Is there a difference between a “Gratuity” and “Service”?

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  • MartynSinclair

    I hosted a lunch at a regular haunt last week for 6 people. Bill paid, tip left and thanked the staff and went on our way.

    In a business scenario, I generally glance at the bill and pay it, not wishing to over scrutinize in front of guests. When I reviewed the bill later in the week for my expenses, I noticed, the sub total, auto gratuity and total.

    At the foot of the bill in big bold letters “SERVICE NOT INCLUDED”.

    I also noticed the restaurant had marked the receipt as 7 covers not 6.

    My question, in case I am missing something – is there a difference between a Gratuity and a Service charge and why would the restaurant add 1 cover? There was no added charge for bread…..

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    In the UK (and many European countries) all restaurant prices must be quoted as full and final prices, i.e. including service. I’d be inclined to report any restaurant flouting the law.

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    An interesting subject Martyn – very pleased that you raised it as I suspect we will all learn a lot.

    My contribution:

    I dont believe that you are missing anything Martyn but it seem that the law is being widely flouted and often unchallenged.
    In UK and most of Europe if an involuntary ‘Service Charge’ is added I do not tip.

    Possibly if the service by an individual has been above and beyond I will tip but it will be quietly cash in the hand.
    Should any fuss be made by the manager re the lack of a tip added to the c card bill I will never return to the establishment.

    In Asia it is all more reasonable but very variable country to country:

    Basically It is considered horribly rude to tip in Japan and in most of.China. There is very seldom any ‘service charge’ other than sometimes in 4/5 star multinational hotels and bars.

    HK adds a service charge in formal restaurants and bars but nothing further is expected – but accepted.

    In Thailand and surrounding countries tips are not the norm but SMALL tips are graciously accepted but deffinatly not expected. Normally (there are exceptions) there is no ‘Service Charge’ applied in restaurant’s/bars.
    (ther than those bars that none of us ever visit….)

    Korea seems to have become something of a mixed bag and ‘stevescoots’ is a better more up-to-date informant on this than am I.

    Philippines adds a 10% service charge – nothing more expected.
    A marvellous perk however is that over 60’s get 20% discount no questions asked (also in most supermarkets – ( the older population seem to do a lot of shopping in the Philippines!)providing that you have proof with photo (my new HK ‘MTR’ card works well.

    I must I suppose mention the USA.

    It is an unpleasant minefield for me as I positively hate the regressive blackmailing system where staff are paid a pittance and the customer forced to pay directly what amounts to there wage plus a ‘tip’.
    I see though that this regressive policy is showing some signs of change

    I get into terrible trouble in America (Canada much less so as the people are more reasonable about these matters) as if the food and or service is poor (unacceptable by any norms) I will not tip.
    However I will tip for service if the service was up to par (the normally expected amount) if it is the food that is the problem I will not pay for the food – Managers choice and if not amicably resolved = no tip at all and I will NOT bend.
    Ninety percent of the time fortunately all works well….. I am not suggesting that my policy is correct or advocating it to others however I believe it to be reasonable given the huge ‘tips’ expected.
    I am an experienced cook, well traveled restaurant diner and once an owner of large restaurants thus my expectations in North America in are on the lower side of reasonable.

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    Charging for cover of 7 when there were 6 people is daylight robbery. The restaurant can be named and reported if they provide no good response if OP contact them first.

    I have noticed a couple of times (of course a very low percentage if I consider hundreds of dinners I had hosted), when the restaurant probably thought this is large group and spending a lot of money on drinks and food, so they can charge a few extras like charging astronomical amount for water, salads and titbits with drinks. I avoided those restaurants afterwards.

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    Is it as simple as a service charge being automatically added for parties over6? Therefore fraudulent.



    So glad you got Bill to pay for that lunch ………… Chief Inspector Frank Drebin humour … come on laugh everyone………………

    However back to the subject, you didn’t mention where you had experienced that somewhat unscrupulous behaviour ………. was it in UK?


    I always check for service on a bill and ask the staff if that goes to them personally or not. Usually it does but if not I strike it and leave a cash tip instead. But I object to the bill being left open in the hope I’ll be tricked into double tipping.

    But be grateful. In the US they have a suggested tip between 20-30% and the latest is the expectation to tip the cashier in a self service, usually suggested at the same level. No way am I tipping for service when the only service is to stand at the till and ring up the items I have taken from the shelves. But I feel bad for the staff who are also victims of these subterfuges and often rely on the gratuity to supplement meagre salaries.

    I’m in Tokyo at the moment and it is so nice to be somewhere where tipping simply isn’t part of the culture – in fact it can be considered an insult to tip. They take pride in doing their job well and the suggestion they need paying extra to do so is not welcome.

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