofreno
                                                                      invinotheresverde RE: janetofreno Sep 4, 2009 07:44 AM

                                                                      The German doctors I mentioned above have lived here for at least eight years, as one of my coworkers used to wait on them at the restaurant she worked at before this one, which was eight years ago. In eight years, you think no one has ever mentioned the 15-20% tipping scale to even one of them one time? I find that very hard to believe. It's not ignorance at this point; it's a choice to disregard the standard because they feel it doesn't apply to them, or it's cheapness. Personally, I don't care what their reasoning is. All I know is that it's pretty shitty.

                                                                      1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                        queencru RE: invinotheresverde Sep 4, 2009 08:40 AM

                                                                        There are plenty of cheap Americans too. I think these Germans are just cheap people, period. It has nothing to do with their nationality.

                                                                        1. re: queencru
                                                                          invinotheresverde RE: queencru Sep 4, 2009 09:42 AM

                                                                          They take turns paying and it's the same lousy tip every time, no matter who pays. Is it coincidental they all happen to be foreign or do you think that five ridiculously shitty tippers just happened to meet each other? I think you're correct that they're just cheap people, but I think they use their "foreignness" as an excuse not to tip.

                                                                          Yes, there are stingy people from every country. But when all the waiters in a restaurant fight to not have to wait on foreigners, that sends a message to me.

                                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                            jfood RE: invinotheresverde Sep 5, 2009 03:54 PM

                                                                            The message should also be that the MOD may think of backingthe staff and asking the customers politely if things have been good with the service in the previous visits. Then non-chalantly mention that that they are being asked because the restaurant appreciates their continued patronage and has noticed less of a tip on their bills in the past and you wanted to make sure there was anything that could be improved upon.

                                                                            1. re: jfood
                                                                              invinotheresverde RE: jfood Sep 5, 2009 09:50 PM

                                                                              It's a nice idea, but I've be blown away if any manager ever questioned a patron regarding their gratuity, good intentions or not. I can only imagine the emails that'd follow...

                                                              2. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                DarthEater RE: invinotheresverde Jan 4, 2008 08:20 AM

                                                                Then you should've done the automatic tip surcharge.

                                                                Hey I'm not arguing the fact that gratuity was added to my solo dined check. I'm just saying it benefits me. Even when I'm in a group, I dont mind having gratuity added. This makes it much easier for the group because there is no arguing over how much tip to add and its usually an agreeable percentage by all.

                                                            2. f
                                                              feelinpeckish RE: ocaladevil Jan 14, 2010 12:19 PM

                                                              It happened to me ONCE in Florida (St Augustine) at a recommended restaurant. The tip was automatically added to the check and once it was presented the wait staff was GONE and no further service was offered (eg no coffee refill, nada) The 18% was noted on the bottom of the menu but adding it automatically was nervy to my of thinking and left a bad taste in my mouth. I've encountered the note of 18% on the menu of a number of restaurants in the FL Keys and had it explained as a protection from foreign travelers who assume the tip is included as in europe

                                                              Show Hidden Posts