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Oct 18, 2009 05:50 PM

Weird experience at pret a manger

Hi. We had a strange experience at pret a manger the other day. The food was very good but they were quite upset because someone in our party, who was from another country so not familiar with Canadian money, didn't leave an adequate tip. This person had already left, so the last person in our party had to pay double tips. The wait staff was really upset about the tips (we paid individually for our dishes).

Anyone else have this experience there? Or did we just catch someone on a bad day?

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  1. They were probably having a bad day, but it isn't the server's fault that your group didn't leave an adequate tip. Also, it sounds like the server had to make separate bills and change/charges which can take up more time. If the group hadn't of asked for separate bills, then the inadequate tip would have come to light before everyone had left (each person would have been instructed to pay their share which would have included a tip). It sounds like the visitor from another country owes some one some money.

    1. There should be no reason for the staff to be upset. It's not like someone commited a crime. The bill was paid, but not the gratuity.
      Besides you were a party of a couple of people, one person not leaving a tip probably reduces the total tip of the group by only a couple of percents.

      Being European, I had to get used to the whole tipping system. Although I understand the reasoning behind tips (waitress being seriously underpaid), even after 3 years of living here I still feel I am being ripped off when I pay the bill. Taxes and tip add about 30% to the prices I saw on the menu.

      It has happened a few times in QC City restaurants that the waitress points out to me that a tip is expected. I guess they hear from my European French accent that I am not "from around here" and they want to make sure they are not missing out on a tip because European tourist are not accustomed to the North-American habits. I understand their predicament, but I cannot help but feel slightly offended.

      1. Is this the same Pret A Manger as the UK chain of sandwich shops?

        1 Reply
        1. re: ette

          No, that's what I thought too; but then I realized that OP was from Quebec and there is a restaurant called 'Pret a Manger' there. Coincidence. Although I really wish we had one here!

        2. I wouldn't have given them more of a tip just because another in my party didn't. A tip is a gratuity, which means a voluntary extra payment in addition to the advertised price of a transaction (the bill)

          I've worked in every part of a restaurant's business, including waiting tables and have been stiffed on a few occasions. But, while it's true servers depend on tips to help make their salary, it's wrong to assume one will actually get a certain amount of tip from a customer. Thus the chance you take for accepting the job.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Cherylptw

            Sure, tipping is voluntary, but it's customary (so its considered rude not to do so) in that part of the world ( The main issue is whether one should conform to a region's customs.

            What if Americans refused to pay the cover charges or included service in Europe? That would be considered rude. It boils down to what is regionally expected.

            I doubt that the server "made" someone pay double the tip. More likely the server voiced their displeasure (which may or may not be culturally acceptable) and the person, not wanting to be rude, left additional tip. Again, I point out that if the bill were paid together and not separately the outcome would have been different (total + % tip would have been collected and given to waiter).

            1. re: hotmexi

              Good point hotmexi, it would be considered rude. However the difference is that the cover charge and service is included. It's on the bill. You can't exclude it from the bill because usually it's not even mentioned. Italy of course is a notable exception, they charge you for bread, cutlery, service, etc. Talking about a rip off. But this is mostly tourist restaurants.

              But here a tip is left to your discretion. And I agree it's just common courtesy to follow the regional habits. But these are not always clear. I imagine in rural QC a 15% tip to be considered good, but in Montreal this to be the minimum.

              BTW: I love these credid card machines where you just type in the % of desired tip. No more mistakes.

            2. re: Cherylptw

              If confronted like the OP was, I would pay the tip. However, I have also been a server and tend to agree with you: there are no guarantees. For every person who did not tip or tipped poorly, there was an obscene overtipper to make up for it. Has any server ever confronted customers to say "Oh take this back, you gave me too much!" (unless there was an obvious error: math mistake or bills stuck together).
              I especially cannot imagine confronting people over the tip on one person's meal. It's not like a missing tip on a huge meal where you might wonder if there was an issue with your service, or the tip was forgotten, or the whole group is ignorant of tipping practices. It's one cheap or ignorant customer and that's just life.