Etiquette School is in session! > "I'm afraid that won't be possible."

Re: Restaurants that include the tip in the bill. Ud 27, 58

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Danika:
I live in the US where it's customary to tip 15% of the meal cost (before tax charges) on top of your food bill at a restaurant. Some people I know pay 10% if the service was mediocre and 15% if it was good. Most of my friends tip 15% if the service was mediocre and 17-20% if the service was good.

At many restaurants, if you have a large number of diners on one bill, about 8 or more people, the menu will state that they automatically charge a 20% tip on parties of 8 or more.

Lately, we've been to a few restaurants where the service has been not so good. The food will be good, but your drink never gets refilled, you're missing silverware and can't find a server so you have to find an empty table and grab silverware from the settings there, etc. It seems that at the restaurants with the worst service, when the bill comes, the tip has already been pre-printed and entered under the food total, and it's an 18% tip! And this is if there are only 2 or 4 of us. A small number of guests and we shouldn't be getting an automatic tip added to the bill.

Last night, my family and I went to one of these restaurants. We know the service isn't that good, but the food is good. I probably would have tipped 17% anyway because I tend to err or the generous side of tipping unless the service was truly awful. However, the bill came and they'd automatically added an 18% tip! That really made me cringe, so I crossed out the 18% tip (which is legal where we live) and put in a smaller tip (which worked out to about 15.5% because I rounded the dollar number up).

Are others seeing this? Is it a growing trend?

KenveeB:
I think you were wrong to do that. The time to object to an automatic tip is before you order. As long as the policy is posted (either at the door or on the menu), then by ordering you're agreeing to pay that gratuity. If you want to set your own tip, choose a different restaurant. If it's not posted anywhere, then I think you're fine objecting.

I'm not a fan of the auto-tip, personally. Most of the time I'd actually tip more than that -- 20% is my standard, unless the service was bad -- but if they set an auto-tip at lower than that, I figure they're saying that's what their service is worth so I don't add to it.

Danika:
I must not have been clear. There was no automatic tip stated on the menu or on any paperwork in the restaurant. Their menu said nothing about an automatic tip. In fact, I'd eaten there a few weeks before and there was no automatic tip.

It was not even on the bill. Only after I gave them the credit card and they returned with the receipt for me to sign was there a tip listed and printed out.

I only mentioned that some places mention an automatic tip for "large parties" meaning more than 8 people in case others wondered if that was what had happened. But this restaurant does not mention that, neither for large parties, nor for any other reason. And our group was only 4 people (DH, me and our toddlers).

Luci45:
We cross it out to change it, too, sometimes. No problem.

Other times, we slip the server a little more cash as we walk out.

I've seen this for about 20 years that I remember for sure, so I wouldn't call it a trend. It's standard procedure.

mmswm:
If it's legal to do so, then I don't think you did anything wrong. I personally will not go to any restaurant that adds the gratuity automatically. I'm am a very good tipper and generally tip between 20-30%, with a $1 per person minimum regardless of the size of the bill.  A server has to work really hard at being bad for me to drop below 20.  If restaurants want to make sure their servers are making a living wage, then they should pay them more, not force the customers to pay a "fee" instead of what's supposed to be a voluntary cost.

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