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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?

                        1. jfood thinks that as long as it is mentioned up front he can decide whether or not to go to the restaurant. Also be aware that in most states auto-charges are taxable (they are service charges not non-taxable graituities/tips) so the 20% in a high tax states could be close to 22% (the other ~2% going to the government) out of your pocket.

                          If the service does not warrant this level of gratuity you have two options. 1 - discuss with the MOD in a calm manner and quietly to the side outside of earshot or 2 - not return. It is like any other charge at a restaurant.

                          BTW - this looks like a cute place with the owners having a sense of humor about the chef getting on and sometimes grumpy. Likewise did anyone else notice the hours the dining room is open 530-830. Obviously not a happening spot after hours and looking for each table having 1 turn.

                          1. I, my wife and a friend went to a place in Grand Rapids once. We had a pretty pricy dinner (for that area, wine, drinks, etc.) and when the bill came, I just added on the 20% and paid it. I thought it was a little expensive, but "Oh,well." I later realized that there were "suggested gratuities" included on the bill of various percentages that were line listed identical to the fare. In other words, they looked just any other item in a long list. The "suggested 20%" line included the gratuity along with the bill and was listed under "Total" Thus, I paid 20% on the total PLUS another 20%!! Stupid, yes. Careless, yes. But I still think it was pretty shifty. What pissed me the most (other than being so ignorant) was that the server surely realized my mistake and should have said something. I guess I have to add "naive" to stupid, careless and ignorant! Be warned.

                            1. This may in fact be a policy the restaurant has adopted for everyday use or perhaps it was a temporary modification based around the holiday. This happened to our 4-top at Thanksgiving. I was very put off by this and urged my father to track down the MOD to determine the origin of this "mystery charge." He was told it was an auto-grat and that he could alter the amount if he so chose, but didn't in the end (I believe out of awkwardness). He is a 15% tipper -to the cent just about- and this charge was 25%! This kind of altered the note on which we ended our otherwise pleasant meal. Even with the after dinner mints, we left with a slightly bitter taste in our mouths. Maybe I'm reading into your post that you were frustrated by this, but out of principle alone I disagree with it. Communication about all points of the meal in both directions can alleviate (sp?) so many future problems!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: enbell

                                >>He was told it was an auto-grat and that he could alter the amount if he so chose

                                That's what I'm now wondering. If this started, as I've read, in tourist areas to account for difficulties tourists have in tipping, i.e., not, then how does one 'alter' the amount? Isn't it an already printed bill with the auto-grat on it?

                                Sounds like a lose-lose situation to me.

                              2. Pasting this in from a response to a different thread yesterday, but more appropriate here:

                                "I know I read/heard somewhere that even the "mandatory" tips or service charges are still at your discretion. If the waiter or the restaurant behaves particularly badly, you have the option to lower the tip. It's added automatically so you don't accidentally stiff the server or undercalculate what may be their only tip of the night if you're a giant table. But still, especially if you're paying cash, I *think* it's still discretionary."

                                The only real bummer with the gratuity included is when you forget about it, and re-tip an additional 20%. Well, bummer for me, not the resto. Oddly, no server has EVER pointed it out to me. I think I've only done that maybe 2-3 times that I'm aware of.

                                1. This is so interesting. Now all the restaurant has to do is add the gratuity to the original price up front, so I know the total of what I will be paying for what I order, and I won't have to be worried about tipping at all. And (presumably?) the server will get what he/she gets, depending exclusively on what I order. Better for me, because it's simpler, and I'm out of the job performance rating business. I hope it works out okay for everyone else.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Marsha

                                    Europe's been doing that forever -- including gratuity, that is -- though not always 20%. ... seems to work just fine.

                                    1. re: linguafood

                                      No problem as long as it is stated. In the OP, it seems as if it was not previously stated and just added.

                                    2. re: Marsha

                                      That's what I've come to see too, Marsha. But as I noted, what happens when there is a dispute on the tip for poor service? Someone above said that they were told the amount could be altered. If it was a pre-printed slip with the auto-grat, would one just cross that out and put in their own amount? Would the slip be again run and reflect the new gratuity? Sounds like a lot more work on the part of the restaurant, but I guess they're assuming that most times, there won't be disagreement on the amount of the tip.

                                      I say restaurants should go for it. Again, assuming the server and those who are tipped out by the server get their fair share.

                                      I am still not clear on how to tip the kitchen, though. What percentage of the bill should they get and I assume they would get it in cash? So much work!!

                                      1. re: dolores

                                        On average in the places I've worked it amounted to around 1 dollar extra per hour, in cold hard cash. Most places aren't going to count pennies and cents with regards to tips for BOH.

                                    3. Oddly enough, I sort of prefer the automatic gratuity. As one who always tips at least 20-25%%, the 18% that most restaurants usually add (I've never seen one for 20% as you stated above) is actually LESS than I would have normally tipped. And so for me, it saves money as well as the hassle of deliberating how much to tip. And the server knows what to expect, so that uncertainty isn't there, which allows a more natural server-patron relationship. That's just my own feeling, of course - I suppose some diners like the added pressure to perform that comes with not knowing if you are going to get 12% or 50% for your time and effort.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Morticia

                                        I'm mainly with you. My only beef is that it seems like another piece of the slippery slope of overtipping and overly entitled servers. My experience has been that a lot of people see the autograt and assume they're "supposed to" leave a little bit more than that. Most of the autograts I've seen are 18% which is in the middle of the "normal range", so leaving more would push it easily above the "normal range".

                                        If servers come to expect that they're going to see more than the autograt, voila - we now have an even higher normal range and more servers who feel entitled to getting more than they're supposed to be getting.

                                        1. re: jgg13

                                          True, jgg13. Nature of the beast, I've done it when faced with an auto-grat for a large party.

                                          However, were it to become the 'norm', and I 'knew' for a fact that the server was going to get every bit of the auto-grat, then I wouldn't be adding on a little more for the server in cash.

                                          1. re: jgg13

                                            Tipping more than the autograt almost never happens where I work. I had a party of 16 women for instance who didn't leave a cent more than the autograt despite great service (they complimented me) and I took multiple photos of them as asked, put 50(!) candles on a birthday cake they brought in, cut and served it, etc. all things that went above and beyond. You'd think at least one person would think that maybe they should toss in a few bucks extra for all the work that most servers would not have done willingly or at all (one of my managers even told me not to put the candles on the cake) but no such luck. Most people seem to think that 18% is so high that we don't deserve anything extra, even if you're the parent of a kid who barfs all over the table and your server cleans it up (yep, two weeks ago).

                                            1. re: snowwhitekitty

                                              I'm not usually one for "above and beyond" tipping, but the situation w/ those ladies was certainly a case where that should have happened. I'm surprised.

                                              Just speaking from my own experience as a customer, whenever I'm with folks and we have an autograt charge (and service was standard, nothing distinctly great or terrible) it seems like 10-20% of the group (usually 1-2 people) point out the autograt and go to work divying up the exact charge and the rest who chime in opinions want to throw in extra. And by that I mean they're ending up tipping higher than they typically would. Me, I just keep my mouth shut and go with the flow, because the one thing I really hate is bickering over a check when dining out w/ a group.

                                              1. re: snowwhitekitty

                                                Yes, they should have tipped because you obviously went above and beyond for them.

                                                I know it's no one's fault but my own and whoever I'm out with, but my biggest problem with the autograt is that SOMETIMES I DON'T NOTICE IT. I know I've double-tipped before. You have a big group of people, the bill comes, you look at it, at 20% and say "Okay, it's $80 a head...." or whatever.

                                                Yes. My fault. I should look more carefully. I also shouldn't have had that 5th glass of wine. But I've also never had a server come back and say "excuse me sir... but I'm not sure you meant to tip as much as you did...."

                                                I'm sorry about the barfing kid (sucks!), and the stingy birthday party. But how often do you get some dumbass like me who mistakenly overtips? (that's a serious question). And how often have you ever pointed out to someone that they just tipped 20% on top of an 18% autograt?