Tip Not Included Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does

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I was a waitress for several years.  And because of that work, I often HATE being part of a large group in a restaurant.

I know at some point during dinner, my server is likely to be fantasizing about the multiple cocktails they will need to have that evening to recover from the torture of our group.  And as such, I want to be sure they have been appropriately compensated (so that they can buy their recovery cocktails) so I have a Pavlovian response to look to see if the restaurant has automatically added a gratuity or not.

Last night I was dining at Rice & Co with several bloggers – on separate checks, of course.  So when my bill arrived, my eyes caught the phrase “Tip Not Included”.   I was ready to calculate a gratuity.  In fact – the restaurant suggested several possible calculations – 20% seemed totally fair to me.

But look closer…

I'm confused....

I’m confused….

… not to the bottom (where I was looking), but to the subtotal/tax/total – a gratuity of 18% had already been added onto our checks.

Had another person not noticed it, several of us might have tipped twice.  From me, our server would have netted a 38% gratuity, not the 18% he had already added on.

This is a blatantly deceptive folio, not only due to the conflicting information, but also due to the interchange between “gratuity” and “tip” that seems intentionally confusing.

So be warned – the next time you dine out, don’t assume that “tip not included” means what you think it does!

About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last nineteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 48.5 US states. Once an "every week" road warrior, she now only travels around 100 days a year. She resides in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and playing with her Border Collie/Great Pyreness mix puppy Harley Quinn.

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    • They said that the system prints it automatically on receipts. I think its a matter of how they program their computer but I didn’t see it on any of my other MLife receipts over the weekend.

      • When the parties are bigger than 4 people in some restaurants they already take the gratuity because is a lot of people and in some cases the customers are so cheap that they dont even tip the server.

  1. Very sneaky indeed! Gratuity = tip in my mind. Maybe after a few drinks in a dark restaurant, most people probably don’t read the receipt very closely.

  2. That is total BS. I saw something similar at a popular NYC restaurant near my office. Thankfully I had read enough reviews on Yelp to be aware of the situation. i am tired of the over tipping USA that I now scrutinize a bill thoroughly. My general rule of thumb is if there is an auto gratuity and I would have tipped beyond that then that is all they get unless they have seriously gone above and beyond. When I mean above and beyond, I mean my dining companion got so wasted that they puked on the table and passed out under the table.

    • I think it is a particular problem in Vegas that is perhaps enhanced by the casino software that allows the restaurants to process things as room charges. I dined at a restaurant at Paris on Sunday night and again had a (different) “gratuity not included” message on the bottom – but their policy was to add it for parties of 5 or more. I wasn’t staying in that family of hotels and ran my check as a normal credit card transaction so I didn’t get to see how the charge receipt printed.

    • And perhaps the funniest thing… I bought some note cards at the gift shop in the lobby of the Westin yesterday – and they had a gratuity line too. Seriously.

  3. I live in Hawaii and have worked in the restaurant insudstry for 20+ years and in most places we aren’t allowed to include a gratuity, a lot of times should a gratuity be included in your bill keep in mind about 7% is given to the kitchens as well as the hostess and not soely to the server whose been serving you, they are also working for less than min wage and are required to tip out the food runners, hosts, bar, -and kitchen regardless of how you tip. Please beware and tip your servers accordingly.

    • A great reminder Emily! I usually do leave a bit extra even if a gratuity has been added in. Good service is worth every extra penny!

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