Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Dictionary.com defines oxymoron as "a figure of speech by which a locution produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect, as in “cruel kindness” or “to make haste slowly.” Other classic examples are jumbo shrimp, pretty ugly, and as George Carlin was so fond of using, military intelligence. I think another that would apply would be something that some restaurants now use, mandatory tipping. Going back to dictionary.com, the relevant definition of tipping is "a small present of money given directly to someone for performing a service or menial task; gratuity." One more, gratuity, "a gift of money, over and above payment due for service, as to a waiter or bellhop; tip. and something given without claim or demand." Using those definitions, how can a restaurant add a "gratuity" to your bill?
This was brought home last month when a couple was arrested for refusing to pay the 18% gratuity that was tacked on to their bill. The reason for not tipping? Their party of eight waited an hour to be seated, had to get their own tableware, and go get their drinks refilled themselves. That is inexcusable from any wait staff. Then to be told you would have to give them $16 for that, I would be upset about it. The restaurant has a policy that parties over six are subject to the mandatory tipping charge. The couple paid the $73 bill, but refused to pay the tip. That was when the police were called. They were reluctant to get involved but charged the couple with theft. Fortunately saner heads prevailed and the charges were dropped. Of course the restaurant is claiming that the entire story has not been told. It sounds like they are in full CYA mode.
Personally I have no problem with tipping. I have mentioned before that every other Wednesday My Lady and I eat at the Huddle House. Since we are regulars we have become friends with several of the waitresses. I know what they are paid and they do rely on tips to make their money. We always tip them well. However there was one time that we had a lousy service. It was a new person who seemed more interested in talking with his friends than taking care of us. My Lady did not want to leave any tip, but I talked her out of that. We left a penny. To me, leaving no tip could be interpreted as forgetting to do so. After all, he was new and did not know us. Leaving the penny showed how unhappy we were. He has since then waited on us several times and is now very attentive to our needs. If I ever go to a place where tipping is mandatory, I will walk out. Good service should be rewarded, bad service deserves little.