The two most hated words in all of the restaurant business might well be “suggested gratuity.”
Suggested gratuities have become a lightning rod for diners and servers alike, and it’s culminated in a lawsuit that’s finally drawing attention to just how troubling the practice is.
As BuzzFeed News reported, Marcel Goldman filed his lawsuit against The Cheesecake Factory, alleging that they dupe customers into paying far more than they should — as high as 44%.
Which is a lot! Even as a former server, that would have to be some thoroughly attentive service and positively orgasmic cheesecake to justify my paying a 44% tip.
The whole idea behind suggested gratuities is simply to save customers a little math when they’re halfway comatose from packing away a hearty meal.
Some people have their own little methods to figure out how much to tip when all is said and done, but some restaurant genius thought putting the numbers right on the receipt would save some trouble.
However, this was all bound to be a mess right from the start, because nobody can agree on how to calculate a tip.
In the lawsuit, Marcel says the suggested gratuity didn’t take into account that the bill was split, so he paid his tip based on the entire tab, not just his portion.
At other places, the suggested gratuity gets calculated with the tax included.
Sorry, I know servers work hard and all, but I’m not tacking on the government’s dime when I’m tipping. That’s just common sense. But servers get the short end of the stick with suggested gratuities in other ways, too.
A lot of wait staff note that suggested gratuities pick their pockets when they’re calculated after all discounts have been applied.
They say it’s only fair to tip based on the actual value of the meal, and thus all the effort that went into preparing and serving it, and not what was paid for in the end. In some places, tip money is split between wait staff and kitchen staff. In others, it’s illegal to do that.
Where it gets even shadier is when restaurants cloak their percentages in whether you were “unsatisfied,” “satisfied,” or found the meal service “excellent.”
Pretty sure diners can figure that out for themselves, don’t you think?
It’s not like the servers had the power to put suggested gratuities on bills anyway — that’s up to the restaurant’s management.
And it does help them to inflate the tips as much as possible, because in 43 states, restaurants are required by law to make up the difference if their workers’ tips don’t bring them up to minimum wage.
This is where things get really messed up. In some states, the minimum wage for a job where you earn tips is a measly $2.13 an hour.
And according to the Department of Labor, up to 84% of restaurants don’t make up the difference, even though they’re required to. It’s like the restaurant industry is run by a bunch of deadbeats skipping out on their tabs.
This means that, as the diner, you end up paying your server’s wages. Plus the cooks’ and the dishwashers’, too.
In fact, four of the ten lowest-paid workers in America are restaurant workers — and that’s even after tips. So no wonder restaurants want us to take on even more of the burden at the end of the meal!
Doesn’t getting rid of tipping altogether start to sound like a great idea?
Many countries discourage tipping and just pay restaurant workers a decent wage instead. But it’s ingrained in North America that making servers work hard for their tips makes for better service. Instead, we have the idea that TIPS stands for “To Insure Prompt Service.”
However, there’s some pretty good evidence that that’s a pile of delicious balogna.
One restaurant owner in San Diego did away with tipping, instead tacking on an 18% “service charge” to every meal. All tips were refused. Even money that determined tippers left behind was donated to charity. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Not so much.
As Jay Porter, the owner, wrote in Slate, everything actually got better.
The food got better because the cooks didn’t feel like they were being taken for granted. The restaurant got busier, so the servers made more money.
As for the service, it didn’t suffer in the least. As Jay says, servers are motivated just like any other worker.
“Servers want to keep their jobs; servers want to get a raise; servers want to be successful and see themselves as professionals and take pride in their work,” he says.
Mind you, despite the success, not everyone was a fan of getting rid of tipping.Jay says that one local food writer was upset that she couldn’t use a lack of tips to punish her server for bad service. Which is kind of strange — wouldn’t you just talk to the manager, like you would anywhere else?
Not to mention, much of the time bad service is a result of factors out of the control of your server.
Kitchen mix-ups and understaffing are issues that affect service but are not the fault of your server.
So it’s sad to be in the situation where we can see that getting rid of tipping would be good for everyone, but it just won’t happen.
For example, maybe the people preparing and handling your food could afford to take a sick day when they’re under the weather. Doesn’t that sound nice?
But it doesn’t look like tipping is going anywhere anytime soon, and that goes for suggested gratuities, too.
If anything, there will be even sneakier attempts to get into your wallet, like auto-adding 20% to your bill through a tablet.
So let Marcel’s lawsuit serve as a reminder to have a careful look at the suggested gratuities the next time you’re dining out.
It’s always a great idea before you part with your dollars.
The key word, as always, is “suggested.” Nobody’s forcing you to tip the numbers on the bill.
You can do your own math and just tip what you think is fair. Nothing wrong with that!
Anyway, we all have calculators on our phones now.
Math can be gruesome, but there’s bound to be one person at your table who’s willing to do it. You know, take one for the team.
There are even free tipping calculator apps you can download for your phone
Just remember, serving is in no way an easy gig.
Tipping shouldn’t feel like a burden. Instead, try to view it as a way to show your appreciation for the person who’s literally waiting on you, hand and foot.
Plus, there’s a good chance your server is working overtime.
Restaurant shifts can be extra long, sometimes extending past the eight-hour mark.
Imagine running around and serving strangers for over eight hours?
And that they’ve barely had time for break.
Every restaurant is different, but it’s not uncommon for servers to work hours without a substantial break.
It’s kind of hard to take a breather when people are depending on your constant service.
Or they’re just plain starving.
Actually getting the chance to sit down and eat is a luxury for some servers.
Oftentimes, they’re just stuffing fries in their mouths to maintain energy.
Regardless of how you calculate tips, don’t forget that servers are people too.
They’re just doing their job, like anybody else, to the best of their ability. It’s not their fault that the system is broken and that they must rely on your generosity to earn a livable wage.
So, what do you think about suggested gratuities?
Even if you aren’t in the restaurant business, we’ve all gone out to eat, so everyone likely has an opinion on the matter.
COMMENT and give us your take!
Source : Lifestyle