A discriminatory dining default rule

The NYT reports on a default tip policy for foreigners at a Thai restaurant in Hawaii. Even worse, it’s surreptitiously delivered.

But lately a small notice on a menu in Waikiki prompted an outcry — and in some quarters, nods of recognition — about the island’s dealing with foreign visitors. The notice, at a Thai restaurant called Keoni by Keo’s, informed “non-English speaking guests” — in English — that a 15 percent gratuity would be added to their check, an apparent reaction to a custom of some guests, particularly those from Asia, to not tip their waiters.

The restaurant’s owners, who removed the notice from their menu after a local television station reported it, did not comment. But some other tourism-reliant businesses said they understood the restaurant’s motivation, even if they were surprised it posted the notice.

Hank Taufaasau, the owner of Hank’s Cafe Honolulu, said Asian guests often did not add a gratuity. “It’s not part of their culture,” he said. “They spend a lot of money, but they don’t tip.”

Mr. Taufaasau emphasized that he did not approve of Keoni by Keo’s actions, but his assessment of the cultural divide was echoed by waiters and managers as well as on primers included with checks at several establishments.

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  • Mikey

    It’s hard to express how nice it is to live in a country without a tip culture. No beggy service workers. And service is great. Here in Japan if you go to a restaurant in off hours, you’re likely to see a training session going on at a corner table. Service workers are young and low paid, but perfectly happy to be doing their jobs and well-trained. The idea that this is a career path that can support a family, a house, and a couple cars is not imagined. You do it for a while, then quit and get a real job.

  • http://www.zygoat.ca Ben K

    The “mandatory tip culture” that we have here in North America is sad and unfortunate.


  • Power_ten

    Like the highlight of Defaults, but not sure why this is news. A large number of restaurants I frequent have a line on the menu, “Gratuity will automatically be added for parties larger than x.” Making this a policy for all party sizes doesn’t seem much different. Alternatively, the could just print a separate menu with 15% higher prices.

  • Eric

    A bit off topic I suppose but…I worked my way through college as a waiter and bartender. While I did make very good money on tips (I probably averaged $20/hour take home), I think a system without tips would reduce the level of stress and improve the overall atmosphere in a restaurant. The worst part about being a tipped employee is when you work really hard to make someone happy, and then they give you the shaft; it’s hard not to take it personally even if you know it is due to someone not understanding the system. As echoed in at least one comment below, it would also resolve a lot of the resentment from people who don’t like the fact that they “have to” tip in order for their servers to get paid. I’d much rather work somewhere where the menu prices are higher and service employees are paid based upon sales.