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Jul 31, 2011 03:53 PM

Tipping scam in Chinese restaurants

My family and I eat in Chinese restaurants in London often and find that we are constantly requested for gratuity on top of the included service charge when paying by card. Some restaurants even hide the fact they have included service charge, and ask for gratuity when they present you with the card-terminal.
It really seems to be across the board and we never encounter this at anything other than Chinese restaurants. It is very underhand and you could easily end up paying the 12.5% plus 10% tip.
Is this even legal?

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  1. It is unfortunately reasonably common in many types of restaurant in the UK so I think it is unfair to label the Chinese restaurants as culprits. The "discretionary" service charge that is automatically added to the bill in the UK is still controversial as many of them don't get to the staff, it is simple the restaurant inflating the bill. Best to not pay the included service charge on the bill and leave cash for a tip with the waiter.

    1. I agree. It seems to be a scam entirely restricted to Chinese restaurants.

      I had seen an online warning about one place in Manchester that proved to be exactly as said. A service charge is clearly mentioned on the menu but, when the guy came with the terminal, it was "press this button if you want to leave a tip". The conversation then went along the lines of :

      "Isn't that a service charge there on the bill?" (pointing"

      "It isnt the tip"

      "I think you'll find it is".

      "Press this button then" (the "other" button)

      Good to warn folk. It's entirely disreputable - particularly in those parts of the country where an added service charge is not as common as in London - relying on folk not to have clocked the service chage me

      2 Replies
      1. re: Harters

        "I agree. It seems to be a scam entirely restricted to Chinese restaurants." - not in my experience, I found it really common in many UK restaurants of all types.

        When I moved to the UK (from Paris) I found it odd that the handheld terminals requested a tip (with the server hovering over your shoulder - I often felt coerced) even though service was included. Whilst in France they didn't have that function, so if you tipped you tipped in cash (service having been included in the bill).

        1. re: PhilD

          Would have to say that I can't recall otherwise encountering a tip request on a machine where a service charge has already been added to the bill. It would be a similar techie version to the old "leaving the credit card slip open" thing that the Consumers Association and Trading Standards Departments campaigned against so effectively in the pre-technology days.

      2. We saw it often in more touristy restaurants, not just Chinese. It was discretionary but my husband rarely noticed and we double tipped often. I think it's underhanded the way some try to hide it but not illegal. It's no different from an added gratuity here in the US with the "additional tip" line.

        7 Replies
        1. re: chowser

          The service charge is commonplace in the UK. Absolutely nothing underhand about it. It is what we increasingly have in place of old-fashioned tipping. It will always be declared on the menu. And, of course, as with an old-fashioned tip, it's entirely discretionary as PhilD mentions.

          1. re: Harters

            There's often the "service charge" and then there's the "tip" line on the credit card slip so if you don't notice it, you double tip. It might be discretionary but with places that had it, it was added on, the total circled so it didn't seem to be. Do you just cross that out?

            1. re: chowser

              Why are you bothered by the tip line on the credit card slip? That happens in any establishment that accepts tips. The machine comes from the bank - the restaurant has very little to no say in what the slip ends up looking like. Also - some people like to tip extra; on top of the service charge. It certainly isn't expected, but many people do.
              Also, I imagine the service charge is circled so that you notice it and DON'T double tip. We add an 18% gratuity for parties of 6 or more. Once, there was a large party dining with us for brunch, and their server was terrible, awful, awful, awful. I won't go into details, but she was fired. Anyway, the party complained to the manager about the gratuity, and it was simply taken off. The end.

              1. re: hilltowner

                I just want to say that the credit card tip line is not in usage here in the UK (at least I think not). I have been to the states and can totally understand that it is a result of the machines and the slips that come from the bank as you say Hilltowner, and not a sharp practice of the restaurant.
                However, what gets me though is that here in the UK the waiter actively requests a gratuity via the card terminal.
                It's always a tricky and embarrassing situation to be placed in, as pressing the NO button always makes yourself feel/look cheap, as well as to point out that service charge was already included. And I don't ever have the energy after a meal to battle having the service charge removed just so I can tip the waiter.
                What I do now is pre-empt. When the waiter comes with the card terminal I simply ask if the bill has service included and that always puts a stop to it.

                1. re: Coldsoup

                  Since you live there, you probably have a better feel for what's on the bill, but we found a tip line at every restaurant, which was a big change from I studied there 25 some years ago.

                2. re: hilltowner

                  I'm not bothered in the US where it's common practice, but this use was exclusively in tourist area restaurants, not most restaurants, in the UK. They were depending on (and obviously found many) who were careless and double tipped. The amount circled was not the service charge which was written in smaller numbers, but the final bill, and only caught if you're the type to go through every line item on a bill.

                  1. re: chowser

                    Oops, sorry. I hadn't noticed you were talking about the UK. In that case, yes - very deceptive. I had a similar thing happen in a touristy area of Paris.

          2. Q- Is service included?
            A- Yes

            Solution, draw a line in the tip section, fill in the amount of the total bill, sign and leave.

            1 Reply
            1. re: smartie

              But that doesn't explain why the Chinese are always trying to rip-off the OP.

            2. Not only in England. Here in Chinatown in NY, has happened many times at different places. One gets a bill with many lines in Chinese script, tip has been added, but you are not told. Thus unless you ask, as l have not on too many occasions, double tip occurs.