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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How much to tip

It is the question that everybody asks themselves at some stage or another: how much do I tip the person serving me at the local restaurant? Personally, I always aim for a minimum of 10% and add more if I think the service deserves it.

However, as is pointed out in the Independent today, I am aware that the money does not always reach those who it is intended for, especially if it is added onto the bill and paid with a credit or debit card. That is why I always try to tip with cash, the restauranteur has no choice but to pass on cash to the staff.

The Independent highlights some of the sharp practices that prevail across the UK. They reveal that:

* Carluccio's, Café Rouge, Chez Gerard, Strada and Café Uno all pay their staff less than the minimum wage and use customers' tips to make up the balance in their employees' pay;
* PizzaExpress takes an 8 per cent cut of tips left on a credit card;
* One chain of Asian restaurants, Georgetown, takes 100 per cent of tips;
* Staff at one London eatery receive no basic wage at all.

The paper goes onto reveal that 'restaurants are using several loopholes to take a portion of the money. The practices are believed to have intensified with the rise of electronic payments and the introduction of the chip and pin system in 2006. Among the most popular is the exploitation of a loophole in minimum wage legislation. Restaurants have won the right to pay staff below the minimum wage of £5.52 per hour for workers aged 22 years and older. Staff are paid as little as £3 or £4, with the remainder topped up by tips.

In a few cases, such as at Tuttons restaurant in Covent Garden, the staff receive no "pay" at all: their wages are derived entirely from tips left by diners.

Other waiters are forced to pay restaurant chains hundreds of millions of pounds in sales fees for "administering" tips. Other establishments make deductions as a result of breakages or customers leaving without paying.'

They want three simple guidelines for fair treatment of waiting staff and are asking that the Government introduces legislation to end the widespread unfair tipping practices adopted by many of Britain's restaurants. These are:

1) All restaurants should operate a fair, clear and transparent policy for distributing service charges and gratuities to its staff.
2) All restaurants should display their policy on service charges and gratuities clearly on all of the menus.
3) All waiting staff should be guaranteed a basic salary of at least the minimum wage, excluding gratuities.

I fully support this campaign and would urge everybody to lobby their MP in support of it.
more practically, why not do as I have done for some time, and always leave a tip on the table in cash and never eat anywhere that insists that it knows in advance what the tip should be?
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