Tipping is Optional

I was at a restaurant with four co-workers the other day.  It’s one of Orlando medium-to-upscale steak houses, called Hillstone.  The company picked up the tab and I put it on the corporate credit card.  The total was $141.00 for all of us.  Since I always tip at 20%, the tip would have been around $28.00.

Lo and behold, when the check was brought out to me, they had included the gratuity for me!  The restaurant added an 18% tip to the total and asked me to pay $165.00.

I didn’t argue.  I paid the bill, but inside I was fuming.  I have blogged about this before (in a past life on another blog) and my feelings have not changed.

Tipping is optional.  When you add it for me without my consent it becomes a service charge.  Service charges need to be disclosed up front.

My bill - click for larger image

My bill - click for larger image

So Hillstone lost $5.00 in tips because I always tip 20%, not 18%.  But the fact of the matter is that I will not go back to Hillstone now.  They betrayed the diner/restaurant trust and I am unforgiving in this regard.   Tipping is my prerogative, to reward good service or to punish bad service.  It is not the prerogative of the restaurant to add it for me because they assume I am an idiot and can’t do the math.

A mandatory service fee is a hidden cost – these costs should be included in the prices on the menu instead of sneaked up on me at the end, when I have no choice but to pay.  It is poor form, bad business, and is the one thing that will literally drive me away from an otherwise great restaurant, force me to blog about it to my hundreds of Twitter followers, hundreds of Facebook followers, and thousands of monthly anonymous visitors to my site.

Hillstone, you did me wrong and I am offended.  Had you simply put “suggested tip” at the bottom of my bill and left the decision up to me we would still be good friends.  But you did not – and you have lost a customer and have created a poor PR situation on the interwebz.

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4 Responses to “Tipping is Optional”

  1. absolutely, agree with you on this. If tip is included, it is no different than tax and we pay double tax for each meal.

  2. That’s just crazy. Usually, you may see a restaurant post a sign, or on their menu, that parties of 10 or more (or whatever # they use) will automatically be charged a ??% gratuity. For them to NOT disclose it anywhere is wrong on many levels.

  3. Interesting.
    So a couple of months ago my wife and I, already being passholders at Disney and wanting to eat at their various restaurants, opted to buy the “Tables in Wonderland” for the benefits:

    Benefits

    *20% discount on all food and beverages at over 70 participating Resort hotel and Theme Park restaurants (discount is valid for a party of up to 10 Guests).
    *Resort and Theme Park parking for dining purposes
    *Invitations to special member-only food and wine events, winemaker dinners and celebrity chef dinners
    *And more!

    The 20% off food and beverages part of that includes alcohol. Let’s just say one nice dinner at the California Grill and we’re already more than halfway to recouping the cost of the card — so it’s worth it for us.

    The issue?
    Every time you use it (and mind you it’s meant to be used at their more expensive restaurants) – they add in a 18% gratuity. That’s just part of it.

    To me, they screw themselves because I, like you, do 20% – and since I suck at math, I usually round up.

    When we had that dinner at the California Grill that night – our server didn’t seem very motivated. We’ve always wondered if it’s because we flashed that card when we sat down to eat.

    She knew what she was going to get for her tip. It was set the moment we ordered our drinks and meal.

    So by using this card – does this mean we’re going to get mediocre service?

    We’ve decided to show the card at the END of the meal from now on – haven’t used it again – but I’m curious to see how the service will be.

  4. Most comprehensive link to the “Tables in Wonderland” program I could find – in case anyone was wondering what the details were:
    http://www.mousesavers.com/diningexperience.html

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