Saturday, 27 October 2007


I am lucky to have a very happy and full life. But I've decided that what is missing is a thumpingly good campaign about something. I'm not particularly fussed about campaigning to save the world, as most of the possible ways already seem to be campaigned about. So it's going to be something far more insidious: thieving restaurateurs.

I always make a point, before leaving a tip, of finding out how much (if any) of it gets to the staff. I commonly find that the restaurant dips its filthy digits into the tip pot and steals some (and in some cases all) of the money. Usually, cash tips get to the staff - and may be shared around. But usually card tips don't get to the staff in tact.

On top of the fact that this is bad for their business (by making tips low, their staff will start to resent people who don't tip much rather than appreciate people who do, so service will suffer and hence the restaurant's reputation will suffer), it is also deceptive. I have not found a restaurant yet that says 'we will deduct an admin charge from tips' - they let you think that it is all going to the staff. And what they deduct is huge in some cases. Some take all of it, but many others say, if asked, that they take 7% (Tootsies) or even 8% (Pizza Express). Push further and they will admit that this is not a percentage of the tips, it is a percentage of the total bill and therefore more that half of the tip that you are leaving. So even if you ask, they still try to deceive you into thinking that it is not an unreasonable amount.

Let's not mince words here: this is stealing, and should be punishable as stealing. The restaurant may have to pay the staff, but I pay them for that when I buy my meal and my (generously marked up) drinks from them. As a minimum, I expect that they put some of that money towards paying staff a legal hourly wage (and ideally a fair hourly wage) - after that, the money that I give the staff as a tip is precisely that: money that I have given them to say thank you. If they asked me to contribute some extra money towards the cost of their premises, I would tell them to shove it - so why should I do that with the tips that I leave. For how long will this continue to be legal?

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