After enjoying a nice dinner recently at an area restaurant – and a little too much of the creature – I, perhaps possessed by the booze, decided to pick up the tab for my friends and me. There were six of us, and the restaurant was pretty nice – white tablecloths, candlelight, and such – so it was no small gesture, given my shamefully low tax bracket. I thought the bill seemed a little high, but I just figured the wine we ordered was a little too “nice.” I dropped my card and our server ran it, thanked us, and disappeared. Luckily, before I wrote in the tip, I decided to inspect the bill – something I hardly ever do, but should do every time. I noticed that the tip had been written in already, and left the tip-line blank.

Maybe I’m overreacting, but it upset me a little that our server didn’t tell us that gratuity was included. Mind you, most restaurants include the tip if the party reaches a certain number of people. But at most restaurants, that policy is written somewhere on the menu, or the server tells whomever is paying that it’s included. That wasn’t the case for us. I usually tip 20-25 percent, based on what I can afford. So, had I added my usual tip, on top of the added 18 percent tip, that would have been a 38-43 percent tip. And I’m sure our server would have taken it. Who, aside from eccentric millionaires, want to/can afford to tip around 40 percent?

Frankly, it’s dishonest to assume that someone intended to tip 40 percent. It was also stupid of me not to look, but I am the trusting sort. Servers should tell their guests when gratuity is included. Chances are, I would have added to the 18 percent. That night, however, I was too upset to add anything. I’m also the worst type of customer, in that I don’t complain to the manager when something like that happens. I just never go back.


  1. And you are much nicer than I in that you did not NAME the place. It is standard for the restaurant to disclaim their “group rate.” Usually gratuity is added for parties of 8+. You’re not overreacting.

  2. You’re right to be upset. I vaguely remember seeing a statistic that almost 25% of restaurant bills are wrong — usually inflated in favor of the restaurant. And I’ve certainly had my share of bills with extra items or tip subtly added already. ALWAYS check the bill. BTW, the same goes for grocery stores (except the tip part).

    Years ago, my wife and I had dinner at Cacharel in Arlington (for my birthday), definitely not the kind of restaurant we could normally afford. We had one bottle of wine — $48 — an amount we might pay once or twice a year at most . Dinner was pretty good, but when the bill came and she pretended to pay without me looking (of course I glanced at it) it seemed awfully high. When we got home she commented on this, and realized that they’d charged us for TWO $48 bottles.

    She called the next day, happened to get the same server, and he verified that he’d accidentally rung it in twice. But then he proceeded to tell her that she was petty and cheap, and “normal” customers wouldn’t quibble over such a trivial mistake, adding that he hadn’t even charged for a second cup of coffee.

    So, she had him remove the charge for the extra bottle of wine from the credit card bill AND his (approx. 20%) tip. Needless to say, we’ve never been back. I don’t mean to trash the place since this was at least 6 yrs ago and this guy probably doesn’t even work there anymore. But you really do have to check the check!

  3. Wow, CTP. I don’t blame you for not going back there. I’ve been to Cacharel a few times, and had some good experiences. But if some server told me that, I’d have to strap on my ass-kicking boots.

  4. I thought about it, but I don’t want one bad apple to spoil the reputation of a place. I posted this a cautionary tale, so maybe restaurant staffers would see it and recognize the impact that one person gunning for tips could have on their future business.

    I would have gone back to that place over and over, so there is no telling how much of my money they’ve lost going forward.