Somehow the number "7" has made it's way as a number to be seen on the gratuity line. Foreigners, in general, have taken this number that only had fame on the Craps table, and slots, and made it famous in restaurants... no matter what the total amount of the bill would be.
One time, I had a table of four who were from India. It was an odd mix of two couples. At first, the wives did all of the food ordering. Then before I left, the men did all of the drink ordering. Apparently, in India, women are for food, and the men are for drink. (And who says women haven't made advances in that part of the world?) Then it was time for the bill. One of the guys signed it to their room, and I picked up the check. For a total of 155 dollars, they left me zero. (UHG!) I decided that this would be a perfect opportunity to educate them about tipping etiquette in America.
"I hope I have exceeded your expectations this evening and you have enjoyed yourselves." I started out.
(Blank stares) Okay, I could tell there was a bit of a language barrier to overcome.
"Just to let you know, as a convenience to our overseas guests, we can add the service to the bill, so you don't have to trouble yourselves with doing that."
"We have a meal package, and cannot go over a certain amount." One of the gentlemen finally admitted. "It's a 90 dollar per person amount that we cannot go over."
"I completely understand that, but just to let you know, that if I add the service, you will not be going over your 90 dollar per person package amount." Seriously? They could have ordered four more entrees and not gone over this amount.
"What is service?" He inquired.
"Service is what I've provided you with to make your evening enjoyable. Like when you asked for a special request, and I accommodated it, that's the service."
"And I pay for this service?"
Now it's gotten to the point of still being professional, but in a VERY DIRECT MANNER.
"Service is another word for gratuity. Gratuities are how we earn a living working in restaurants. Now would you like me to included the 'GRATUITY?'"
"Oh... I think I can add that ourselves." And he took the bill back from me. Meaning he still had no idea what I am talking about, or that he was planning on stabbing me with the pen.
"Sir, just to let you know. Appreciation for good service in the States is 18 to 20 percent of the TOTAL bill."
He waved me off. They left. I picked up the check, he left me seven dollars on a bill of 155.00.
Same night, different table. Three Italians. As Louis C.K. said, they smelled like a porta-potty on the last day of a music festival. Their bill was $186.00. Same argument as before...
"Would you like me to add the service?"
"Yes, that be fine." Some English is better than none. I added the 18 percent. Next thing I know, he waves me over.
"What is this?" He pointed to the added gratuity.
"That's the service charge that you agreed I could add."
"I don't want to give you that much." He remarked.
"I guess just leave me what you think is appropriate for the service I provided you sir." Excluding the amount of choking and oxygen deprivation I had to endure while he was in my section.
He and his friends leave. For a check of $186.00, he left me seven dollars.
I need to start playing more Craps.
Until next time... Server's don't pay their rent with compliments.
"Bitter. Party of one? Your table is ready."
The Bitter Bistro