Double-dipping at a restaurant is bad table manners. Equally rude are restaurants that encourage double-tipping.
Despite the IRS cracking down on the way automatic gratuities are treated, (they must now be labeled as a service charge, which means for servers such tips are reported and taxed the same as wages), some restaurants haven’t been deterred and are still adding gratuities to the bill, whether you’re dining alone or in a big group.
To make matters worse, when you pay with your credit card, you still receive a receipt that has a blank tip line for you to fill in, meaning if you’re not looking closely, you’ll be tipping on a tip!
Lest you think I’m a tip miser, especially after my last post on the new digital tip jars, you should know that I regularly tip 20 percent on meals. I only became aware of the double-tipping phenomenon after spending a week tipping 20 percent on bills that already included a 20 percent tip.
Yes, I admit, I didn’t look too closely at the itemized bill before paying. But, after chatting with some other tourists on this same strip in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where automatic gratuities seem to be the norm, I found out I wasn’t alone. Since most restaurants don’t have this practice, unsuspecting customers simply look at the total, tack on an extra 20 percent, and sign.
Fort Lauderdale isn’t the only city where you should be vigilant with your bill. A quick Internet search will show many unsuspecting diners expressing outrage at the included gratuity on their restaurant bills in cities such as New York and Miami (most were upset when they were dining alone or with one other person, as automatic gratuities used to be the norm only for parties of six or more). Travel pages on TripAdvisor even educate travelers on where they can expect automatic tipping.
While some restaurants may have stopped this practice since the IRS ruling, some haven’t, so it’s always good to be aware. When asked by local news agencies why they include an automatic tip, restaurant managers in tourist areas say it’s to ensure their servers make enough, since many customers come from countries where tipping is not part of the culture.
Nevertheless, if you do find gratuity slipped into your bill and labeled thusly, what can you do? If it really gets under your skin and you’re a bit of an activist, you could call the local Better Business Bureau and file a complaint against the restaurant. The IRS ruling made it clear that whether to leave a tip, how much to tip, and who the tip goes to are decisions for the customer, not the business.
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of filing a complaint, you can try asking the restaurant manager to take the gratuity off your bill. Or, you can consider the “service charge” your tip and leave nothing extra when you sign the bill. If you loved the service, add a bit more. As long as you take a look at your bill before signing, you can be the one to decide whether it’s worth double-tipping.
What would you do? Share your thoughts!