Forced to pay tip for takeout at airport

| 15/01/2019

Ask Auntie, CNS Local Life, Caymanian status(Answer updated) I was at the departure lounge at Owen Roberts Airport and stopped and picked out a sandwich and a drink from the cooler. When paying for the items I was told there was an automatic 25% added. When I asked for it to be removed they refused as it was already built into the sandwich price. 

I explained to them that I was not served. I retrieved the items myself and brought them to the register to tab out. They still refused. My question is can they make you pay gratuity?

Auntie’s answer: It appears that food vendors at the airport are at liberty to charge gratuity and decide the amount added. An official with the Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA), which owns and operates Owen Roberts and Charles Kirkconnell Airport on Cayman Brac, explained that CIAA has nothing to do with how or if gratuities are set by the airport outlets.

“Travelling passengers should contact the concessionaires directly with questions or concerns relating to gratuities,” the official added.

In trying to get answers, which took several months, I was also told that the concessionaire in question, the Runaway Bar, declined to provide any comment or explanation on the record concerning the addition and amount of the gratuity. They did offer to give the reader a refund of the 25%, and I will leave everybody to draw their own conclusions as to what that indicates.

The reader passed on that option; the receipt was long gone and the whole exercise was not worth his time, an understandable sentiment.

If I may add my two cents here, I find it astonishing that any restaurant, much less one that didn’t even provide any service, would dare to charge gratuity. On top of that, even the finest of dining establishments in Cayman don’t charge 25%.

Perhaps this incident will prompt this particular food outlet, along with any others that will be opening at the airport, to rethink its policy on enforced tipping. I certainly hope so, but if the gratuity for phantom service remains, please write to let me know.

Statement from owners received Tuesday: There is a 15% service fee charged at the airport, however, our policy is to return the service fee if the customer requests it. It is quite normal for a bar in the Cayman Islands to charge a service fee, although you don’t get table service, you do receive bar service at the airport.

I am not sure where the 25% came from, which is why we asked that the customer get in contact with us so that we could find out exactly what happened and a possible description of the person that refused the refund and refund their money. What a lot of tourist do not like and do not to see to understand is the 20% conversion rate (CI$ to US$)  which we can do nothing about. We put the US and CI price on the sandwiches and that may have been what they thought was a 25% gratuity.

We are always willing to deal with complaints that come to us.  However, we do like for the customer themselves to contact us as we like to find out all the details and deal directly with our customers.  We would have then been able to explain what may have happened and refunded the customer.

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Comments (64)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Tranquillo everyone!!! The update from the place itself is reasonable. I would agree that there was no 25%, most likely confusion with the exchange, as they state. That makes sense. And I like the way he also states that they would remove it if requested, wants to know which staff member it was that gave incorrect information so that they can correct the issue from happening again.
    Thank you for the update Auntie.
    Okay but I’m still not going to go to the airport hungry…

  2. Anonymous says:

    You are not legally obligated to pay any gratuities, contact the dept. of labour and pensions if you want confirmation of this.

  3. Anonymous says:

    If it’s automatically added to the bill and not optional it’s not a gratuity, it’s part of the price of the item and should be displayed accordingly.

  4. Anonymous says:

    $12 for a cold turkey sandwich. Can you imagine if I requested for the cheese to be melted? This is not just at the airport though, this is the whole of Cayman. Overpriced and dodgy service!

  5. Anonymous says:

    While we are on the subject of snacks, I think the grub at the Camana Bay cinema is way over priced as well. After spending on the tickets and then having to buy snacks For a family of four there is hardly anything left for next day lunch. Take some chips and drink/ water in your bags for you and your family next time. They are all rip offs on this Islands. The Progresses / chamber of commerce need toI start working on a Better Business Bureau and bring it along with the standards Law,that is if they can walk and chew gum at the same time.

    • Anonymous says:

      thats why you bring your own snacks in. We sneak ala kabab in all the time

      • Anonymous says:

        That sounds absolutely disgusting. I sincerely hope I’m not in the cinema when you are there slobbering all over your stinky kebab.

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s not unique to Cayman, cinema food is ludicrously overpriced in most places.

    • Anonymous says:

      You obviously don’t go to the cinema in the USA. It is a good rule of thumb, in any cinema that I have been to, that is you buy from the concession stand you can budget at least the same amount per person for snacks as you paid to get in

  6. Anonymous says:

    What a bunch of peasants CNS readers are, bickering over a small gratuity fee. I fly private and have a personal chef.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Just pay the fee and keep the whining to a minimum.

  8. Anonymous says:

    A case of 40x500mL bottled water at Priced Right is KYD 6.99 or 17.5 CENTS. Price at the airport is KYD 2.00 + 25% = KYD 2.50 for ONE bottle. It’s ridiculous that I can buy a case of 40 bottles for less than the cost of 3 bottles at the airport. They got away with it once when the ‘tip’ was 15%. Now I see it’s gone up to 25%

    They can add 50 restaurants in the new expansion. If prices are like this they won’t get any of my business. I’ll eat at home and carry a snack to the airport for the flight

    • Anonymous says:

      They really don’t care about you. All they are interested in is price gouging the hundreds of thousands of tourists who pass through that place every year and have little choice but to cough up.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is a free water bottle fill station past security on the right.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Island Naturals does this to for takeaway orders 10kyd and up.

  10. Frequent Traveller says:

    Add Hungry Horse to that list of unethical operators. They charge 15% for doing nothing.

    I stock up on snacks from Fosters before I leave and ask for water or soda on the plane, they are not getting a dime from me.

    Passengers should boycott all of them and spread the word and see how long they are in business

    • Anonymous says:

      Not sure if you are aware but the Hungry Horse and Runway Bar are operated by the same people. Get you either way…..

    • Anonymous says:

      They are charged a ridiculous rental by the CIAA plus have to hand over a percentage of their sales for rent

  11. Anonymous says:

    Automatic gratIty in any restaurant is ridiculous. And 25% is highway robbery! That is why servers can give any kind of sloppy service, because they know the grats are guaranteed. If they had to be rewarded for their service, we would see the difference. Grats for take is is out of order, especially when the customer has picked up the sandwich and drink. That would be like picking it up from a supermarket shelf and the cashier charging a gratuity. They need to display a sign, then they will see how many sandwiches they’ll sell. And, the CIAA can brush it off, since they’re no responsible. The establishment(s) doing this should be named and shamed. Boycott them!!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I believe there is a system required by government for restaurants that collect gratuities (add them to the check) and have a tip pool report the distribution of the tips so that the dishwashers know they get a fair share, and management is not taking the lions share.

    Since i only ever see 2 people working at the Runway Bar, and knowing the price of the items and looking at the line up, there is a very good chance that $500 a day or more is collected in tips.

    If this is the case, working there is probably the best paying job at the airport! Unless of course management keeps it and does not distribute it.

    Regardless, I 100% disagree with the policy for tips in this case. I am not required to add a tip if i help myself to a bottle of water at a gas station or Fosters, why should this be the policy here.

    There is no snack bar in any airport in the WORLD that would do this.


  13. Anonymous says:

    Is the liquor store open yet at the airport?

    They are just jacking up prices to make as much before the other options open and they are screwed.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Take the free shuttle to George Town Yacht Club and buy some takeaway. There is no reason to put up with the airport restaurant.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I would put the money to pay for the sandwich on the counter and if they squabbled I would tell the to go ahead and call the police.

    • Anonymous says:

      The gratuity I think is automatically included in the price of their ridiculously expensive goods

  16. Anonymous says:

    Everyone should stand in front of this vendor as they are exiting the country and take a selfie for social media with the hashtags #RunawayFromRunway #BoycottRunwayBar #NotPaying25PercentGrats

  17. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the heads up. If I recall I think there might also be a tip jar by the check out. If the tip is going to be included and in this case it should NOT be, then there should be a sign indicating it so that the patron can choose not to purchase if he/she does not want to. It is insane to think that a gratuity at this location would be 25%! As if it was not enough to be ripped off on island, we choose to take the very last opportunity to steal more from you on your way out.

    This is not only embarrassing but disgusting!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Gratuity by the very definition is not mandatory. You pay grats based on the service you receive and while many places include it automatically you have EVERY right to have them remove it. You can pay more that the suggested grats or less or NONE. There is no consumer protection legislation in Cayman which is why restaurants take liberties like this but the lack of legislation also means they have NO legal right to make grats mandatory.

  19. Kim says:

    Kaibo is now also adding service charge to takeaway orders.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Rum Point does the same thing when you order & pick your food up at the bar. It’s not even in a take out box so how can they justify the service charge. I rarely ever support them any more after I noticed the service charge on my bill!

    • Caymanite says:

      Rum Point even adds Grats even if you buy 1 Fruit punch and get it from the Bar yourself.

    • Anonymous says:

      You can refuse to pay. You cannot be forced to pay this

  21. lindalimo65 says:

    The hotels all put a “standard” 15% on your bill PLUS $35 per day hotel fee. 25% is rediculous!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Hotels have always done this, world over.
      This is not a hotel… This is a grab and go. There is no ‘service’. There is no comparison.
      (The $35 is a ‘resort fee’. Ridiculous I know… But it’s so they can keep their nightly rate ‘lower’)

  22. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the info. I will also avoid them. That’s pure BS

  23. Richard says:

    Completely Unacceptable.

  24. SKEPTICAL says:

    No operation like this can justify 25% gratuity on any item – whether served by an employee, or self served by the customer. This cafe in its previous airport locations has been an absolute rip-off in terms of the so called “gratuity”. They should be forced to display full details of their price structure so customers know what they are paying. Also, does government/tourism dept audit the amount of gratuities, and whether they are properly distributed to the staff.

  25. JD MacDonad says:

    Tipping at that location is incredulous, considering their high prices in the first place. Obviously that’s how he employer meets his wage expense and I wonder how carefully his books are kept/examined to make sure these EXTRA funds are actually passed on back to the employees!

  26. Leroy says:

    The prices at the Airport are ridiculous to start with . Over ten dollars for a simple Lettuce and Tomato sandwich. I just wont pay that kind of money for a sandwich.

  27. Anonymous says:

    It is becoming common practice now to have the tip included in the bill at many of our restaurants. It should be up to the customer. The idea was to encourage good service I wonder if they are doing this to cover the cost of the minimum wage.

  28. Tom says:

    I refuse to buy anything from that airport depart lounge as it is world biggest rip off…$10 for a thin sandwiches..WTF!

  29. Anonymous says:

    What happened to Consumer Protection? The prices at the airport concession stand are already highway robbery for mediocre food – add to that an exorbitant “tip” for non-service and you have grounds to boycott this greedy vendor and his / her unconscionable practices. Publicly. But it shouldn’t be left to burned travellers to name and shame and whine and complain. These types of businesses should be cautioned by a higher power to conduct themselves in a better manner or face some kind of fine or consequences. It’s one thing to overprice your product…that’s not something anyone can dictate and the onus is on the customer to determine the value or worth of that purchase – BUT – inflicting a discretionary “add on” that poses as a “tip” for a service that wasn’t actually a service…that’s THEFT!

  30. Anonymous says:

    Report them to the Better Business Bureau…oh wait…

  31. Ted says:

    I have bought things there a few times. They are complete crooks. Taking advantage of people that have no other options. What is worse than their policies is their attitude– extremely rude every time you ask any sort of question about the charges. A disgrace to to the concept of Caymankind.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Subway in industrial park FTW every time

  33. Highway Robbery - not me! says:

    I chose instead to go without! Totally agree with the reader and Auntie – boycott rather than allow the highway robbery to continue

  34. Anonymous says:

    Take food with me when I fly. Nice sandwich I get my Chef to make me.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Automatic gratuity is a convenience only. You do not have to pay it.

    • Anonymous says:

      At this place it is required, i have been told i did not need to make a purchase if I disagreed with it.

      • Anonymous says:

        They have no legal right to require you to pay it.

      • Anonymous says:

        The law says you can refuse to pay gratuity. Names of servers are always good to have for reporting, like the situation at the airport.

        ONCE we had absolutely awful service at a (long gone) restaurant here.
        My husband went to the bar to pay the bill and when questioned about the grats he told them that the service was pitiful and we were not going to pay it.

        Grats are not mandatory and you can take them off or reduce them, just as you can pay more if you feel the service was great.

        Note that regular grats are divided amongst all “food and drink” staff, on a sliding scale (kitchen help gets the least amount). Side tips (over the stated grats amount) are divided amongst the “floor staff” ie: servers only.

        Management should never receive part of grats.

        There are also restaurants – you may be surprised who (ask the staff) do not pay ANY hourly wage, they pay only grats, made up to their “wage” if necessary.

        Minimum wage (stated in an advert for example) can also include the health and pension paid by the business, so the staff end up with much less than the minimum wage at times.

  36. Say it like it is says:

    The CIAA official was talking nonsense.They award the concessions and have the right to cancel them if the holder is abusing his concession.

    • Anonymous says:

      This should be a violation of their lease agreement. Cancel it and replace from the field of good faith runners-up that were excluded from contention.

      Can we FOI a copy of the CIAA lease agreements, or are these DCI?

  37. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the follow-up. The fact that the business cannot defend the policy means I will certainly avoid the place in the future. The CIAA should step in as this will certainly look like price gouging to our visitors.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the heads up. I will now either avoid the Runway Bar or double check whether I think the price is worth 1.25x what is shown. They should be required to display this on a sign rather than take advantage of people in a captive market.

  39. Anonymous says:

    That kind of business practice should have no place in part of these Islnds core infrastructure. There is never any obligation to pay any gratuity. On top of it some entities charge usarous exchange rates. What a bad taste to leave in our visitor’s mouths. What’s sickening reflection on the process used to select winning bidders to have a place in the departure lounge. Perhaps the authorities should check to see who gets those gratuities.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Report on social media , then boycott them. Eat before you go to the airport.