Getting rewarded for your service isn’t your right

Fine dining is an experience. There are dozens of them in and around my city. I love them all! Except for one damn thing — service charges. A small charge (usually 10% of the bill before taxes) that restauranteurs tack in when you ask for a check. While it’s nominal enough to be ignored, citizens aren’t obliged to pay for a service charge. And the government has made it pretty clear — total bill = total value (of the products/services/articles) + taxes. That’s it!

Tacking in an extra 10% as service charge doesn’t make sense. And I think that’s because the amount goes to the restaurant/entity instead of the server who’s actually taking care of the guests. Since we all like good service, we’re more likely to tip the server than the restaurant. In fact, even the thought of tipping the restaurant is absurd — we’re paying the damn bill! And now they want us to pay them a “service charge”? I thought this is the service business!

So, in 2016, I decided not to pay a “service charge” at any of the restaurants that I dine at (with my friends, family or clients). In the event they present me a bill with a service charge, I insist that they waive it off and then pay the amount in cash to the server (if I actually appreciate the service). When they refuse to budge, I reason and then they have to strike it off.

I remember an incident (and this has happened to me twice!) when the restaurant manager refused to strike it off, stating “it’s the norm here.” I reasoned, only to be intervened by a kind lady who happened to be the owner of the restaurant. She said, “every restaurant in this area charges this and so do we. You have to pay for this.” Of course, I vehemently expressed how absurd the whole damn thing was. I asked the poor colleague with me to pay the service charge since I’m don’t believe they deserve the charges anyway. He paid. I footed the remaining 90% of the bill.

I think more people should do this. Why? Because thanks to the restaurants, we’ve stopped tipping the servers who (mostly work on daily wages or slightly more) bear the brunt of the customers who walk in. And it’s not easy to serve under pressure. We’ve all been there.

Here’s an off-the-wall way to look at it — would you let your employer take way (or steal?) that performance bonus your client wanted to reward you for?

I didn’t think so either.

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