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Don’t Complicate Other People’s Lives Unnecessarily…Pay The Freaking Tip, Dude!

This just happened today and I thought I’d send it in to see what the E-Hellers thought! I already have a prediction about the opinion split but will keep it to myself until the results are in 🙂

I work in an office of about 14 people. When I started last year, we were only 5 in this particular office and we got into the habit of going out for lunch together on Thursdays. Now that we’ve more than doubled our headcount, we still keep to this tradition. We work in a rather hipster part of town…old factory buildings, a lot of low-rises, beautiful exposed brickwork and smaller spaces. The restaurants also mostly independent and there are almost no chains. Lunch is harder with so many people. We rarely all go out at once but generally, we have between 7 and 10. Advance reservations are a must.

Service charges are fairly common in our area for a group of our size. The number varies; some restaurants add an automatic tip for parties larger than 6 (rare), others for 8 or more and yet others for 10+. At today’s restaurant the magic number happened to be 6. We were a group of 8. The waitress was pleasant and there were no complaints about the service. The bills arrived and of course, a service charge had been added. We weren’t told about it (not when we made the reservation, not when we were seated) but I believe it was printed somewhere on the menu. I say “I believe” because even though I didn’t notice myself, that’s standard practice. Most of the group didn’t bat an eyelid; we proceeded to pay our bills. One member of the group didn’t like being told how much to tip. To add geographical context, we are in Canada where he has not lived for long. He hails from Eastern Europe. He is not against tipping and I haven’t known him to be a poor tipper but the “automatic” part of the service charge really got his goat. He complained only to be told that it was restaurant policy. He asked to speak to the manager (who I know is also the owner) and was told that she wasn’t there. The waitress offered a business card saying he could call her. He did. The phone rang in the restaurant bar right behind us. At this point, a senior colleague took over and after a discussion, presented a new bill having redacted the gratuity. The waitress asked whether the service had been unsatisfactory and my colleague assured her that it had not; he just doesn’t like being told how much to pay for discretionary amounts. He was about to settle the bill but checked the total more carefully and realized it wasn’t correct. He asked for another bill and one was presented, this time with the correct total and the assertion that they weren’t trying to rip him off.

On re-reading, I can see how bland the text sounds even though I’ve listed events as they occurred! Therefore, I will give some additional insight. The waitress was polite enough through the transaction if a bit curt. This was probably through stress rather than rudeness. Another colleague later reported that she was close to, if not in, tears after we left. My tip-shy colleague was also not rude or abusive. He merely stated his point. He did actually leave a tip but one that he added himself. I believe the mistake in his bill was a genuine one but by then tempers were frayed and the confusion only added to the unpleasantness of the whole thing.

I’m not sure what to think! On one hand, service charges are expected for large groups. It’s a(n irritating) reality of the world we live in. On the other hand, I support his right to not have arbitrary charges added to his bill because the restaurant feels he will stiff the waitstaff. I believe the law states (I haven’t been able to find proper confirmation anywhere) that if the customer is clearly advised before hand, service charges are legal. It’s a bit unreasonable to expect that a customer will read a menu from cover to cover before ordering. Many restaurants I know will advise the person making the reservation of any service charge.

In any case, we’ve learned our lesson. In order to avoid a scene for the rest of us in the future, we will be sure to resolve this issue before we go to lunch with him!   0929-16

I’m of the opinion that none of us has a right to complicate other people’s lives unnecessarily.  Your co-worker, despite his calm demeanor, created drama and unnecessary work simply for the right to determine his own amount he was willing to tip and having wasted time, emotions and more drama, he ended up paying what he would have paid in the first place.   In essence what he did was make an issue of “how” the tip was derived, i.e. the process, and not the end result.    So, in order to satisfy his personal need to have control just so he could end up at the same conclusion, he complicated life for the waitress and his co-workers.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • I am OP :) October 18, 2016, 1:38 pm

    Thank you for all the thoughtful responses! I had a feeling that this one would spark some outrage. I’d love to respond to each one but in the interest of time, here are some general comments:

    1) A couple of people have already clarified this but in Canada, servers make wages that are the same as minimum wage in most provinces (ranging between $10 and $12). I’m not commenting on whether or not this is fair (i.e. do servers deserve to make more). I’m simply saying that the reason not tipping is seen as absolutely heinous in the US of A is not valid here.

    2) Ms. Jeanne + a few others feel that he put his own (somewhat trivial) interests ahead of those of his patient colleagues and therein lies his transgression. He could have handled the whole thing differently while still making his point. I completely agree. However, some others feel that he made a mountain out of a mole hill and that he should not have kicked up a fuss “for a few dollars”. The issue was clearly important to him. I was there and I can assure you that he wasn’t trying to be difficult just for the sake of it. Standing up for yourself and what you believe in should not be dependent on the size of the “prize”.

    3) I also saw some “poor waitress” comments. Once again, I assure you that he did not treat her poorly. He also didn’t criticize her service and told her that it wasn’t the problem when asked. While we may find it weird, it was VERY clear what the issue was…he didn’t like the service charge especially as he was not informed of it in advance.

    4) One person seems to feel that I belong e-hell. I’ll take my lumps if I deserve them but funnily enough, I don’t feel I do in this case. I didn’t, in any way, suggest that my colleague “talked down” to anyone because he didn’t. He was polite but firm. Secondly, I re-read what I had written and I can see how it might seem that this has been continuing for months but often the devil is in the details. I guess you missed the last line of my submission. This is only the second time this took place because a) we have not been such a large group for very long and b) we weren’t informed by this restaurant that there *would* be a service charge and c) honestly, we had all blocked the first incident that happened a few weeks ago because it didn’t impact us much. The restaurant in question was bigger, we had separate bills and our colleague stepped aside to speak to the manager…outside our earshot. You can rest assured that we won’t forget this time. Since I submitted this story, we have been out to lunch twice and both restaurants have left the tip to us. Is not reading correctly and making assumptions an e-hell worthy crime? 😛

    4) A couple of posts also mention the “manager situation”. Frankly, I was surprised at that (the situation, not the comments). Agreed that it wasn’t the waitress’s issue or decision. But then, a manager should have been available. Of course, the owner can’t always be there but someone with authority who can resolve disputes absolutely should. Alternatively, the waitress is the de facto manager and in that case it IS her problem. In this case we can all agree that the dispute was trivial. Had it been something serious though, telling the customer that no manager is available and handing him/her a card with a phone number that rings right in the restaurant is insulting. The message I get from that is…we don’t really care about your dispute..we just want to make you go away so here’s a card!

    • CW October 19, 2016, 1:04 am

      Your coworker seems to have an issue with service charges, so maybe he shouldn’t be going to restaurants in large groups if he is going to make a fuss every single time. It doesn’t matter how polite he is about it, he is trying to be a special snowflake with a restaurant policy. It’s like the customer who wants to use the expired coupon because “reasons”. Or the customer who doesn’t want to pay a processing fee because it just shouldn’t apply to them. If the policy is that a service charge is added for groups of X or more, then the service charge is added. End of story. Don’t like it? Don’t go.

    • abby October 19, 2016, 7:56 am

      I think in regards to number 2, you are saying conflicting things; first you say he could have handled better, then you say he had a right to stand up for himself.

      This may have been an issue that was very important to him, but in exercising this endeavor, he decided his principles trumped the fact that he made extra work for two employees, wasted his coworkers’ time, and caused delayed service for other patrons. Personally, the word that comes to mind when I hear that is “selfish”.

      I also think OP’s issue and Coworker’s issue are two separate things. Coworker seems to have a problem with auto gratuity in general. OP seems to think auto gratuity is fine if the patrons are informed beforehand. Had Server said, good afternoon and let me take your orders. Just a note- this establishment does have an automatic gratuity of X% on parties of 6 or more- would Coworker have stood up and left? Would he have caused a scene before the order was taken? Would he go ahead and order and eat, and at check time, THEN cause a scene? For some reason, I kind of think it would be the last one.

      As far as #4- I don’t think giving him the business card was a brush off. As you stated, the manager wasn’t there. The idea was for the coworker to call back later and speak to the manager when the manager WAS there.

      Had the issue been serious, I am sure the staff would have found a more immediate way to track down the manager/owner. You acknowledge yourself the issue was trivial. Perhaps the manager was offsite dealing with a family emergency. Perhaps he was ill. Really, his staff should give out his personal cell # so a guy can complain over the policy of auto gratuity? It was a non emergency, so it was treated as a non emergency.

    • Anon October 19, 2016, 2:04 pm

      2. I agree with abby. It’s not something that the waitress can somehow magically change and all he was doing was making a stink in public when nothing could be done about it.

      3. Going on with what I said in #2, he embarrassed and made a scene about the waitress (not all scenes have to be full of cussing and yelling to be a “scene”) because she couldn’t do anything about it. That’s like saying to a cashier of a grocery store that they should change the sign of a sales item to reflect the amount they want off. You have to know that the cashier has no control over that whatsoever.

      Your co-worker kind of reminds me of the time when I was cashiering and it was a very busy night (don’t know why it was busy on a Tuesday). One woman came in and wanted to use WIC. She was my 2nd customer that night. With WICs, your handwriting needs to match both the WIC check and what’s on the booklet (aka both need to be in print or in cursive). She decided to use print on the check and cursive on the book so I had to ask her for her driver’s license to check.

      She refused and made a big deal out of all of it saying she was just trying to make it go faster (yeah right), etc. She did not yell or cuss me out at all. I checked her out without looking at her driver’s license just to get rid of her (she was causing the line to back up). I was practically in tears over it mostly because she was taking advantage of the situation (it being totally busy) and me angry at myself for letting her steal those items. To this day I believe she had stolen someone’s book and she got away with taking those items. My mom said she was probably just embarrassed for having to use WICs but I don’t care. We saw them all of the time, she was the one who made a scene so she was the one who embarrassed herself. No one else had that problem besides her with showing their license.

      So yes, you can make someone cry because of the situation you are causing without having a tantrum about it. Your co-worker was practically being lectured and told off because of something that wasn’t under her control.

      • Lomita Momcat October 21, 2016, 1:41 am

        Anon, your story about the WIC voucher brought back memories of when I worked as a cashier at a supermarket in Texas.

        This supermarket had just gotten its liquor license back after a suspension for selling alcohol to minors. (It was a college town, and legal drinking age was 21.). Cashiers were told to card ANYONE who looked “under 30.” We were also told that once we asked for ID, if the customer couldn’t produce ID, we couldn’t sell them the liquor.

        Young woman came through my line with two bottles of vodka. She looked under 30, so I asked for ID. She said she didn’t have it. I told her I couldn’t ring up the vodka. And the fun started.

        She cursed me out, told me she’d have me fired, demanded to see a manager. Manager was called, he backed me up. Woman stomped out in a fury, then returned a few minutes later with ID. Slammed it down in front of me, demanded that I verify her age. She was 21 years and 1 week old. I sold her the vodka, and she left still threatening to have me fired.

        Manager thanked me for my maintaining cool, and told me people who had just turned 21 were usually the worst about being carded.

        Coda to this: a couple weeks later, a lady was going through my line with a couple six-packs of beer. If she’d been by herself, I probably wouldn’t have carded her, because she seemed mature. But she was with a teen-age looking girl, obviously NOT 21, and they were talking and laughing like friends. So I told the lady I needed to see her ID.

        “But I’m paying cash,” she told me. “I’m not writing a check!”

        Here it comes, I thought. “No, it’s because you’re buying beer,” I told her, and braced myself for trouble.

        She looked at me blankly for a few seconds, then light dawned. “You’re CARDING me for alcohol?” She asked.

        “Yes, ma’am,” I told her. And she broke out in a huge grin, whipped out her driver’s license, and slapped it down on the counter in front of me.

        She was 46 years old. The teen-ager I had thought was a friend was her 17-year-old daughter.

        I apologized profusely, but she just laughed. “You made my day!” She assured me. As she left with the beer, I heard her telling her daughter “Promise me you’ll tell dad I seriously got carded!” And she was obviously very, very happy about it.

        You win some, you lose some….

        • NostalgicGal October 21, 2016, 2:48 pm

          Bravo. Other than spraypaint, the last time I got carded for alcohol I was almost 45. I had had an issue and a broken out face, my hair was still dark, and I was buying frozen pizza, chocolate, and beer. I joked about Pizza and Chocolate being the fifth food group. She said that is something my daughter would say then seriously asked me for ID for the beer. I brought out my DL without a problem and smiled as she checked that the lamination hadn’t been messed with. She apologized, I said it was alright, I had it coming, and paid.

    • LJ Briar October 19, 2016, 11:15 pm

      I would say that even if your colleague was not speaking rudely to the server or what-have-you, customer service jobs like that are always extremely busy and emotionally taxing and, in the case of being a server, physically taxing, and so wasting the server’s time like that when I can guess she probably had other customers to attend to is still being inconsiderate (while she deals with your colleague, other customers are waiting to have their orders taken or their food brought, or maybe they are waiting to pay their bill which doesn’t have the automatic gratuity, but perhaps they are the kind of people who will start to take money off the gratuity if they have to wait too long or something to that effect).

      When dealing with people in customer service positions like that, unless they come at you swinging with rudeness and poor service, always default to extreme consideration; guaranteed they are exhausted and stressed, even if they like their work.

    • Lomita Momcat October 21, 2016, 12:59 am

      OP, I have to respectfully disagree with your assertion that “…the waitress is the de facto manager…” if no manager is present.

      No, that’s an assumption that could get the waitress/waiter fired, unless the REAL manager has explicitly designated someone on the wait staff as manager in absentia– preferably in writing. The waitress in your account was absolutely correct to refer the matter to the manager, especially since this was an issue that involved policy.

      Yes, there should be a very clear chain of authority that defines who is “in charge” at all times. But if for whatever reason there is nobody in the defined chain of authority present when a problem crops up, the correct action for a worker to take, assuming the problem isn’t an emergency, is to tell the person with the problem that management is not available and that if they will leave contact information, management will get back to them ASAP.

      Reason for this: if someone who is without authority makes a decision involving policy and gets it wrong, they can lose their job. I’ve seen it happen, albeit to a cashier I worked with at a grocery store, who made an on-the-spot decision about allowing a customer to substitute an item for one that was out of stock on sale. (The correct action was to give a “rain check.”). Customer returned to buy more of the substitute item for the sale price later, different cashier said they’d ask the manager, customer told manager that a cashier had allowed the substitution and pointed her out. Manager terminated her.

      It is never good etiquette to ask someone to do something that could cause them to lose their job, or get reprimanded for doing. When waitress in your situation indicated she had to refer the matter to management, that should have ended her part in it. Since this situation was clearly not an emergency, and your coworker could have dealt with it later when a manager was present, there was no reason to push the issue at the time. (You indicated the restaurant was convenient to your workplace.)

      If your coworker didn’t think the matter was important enough to return to the restaurant later to talk to the manager, he was on the wrong side of good manners. If you think that a waiter/waitress should do something that they’re telling you they don’t have authority to do, you’re on the wrong side of good manners, because you’re asking them to do something that could get them in trouble.

  • NostalgicGal October 18, 2016, 2:09 pm

    Do beware, a few places have been caught and it posted, that they have a ‘service’ of printing ‘percentage tip suggested amounts’ on the tab, and the amounts were off. 15% was like 21%, 20% was 28% and 25% was 38%. The person that posted one of them, wrote in 0 for the tip, and wrote on the slip what the correct amounts should have been. They said they stepped up to the server and personally handed them about 30%. I often carry cash but put the bill on a card and will put zero on the slip and write, ‘compensated server at table’ … because some places the manager looks at the slips and if a waitstaff gets a zero tip they get talked to.

    • Becca October 19, 2016, 6:10 pm

      Yep, I always write “Cash” on the tip line. I never even thought about the idea of someone being talked about by management if they got a zero dollar tip but that’s good to know, it’s not shocking just never crossed my mind or been told to me before!

      • NostalgicGal October 20, 2016, 12:41 am

        Poor tipping may indicate something was wrong and the manager wants to know before there are issues.

        Related, in archives. Someone with family (wife and daughter) went to a restaurant that was chef run and claimed to have gluten free (wife and daughter were celiac). Waiter had a sort of attitude but. They ate, and when they got home they got cursed, the food had been probably purposely laced by the waiter with gluten. (trust me the amount that makes me sick I can’t even see). The fellow called back to the restaurant but the chef wasn’t there that night. Next day the chef called back, apologized profusely, said they’d had some issues with that waiter and they were history. The chef sent a gift certificate for the amount they’d spent plus tip and begged them to come back and try them again. The fellow said it’d been a year and they couldn’t bring themselves to go back… even though the chef offered to cook for them personally if they just called to make sure that they were there. So feedback on a server is something taken seriously some places.

  • bopper October 18, 2016, 3:35 pm

    I would tell the guy that service charges for a large group are standard in your community and if he doesn’t like it, he is free to dine elsewhere. Maybe it is time to break into two groups.

  • MPW1971 October 18, 2016, 9:01 pm

    For the record, I’m Canadian, having lived near the US all my life, and well-travelled. There is a point here and I’m hoping that I can educate people on some of the less-known issues of tipping.
    One should be wary of restaurants who have a mandatory “service charge” for large parties. This is not a tip – this is an additional premium paid to the owner of the restaurant, which they can do with as they choose. They can keep some or all of it for themselves and give none of it to the servers.
    It is only in recent times that some US states have enacted laws by which the restaurant must disclose if (and how much of) a service charge is paid out to servers. This is the case in New York. It is a good rule – in the spirit of laws in California which require gratuities to be paid to servers only, and not shared with (frequently higher paid) cooks, hosts, etc.
    The reason for these service charges is that a large party consumes a proportionally larger amount of a restaurant’s resources than a smaller party – they stay longer and require more service attention, especially since the desire is to serve all meals simultaneously for that party.
    For me, I understand the dynamics of tipping and how it has become a necessary and unavoidable part of dining on this continent. However, I strongly object to being told that I must “Tip 18% of Stay Home”, as I have seen on bumper stickers, and that 20% is very generous. If the food is bad, that’s not the fault of the server, and bad service below some arbitrary level will require a talk with management. I have left zero tip only twice in my life, and both times the server was told why.
    But I also object to the mandatory service charge if it is not paid to the servers in its entirety. I would also object if my party of 6 or 8 happens to be the only customers (or one of the only customers) in an otherwise empty restaurant.
    So keep on this, fellow patrons of good etiquette, and be sure that your mandatory “service charge” is not just another 15%, 20% or 25% that the restaurant owner pockets whilst paying $2.13 in states where the Federal Tipped Minimum Wage applies. Fight against that, and slip the server 15% or 20% in cash to reward them for their hard work.

  • DutchyMcDutch October 22, 2016, 10:17 pm

    Your college was wrong. Not so much on etiquette but as a matter of law.

    Contract law indicates that, if properly made clear, a restaurant can add a service charge for parties above a certain number (or by definition). To eat there implies agreement with that part of the contract.

    The only way you could get out of it is if the restaurant did not provide proper service, they would be in breach of contract and you might not have to pay some or all of the service charge.

    Your college should have read the menu better.