I’m not sure if restaurants are getting sneakier or whether this has been going on for some time but my advice is to always pay attention when you’re signing your bill. RELATED: Never Be Afraid to Ask This Question at a Restaurant

Always check your bill before signing it at a restaurant.I know a lot of people who don’t really pay attention when closing out a restaurant tab. It’s known that some waiters will add extra drinks or dishes so they get a larger tip if there’s a large group, a corporate dinners, drunk customers or couples on their first dates.

The NY Post once published a waiter’s confessional about this tactic, which I remember reading when it first came out. I just Googled it to see if I could find it and I did … and it’s from 1999! That’s hard to believe because I can still remember where I was when I read it … on the 6 Train. Twenty-five years later, the story is still a really interesting read. Check it out here: Eateries’ Fake Charges a House Specialty: Billing You Softly For Food You Didn’t Order

Here’s an excerpt: “Experienced waiters intent on larceny know how to spot an easy mark – they look for large groups, heavy drinkers and people on important dates or business meals. “You can basically read a table in the first few seconds,” said one waiter, who claimed he easily bilked diners of $500 in unordered items every night.”

That’s one thing to be on the lookout for but there’s another dirty trick to be aware of, too. I recently wrote about something similar as they relate to hotel room service bills.

I was reminded of this trick by Thomas Hawk, an American photographer based in San Francisco, who wrote this of an undisclosed restaurant in Los Angeles:

“Out for dinner for five in Los Angeles tonight. The check seems to show a 20% service charge added. But then when the credit card comes back it says gratuity not included and suggests gratuities. Is this just a tipping scam to try to get people who have had a few cocktails to over tip or am I missing something here?”

Some of Thomas’ followers responded with: 

“That is a major scam. Most places automatically add 20% for groups of 6 or more but have an “additional gratuity” line. I’d report them”

“Yup- they are asking if you want to tip on top of the 20%”

“Bartender here: The service charge was a large party auto grat. The “gratuity not included” line prints out regardless of service charge. You didn’t need to tip more unless your service was that good.”

“Seems just like a programming issue. The computer prints out the bottom gratuity section regardless of what custom charges are put in the top section which includes tip.”

My take is that it could be a programming issue but it’s seems like a scam because the waiter should just cross out the additional gratuity or at least tell the customer that the tip has already been included.

I know restaurants are known for automatically adding a tip for parties of six people or more but for five? That’s ridiculous. I really despise when restaurants do this because a tip should reflect how good the service is and should not be used to offset the owner’s overhead costs. I also wonder if this restaurant gives all the tips to the waiter or if they’re pooled and split between everyone working that night. 

My advice is whenever you’re signing any bill, be it at a restaurant, for room service or even  checking out of a hotel or cruise, take your time to go over each line item. Check to see if anything extra was added and if the tip has already been included.

For hotels and cruises, get your bill the night before you check out so you don’t feel pressure to hurry up when there’s a long line of impatient guests behind you.

For the record, I almost always tip 20% but if the service is atrocious, which has only happened a couple of times, I leave much less. Here are some other interesting article we’ve written on this topic:

Is Your Hotel Scamming You? How to Spot This Hidden Room Service Fee
Never Be Afraid to Ask This Question at a Restaurant
Has Tipping in the United States Gotten Out of Control?
Your Guide to Tipping in the 25 Most Popular Countries in the World
How Much I Tip Hotel Housekeepers

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3 Comments On "Warning: Some Restaurants and Hotel Room Service Try to Pull a Fast One on Guests With This Trick"
  1. Polly|

    only idiots tip for standard expected service. if someone does an exceptional job, then tip. for someone simply carrying a plate to your table and filling your glass with water, a tip is not necessary.

  2. Scott|

    If the service is atrocious, then the tip is $0.oo Period. Full stop.

  3. Max Weber|

    In some states, servers are paid an hourly wage of somewhere between $2 to $3 per hour. In the vast majority of the nation, tips continue to make up a large portion of the server’s salary. In most cases, the standard rule of thumb or etiquette for tipping is to leave 15 percent for service you consider “average,” and 20 percent if the service you received was above average.

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