You’re forced to tip, but does it reach wait­ers?

Hindustan Times (Patna) - - NATION - Sa­mar Khur­shid

NEW DELHI: The hefty tips you pay as ser­vice charge at restau­rants may not be reach­ing the in­tended re­cip­i­ents — the wait­ers and other staff.

Eater­ies in Delhi started adding the ser­vice charge to the bill about eight years back. This charge — usu­ally be­tween 5-10% of your bill — is in lieu of the tip and has to be dis­trib­uted among wait­ers and other staff ev­ery month. But that doesn’t al­ways hap­pen. Many res­tau­rant work­ers say part of that money is pock­eted by the man­age­ment. “Why should the man­agers take a cut when we are do­ing all the work? They have higher salaries al­ready. Be­cause of this ser­vice charge, peo­ple don’t tip us any­more,” says a waiter at a Khan Mar­ket res­tau­rant.

Man­agers say some of that money goes into main­te­nance, break­age and other mis­cel­la­neous costs. “Only 50% of the money col­lected is given to us at the end of the month,” says a waiter at a small res­tau­rant in Green Park. Of the 12 restau­rants HT vis­ited, five did not pay the en­tire ser­vice charge to their staff. Cus­tomers — many of whom do not know the dif­fer­ence be­tween ser­vice charge and ser­vice tax (levied by the gov­ern­ment) — feel equally cheated.

“Eat­ing out has be­come a pain be­cause of the mis­cel­la­neous charges. Restau­rants make a profit, the gov­ern­ment gets its due, and we end up with empty wal­lets,” says Arush Bhan­dari, 22, a law stu­dent from Amity Univer­sity.

Con­sumer rights colum­nist Pushpa Gir­i­maji sum­marises the prob­lem: “It’s an un­called-for charge at a time when costs are ris­ing. Tra­di­tion­ally, tips were vol­un­tary, but this makes them manda­tory, which is un­fair. Plus, there is no guar­an­tee that it is be­ing given to the staff.”

Since ser­vice charge at each res­tau­rant varies, and usu­ally de­pends on the whims of the man­ager, some restau­rants ac­cept if a cus­tomer re­fuses to pay it. “We were forced to add it three years back to re­tain our staff, since all other restau­rants had started ap­ply­ing it,” says Man­preet Singh, owner of Tao and Zen in Con­naught Place. “But if a cus­tomer does not wish to pay the charge, we ac­cept that.” If a res­tau­rant in­sists on the ser­vice charge, cus­tomers have the op­tion of lodg­ing a com­plaint on the Na­tional Con­sumer Helpline, though calls and mes­sages sent by us were met with no re­sponse.

“There is no law to reg­u­late ser­vice charge and there­fore no uni­for­mity. If the man­age­ment is not pay­ing it to the wait­ers, it is mal­prac­tice and the gov­ern­ment should look into it,” says HK Awasthi, le­gal head at Con­sumer VOICE, a vol­un­tary or­gan­i­sa­tion and on­line mag­a­zine on con­sumer ed­u­ca­tion. Of­fi­cials, how­ever, main­tain all is well. “We haven’t re­ceived any such com­plaints. But, if the prob­lem ex­ists, there is def­i­nitely a need for law­ful method­ol­ogy to look into it. If we find out that this is hap­pen­ing, we will take ac­tion,” says Ramesh Ti­wari, labour com­mis­sioner of Delhi. An of­fi­cial from the con­sumer af­fairs min­istry said it is a mat­ter to be de­cided be­tween res­tau­rant em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees.

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