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Are diners required to pay automatic gratuities?

| 17/11/2016 | 10 Comments

What’s the legal position on gratuities in Cayman? I’ve had kickback when I’ve asked restaurants to remove an automatic gratuity of 16%. If this is really voluntary, I’d prefer to make my own decision rather than a random rate selected by the restaurant owner as enough to compensate their staff as they don’t pay them a sufficient salary. In some cases where the service isn’t great, I would leave nothing. If gratuities are to reward great service (which is very common in Cayman’s excellent restaurants) it should also be removed where service is poor.


Auntie’s answer: Tipping – or not tipping – is one of those issues that people have fairly strong opinions about. I received a similar question earlier this year from a reader who sought advice on what was the correct amount to tip for various services (See Need tips on proper amounts for gratuities).

Since I have received this new question, it seems a good time to address it again. I agree that I find the automatic gratuity added to bills, which is usually 15%, annoying and I prefer to decide myself whether a tip is justified and how much it should be.

On the other hand, great service should be rewarded. Restaurant work is no picnic (sorry) and good wait staff deserve to get tipped.

But in answer to your specific question, and as I said in my previous column, I am sure restaurants cannot legally require anyone to pay the gratuity just because it appears on the bill. At the same time, I feel that most people would not take the stand that you do when confronted with poor service.

I expect what generally happens is that the person paying the bill may complain about the gratuity to friends at the table – or have the conversation in his or her head – but would end up paying that extra amount. People don’t enjoy that type of confrontation and it would certainly put a damper on the evening.

You seem of sterner stuff, though, so I think you should continue your pushback against the gratuity where you feel it is not merited and open up your wallet when the service makes you happy.

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Comments (10)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I prefer when 15% is included in the bill – I take it as 15% tax on top of the menu, estimate it in my head and don’t need to think about any tipping at all.

    The only thing I would ask for is to just include that thing into prices from the beginning and write something in lines “10% discount for take-out orders” and I would be happy about it. And obviously I never ever pay anything above that 15% included in the bill.

    I also think that the whole tipping culture evolved into some non-nonsensical way of pretending that going to restaurant is cheaper then it really is. I know that in US people are used to pay more at the counter than was written on a price tag even in grocery store.

    I am not from that background, so I don’t like it. Reasonable owner should advertise appropriate price (not puzzling me with mathematics of 15% will be added to your bill) and if service is not included – tell me, how much should be paid for service.

    If you don’t know it yourself about your own business, why should I be guessing?

    On local restaurants – complaining about the service (once I waited for waiter to come over with the bill for half an hour) got me 10% discount on top, or free cocktail, but never-ever those 15% were removed from the bill.

  2. Snagglepuss says:

    And who monitors these gratuity collections? Ready for this….it is the labor office that does so don’t go to them for help. Case in point, I went with a family member last October and met with the director (name escapes me but it was a woman) and a senior officer to show them how a certain restaurant entity was robbing employees of gratuity and was PROMISED a return call in 2 weeks after “we look into the matter”. One year later and no call, luckily my family member found better employment and has moved on. This auto gratuity collection is wrong, it’s unethical and immoral and only serves to fatten the pockets of the owners of these establishments and it does not benefit the employee the way it should as the law is not being properly enforced.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Also these tips collected by the server are split between the hostes,kitchen staff, bar tenders, and in some cases management as well, servers should make at least minimum wage but do not

  4. Anonymous says:

    A tough one, I hate the auto grat in Cayman because sometimes I feel it doesn’t give some servers incentive to work for a tip, as they know they will get fifteen percent they just do enough. On the other hand their are people who are cheap and don’t tip even if they get great service. This is of course their right but hard on the people who don’t make much money. In the end I agree remove the auto grat and pay the servers a decent wage

  5. Anonymous says:

    Servers make less than minimum wage, so they rely on tips, i believe the law should be that servers get a fair and legal wage like everyone else but that is not the case so they need and derserve to be tipped, and by the way bus driver do get tips I also tip my hair dresser gas attendants and other people in the service industry as well because its the right thing to do and brings a smile to some.

  6. Anonymous says:

    There is a high-end restaurant on island that says “gratuities not included” at the top of the tab and then lower down includes an unidentified 15% extra charge. If you examine the bill further you will see that down below the signature line it says “a 15% gratuity will be added for parties of two or more.” I considered telling them to give my wife a separate check but decided that their deceptive practice didn’t call for me to be an ass. Having been a waiter in my youth, I usually tip 20% if I am happy, 15% if service was adequate, and 0-10% for disasters due to the wait staff. In the case above I would have tipped 20% but felt the waiter was complicit in the scam for not informing me of this unusual scheme. On the original question I would suggest that if the automatic gratuity is prominently displayed on the menu, it’s probably a part of your tacit agreement to pay the advertised charges. I personally think tipping is a good incentive where it is understood and widely used. In Cayman, where many people oppose or ignore tipping, the incentive is sadly reduced.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Tipping has gotten out of control! Everyone wants to get tipped, even if they just pour your a cup of coffee and hand it to you over the counter. There are some places (Rumpoint bar for example) where the system is set up so that even the ice cream bar one takes themselves out of the freezer ensues 15% tip included on the bill. It is ridiculous!

  8. Anonymous says:

    There are a lot of jobs out there that are not ” a picnic” but the people doing them don’t get tipped. I have never understood tipping. It’s their job, why should I pay extra for somebody doing their job. If they feel their job is too difficult or they don’t get paid enough from their employer then do another job. I come for food and drink. I will pay for the food and drink and I will even collect it from the kitchen and bar if it means saving $5.
    I like to tip those who give reallly good service, for example if I want something a bit different from the menu and they arrange it or if I have a complaint and they sort it with a smile. But just bringing my food and drink does not deserve a tip because it is their job!
    Supermarket check out people don’t get tips, bus drivers, cleaners, gardeners, helpers etc do not get tips. They won’t get paid very much either so what’s so special about waiters and waitresses?

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s important to remember that because tipping is ingrained in our service industry, salaries are adjusted to reflect it. That is to say that they rely on those tips to make decent wages. Most servers (and diver boat operators) used to make $5 an hour + tips. It’s probably gone up to $6 now with the minimum wage. So when you sit down at a restaurant offering table service, you are accepting that service and yes, you are expected to pay for it. In cases where you receive bad service (or product), by all means you should exercise your right not to pay any extra but for the most part, this isn’t the case. And a cashier’s job and a server’s job are not the same. Servers are constantly moving, constantly carrying often heavy loads, remembering multiple tables, orders, people and requests, all (hopefully) with a smile. Kitchens are hot, Cayman is hot and yes it’s their job, but it’s a darn tough one and they deserve that extra $5 (or more) so you can relax and enjoy your meal. And if you’re really pleased with the service, add some extra to that 15% because the next time you show up, they’ll remember you and treat you even better! 🙂

      • Anonymous says:

        Where’s my violin gone? Jeeze, they have to keep moving, they have orders to get. Yes, that’s what a server does. That’s like saying a teacher has to plan lessons and supervise lots of noisy children. Boo hoo. It’s a job, and if they dont like it, don’t do it. Their employer should put their hand in their pocket and fork out for their staff it should not fall on the customer. Customers should pay for the food and drink not for some annoying person to keep coming up to the table saying” how’s it tastin? or ” how’s your first bite?” Like they’re really bothered anyway. It’s all just so false, you can see dollar signs in their eyes when they speak to you. Go away and let me eat! If anyone should get a tip it’s the cook. Im not saying that being a server is easy. Its not, ive done it twice and It was horrible, so guess what? I got myself a different job that was worth the stress and it paid more.

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