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Customer Service, God & Gratuities

When a cheap customer wrote a comment on his bill to explain why she didn’t leave a tip, an Applebee’s waitress posted it on the internet. It wasn’t long before she was out of work. She initially thought the comment: “I give God 10%, why do you get 18?” was intended to be whimsical.

When her post began to go a bit viral, however, the customer who penned the note wrote to Applebees to demand she be fired.   There are a lot of things that are fundamentally wrong with this whole scenario.

#1 is the customer taking her anger out on a server – who isn’t the person responsible for the Applebees’ gratuity policy. That served no purpose other than to scold someone who did nothing wrong.  If she really wanted to make a statement, she should have made it to their head office.

#2 is the waitress who posted the note. Yes, it was clever enough to be internet-worthy, but when you post something with someone else’s signature on it, you have to know it will come back to bite you.

#3 is the abhorrent practice that Applebees, and so many other restaurants have of a mandatory ‘gratuity.’ This, I think, is maybe the real story here.

For those who aren’t aware, Applebees pays their servers virtually nothing (in this case, it’s $3.50 an hour), and their wage is then supplemented by gratuities. The rationale, one can only assume, is that it allows the restaurant to advertise lower prices. But here’s the deal: the additional 18% that Applebees calls a ‘tip’, isn’t a tip at all – it’s a fee. Newsflash:

A “mandatory gratuity” is an oxymoron

The Free Dictionary defines “gratuity” as “something given without claim or obligation.” Applebee’s ‘mandatory tip’, then, is really nothing more than a hidden fee. And, quite frankly, it’s not a very ethical way of doing business.
To all restaurants out there who think this ‘mandatory tip’ thing is clever, here’s a more ethical way of doing business: Increase your menu item prices and pay your servers more.Train your servers to deliver amazing customer service, thentake the tips as they come. Leave the hidden fees and other bad business practices to the telecoms and airlines.

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