There is nothing like ending your long hectic mid-week mundane day with a pulsating game of cricket on a big screen and drinks (of course!) at a fine restaurant. There is much to cheer and crave! One really does let their guard down and soak in the high “spirits”.
?On just such an occasion, when I was out enjoying a bottle of red with a certain feline friend, I came across something very unusual. I overheard a neighbouring customer cussing about something they probably did not appreciate. It was nothing scandalous, probably something very acceptable – like the aircon or the temperature of their beverage etc. The peculiarity dawned on me well after they had settled their bill and left. It was at the time of my own bill settlement, that I saw that the bill contained a SERVICE CHARGE figure over and above the “TAXES” as applicable. I was aware of the prevailing norms and the right I had as a consumer to choose whether or not I wanted to pay, if at all, that much as a charge for the service provided to me.
Yes! Just to reiterate for those who may not be aware, service charge is not a mandatory amount that patrons need to cuff up. It is optional and is paid on the sole discretion of the customer. Now, I am pretty sure that those displeased, unhappy and bickering people who reluctantly settled their bill and left in a huff had not an iota of doubt that they should not be paying anything at all. Let alone the superfluous service charge.
I requested the attendant to correct my bill and he duly obliged. I observed that he took several minutes to do so. This made me doubly sure of what had happened with our angry lot of friends. ?There are enough haters and scandal seekers out there looking for a reason to partake in a social media massacre of any well-reputed establishment. My purpose is a far cry from that. I am just aghast that there were three people seated on that table and not one was aware. Well, for arguments sake, readers can split hairs and debate that probably they did not see the bill or they were probably not charged, as they were already dissatisfied. (Etc , Etc) Therefore I came prepared. I read up about the same and found out that INDIAN EXPRESS conducted a survey in September 2017, where they found out from a sample size of approximately 8500 regular restaurant goers, that 30% of them did not pay service charge in restaurants that they had visited. What was really the catch was that – of the 30% who did not pay service charge, 21% were not even charged while 9% requested for their bill to be corrected.
One can safely assume then, that at least the majority (apparently a lot more) of people are not really aware of the norms. We have restaurants, bars and chic cafes springing up throughout the country and in so many 2 and 3 tier cities. There is no saying how many outlets charge and how many people pay it knowingly and willingly! Whether applying service charge is entirely incorrect is subjective and frankly there is no law that prohibits an establishment from doing so, but what is more important is to ensure that at least it is a known fact if not an open secret.