Restaurants penalize diners by asking them to leave tips


POSTED: Monday, November 16, 2009

Are you one who leaves tips in restaurants just because everybody else does it or tells you to do it? Tip if it pleases you but consider this: Most restaurants are chains owned by multimillion-dollar corporations.

As for those owned by private individuals, while the restaurant owner rolls up to work in his luxury car, coming from his beautiful house situated in an elegant neighborhood, you probably have managed to save just enough money to treat your mom and pop for dinner at his restaurant.

After a meal served at enormously inflated prices, you are then asked to subsidize the restaurant staff salaries by leaving “;a tip for good service,”; a service that you are entitled to anyway. Restaurant owners and their staff have now become so bold as to “;suggest”; the amount of gratuity to leave, which, incidentally, has crept up from the traditional 10 percent, to 15 or 18 or even 20 percent. In many restaurants the owners and managers also take a cut of it.

Let me elaborate on this silly percentage business. Although you receive the same service from your server, the more you spend the more you are penalized. Does this system make sense to you?

To prove my point, I recently did an experiment. A friend and I took our wives out to dinner. We made separate reservations and we had separate tables. Coincidentally we had the same waiter serving both tables. As we had prearranged, I ordered the cheapest things on the menu; my friend, the most expensive. Service started poorly: We both had to ask repeatedly for some bread, and the wine took some time to arrive. The actual time that it took to take the orders and deliver the food and drinks was nine minutes at my table and 11 minutes at my friend's. I ordered a bottle of house white wine for $22, and my friend ordered a bottle of red wine at $235 a bottle. Now, would you give a $46 tip to someone just to uncork a bottle? It took the server less than a minute to do that.

At the end of the evening, my bill was $94, and it was “;suggested”; that I leave a gratuity of between 15 and 20 percent. If I had been generous enough (of course I was not) and had tipped 20 percent, as it was suggested, my tip would have been $18.80 ($2 a minute). But because I felt insulted by their assumption that I was unable to add up the amount of the gratuity, I left, as a tip, a big, fat zero!

My friend's bill was a whopping $395. Had he left a 20 percent gratuity as suggested, it would have cost him $79 in tip ($7 a minute)—like having another person at your table dining as your guest.

And what is this business of “;getting good service”; anyway? Are we not entitled to good service? Should we go to a restaurant and expect to be treated so badly that at the end of the meal, we are so pleasantly surprised that someone brought the food to our table, that in an ecstatic show of gratitude, we throw additional money at the server?

Do I leave tips? I do, but when I want and how much I want, not when and how much I am told to. I often walk out of restaurants that have already included gratuity in their prices. I want to be in control of whether to give a tip.

One restaurant wrote on its bill, “;It is an American custom to leave tips between 18 and 20 percent.”;

Wrong! It is an American custom to pay a decent salary to staff and the staff in turn to provide good service to the customers.

The moral of the story? Tip if you wish but think before you tip. Don't be intimidated or bullied to do it. As with any other business, you pay for the product and let the owners pay their staff. It is sad to know that restaurant owners and staff look at clients like they are ATM machines.

Hawaii resident Franco Mancassola, founder of Discovery Air and Debonair Airways, also was vice president of international operations for Continental Airlines and World Airways.