New tipping traps you need to know about now

When it comes to tipping, beware of the words: “for your convenience.”

If you see them on your final bill, you might want to take a closer look. While you’re at it, whip out your calculator to run your own numbers.

Take room service, for example. Daniel Weisleder, a consultant based in Houston, stays at many reputable hotels, and he’s noticed that his bills have begun to look the same.

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“They innocently leave the ‘tip’ line open, hoping that you won’t notice the already included 18 percent gratuity, plus the additional $3 to $4 room service fee or tray charge.

As a result, absent-minded guests will often add a tip on top of the tip, effectively tipping 40 percent or more.

Tricky, huh?

“I find that asking for extra tip, as if these charges didn’t exist, is unethical and deceiving,” he says.

So do I.

But hotels aren’t alone. Restaurants are adding tips to their final bills, too. Mark Weisberg, an engineer, had dinner at a Greek restaurant in Houston recently.

“When the time arrived to present and pay the bill I reached for my wallet to extract my credit card,” he says. “The waiter removed a small device from his belt designed to scan the credit card, authorize use for payment through a touch screen and print a small receipt at my table. It was very impressive.”

Not so impressive was that it added — for his “convenience “– on-screen prompts for gratuities at 15 percent, 18 percent and 20 percent.

“These percentages are not unusual — except that the initial bill calculated lower numbers for the same percentages — based on the pre-tax food and drink balance instead of the displayed post-tax gratuity percentages,” he told me. “The difference is only a penny or two higher per dollar spent, but it is the principle of misrepresenting the source of these numbers.”

Over time, a penny or two could really add up to a business that does a lot of transactions. But maybe more troubling, a system like this could easily be manipulated to pull the old room service trick.

Disclosure: I’m a terrible tipper. (And by terrible tipper, I mean that I’m awful at accurately adding 20 percent to my bill between the time the check is delivered and I’m asked to pay.)

What’s more, I think the stress of having to add a tip should be unnecessary. I believe prices should include everything, whether you’re ordering lunch, a drink at the bar or taking a guided excursion. A tip should be for good service, not something that is expected or required. And no business should ever try to fool customers into paying more than they think they are, when it comes to a gratuity.

Travelers aren’t the only victims. Service employees, who agree to substandard wages in exchange for the possibility of a tip (what choice do they have?) are also affected by the tipping scam. I blame business owners, who are trying to keep their costs down, for perpetuating this problem — and now, for making it worse by trying to bilk even more out of their customers.

How do you avoid tipping trouble?

Watch for words like “for your convenience” which usually means they’ve done some funny math. Here’s an example from Weisleder, who nearly forked over a 60 percent tip on a recent room service bill at a Hilton hotel. Let’s look at the numbers.

Club Sandwich: $13.99
Diet Coke: $ 2.99
Subtototal: $16.98
18% included tip: $3.06
Room-Service charge: $3.50
Your bill: $23.54

Premium you’re already paying for your food (without taxes): 39%

Additional tip you leave: $3.53

Total premium paid: $10.09 (that’s 59% on top of the price advertised on the menu.)

Another tip (sorry, couldn’t resist) is to run the numbers yourself. I always flip over to the WorldMate app on my iPhone, which offers a pretty decent tip calculator, and do my own math. It takes a few extra seconds, but it ensures you’re not allowing yourself to be ripped off.

The best solution is for hotels and restaurants to charge “all in” prices for their products. But that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.

138 thoughts on “New tipping traps you need to know about now

  1. You are a terrible tipper? What constitutes terrible? I find it odd that you are a consumer advocate yet admit you are a terrible tipper. I think tips are part of the price that you know going in, if you don’t want to pay it you should go somewhere that tipping isn’t expected.

    1. I’m not sure if I agree. Tipping customs are different depending on where you go. In Europe, where I grew up, people don’t tip 20 percent. Also, there’s no disclosure that the 20 percent tip is “part of the price” going in; if it were, then it would be included as part of the price. I think the tipping economy is, at its core, pricing dishonesty — it is designed to make restaurant food look less expensive by stripping away the cost of labor. And, as I mentioned in the story, the real victims are the servers.

      1. Like you said, servers are the ones that suffer. So why tip poorly unless the server provided poor service? I used to be a waitress and I had patrons tell me my tip was affected by things out of my control like noisy patrons, an undercooked steak that had to go back to the kitchen, and that our restaurant served Coke, not Pepsi. My wage was about $2, and any tips I brought in had to be shared with the bar tenders as well as being reported for taxes. There were days where I only earned about $5/hr through no fault of my own. Do I agree that servers should be paid at least minimum wage? Absolutely. Do I think it’s fair to punish servers by leaving poor tips for things they have no control over? No. If they give terrible service like LeeAnn’s father received, then they deserve no tip. Otherwise, you aren’t proving a point to the restaurant industry, you’re contributing to a server make less than minimum wage.

        1. I use my WorldMate tip calculator when I’m in the States and tip 20 percent unless we’ve received truly awful, negligent service. If I don’t have the calculator, I ask someone who is better at math than I am to figure it out. (Seriously — I’m very bad with numbers.)

          1. Chris,
            Just move the decimal point over one place to get 10%, and then double it. If you can’t do it, well then, the quality of your ‘wordsmithing’ certainly has earned you a pass on many other things!

          2. Don’t worry…There will be a time you can give it to your kids and they will do the math in seconds. At least that his how it is when I’m with my parents.

      2. Ah-hah! Something I can finally tut-tut at you for! 😀

        While I agree the system stinks, please don’t punish your poor servers for it being broken. I waitressed my way through college and most servers (the good ones, anyway) do a heckuva lot of work for those few dollars.

        Be kind to your servers…they’re handling your food, after all.

      3. I think the tipping situation is becoming a serious problem here in the States. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles on this issue, you now see tip jars damn near everywhere: at Starbucks, at Subway and other places where they were never at before.

        Everybody expects tips now. Everybody has a tip line on their receipts.

        And now that you have all of these places asking for tips that do not deserve them, the traditional places are turning to more underhanded tactics to get even more tips.

        1. There are certainly more opportunities to tip than there used to be and I think many people struggle to figure out what is fair.

          Lots of chain restaurants now have the pick-up/to-go entrances. I usually tip something, but not nearly as much as a normal meal, figuring the person putting everything together is providing some service and also knowing I’d be tipping if I was eating there. However, I’m not completely sold on whether that is a “necessary” place to tip…not even sure if those tips benefit just the people who helped me or if they get split among everybody like they’d do with a tip jar. I’d be curious to know how many people tip in cases like that and how they determine an amount.

          1. Speaking only for myself, I almost never tip if I’m getting pick-up/to go orders. Again, there’s no real service involved, and I’m the one who made the effort to go get the food.

            And I’m not about to tip at any fast food joints either (yeah, that includes you, Subway), no matter how prevalent “tip jars” become. 🙂

          2. I so agree with you on this. One take out place around here has two tip jars. One for the counter people and one for the cooks. And why should I tip for a cup of coffee at Starbucks or an ice cream cone at Baskin Robbins? It is just ridiculous.

  2. The best solution is for hotels and restaurants to charge “all in” prices for their products
    Depending on what that means that either great advice or terrible advice.

    The key here is transparency. The charges should be clearly set at so that
    people are not mislead. For example, a
    delivery charge is appropriate as it they hotel must pay the delivery
    person. What is not appropriate is for
    the hotel to charge one price in the restaurant and another for delivery then
    charge a delivery charge on top of that.
    That’s double dipping and wrong.
    Or charging a delivery charge and a percent surcharge.

    One thing I am against is automatically including the tip in
    the price. That’s just taking away my
    control to assist someone who didn’t pay attention in math class. When service is good I tip well. When service is poor I tip accordingly. Retaining control over the tip incentivizes
    better service

    1. I agree. also, if tips were already included in the price, then what incentive would the waitstaff have to provide service? We all see the horrible mediocre employees at fast food restaurants or big box stores that look half asleep and can’t even manage to look up from their texting to help a customer. Then when they do, they never get your order right or know the difference between one product and another? Well if tips were already included than that is what we would have at restaurants too. Tips ensure that good waitstaff make it and incompetent buffoons don’t. I don’t want to be served by an incompetent buffoon, there are enough of them out there already. Just look at TSA.

      1. But in Europe, where waiters are paid a very decent wage and don’t expect a tip, you get much better service in most restaurants than you do in even some high end dining places here. Why? Because the mangers of those restaurants won’t put up with wait staff that is incompetent and there are many competent people waiting to fill those positions when they open up. The waiters are held to a high level of expected service, they know it, and they do their best to achieve it. Of course you can find a bad waiter anywhere and those in Europe are not perfect either. Someone might just be having a bad day or they might have an overly demanding customer which throws them off their game. But you don’t find the “I don’t care” attitude as much there.

        1. Living in europe, I find service to be widely inconsistent from place to place, yet to always cost the exact same legal %age (usually 15%) ! Workers protection being far better in Europe than in the US, your argument about the managers hiring better is only partly true : they try to select better when hiring, but it is then difficult to undo if they realize they’ve made a mistake.

        2. This is the constant discussion among passengers on tips-included cruise lines (the swankiest cruise lines, such as Regent & Crystal, openly state “tips included” and dissuade passengers from tipping). I just got off a cruise on a tips-included ship (the Paul Gauguin in Tahiti) and I can assure you that the service was SPEC-TAC-U-LAR! Far better than cruises where you are expected to pay huge tips on top of your cruise fare, far better than most restaurants.

          I don’t understand why people seem to feel that you need to provide an incentive to service staff to provide appropriate service, other than the fact that they are being paid to provide a service. You don’t tip your car mechanic, do you? Yet you expect him to fix your car correctly and on time.

          If someone provides bad service, you let the management know, and they lose their job. That’s how the system works.

          I’m with Christopher: charge an all-in price, and let the cream rise to the top just as it does in no-tipping industries.

          On the other hand, I do realize that that is not how some employers are managing their businesses, so I will play the game and provide standard tips to service staff who provide appropriate service. I will not take my protest out on low-page wage earners.

        3. You’re so right about Europe. In Ireland, my son tried to tip a room service person and he was absolutely horrified! My son didn’t understand it at all (I was a waitress in college and educated my kinds early on being a good tipper) until the young man explained to him about having a living wage for all the employees of the hotel and tipping was not required or requested.

          I could get used to that.

        4. I worked in the service industry in Europe and the Europeans were delighted with my American attitudes. They do make what is called “drink money” which is left over and above the included service. But do not forget that the workers are covered under the health safety net, and make a living wage by contract.

    2. There’s a simpler solution: restaurant can enable you to provide feedback on service. There’s no tip, just fixed price, and if you don’t receive good service, you complain. This waiter will get fired if this continues. If the service was exceptionally bad, and you make drama out of it, the restaurant has always an option to give you a free meal or something like that.

  3. Sadly, many times tips don’t go for service but to defer the cost of hiring. The government allows the business to use up to around $5 of the tip per hour (the place has to pay something like $2 for minimum wage) to pay for the wage of the employee. Some of the more shady businesses will make the tipped workers do jobs where there are no tips (such as cleanup, stocking, etc.) and still use the tips you leave for the waiter/waitress for their pay.

  4. I’m currently in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where there is a sizable expat community from all over the world. Every time I go out, I’m inevitably the one who tips (being American) whereas my Australian counterparts just don’t have tipping in their culture. I always feel guilty if I don’t leave a tip. I think the poor waiters here are terribly confused as half the time, they probably get a tip and the other half not. I think it’s up to US businesses to ensure the service charge indeed goes to the staff. The businesses have other ways to make revenue. The staff do not.

    1. While I have lived in the US long enough to understand your guilt feeling, it really, really annoys me when Americans insist on tipping in non-tipping countries. It comes across as arrogant and/or stupid-apparently the Chinese call a tip the stupid foreigner tax. You should follow the local custom.

      1. It’s not that Vietnamese never tip. Some do, especially for personal services like massages where they expect a HUGE tip… I’m not sure I would classify tipping as “arrogant” as I’m sure the servers appreciate the gesture.

      2. Yeah but sometimes you travel abroad a lot and never know 100% what the local culture is. Yeah, you should prepare yourself, read a guide or sth, but who has time for it if sometimes you travel on almost every weekend.

  5. I worked for tips for many years, so I am quite a generous tipper. I generally tip 15% for lunch and 20% for dinner if the service was as expected, and more if it exceeded my expectations. Remember, workers are paid next to nothing, and don’t even get all of their tips. A lot of it gets pooled or shared with other staff such as bar tenders and food runners. What irks me is that a lot of people simply don’t tip. Either they don’t believe in it, or because of a situation outside of the wait staffs control such as a certain menu item running out, they believe they should not have to leave a tip. I do however think it’s completely appropriate to leave a poor tip or no tip if you received poor service.

    That being said, I hate the tipping scams. I was in a Boston cab recently where I paid by credit card and at the end it had 4 buttons: 20%, 30%, 40%, and No Tip. There was no enter your own tip option. I was flabbergasted and I asked the driver if there was a way to name my own tip. He said the taxi company installed these machines and everyone asks him that and unfortunately there is no way to do so. He also said the taxi company gets 7% of the total transaction including the tip as a service fee anytime someone uses the machine and he has to pay a 3% credit card fee as well. I hit “No Tip” and tipped him in cash. He was quite a nice driver, and even took the route I wanted. I actually gave him close to 30%.

    My wife got screwed by a restaurant in Miami once. The check didn’t show that a service fee was included. It mentioned in small print on the bottom of the check that a 20% gratuity will be added when the credit card is processed, which we didn’t even see in the dimly lit restaurant, so no service fee or higher number was actually displayed on the check. The check had one total, and when the credit card slip came out it had a higher total which she didn’t notice, and she tipped on the total on the credit card slip. Only after we left did she notice that the credit card total was already 20% higher than the total on the check already, so by tipping 20% on a price inflated by 20% already they got a 44% effective tip on that little scam. I have a friend who lives in Miami and he told me that is pretty much standard practice there and designed to help tourists part with their money. He said every time a waitperson does not verbally tell him the total is higher because a tip was added, he demands to see the manager and makes them completely remove the tip or he refuses to pay anything.

    1. I agree about tipping well in the US. I go to breakfast at a local diner a few times a month and leave a minimum of $2 per person even though the calculated amount would be less. The servers remember that I want tea, not coffee, and only half the hash browns (can’t stand to throw them out and way too much too eat). It is really a small investment for great service at a regular place. I think this is how tipping should work, not the money grab as an extra fee.
      Good for you with the cabbie – the money should go to him. I rarely use a credit card in a cab, but now I will look carefully.

      1. I agree totally. I don’t tip a percentage, in general, I tip based on number of people and quality of service. (For a buffet, for example, $1-$1.50 per person) because It bothers me to go to a high end restaurant and tip 20% on a $200 tab and tip far less to the friendly waitress at the diner we have Saturday brunches at who works just as hard and is incredibly efficient, but doesn’t happen to work at a place where the meals cost much more. I have always felt a bit squiffy about that.

      2. I also have a regular breakfast/brunch place and always tip generously (20-25% rounding up). As a result, I always get great service, with my iced tea at my table almost before I am! But I don’t hesitate to let them know if something isn’t acceptable. And that’s true everywhere I go. But it’s never right to punish the server for problems in the kitchen. And I always tip in CASH! Much better for them.

    2. There is actually an app for that. Mag Light, from Zynga: it uses your phone’s camera as a magnifier and lights the flash LED so you can read the bill in the darkest restaurant. The magnification is variable, so you can use it to read the menu when you don’t want your hot date to know you use reading glasses.

    3. This is an excellent post but I’m having trouble figuring out your rationale for tipping 15% at lunch and 20% at dinner. I could understand tipping more at lunch, as the prices are generally lower and the work almost the same, but not the other way around. I tend to tip 20% regardless of the time of day, and sometimes more if the service is really outstanding.

        1. This new Disqus system is by far the best I’ve seen yet since you changed your commenting system in the first place. I was going to leave a separate comment, but since you brought it up, I just responded. It has a great clean look and is very easy to follow and I like the opportunity to vote both up and down, and share the comments.

        2. You did say it in various comment responses, but you don’t say it in the article. In the article you say you are a terrible tipper. People who don’t read through all the comments before commenting themselves may not see that you’ve since stated that you tip 20%. You might do better to add an edit to the article. (BTW, as a former waitress, I don’t consider 20% to be a “terrible tipper.”)

      1. That was the rule I was taught and experienced when working for tips. The rationale I was told was because lunch is much faster and lunch menus have fewer items and choices. For example, lunch tables usually turn over in 30 to 45 minutes, people don’t take long to decide, get one dish, it’s served, they are checked on, they pay and leave. Not as much work, and fast turn over leads to a higher volume of lower tips. For dinner, people take their time, often order an appetizer while waiting, stay for a while after the meal and talk, and there is a lot more time involved checking on them, ensuring meals are prep aired correctly, explaining the menu and specials, etc. and tend to turn over in 1.5 hour to 2 hours per table. So the tips may be higher, but the turnover is so slow and there is a lot more work involved. So the 15% / 20% is supposed to make it net out.

        1. This sounds to me like a restaurant owner/manager trying to get servers to work lunch instead of dinner. I kniow my son, who has worked many years as a waiter, wouldn’t buy it.

          1. I don’t follow why it would be an owner trying to get people to work lunch. I worked lunch and dinner for many years; the logic makes total sense to me. I actually preferred lunch because I feel like on most days I made more tips during lunch, even though they were smaller. The only shift that paid badly was late night. People order 1 appetizer and 1 drink and sit for 3 hours and then tip $1.

  6. I thought that tipping in Europe was not done because the server was respected and paid a living wage. It was proper to leave the small change but not anything close to the 15 to 20 % expected in the US. I thought it was considered almost insulting to leave too much and it certainly brands one as an American.
    I have often noticed the hotel room service thing and I never add another tip onto the bill but I do hand the server $3 in cash if the delivery was prompt. Same cost I guess, but at least it goes directly into the pocket of the person doing the task.

    1. I have a co-worker from Brazil and she refuses to tip. She says in Brazil if you tip, it means the wait person is so horrible and incompetent at their job that you are giving them money as charity so their family won’t starve. I tried to tell her that in the US it is customary, but she says it goes against her culture, and she refuses to do it. It’s actually embarrassing to go to restaurants with her. But it’s interesting to learn how what tipping means elsewhere.

      1. That’s interesting. As someone else said further down, it makes the most sense to go with the local custom. Tipping like you’re in America in countries where tipping isn’t customary can make a person look arrogant or even foolish. On the other hand, failing to tip here when one is aware the waitstaff earns basically nothing is probably even worse. Too bad your friend can’t grasp it’s the culture you are in, not the culture you come from that should be the determining factor.

      2. Sorry to say, but your co-worker is lying and being cheap. Tipping in Brazil is absolutely costumary though usually it’s 10%, not 20%.

        Other than that, you should always ask a local person about tipping habbits before paying something.

        1. That’s interesting to learn. Thanks.

          Now I have more questions. Whenever we have a pot luck she says she can’t bring food because it’s dishonorable to bring food out of your home for others to eat and insulting to provide food to anyone outside of your home. Also when we had her family over for dinner she said she can’t bring anything for the same reason. My wife thinks she is making all of this up.

          1. Well, I’m Brazilian. I know just how big and culturally different Brazil can be. I have NEVER heard of such thing. Pretty much the opposite, actually, for mostly Brazilians don’t go anywhere without taking something. It is even troublesome sometimes. I also asked my husband (also Brazilian, but from a totally different region) and he has never heard of such traditions himself…

          2. I had a lot of Brazilian friends at work, and we had potlucks, and they used to bring delicious Brazilian food. Also used to bring homemade food to work. Never heard of those “dishonorable” thing. Honestly, never heard it would be dishonorable to offer food to someone in any existing culture in the world.

  7. I had this happen at a local restaurant. 18% tip on the bill, yet a tip line and suggested pre-calculated gratuities. Fortunately, I caught it.

    Restaurant staff was not very fluent in English and did not understand why this was a bad idea.

    In their defense, they do lots of large parties where the gratuity IS on the bill, but I wish they were clearer.

    That said, the food and service was excellent.

  8. I must admit, I too have fallen for this scam. I actually called the front desk and they were actually going to go back and take the extra tip. I felt horrible and said no, of course. I also feel like I have to tip because they are not making a lot and they rely on the tips (that is my assumption – I could be totally wrong and I apologize if I am). That being said, I will not tip if the service is bad. But after reading this, I will definitely pay more attention to the bills from now on!

  9. My parents just told me a couple days ago about a new kind of scam. They were in a well-known chain restaurant for lunch, and the bill came to just over $32, something like $32.12. My dad paid $40 in cash. The server came back to the table with seven dollars and then told my dad, “I’ll bring you your change if you want it.” Double take. Clearly the server was just expecting my dad to leave at least the five dollar bill from the change, plus wave off the 88 cents, thereby increasing the server’s tip from the five bucks to $5.88. Originally, my dad probably *would* have left the five plus the change, but the arrogance of “I’ll lower myself to bring you your coins if you really insist on having them” made him see red. My dad told the server to keep the 88 cents, but then reduced the rest of the tip by a couple bucks to make up for it.

    1. I would have been tempted to leave that person zero tip for that little action. If they don’t want to bring change, then round my tab down and bring me $8 back.

    2. I don’t like that either and I think the server was stupid to put that on your dad
      , but I think that’s the cheapskate restaurant, which makes each server carry their own cash fund, rather than have a real register with change. The server may not have had .88 in change and was going to have to beg change from either the bar or another server. I’ve noticed that several times in the last few years, and again, I blame the restaurant owner.

      1. Then, as the waiter, you explain that to the customer. You don’t leave the customer with the impression that you’re a lazy a**hole.

      2. I sell $20k+ point-of-sale (“cash register”) systems and I have to say that you have it backwards. Most table service restaurants in my corner of the US use “server banking”, where the servers carry their own cash “bank”. They close their own checks and make their own change. This provides cash accountability, versus everyone having their hands in a shared cash drawer.

        Sounds to me like the server in question either:
        1. Was trying to boost tips
        2. Was too lazy/busy to break a $1 bill wih the bartender, fellow server, or manager

    3. As an ex server in my college years I cringed with the above statement about being a terrible tipper. Especially knowing that Elliott has several kids. I understanding not wanting to double tip but damn, don’t punish a server who makes 2.13 per hr (at least that was the minimum 9 years ago). Open a restaurant if you want to change the system but don’t punish a college kid and/or a poor mother/father who relies on these tips to live and has ZERO ability to try and change things without losing their job. TO CHRIS- Stick to the 10, 15, 20 percent rule. 10 percent for ok with a few issues, 15 for typical service, and 20 for above standards. There- now you won’t be regarded as a bad tipper and you can frequent your favorite restaurants. Oh and I guess you can give zero if they manipulate you.

      If a server “keeps my change” on their own.. that is all they will get. The only time I have ever left a ZERO tipped a server was in New Orleans when they server kept bringing me refills on soda but failed to mention that refills were not free and it wasn’t on the menu.

      My disclaimer- I don’t tip Starbucks, or any walk up counter type venue. I think tip jars are tacky in those type of locations because they expect a tip before service is rendered. The only time I put money in a jar is when it is sitting in front of someone playing music.

  10. On a Carnival cruise last year we ate in the steakhouse for an extra $35 per person. I thought I had read that the charge included the gratuity. When I asked the servers to clarify, their near perfect English disappeared and they acted as if they had no idea what I was talking about. If the gratuity is automatic I no longer add anything extra regardless of the level of service.

  11. An 18% tip for room service is a complete joke anyways. Delivery is NOT service.

    SOP should be to always check your bill, regardless of whether it’s at a restaurant, room service, whatever. You should be checking it at the restaurant, before you leave the hotel, when dropping off that car rental…

  12. @elliottc:disqus didn’t you run an article somewhat recently that discussed tipping? Haven’t had my caffeine yet, so won’t comment until I’m (somewhat) rational.

    Update, 12 hours later: Found it! May 29, 2012: I said everything there that I wanted to say on this topic, so won’t add my 2 cents – or 20%. 😉

    And by the way, Disqus *IS* acting a little strangely, so the people who are commenting on your tipping habits acutally may not have seen your comments before they commented. I did report the actual issues I experienced to Disqus – found a neat little “gear” icon on the same line with the new tabs to sort comments and do other cool things with Disqus postings.

  13. So much spot-on advice! My daughters both have worked as waitstaff, and it has made them much better tippers, as they have seen it from the other side. I understand the culture you were raised in, Chris, but you apparently have lived in the states for a number of years, and waitstaff are paid MUCH differently here. I hope you reconsider when & how much you tip, as the employees really do try to please the customers, and they know if they don’t, it directly reflects in their paycheck.
    That said, I do agree that it is a scam to present a bill with both a pre-set tip and a tip “line”, particularly for room service, when most prices are inflated and a “per meal” charge is made instead of a “delivery” charge. It seems a lot of upscale hotel and resort restaurants are doing this. It may be because we are more of a global society now, and the tipping customs are different in the states.

  14. Go to Australia. Not only is tax included in the price of the food, but tips are not expected. They have one of the highest minimum wages in the world ($15.96 this year, and annually adjusted for inflation; 1 AUD = 1 USD give or take) despite a lower per capita income than the US. So anyone working should make enough to get by—there is no waitstaff getting paid $2.13 an hour before tips. If your meal price is $20, you pay $20.

    This means that prices seem expensive at first glance, but when you figure they already include tax (10% GST) and tip (~20%) the actual price is 30% less. It was even better when I was there in 2004 and the AUD was only 0.60 USD. If a meal cost AUD 20, it was the equivalent of USD 10.

  15. I agree with everything you say about deceitful add-ons and the need to scrutinize your bills for this sort of thing BUT your “excuse” for being a “terrible tipper” just doesn’t cut it. Cheap, cheap. Come on Elliott, you live in the US in the 21st century and tipping is part of this culture whether you prefer the European style or not. You are penalizing the servers (who do not make a living wage in the US) because you do not like the owner’s policies or the standard practices in this country! I call that attacking the victim and I think you should seek a better solution to the problem than that.

    1. I would read the story carefully, and also the comments. I tip 20 percent. I use my calculator. I disagree with the system, but I play by the rules. I don’t really have a gift for numbers, so when I have to calculate a tip on the fly without a calculator, I ask for help. That said, I think the system is wrong. It exploits servers. But that’s another discussion.

      1. I have read the story twice, and aside from your saying that you use a calculator, I see nothing indicating that you are not a terrible tipper. You could be using your calculator to to figure out a 5% tip.

  16. Well, this is because of labor agreements at some major chains, they have to have auto grat on the bills. At other establishments a portion of the grat (and the tray recovery charge) goes to the house, or hotel, and a portion to the server to be pooled with other staff. IF you leave a grat on the Tip line or in cash, that goes directly to the server, and they are taxed, etc. for it. I have to say, I have had some pretty amazing room servers go WAY above their duty when tipped well,from local connections for discounts to taking care of VIP’s of meetings I was coordinating. So, cash can be king, and if you are traveling on business, well worth the extra miles it will reap.

  17. the bar receipt onboard ship comes with a tip line although the 15% has already been added. I always mention that to my clients so they don’t double tip.


  19. The fact that this amount (and the service charge amount) will be added to your bill is, wherever i’ve been, repeated on every single page of the room service menu. Therefore, leaving a line for an extra tip if you wish can hardly be called deceptive !…

  20. This is not new! The practice of including the tips in room service has been their since I began world-wide traveling in 1971. You have to pay attention to what you are looking at. “TIP – to insure promptness”. If the room service takes more time than they tell you, scratch out the 18% service charge and mark “0”. It is your money. I tip big – 20% or none, based upon prompness, politeness, and quality. There is no , hotel or restaurant in this world that can demand that a tip be paid. Call the accounting office at the hotel if there is an argument and take it back to your credit card. Lots of ways to clean up an aggressive tip scheme. Now for the person that wishes to suggest the tip – none of the above. I give them a figure to put in their super duper computer.

    1. You’ve got to be careful here. If the tip is included in the bill (say, 18% for a large party) and the service was terrible, you cannot simply NOT pay the tip. You have to get the restaurant to re-issue you the bill WITHOUT any tip includes, and pay that bill. If you simply don’t pay the tip, the restaurant can – and I have seen this done – have the police come and get you for not paying the bill. It sounds ludicrous, I know; but I witnessed this in a restaurant in Maryland. They didn’t arrest the folks, but the manager made such a stink about it; there happened to be police officers in the restaurant; it really got way out of hand.

    1. That’s not 100% true. Usually you tip at least one or two euros in my experience and it depends on the kind of restaurant you’re in.

      I will that if you go to a touristy spot they will target Americans because in general we’re good tippers. Example, I went to a rather popular yet touristy place in Munich and when the bill came the waiter made a point of saying “That doesn’t include gratuity” which was not only annoying and rude it was insulting because it had a line that said “service” or gratuity or something to that effect ALREADY ADDED ON. It was in German but it was close enough I knew what it meant. He got zero additional gratuity from me.

  21. Modern gadgetry taketh away, but it also giveth. When you eat with a party, especially, you have to watch for the automatic gratuity. On the other hand, getting separate checks is a lot easier than it used to be.

    1. I also prefer searate checks, since one of out friends goes for the $$ stuff while we all have something basic, but some servers get testy about it and we cannot do it.

  22. “Disclosure: I’m a terrible tipper. Maybe it’s because I believe prices should include everything . . ..”

    Christopher, please fight the people who create the system, not the powerless service employees who depend on tips to eke out a living for them and their families.

    1. Exactly. How is it the waiter’s fault that they don’t live in a civilized country? If you’ve got a problem with tipping, take it up with the IRS. They are the organization telling restaurants they can pay staff next to nothing.
      I think it is dangerously irresponsible of Chris as a public advocate to post such a sentiment on his public blog.

      1. Not familiar with the IRS role, but servers do not even qualify for minimum wage protection in some jurisdictions, as “they’ll make up the shortfall via tips.” Disgusting.

      2. …perhaps you mean the Department of Labor? The IRS doesn’t determine minimum wages.

        How is it the customer’s fault that the “waiter” doesn’t live in a civilized country? Why is it the consumer’s job to be concerned with how much the server makes?

        I’m just a guy taking his family to dinner, not a tipped employee minimum wage activist.

        If the “waiter” has a problem with tipping, he should take it up with the Dept. of Labor. Or find a new line of (non-tipped) work… Just sayin’.

    2. OK, I’ve update this post to reflect the fact that I do, indeed, tip the standard amount. By “terrible tipper” I mean that I’m math-challenged, and I resent the fact that I’m asked to calculate 20 percent on the fly, and also, that the check doesn’t include the full price of the meal. I agree with you – the victims are the servers who have to work for these low wages. I did mention that in the original story.

      1. I am glad you clarified that!

        If you wish to tip 20 percent, it’s easier to calculate 10 percent and then double that.

        Frankly, I wish the whole system would go away and we’d adopt the New Zealand one, where tipping is never expected as hotel and restaurant staff are, I am told, paid a decent wage.

  23. i prefer to eat in local restaurants, but when I travel sometimes my best and most convenient options are chains like Applebees, Chili’s etc. I am so tired to poorly trained teenagers as waitstaff. Lousy service, forgotten and wrong food items are the norm. i understand that teens want spending money (I sure did and worked thru high school) but I resent tipping for bad service. Restaurants need to train these kids better or the kids themselves need to actually listen to the customers.

    It’s a breath of fresh air when I get a professional waiter or waitress. Not saying I haven’t gotten a good teenager here and there, but overall the experience is usually poor.

  24. In California, a “compulsory service charge” (like 18% will be aded for parties of 6 or more) – is a TAXABLE event, meaning that sales tax is calculated AFTER the tip is added – so in effect you are paying at least 7.75% (more in some cities) on the tip. For a large event like a wedding or sales meeting, this can be a sizable difference!

  25. My experience has been that the tip line remains on the receipt not to trick the customer, but to provide the customer with an area to add an additional tip amount if they feel it is deserved. We usually tip 20% so if we were only charged 18% (and no “tray” fee) for room service, we might add the additional 2% if the service was timely and the server friendly.

  26. I have never tipped at a hotel – my apologies, as I did not realize.

    Servers and bussers work hard (except at foo-foo steakhouses where the server takes the orders and other people actually serve) and I always tip around 15% and will gladly leave much more when appropriate, but will not be strong-armed if dissatisfied with good reason.

    Years ago I purposely used my charge card so I could explain (I wrote it on the slip) why only 1 penny for the tip, as I wanted the manager to see it.

    The server chased us out into the parking lot. OK, does that tell you what we were dealing with inside?

    1. At those “foo-foo” restaurants, the server is held accountable for the overall experience of the evening: from establishing a rapport with the host; to knowing the minute details about the menu, ingredients, and wine list; and ensuring that none of the guests ever want for anything. Just because you don’t see the server running around all over the place doesn’t mean that he or she is doing any less work.

  27. Even more insulting. I ordered a pizza from a local chain and instead of calling the number in the book (which lead to the front desk) I called the chain directly to have the pizza delivered to my room. The hotel had the NERVE to attach a room service fee to my bill upon check out. I raised holy hell when they refused to take it off. I asked them to show me where I signed for room service. This was some time ago and they eventually took it off but the fees are getting ridiculous.

    I hosted a company function once at a Marriott and we had a huge over payment due to a minimum price obligation. It was rather substantial and they wouldn’t reduce the liquidated damages charge BUT I convinced the hotel to let me use the over payment towards another function we were having in a few months. They eventually agreed and after the meeting we would still left with a few thousand dollars credit that would be wasted. So I decided to have a dinner for 20 of our managers the night before. We had great service from the staff the whole night. Three dedicated waiters etc. Our bill for the dinner came and with gratuity we were still under our credit by about $500 so I just tacked an additional $500 onto the $350 tip that was on there. The head waiter chased me down as we were leaving and pointed out that gratuity was already included. I said, “I know, Thank you for the great service”. Made leaving that huge tip even better!

      1. I actually never heard from their even coordinator after that but I was hoping for that exact reaction. You wouldn’t believe what I had to go through with them to get them to carry forward the balance from the other event. I wasn’t going to let a penny of it go to waste!

    1. Personal experience, those servers may never see that bill, nor know how much the tip actually was. They were more than likely told prior to the event they would “likely” receive a certain sum from the event, and any overage the Marriott “absorbed”. Hope it wasn’t true in your case, but you can’t know.

  28. A terrible tipper with what you do for a living? Really? Have you no shame? People who are forced to work on tip income, are doing so often by choice but more by the way the industries involved have gamed the system. For example why do restaurant servers still receive half of minimum wage in some states due to a loop hole in the minimum wage law, which by the way was supposed to be temporary. And have you ever made a bed, cleaned a toilet and emptied trash for minimum wage and no benefits? Or have you ever ran a tour for 7 days and had a client leave you a dollar a day when you make $75 a day? Your attitude stinks and unfortunately the service providers will continue to give you good service hoping to make enough to provide for their families. Jeez

    1. Either Disqus isn’t working right, or you have a reading and comprehension problem. I hope it’s the former. If my 20 percent tip isn’t good enough for you, maybe you’re in the wrong line of work.

    2. Yes I have cleaned toliets, made beds, wash dishes, vacuumed floors, taken out the trash, with no benefits. It is called being a houseperson. I do it daily!
      Now for your attitude, I wouldn’t tip anyone who expects it. I watched a waiter chase a patron out a restaurant in New Orleans. The patron turned on his heels and told the jerk that the service he provided was lousy and didn’t deserve it. My friend and I loved it as that same waiter didn’t want us to sit at his table. There were just the two of us and the table would sit 4. He wanted to make more money and in the end he got what he deserved…nothing! Our waiter got a 25-30% tip because he aplogized for his rude coworker, bent over backwards to make our dining experience pleasurable, brought the manager up to speak to us and got us complimentary champagne.

    3. I have done many jobs in my life so far including janitor and cook in a fast food place. I know very well what it is like to not make enough money to pay rent AND buy groceries in the same week. But I have never had the attitude that I deserved a tip for what I did because I wasn’t paid enough. I worked to move on to something that provided a better income where I did not have to depend on the generousity of my customers to earn a proper income. I do have a lot of respect for those who choose to stay in the service industries and who depend on tips to pay the bills since I was right there with them.

  29. Businesses should beware. People may decide to stop tipping. I do it because can afford it it. .I just move the decimal point one place for 10% and double for 20% and pick a place between the two for 15%. I use the amount before the tax.
    A tip is something extra. It is not necessary and is beginning to become a problem. I may not leave a tip at all.
    I remember once in Las Vegas leaving only a 10% tip. The waiter was poor. He stopped me and asked me why such a poort tip. I said why such poor service and he walked off.
    I remember once as a youngster leaving a tip of .25 Cents. The bill might have been $15 or so. They waitress gave it back to me stating I probably needed it more than she did. I did at that time.

  30. A local IHOP server made a $6.04 charge to an even $10.00 charge on my wife’s credit card, although the receipt signed showed $6.04. My wife had paid $3 tip in cash and put 0.00 on the receipt she signed. As the charge showed up on the card 2-3 days later, I inquired with the IHOP manager as a matter of principle. First they claimed that my wife had paid the tip to make it even $10.00. When I asked for their copy of the receipt as it didn’t matched our copy, they changed the story and said the server had mistakenly calculated the charges and offered the refund if I visited the location in person. I didn’t buy their story nor I wanted to go there and ask for the refund. I pursued with their corporate office with a hint at credit card dispute of the charge and the IHOP manager called and refunded the balance of the amount to my credit card. I asked him about the server and he mentioned that the server has been instructed to not round up the charges. It just shows that some servers would go to any length to secure more tips and some restaurants encourage such immoral and illegal practices.

    1. ALWAYS fill out the whole thing. Your copy too (if applicable). The server writing more in and changing the total is fraud. And should be dealt with as such. Call the card company and let them have there way. Then don’t go back.

  31. Actually its a reading and comprehension problem. Agree that the problem is becoming worse. Cruise ships are notorious for bringing the farewell cocktail, adding a standard tip and leaving a place for more. I am a generous tipper but do not want it snuck into my bill. The worse example I have was at the Wyndam in Panama City Panama where the hostess wanted me to pay for the expensive buffet, the included tip and add extra before we ate!!! Thanks for pointing out the folly of my comprehension. Enjoy the rest of your day.

  32. One piece of advice: never trust the precalculated tip amounts on the receipt. They are often wrong. Sometimes, they are even wrong in the customer’s “favor”, which I put in air quotes, because it could lead to a customer inadvertently tipping less than he or she had planned!

    Do the math yourself.

  33. Two more bad tip stories.

    1. I was comped a free buffet at the Cosmopolitan in Vegas. I left a $5 bill on the table for my wait person, it was free, so why not right? Later I got a room charge for $12 for the buffets. I complained at the front desk and they said it was the tax and gratuity, that it is mandatory for all comped buffets. They refused to budge. Even after I told them I left a cash gratuity. Hey said any cash left is extra gratuity.

    2. I used a limo company in NY to get form midtown to LGA when I was travelling with a group of people too large to fit in a regular car (I usually use a taxi for that trip, or sometimes a car service that runs $50 + tip and tolls). The limo place quoted me $80 + tips and tolls over the phone for the transfer. I booked it, they took my credit card info over the phone, and said I would get billed after the ride. When we arrived I asked the driver about paying and signing the credit slip, etc. He said it’s all handled by the company. I asked about gratuity and he said it would be appreciated and said I can add it when the company bills me. I decided to just give him a $20 instead. Later I got a credit card charge for around $150. I called the company and asked why I was charged almost double. They said there was a $20 booking fee, a gasoline fee, tax, and gratuity. I said that I was quoted $80 + tip and tolls, and that I tipped the driver in cash. They said that any tip given to the driver is extra, that they automatically add a 30% tip to all services + the other fees. I argued and they kept insisting this is customary in NY and every does it and I should have expected it which is not true as I have booked from several other car services. I e-mailed them so I would have a record and after several days of back and forth they refused to budge, so I filed a dispute with my credit card company. They tried fighting the dispute, and submitted a copy of our e-mail string where they very obviously added a fake line to the e-mail from me saying I agree to pay all of these charges. I replied to the credit card company with the full e-mail string as well showing I never said that and mentioning how fake it looks, and the credit card company reduced the charge to $80. I didn’t even realize that I got out of paying tolls, but I did, and don’t feel too badly after the stunt they pulled.

  34. tipping is such a stupid concept. Australians (as well as Japanese) don’t tip.
    Then again our minimum wage is about AUD$20 an hour for an adult these days (more than USD$20)
    We thought tipping in the good old USA has died with your economy !!!
    & adding tax at the end of the bill ?

    In Australia the tax (Godds & services tax of 10%) has to be included with each item & also shown as a total taxes that are included at bottom of bill (except for business to business transactions)

  35. Learn how to calculate a tip and don’t punish servers for your own faults.

    The trouble with your suggestion that food prices include the tip is that sometimes you buy food for carryout (no tip applies) and sometimes you dine in. Just look at your bill and mentally move the decimal point to calculate 10%, then double it to leave a fair tip of 20%.

    Until restaurants pay servers a decent wage, tipping will be the norm. Get over it.

  36. Pizza delivery charges.

    “Delivery charge is not a tip.”

    Really? Who gets it, then?

    I’m assuming it’s the delivery driver.

    I’m also assuming it’s the equivalent of credit cards charging service fees to shops and the shop adding it to the cost of the item purchased. Basically, it’s the pizza places not wanting to pay their employees for gas, so instead we have to.

    Granted, that is a REAL “convenience” fee, unlike stupid shit like Ticketmaster and Fandango, but for some reason, it just irks me.

    1. only a percentage of the delivery charge goes to the driver at big name places like Dominos which usually add $2 per order. So often people think they’ve already paid the driver $2 when actually the driver only gets some of that money to cover fuel. This leaves the driver at a loss because the only real reason to deliver pizza is for the added income that tips provide.

    2. You assume wrong. I delivered Pizza for 2 years and never got the “Delivery Charge.” I got minimum wage + tips.

  37. Oh I wish USA was anything like Europe – consumer friendly. When I first moved here 3 years ago I was confused most of the time: no sales tax added to the price means I never know how much I’m gonna spend, esp. when traveling and different places have different sales tax! If all I have is $5 in my pocket, will I be able to afford a $4.49 sandwich or not? USA is ridiculous.
    Same goes to tipping. Why not just include everything in the price? After all, I will need to spend those $40 on a meal, so why does the menu lie to me and says $30, it it’s not true? If you eat out a lot, that means you *think* you spend $600/month on eating out, where in real you spend $800.
    Oh, and in USA *everything* is tipped. Waiter, hair stylist, taxi driver, valet parking, and God knows who else. Soon I will be required to tip a cop giving me a speeding ticket. Sometimes, when I’m not sure if I have to tip or not, I resign and not use the service altogether. It’s just too embarrassing, and if you’re not sure, and ask, they will *always* suggest you should give a tip, even if it’s a freaking grocery shop.

  38. I think people should stop tipping altogether.
    Restaurants should actually pay their employees well and not leave it to the customer to make up for their lacking financial ethics. Many other countries in the world DO NOT encourage tipping of the servers, and some waiters would even get offended when you do. The restaurants I have been to in those countries did not have poor service. In fact, it was better than most US dining experiences I’ve had. Tipping has become a given in the US and I think that is a problem. Even when a server does a poor job they expect to be tipped. I just think its an outdated and ridiculous ritual we as a society have come to require of restaurant-goers.

  39. Is everyone in this discussion aware that most waitstaff are paid *less than minimum wage*?

    Tipping poorly for the reason you stated above is like kicking your dog when it’s your who child misbehaves. Please be mindful of who exactly will suffer from this type of article.

  40. I worked in restaurants for almost a decade, mostly in the kitchen. At a hotel we got nothing even though there were 5 busy banquet rooms etc. At a few smaller places the servers tipped out 10% of what they got. Day over day it wasn’t much but it was better than nothing.
    I would have preferred to have made a living wage but such is Canada where tipping still reigns.
    People shouldn’t be counting on on tips to survive, they are an extra. If the wage isn’t enough don’t take the job. As it turns out our parents were right and we should have stayed in school.
    I was at a “trendy” bar once, the bartender threw the .25 in the rail assuming it was a tip. I made the bartender pick the quarter out. Snotty bastard would have gotten it but i figured some humility would do him good. The service there was deplorable at best.
    If the service somewhere sucks or they try to scam every last penny out of you, just don’t go back. It’s that easy. There’s a chain here which I really like but the one just has bad service so I just don’t go to that one.

  41. What gets me is the services where “service” is not a part of the product delivered by the person receiving a tip. I include room service and taxis here. They have one function, to get food or people from A to B. Why do we tip these positions?

    As a former server, bartender, room service attendant, pizza delivery driver and manager of all of the above. The service charge goes to the server in every circumstance I have worked. If they pool tips/charges, that’s their problem, work elsewhere. Also, remember, that they often pay a portion (2-10%) of their tip to the staff who supports their delivery of a service.

  42. Don Nadeau…1. Why didn’t the UNIONS get together and fight the government interfering with ‘tips’ ? (Guess the only thing they’re REALLY good for is lining their own pockets). 2. Why do ‘service’ people find it acceptable to work for such low wages? 3. It’s disgusting SLAVERY.

    Tips are for exemplary SERVICE… and belong to the one who serviced. No one else. It’s up to you to recognize that you are NOT ‘powerless’ (as you put it)… so stop running a ‘poor me’ and help get you all together to fight back.

    An ex Catskills waitress of the 50’s

  43. OK – I’ve read quite a few comments, think I’ll chip in. I am one of the owners of a restaurant that employs tipped waitstaff and delivery drivers. I’ve waited tables and delivered food in the past, so I get it. In our restaurant, we pay all tipped employees full minimum wage (8.25 hr) plus the tips they earn. A few get paid more. A lot of restaurant folks on my side of the buisiness think I’m nuts and throwing money away. Not so. We have very low turn over and very high guest satisfaction. We’re not perfect, but we’ve got one hell of a great team and I’m blessed to pay them more than industry standards.

  44. I think in many places where a tip line is on the bill, that it is laziness on the part of the company not changing the default presets from the credit card processing company.

  45. Easy fix for the math-challenged who get poor service: just round up to the nearest dollar. Clear message that the service sucked and easy on your brain cells.

  46. Tipping is a big scam anyway. If nobody tips, then the establishment must still pay them at least the minimum wage. I call tips a way to hide revenues and drive down their tax bills.

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