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"Optional Service Charge" - legal?

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Christchurch, New...
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for Zhuhai, Christchurch, South Island
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"Optional Service Charge" - legal?

I was somewhat surprised to find a service charge added to my bill at cafes & restaurants in London recently. The first time this happened, I had already calculated the cost of my coffee and had the exact cash ready. The waitress said that was OK as the service charge was optional. On my last day in London I was trying to use up loose change and again had the right coins but I was told I had to pay the extra 69p for "service". The cafe already charged extra for "eat in" and the service was terrible but I paid up. What do most Londoners do?

London
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1. Re: "Optional Service Charge" - legal?

Zhuhai,

For extensive comments, just search 'tipping' (and then run and hide).

Vancouver, Canada
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2. Re: "Optional Service Charge" - legal?

The service charge, usually 12.5%, is discretionary and quite 'legal'. If you deem service as unacceptable or do not wish to pay you may ask to have it removed from the bill.

Some people ask to have the charge removed and then leave a tip in cash for staff, others ask to have the charge removed and leave no tip - both options are up to the individual.

The difference in cost for takeaway versus eating a meal on the resto's premises is one of VAT and is not limited to the UK.

(Kenny, I blame the upcoming full moon.....)

Edited: 16 October 2013, 02:59
London, United...
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3. Re: "Optional Service Charge" - legal?

I don't know what other people would do but I personally wouldn't pay the service charge if the service was terrible. In those cases at the point of asking for the bill I ask staff can they remove the service charge from the bill please and state that I was not happy with the service. Normally they ask and I explain my reasons.

More information on this website.

which.co.uk/consumer-rights/…

Charging extra for eat in is normal in places where take away is an option. Read this article.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18244171

Christchurch, New...
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4. Re: "Optional Service Charge" - legal?

Many thanks for that link to the new VAT laws LOL! What a crazy system, although it makes my stomach to churn to read of cooked chicken, in a bag, at room temperature :-(

My point about the "dine in" vs "take away" was that surely you are paying for "service" if you dine in. Also, does England/UK have minimum wage laws? If so why should I pay sevrice for something that the staff are already being paid for. I tip in less developed countries where there is no minimum wage as workers depend on it. (Not in China, where the concept is not understood and is seen as rude).

5. Re: "Optional Service Charge" - legal?

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Removed on: 16 October 2013, 16:05
6. Re: "Optional Service Charge" - legal?

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London, United...
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7. Re: "Optional Service Charge" - legal?

<<My point about the "dine in" vs "take away" was that surely you are paying for "service" if you dine in.>>

The price differential is often solely down to the additional tax. The standard rate of VAT is 20%, so anything up to a 20% price differential will go straight to the tax man, not to the owner of the cafe/restaurant or its staff.

England, United...
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8. Re: "Optional Service Charge" - legal?

''Many thanks for that link to the new VAT laws LOL! What a crazy system, although it makes my stomach to churn to read of cooked chicken, in a bag, at room temperature :-(''

And of course that would never happen in China

Ossett, United...
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9. Re: "Optional Service Charge" - legal?

Aw. I got deleted.

All I said was, Yes, we have minimum wage laws. No, there's no obligation to tip or to pay an optional service charge. Oh, and that different countries have different customs, it's not nice to visit and call our customs crazy.

I thought that was all quite helpful, actually.

London
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10. Re: "Optional Service Charge" - legal?

It was Ailidh. We have a trigger happy (and frankly OTT) zapper or zappers stalking the forum.

Without knowing which cafe this was it is hard to add any useful comment but it does sound as if the OP made the mistake. Whether SC (or a tip) is worth paying is a different matter. If it's not a good cafe you learn not to go back. 69p is hardly worth getting in a tizzy over.

Edited: 16 October 2013, 18:17