Throughout much of Europe, restaurants follow the practice of service compris—including the gratuity in the posted price of the meal. If service is outstanding, patrons can leave an extra couple Euros, but there is no hard and fast requirement that they do.
I have long been an advocate of adopting that practice on this side of the Atlantic. Apart from the appeal of knowing in advance that “what you see is what you will be charged,” service compris has the added advantage of not requiring any tedious math on the part of customers—especially after they’ve had half a bottle of wine or a couple of cocktails.
It also spares customers the hard feelings engendered by restaurants that play games with their tipping policies. A couple of these were reported in a recent New York Post story.
The article recounts the experience of one customer who was assessed an automatic 20 percent gratuity for a party of six at La Birreria on Fifth Avenue. The only problem with the management’s math is that two of the six were babies, one in a stroller, another in a high chair.
Another customer reports that Cienfuegos, a Cuban-themed bar on Avenue A, charged them the automatic 20 percent even though there were only three in their party. In all fairness, there were extenuating circumstances—the party of three had ordered drinks prior to joining up with a larger party—but one would still expect restaurants to want to make an extra effort when economies are down.
Then there the restaurants that resort not just to deception but to illegality in their tipping policies. One that was the subject of a separate Post article is the Indian restaurant chain Baluchi’s, which is being sued for levying an automatic 18 gratuity on South Asian customers. You read that right. The chain has imposed a tipping policy based on ethnicity!
According to papers filed with Brooklyn federal court, Abe Shah and Hema Virani—of Pakistani and Indian descent respectively—found the mandatory gratuity penciled in on their check on May 12. When they inquired, they were told by an employee that “Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi customers …‘never tip,’” according to the suit.
The pair are suing for unspecified damages, which—if they win—are likely to cost the restaurant a good deal more than the 18 percent tip would cover.
- Website “outs” bad tippers in New York
- Mandatory tipping now on the menu at New York’s snazziest bars
- French Dining Journal: Some tips on tipping
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