Here’s A Tip For You
CNN’s eatocracy blog reported that a family from Texas claims they were locked inside a La Fisherman restaurant because they refused to pay a 17 percent tip that was automatically added to their meal since their party was larger than four people. One customer in the party, Jasmine Marks, stated that the staff was rude, drinks were not refilled, and the overall service was poor. Marks asked the manager to have the tip removed from the bill. The response from staff, according to her, was to be locked inside and told to either pay the 17 percent or speak with the police waiting outside.
If this story is legitimate, I would definitely think it earns a spot on the Dinners From Hell site, as I am not the biggest fan of adding gratuity automatically to the meal solely based on the size of the party either. I’ve been a server at Chili’s, Shoney’s, IHOP, Beef O’ Brady’s, and Applebee’s where I also tended bar. I’ve waited on parties of 8 – 10 who would qualify for the added gratuity as well as parties up into the 20 – 30 range. There were occasions where I depended on the automatic gratuity due to the fact that bad tippers don’t care how large their group is, but overall I didn’t like it and chose to leave it off my checks when I presented them to the customer.
I believe the tip left for the server should be a reflection of their performance. I also believe that even the worst server out there deserves a dollar or two as a tip because their hourly wage is enough to pay their taxes and the tips are their actual paycheck. If a party of 15 decides to tip me at 20 to 25 percent, I want it to be because I ran my ass off and provided them with outstanding service for a wonderful night out. I don’t want them to tip me the mandated 18 percent because it’s a rule, I want to be paid what I’m worth. In my early days of serving, I experimented with customers, gauging their reaction to gratuity added versus no gratuity added. Nine times out of ten, I earned more money when the customer was free to choose their own tip instead of being told what to pay me, often leaving me upwards of 30 percent tips due to split checks and members of the party throwing down extra dollars because I made them happy.
The downside to not having the automatically added gratuity is obvious; moron customers don’t appreciate the fact that their server is running ragged because each member of their 20 person party is asking for condiments and extras separately and the kids are downing Cokes faster than they can be refilled. Without the added gratuity, this selfish customer would be happy to stiff their server or leave a pitiful 5 percent on a bill that tops a hundred dollars. The times I chose to throw gratuity on bills were times I knew I was dealing with this kind of prick, and it blew up in my face once when an angry man (who was sitting directly underneath our small golden sign stating gratuity is added to large parties) yelled to my manager that I was running a scam. The thing is, a gratuity rule should not exist for the sole purpose of preventing jerkoffs from stiffing servers. Short of adding gratuity to every bill, getting stiffed is an occupational hazard.
A downside to keeping the added gratuity is at the customer’s expense; a lazy server knows they are getting 18 percent regardless of whether they make you happy or not, so they slack off and vanish on smoke breaks when you need more coffee. I’ve seen it happen and, while not common, it can easily ruin a night out. I can’t stand choking my way through a meal without a glass of water because my server hasn’t been back to the table since taking the order. I hate poking my fork at my salad for ten minutes as I wait for the dressing that should have been on the side that my server “forgot” because she was out on a smoke break. You work harder when your cash depends on it, bottom line.
In order to avoid added gratuity, I have seen large parties request to be sat separately in groups of 6 or 7 (but in the same dining area) and then after the order is taken, rearrange themselves back into the large party they actually are. Some will put parents in one area and with one server, kids in another area assigned to another server, then request their checks be combined with the kid checks at the end, causing a headache for everyone, and all to avoid a mandatory 18 percent. It’s ridiculous.
Surely we can get rid of automatically added gratuity. If your establishment doesn’t care for large parties, make a rule about how many people you can sit together and inform customers that parties over a certain number will be unable to be seated together. Servers, step up your game and see that large party as the dollar signs they represent; kick ass and take names and don’t let it ruin your night if your party happens to include a cheap bastard (it’s bound to happen). Customers, if you bring a group, especially one filled with kids, acknowledge the fact that you are taking over a server’s entire station (possibly encroaching on another server’s station as well) and as you are the bulk of their paycheck for the day, tip accordingly! We’re all adults here, right?