If you’ve ever traveled abroad, surely you’ve been told things like, “You don’t have to tip at restaurants in Europe” or other local customs you can expect to encounter. But servers at restaurants in Burlington, Vt. aren’t so sure an influx of travelers from Quebec are clued in to how tipping works, so some are just adding gratuity automatically to those bills. Awkward.
Seven Days in Burlington says a couple restaurants have admitted to the automatic gratuity.
At least two eateries admit they allow servers to add an automatic gratuity on the bills of diners who appear to be Québecois. Why? Because Canadians are presumed to be bad tippers. A few local servers even have a nickname for the surcharge: They call it the “Queeb tax.”
Some might argue that using words like “presumed” is just another way of saying, “discriminated against.”
A table of locals who happened to speak French at dinner noticed the discrepancy on their bill, which at first just seemed to be an expensive meal. But when the woman looked closer, she spotted an 18% tip. When she asked the waitress why that was so, the server replied that since they’d been speaking French, the restaurant has “kind of a policy” to include the gratuity for parties that appear to be from Québec or Europe.
Once the group explained, the waitress removed the extra gratuity and the party still gave her a 15% tip. The woman had a similar experience when speaking French at least twice at another restaurant, where the owner explained why her servers were instituting the extra gratuity policy if they wanted to.
“If the Canadian customers were tipping at 15 percent, I wouldn’t let them do this,” she says, adding that those patrons haven’t been tipping.
This kind of situation is just begging for lawsuits — assuming you know how someone will behave based off their appearance, sex, disabilities, demeanor or any other characteristic and treating them different than other customers is discrimination. But so far, there haven’t been any complaints, notes the Vermont Human Rights Commission. National origin is one of the state’s protected classes under its “public accommodation statutes.”
Instead of discriminating, how about educating, says the local chamber of commerce. Perhaps if restaurants translated menus into French with a polite reminder — that while restaurants in other countries might factor gratuity into the cost of the meal, voluntary tipping is customary in America — we could avoid this while situation.
*Thanks for the tip (pun intended), Doug!