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Feb 14, 2008 05:45 AM

Gratuity included?

Last night I received a bill that had a 20% service fee. I asked the waiter about this and they said that it is the gratuity. There was just two of us, I do see it included on large tables. Can they do that? What happens if we did not like the service? (which we did and had no problem paying) I have been to other countries that do this but not her in the USA. Is this a trend?

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  1. No, it's not a trend. In the US it's done for parties of 6 or 8, (nicer restaurants will be 6, lower level places will be 8). It is NEVER done on a deuce, (party of 2). It means the server had access to the "Large Party" key on the POS system and did it without the knowledge of the Mgr. (They can be fired immediately for this.)

    This is an abuse by the server, if you had questioned a Mgr. their cover would have been blown, and they would be looking for a job today.

    The flip side is; the Large Party key protects the server from a party of 6 or 8 from abuse. It is all too common for a large party to run a server ragged, be rude and obnoxious, and show their lack of breeding by stiffing the server.

    3 Replies
    1. re: tudor3522

      Tudor, your mileage may vary. I've worked at two separate establishments where automatic gratuity was added to all. Not all restaurants use the same rules, so things like, "It is NEVER done on a deuce..." and "they can be fired immediately for this" are quite inaccurate.

      1. re: invinotheresverde

        Yes, I have eaten at a place where they automatically added 18% on all orders, whether you're a table for one or table of 10.

        I know this situation is different, but Per Se's cost of a meal includes gratuity as well.

      2. re: tudor3522

        I know this has been stated in every other autograt thread, so allow me to be the first in this one to state that autograts (on small parties) have a lot to do with geography and the presence of international tourists presumably unfamiliar with U.S. tipping standards. Our experience in South Beach, dining as a couple, was that places WITHOUT an autograt were far-and-away the exception, it was always mentioned on the menu. And the practice, while certainly not universal, is not all that unusual in other areas drawing large numbers of international tourists, e.g. NYC's Little Italy, SF's Fisherman's Wharf. Clearly you've never been to one of these places recently.

        Personally I don't have a problem with it, so long as it's clearly disclosed on the menu, is done in a non-discriminatory manner, and hasn't served as a disincentive for your waiter to provide decent service.

        What seems to burn most people is that an autograt steps on our God-given, constitutional rights as Americans to tip whatever we want. Huff and puff about autograts in these threads all you want, but at the end of the day, they're probably within a dollar or two of what you would have left anyway.

      3. I believe that you are allowed to cross out the TIP line and rewrite what you would like on this area or you could always ask your server to remove it and make a new bill. Wow, this does seem presumptuous of your server.

        10 Replies
        1. re: justagthing

          beachco, you didn't pay the bill as presented to you, did you????

          1. re: dolores

            I did question the server about it. It was so odd.

          2. re: justagthing

            Respectfully disagree. Where an autograt is standard on all checks and has been adequately disclosed, you have no legal right to unilaterally make a downward adjustment. It's no different than unilaterally deciding you're not paying the listed price of $30 for the ribeye because you felt it wasn't worth it.

            That's not to say that management won't adjust the cost of the ribeye or the autograt if you have a nice chat with them, only to say that you have no right to do so unilaterally.

            1. re: tubman

              Well then tubman, that would be the last time I dined at such a restaurant. Where previously I thought it was a good idea, since I tip 20% and upwards, IF you are telling me that I have no 'legal' right to make a downward adjustment, then you can guess what I would tell such a restaurant that tried to pull that one on me.

              You got it. I would make a scene and never return. And, it seems, since this is the SOP at tourist locations, and I understand that I have to suffer for the cheap tourists, I'll now have to remember THAT before I make a reservation at a restaurant that dares to infringe on my rights as a diner. Wow. Dining out is getting to be SO much work.

              1. re: dolores

                I understand that you don't want to patronize restaurants with this policy, but make a scene? Why would you do that if the policy is clearly stated on the menu? Infringe on your right?

                Dining our is so much work only because you make it so.

                1. re: PeterL

                  If the policy isn't stated beforehand, you betcha I'll make a scene.

                  If the policy is stated on the menu, and based on what I've now read that there is no disputing the charge, I would walk out.

                  That's right, this policy infringes on my rights as a diner.

                  No, dining out is so much work because restauranteurs make it so.

                  1. re: dolores

                    Tubman stated, "Where an autograt is standard on all checks and has been adequately disclosed, you have no legal right to unilaterally make a downward adjustment."

                  2. re: PeterL

                    It seems that these policies are not stated on the menu. The only time they make such a statement is when it is in regards to party size. I would agree with dolores, I would no longer frequent such a place then. I would not make a big scene, but would def. ask for the manager and let him/her know of how it is unacceptable, especially when it was only a party of 2.

                  3. re: dolores

                    If you have a legitimate complaint about the service, that's one thing, but otherwise, you should be leaving at least what the auto grat is anyway.

                    1. re: snowwhitekitty

                      disagree slightly, in that many people may reasonably elect to leave a 15% tip (which is considered normal and customary) for acceptable service, while the 'included gratuity' could be 18% or 20%. That said, the difference is minor.

              2. I would call today to ask the manager if this is the policy at this restaurant. If it is, I wouldn't return there and would tell him or her I didn't plan to return specifically because of this policy.

                1. Where was this? At Chez Panisse they now add a gratuity/service charge to every bill (I believe it is 19%) but usually this is a stated policy.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: Missmoo

                    It was at La Cachette in Indian Rocks Beach FL

                    1. re: beachco

                      well from the restaurant web page it says this (is this on the in-house menu as well?)
                      Prix Fixe
                      Three Courses Forty-eight dollars per person
                      Four Courses - Fifty-four dollars per person
                      Five Courses - Sixty dollars per person (includes choice of souffle selection)

                      There are always multiple selections of Appetizers, Entrees and Desserts for you to choose from.
                      A 20% service charge is added to all guests checks

                      1. re: DGresh

                        Ah, does this go along with some restaurants taking into account tourists and thus ensuring that their servers are left a good tip?

                        In this case, I can understand it.

                        As a matter of fact, if it were the norm, and were so stated, I wouldn't mind all restaurants adding 20% to the bill, as long as the servers GOT the 20%.

                        1. re: dolores

                          I don't know about this particular restaurant, but I do know that at Chez Panisse the gratuity is added so that there is a more equitable distribution of money in the restaurant. In other words the prep cooks and chefs and busboys and hostess are paid a better wage than they would be at other restaurants. The server also gets a better hourly wage and if anyone rounds the tip up to 20% they get to split that with their busboy. Apparently it is also used to give everyone health care and vacation pay. That is what I heard from a friend who works there.

                          1. re: Missmoo

                            Hmmmm, in the midst of being happy about paying a bill that includes a 20% tip (and slipping the kitchen some cash), what happens if I hate my meal and the restuarant? What happens if neither the server nor the manager could care less that I am unhappy???

                            Sounds like I am in trouble if all that happens, right? The onus is on the patron to get the included tip removed?

                            1. re: dolores

                              But if you are unhappy with something, wouldn't you talk to the manager anyway?

                              1. re: dolores

                                Yikes. Stop panicking! If you are in such a situation, speak up before your bill is dropped. If you find that after speaking to the manager that nothing is done... well, lesson learned. It's the same idea if you visit a restaurant with fine service but bad food. You still have to pay the prices, but you know never to return.
                                A manager should be able to decipher a legitimate complaint and not think youre just being cheap.

                                1. re: Azizeh Barjesteh

                                  True, Azizeh. Since I unilaterally leave 20%+ anyway, and have only had one memorably horrible dining experience, I'd have to return to my original opinion that it's a good idea.

                                  Of course, like other built in costs, restaurants then get to control the price increases on the tips too!

                            2. re: dolores

                              Absolute including the tip in the menu price should be the standard. Then we could get rid of all of the discussion on tipping etiquette on the board. There are innumerable services provided to consumers that do not require tipping, so why should the restaurant industry be different. For those unsatisfied with the service the solution is to not return.

                      2. Interesting! I, too, have only seen a gratuity added automatically on large parties. Never on a party of two. Whether they state it up front or not, I would really have to question how much I wanted to eat at a resto that did that. I wonder if the server then gets all of that 20% tip, or if the house takes a cut off of it?