Double dipping tipping is getting out of hand

Double dipping tipping is getting out of hand

Double dipping tipping is getting out of hand

Service industry businesses like restaurants, limousines, hotels and cruise lines are getting into the habit of imposing a 20 percent “tip” for services rendered to customers. But they are still asking for an additional “tip” when the bill arrives. A “tip” is supposed to reflect a customers satisfaction or dissatisfaction with an employee’s work, not a supplement to offset a cheap employers who doesn’t pay his or her employees enough for their work

By Ray Hanania

There is a disturbing new trend in tipping that is bothering me and I think it bothers most of you, too.

But what do we do about it?

It’s something you might see Larry David, the creator of Seinfeld, explore in his successful HBO comedy series “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” If you haven’t watched the series, you should. David precisely captures the paradoxes of everyday American life.

We let this happen more and more these days.

Dinner table setting at a high end restaurant. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

Dinner table setting at a high end restaurant. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

You go to a restaurant and when you get the bill, the restaurant automatically includes a 20 percent “service charge” which is basically a “tip.” The normal “tip” used to be 15 percent but somehow many companies have decided that 15 percent isn’t enough.

Worse – and this is what really bothers me – in the same bill, they include the cost plus the 20 percent service charge as your bill, with a line that allows you to add a “tip” before filling in the final balance that will be charged to your credit card.

Now, many times, the businesses don’t explain that they added the “service charge” to your bill.

But when they do, normal conscientious people like me, find ourselves in a quagmire. For you readers who went to the Chicago Public Schools, I have to always look that word up too in order to find its meaning. Quagmire means “bad situation” or a “dilemma.” (Why didn’t I just use those words instead? I have no idea.)

I feel guilty totaling the bill without adding a number to the “tip line” on the bill receipt. It’s like automatic. I write in an amount, usually 15 percent for average service and 20 percent for service that goes above and beyond.

When I know they added a service charge, I can’t look the waiter or waitress in the face and return the bill without a “tip” written in and totaled on the bill.

It’s just wrong. I’m discombobulated (confused – OK, I’m just having fun with words here.)

I feel guilty not writing down a “tip” amount because that is the way my father raised me. Be respectful of people in the service industry. Their employers pay them less to serve the food and tend to our meals in restaurants. But the “service charge” added to the bill disconnects from that feeling and leaves me feeling disrespectful. (I could have found another word for that, but I won’t burden your mindset anymore.)

This whole system nearly ruined a recent cruise I took during the Christmas and New Year Holidays – Merry Christmas people! (The Orthodox celebrated Christmas on Jan. 7, 2018, two weeks after everyone else.)

When you take a cruise, they automatically demand a “gratuity” charge that is 20 percent of the basic cruise costs. For three people, that was well over $300. But on top of that, I still found myself giving the waiters and room service people “tips”. So, I basically gave 35 percent “tips” for the service.

There are other industries that have turned to the hidden “service fee” as a means of increasing the “tip” from 15 percent to 20 percent, such as the limousine industry.

Deep down, I also have this suspicion that the businesses are taking all or part of the “service charges” for themselves.

A “tip” is supposed to be an expression of gratitude, not a required payment for services. You “tip” someone when they do well, and you “tip” more when they go above and beyond. You shouldn’t have to “tip” someone just because their employers are too cheap to pay them the minimum wage.

If a waitress or waiter is not getting enough money for their work, that’s not the problem of the customer although that’s how we have been taught. It should be the problem of the business owner who exploits the waitresses and waiters, collecting huge profits from the sale of product and demanding that customers add more to help cover the cost of the employees.

If you have this experience, I’d really like to know how you are handling this change in our societal norms. And, in what industries are you seeing this trend take place?

If a limousine company charges me $67 to take me to O’Hare Airport, then I should decide if the driver deserves another 15 percent as a “tip,” or maybe a larger “tip” of 20 percent of even 25 percent. But from now on, I’m not giving anyone a “tip” if the restaurant, limousine service, the cruise line or any other service business imposes a “service fee” to cover the employees’ work.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and former Chicago City Hall reporter. Email him at rghanania@gmail.com.)

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author & former Chicago City Hall reporter (1977-1992). A veteran who served during the Vietnam War and the recipient of four SPJ Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing, Hanania writes weekly opinion columns on mainstream American & Chicagoland topics for the Southwest News-Herald, Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, and Suburban Chicagoland.  

Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America. 

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Click Here to LISTEN to Hanania's live radio show on 2nd Friday every month 7 AM CST. Click here to listen to Ray's Podcasts. 

His columns are archived here. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.

Email Ray Hanania at rghanania@gmail.com.