Double Gratuity: An Ethical Dilemma

20
Posted February 4, 2013 by Chow, Baby in Blotch
tip

Over the weekend I attended a birthday party at a restaurant that shall remain nameless. There were about 20 of us, and the checks were all split – which I’m sure was a nightmare for our server.

Most people know that on large parties gratuity is automatically included. Experienced diners usually look at the ticket before paying. However, some of my fellow partygoers didn’t notice that the tip was already on the bill and tipped twice. That’s a 40 percent tip for our server.

So here is my question to you, readers: Is it ethical for restaurants to accept double gratuity? Should our server have informed us that the tip was included? Or is it the diner’s responsibility to check?

My personal feeling is that servers should always point out if the gratuity is included. Most people don’t tip 40 percent, so I think it’s an obvious error. I debated a friend of mine who is a bar tender, and she holds the very Darwinian opinion that if a person doesn’t look at his or her bill, then they deserve to be overcharged.

So what say you, Weekly readers?


20 Comments


  1.  
    Steven

    I agree with your bartender friend. Most receipts state clearly whether gratuity is included. An establishment shouldn’t have to remind me or make sure my tip was really what I meant to leave. That would be awkward for everyone involved.




  2.  
    Foxy1986

    Personally I would assume anything larger than a party of 8 will have grat included on the bill, but since it is MY money, I make it my responsibility to ask the server of their policy even if it is marked on the bill.




  3.  
    Justin

    While I generally agree with your bartender friend, it doesn’t mean its not nice to tell the group…




  4.  
    BK

    I definitely think it is up to the diner. Most menus will have their gratuity policy posted. Some servers don’t add it because they think the diners will tip them more than the automatic addition. If your server goes above and beyond, then why not up the tip a little bit?




    •  
      Chow, Baby

      I’m all of for tipping a little extra, but 40 percent is a little much. Don’t you think?




      •  
        Amanda

        No, that’s not a little much. That’s just good karma and that probably made the night for the server. I always tip 30-50%. Most gratuity is 18%, which to me tipping below 20% is an insult. Especially considering that server is probably tipping 10% of the check to bar and bussers, leaving them with 10% of the tip.




        •  
          Chow, Baby

          I’m not sure if Karma works like that, because it wasn’t intentional.

          I should have also pointed out that the dinner wasn’t cheap. I could see tipping an extra 20 percent if it only meant an additional $6-10, but this was more like $20-$30. I should have pointed that out in the post.

          That’s not an insignificant amount.




  5.  
    David

    I’ve been in the industry for over 10 years as a server and the most important thing in any restaurant is for your guest to leave happy. The last thing you want is for someone to visit your restaurant, have an amazing experience, and then find out a few days later that they were screwed on the tip. Stated and printed policies aside, the feeling that “you were had” is embarrassing and can be infuriating to many people and ultimately results in lost business. Restaurants and bars that have an “auto grat” (mine does not) are doing themselves a disservice by not telling the guest that gratuity has been included. You might be realizing a short term financial gain, but, you’ll never even know how much you’ve actually lost by running off that guest and everyone they tell about it. If you grat the guest, you tell the guest.




  6.  
    Robin

    The server should’ve brought it to the customer’s attention. That has happened to me before and I didn’t like it. No one wants to feel like they’ve been ripped off. Plus, if you call back later or the next day, you feel like a cheap-scape.




  7.  
    Former Server

    I was a server for many years. The gratuity policy is clearly stated in most menus and is clearly printed on a receipt. It is therefore not my responsibility to point it out. It doesn’t mean I’m trying to scam more money out of someone and in many circles it is considered poor etiquette to bring up the gratuity. In any case, the primary purpose of a gratuity is to protect the server from the risk of a financial kick-in-the-face. When I was a server, I was required to tip out 7% of my total SALES. What that means is, no matter what a person tips me, I still owe that percentage to the bussers, bartender and food runner. So if a person lacking in generosity stiffs me or tips poorly on a very large bill, I just paid a chunk of money for them to come in and eat. That’s why it’s in place for a high tab – there’s more at stake for that server on a big party.




    •  
      Chow, Baby

      I’m not suggesting that including tip is wrong, just double tipping. I too worked as server at a swanky eatery, and we always told people that gratuity was included.




    •  
      Louis McBee

      No…while the actual meaning of TIP is debateable, the primary purpose of a tip is “To Insure Promptness” on the part of the server. It certainly was never intended to replace an employers responsibilty to pay their employees. Second, a server should most definitely inform the customer of the added tip. To do otherwise would be the same as finding a wallet and keeping it, because after all, it was their responsibility to keep their wallet in their pocket!




  8.  
    Possum Rights

    Sounds to me like you are looking for a way to blame the server and/or the establishment, rather than yourself. I can see you might have been surprised, if you were a rube on his first trip to the big city, but geez, you are a PROFESSIONAL DINER. Man up and own this one.

    Not trying to be harsh on you, just trying to point out the obvious.




    •  
      Chow, Baby

      It wasn’t me that double tipped, it was a few of my fellow diners, as I said in the post. And who said I am a man? Chow, Baby is gender neutral.

      There are a lot of people who either don’t go out very often and don’t know the etiquette, or those that don’t look at the bill and just write the tip in.

      I think there’s a level of trust we should be able to have in servers. And neglecting to tell customers that there is something on their bill they might not be expecting betrays that trust.




      •  
        Possum Rights

        Hmmmm. Didn’t like “man up”? Maybe I should have added “put on your big girl panties,” so as to cover the two major genders.

        I still sense a great deal of defensiveness. As the professional diner, perhaps you could have gently mentioned it to your friends. Is what you’re feeling perhaps tinged with a little guilt?

        Again, I’m not trying to be harsh on you, but I think this is one you (and your friends) probably just need to chalk up to experience.




  9.  
    JMK

    This happened to me once at a restaurant in New Jersey. We had a large group, a few drinks, one check. I didn’t notice it until I saw a credit from the restaurant on my statement…that’s right, they credited the amount of the “over-tip”. Classy!




  10.  
    Matt

    As common as auto-gratuity is for a large party, I’d almost prefer that they point it out only if the tip is NOT included. Although it’s probably hard for a server to gracefully mention such a subject without sounding like he/she is panhandling for a tip.

    In party situations I usually over-tip, even as much as a double-tip on my portion of the check. Because I know there will be some cowardly cheapskates in our group who walk out of there only tipping the auto-grat of 18%.

    When you ask the server to split the check 15 or 20 ways and they happily comply without screwing everything up, I think some extra bucks are in order.




  11.  
    Meg

    As much as I feel she could have warned you out of courtesy, I’ve worked in the food industry for over 10 years and also have a legal background- bottomline, you should NEVER sign something you haven’t read.
    Think about what you signed in high school- they used to make us sign a paper that said we would not fight and, if we did, we acknowledged we would be suspended. I refused to sign it on the legal grounds that, if someone hits me first, I’m signing away my right to self defense.
    I read before I signed.
    I say power to her for making some extra money and next time, know what your name is on.




  12.  

    Money laid is money played.

    Think of the potential embarrassment if the tip were intended. For example, I’m part of a monthly gathering that often leaves a 30 to 40 percent tip, because the establishment treats us so nicely. If the server were to ask, “Did you really mean this large a tip?” our largess would be called into question, and the server could be embarrassed to hear “Yes, that is intentionally for you.”




  13.  
    richard

    As a customer and not a service employee, it’s my problem how much I care about my check. Wait staff shouldn’t be expected to provide powerpoint presentations explaining how to read one’s tab. If I don’t read my check, it’s because I’ve chosen not to. I often don’t read it, just add a tip and go – and that’s on me, not my server.





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