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Tipping and added service charges

Dallas, Texas
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Tipping and added service charges

We have eaten at three restaurants in London at this point. Each of them has added a service fee of 12.50%. At each of them we questioned the staff and were told this was an additional charge the restaurant owners add, but the staff do not get any of that money. We are Americans, we are used to tipping well, and we are definitely fine with tipping.

What we are not fine with is being gouged. There was this same issue in Curacao when my family visited there and left us with such a bad impression we have no interest in going back, ever.

So is it the same thing here? Maybe going to staff, maybe going to the restaurant? Is there any way to know for sure? When we visited the UK in the past I only remember this occurring at more expensive restaurants and the servers told us they got that money (the whole staff shared).

Edited: 21 October 2012, 21:13
Hove, United Kingdom
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51. Re: Tipping and added service charges

"And sorry to say the service received from bar and wait staff in the UK has not been, in our fairly extensive experience, up to the same attentive standard as in the US.

So perhaps the tipping culture does produce better customer service. But that's not to say that local custom should be disregarded."

Sticky, again I think this is partly due to cultural differences, service expectations in Europe are different to the USA in that unobtrusive service is considered good service in Europe and very attentive service is good in the USA. In Europe once you have your meal the waiter should leave you alone and if you require something you signal to him. It's considered rude to interrupt someone during their meal.

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52. Re: Tipping and added service charges

I do not think it is fair to judge tipping cultures between countries.

When I travel to the UK, I am happy to pay the SC that is added to the bill (and give extra if I was really happy).

In the USA I know that the 15% gratuity goes towards the waiter/waitress’s salary, and I am happy to pay that.

All that assuming that I got decent service. The main point for me (and for this thread) is to know what the local culture is.

Back home I do not tip. If I did, the waitress would think I am either drunk or trying to flirt. The prices shown in the restaurant menus include taxes and service (and they are not separated). It Is not bold, but is required by the law.

Also, although we have no-tipping culture, that does not mean that we would not get compensation for bad service. We were together with another family having a dinner in a Finnish restaurant, and the waitress forgot two orders. We ended up getting all drinks on the house, what we did not even need to ask for.

London, United...
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53. Re: Tipping and added service charges

+1 to #51. I have had bad service in North America . If you are told ( in writing) that 15 % of the entire board and lodging bill is the norm and then asked at check out if you want that amount added to your bill, it is difficult to see that as anything other than a service charge.

That happened to us in Ontatio.

In NYC in a niceish restaurant our bill was brought the moment we declined dessert / coffee, again not good service in our eyes, but seems to be local expectations.

On the very rare occasion I have asked for the dsc to be removed the restaurant manager has assumed (correctly) this was because of poor service and has asked why and apologised. I assume this leads to the server being reprimanded for the failures and so would only do it if the service was entirely unacceptable.

United Kingdom
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54. Re: Tipping and added service charges

"And sorry to say the service received from bar and wait staff in the UK has not been, in our fairly extensive experience, up to the same attentive standard as in the US"

I echo what Helking says....perception of what is considered good service is not the same everywhere. Personally I don't like the service in the US at all - its too much in your face and I don't like being interrupted (sometimes several times) and asked if everything is ok. It also sometimes seems that they want to get you out of there as quickly as possible: plates whipped away almost as soon as you've finished eating and a desert menu provided, bill provided as soon as you have finished your last course - it all seems a bit hurried and it doesn't seem like there is any time to actually just sit and relax between courses.

So in my opinion and for my tastes I actually find service in Europe much better than service in the US.

But I also accept this as part of the reason we travel: to experience different cultures. So if eating in the US I do actually tip whatever the current rate is - even if I consider that I received "bad service" - because I'm sure the staff won't understand why their actions reduced my enjoyment.

Ossett, United...
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55. Re: Tipping and added service charges

<<How on earth an Overseas visitor works out what to do for the best I really do not know.>>


(Not picking on the excellent bevhicklin, just picking UP on the point)

It really doesn't matter. If you "over-tip", it's your own money, it's your choice.

If you "under-tip" or don't tip at all, it's still your choice. Be assured that all our wait-staff are on minimum wage, they will not go hungry for want of your gratuity; and if they're annoyed with you, so what? They can't spit in your food because you've already eaten it; they won't ever see you again, so what does it matter? Life's too short to obsess about what others think of us.

Personally, I do not tip on top of a service charge; in restaurants without them I round up to the nearest fiver or tenner; in taxis round up to the nearest whole pound. Yesterday I gave a taxi driver £4 for a £3.30 fare because I was in a particularly good mood.

Vancouver, Canada
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56. Re: Tipping and added service charges

TravellerPlus, you've "presumed" I have never left he Lower Mainland thereby also being "presumptuous". You missed the point - norm or not - it is still "incredible cheek". "If 50,000 people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing". Thats all I have to say on the matter. The practice of including a service charge is unacceptable. Case closed. Enjoy your travels.

57. Re: Tipping and added service charges

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58. Re: Tipping and added service charges

The problem with excessive tipping is just causes inflation for locals. If people start expecting tips, you are automatically adding costs for locals at a time when budgets are squeezed. The individual tourist may think its harmless, but they are doing real damage to locals.

And if people ignore advice about tipping culture in a foreign culture, then dont be surprised if people start ignoring it in yours.

Edited: 26 October 2012, 21:40
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59. Re: Tipping and added service charges

It really doesn't matter. If you "over-tip", it's your own money, it's your choice.


But thats a myth, because whilst it is their money on that occaison, you set a tipping expectation which costs others.

Oklahoma City...
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60. Re: Tipping and added service charges

Helking and Vampgirl: I think what you are discribing is also a cultural difference.

It seems to us that when book or obtain a table in a restaurant in the UK and in other parts o Europe it is yours for the evening. You tend not be be rushed and can use the table as long as you want. When you are ready to go you signal the server and your bill is brought.

In the US, in a busy or upscale restaurant, the table tends not be yours for as long as you want. When you finished eating the expectation is that you will soon vacate the table to allow another sitting, more so if the restaurant is busy or if you book. It is also expected that the check will be brought to you without being asked for it, having to ask for the check is considered bad service.

If the there are people waiting for tables or if the restaurant has bookings but no empty tables I think you will be rushed out. If we want a long evening of conservation with friends we will pick a place that will not rush you, usually one that is not terrrible busy.

Part of it is the tipping culture, the servers will earn more money if they turn tables. If you stay at a table after you finish so the server cannot turn the table it is seen as taking money from them and people will often leave a large tip in compensation.

I also think people in the UK tend not to wait for tables, if they cannot be seated realatively quickly they will go elsewhere while in the US people wil wait a very long time, even over a hour, for a table if they really want to eat there. Am I right about this? In the US it would be considered rude to linger at a table when people are waiting.