As the population here increases and we’re getting more new restaurants, and there has been no genuine let-up with inflation, a number of restaurants have begun to include an automatic tip (service charge). Several of them previously noted that only for parties of six or more. The new practice is generating a lot of discussion among people who are fairly well split in opinion. We do have quite a few foreign tourists who claim not to know about tipping. I have always doubted that as most travel books include that kind of information. Let’s set that aside for the moment.
We always tip well (pretty much 20%) and there have been times when it was over-tipping considering the service, but that’s not the point either. The automatic tips being added here are mostly 18%, although one is at 20%. One friend in one of my three lunch groups especially doesn’t like it because she gives cash to servers. Ironically, I had started doing that if the tip less than $20 since I don’t know when I add it to the card, if the server gets the full tip or if the service fee is held back. Moving on to another issue though.
A number of the restaurants now also use the table side card readers which is nice. Except the software on the readers automatically displays blocks to touch to add tips; 10%, 15%, 18%, 20% and custom or No Tip. If an individual is not aware a tip is already included and hasn’t looked closely at the itemized bill, a second tip is likely to be added. I know of three or four people who have done this. To start with, “service charge included” should be clearly marked on the menu – each page of the menu. More importantly, the servers should explain the inclusion when they present the bill. I understand the human inclination to not do so and pretend it’s the customer’s fault for not paying attention and sure, it will work a few times. On the other hand, how many people will continue to patronize a place where this occurs?