Belmont Lounge Scrounges for Tips

Tommy and his friends went out to the Belmont Lounge in NYC last night. The establishment tacked on a 20% gratuity, out of policy, making the bill $174. When they left, they only paid $170, to make a point. The manager and bouncer and waitress called them back from the street afterwards to get them to cough up the extra dough. Tommy ain’t so sunshine about the whole affair.

    “Dear Consumerist,

    Earlier tonight, two friends and I went to the Belmont Lounge (New York, 15th between Irving and Park) for dinner and drinks. When we received the bill and there was a 20% gratuity, which, we were told after inquiring, was the policy for checks north of $100 (not on the menu). I assumed gratuity was always discretionary. Even when it’s a party of six or more (their only stated gratuity policy), I’ve heard of people crossing out the printed amount to adjust for the quality of service. Isn’t that the point of a tip and a service-driven business?

    We discussed it at length at the table, becoming increasingly pissed. The waitress noticed (otherwise, she was totally indifferent) and TIPPED OFF THE BOUNCER. As we left, the bouncer held us at the door and asked if we settled the bill. We said we had and walked out. Once on the street, the waitress, manager and bouncer called us back to tell us that we were short on the bill. The bill plus their 20% was $174. We left $170. To us, we thought we would get our point across, but not really short the waitress. If the policy is management’s, then it’s not her fault. But to be held at the door and be CHASED DOWN by three people for four effing bucks?!

    What’s does the law and prevailing wisdom say about this? I have held back on the egregious, albeit subjective, examples of poor service.”

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  1. Ran Kailie says:

    A 20% gratuity just for having a bill over $100 bucks? Screw em, I tip people well, usually leaving 15-20% anyways if the service is good, but I reserve the right to choose how much i want to leave.

    If I don’t have a large party I don’t want to be exhorted out of the tip. It just makes me less likely to ever want to leave a tip.

    I’ve eaten with large groups, and usually even with the 15-20% added gratuity we almost always leave extra. Bad practice on the lounge if you ask me, especially if it wasn’t in writing.

  2. DCB says:

    Is there a part 2? So what happened?

  3. kerry says:

    I know of places that “clear” a 20% gratuity when the swipe your card, even though they don’t put it on the check, just to ensure that you really can afford to tip 20% on a fairly large bill. I’ve never had anyone include the tip without stating it on the menu, let alone include a 20% tip (which I thought was generous), 15-18% is much more common for automatic inclusion, no?
    If they didn’t clearly state that 20% gratuity would be automatically applied to all bills over $100, there’s no reason you should be expected to pay it.

  4. desonos says:

    I call shenanigans on that. There is no reason to include a tip for a small party, even if the rack up a $1000 bill. The point of included gratuity is to ensure that a waitress doesn’t get screwed over by a large party. To me, you include a 20% tip on my check, be glad I even paid the check, and don’t expect much of a tip (maybe 5%).

  5. konstantConsumer says:

    20% isn’t uncommon. the restaurant i waited tables at in college would add 20% for parties of 5 or more. when i’m out, i have no problem with it, as long as it is made clear. i would always under the added tip, and draw arrows to it, so that they would make sure to see it. as long as that’s done, i don’t care if it’s on the menu or not.

  6. Ben Popken says:

    Tommy (the original complainant) writes:

    “Thanks for posting my email! My friends and I have been fuming all
    day and are strategizing our next move. We’ve done some digging and
    found out the name of owner, who we plan to write and inform of this

    And I’d like to add a bit more…

    Whether or not the policy is fair or even legal, it was handled very
    poorly by the restaurant. Had there been even a modicum of
    professionalism, the night probably would not have ended in screams on
    the sidewalk. (Full disclosure: we all had some to drink and weren’t
    100%; nevertheless, I have made every effort to objectively convey the
    events of that night).

    First, the waitress knew we had issues with the bill. She came by
    several times asking if we needed change and saw us stirring. Not
    until did I ask about the automatic gratuity did she reply that it was
    the restaurant’s policy for bills over $100. Second, she informed THE
    BOUNCER that we were potential stiffs. If she thought there would be
    such a problem, why not send the manager over to chat? Third, the
    manager, the waitress and the bouncer don’t need to all confront us on
    the street. The only reason the bouncer could have been useful is for
    intimidation (we are two women and a slight man). That’s just cheap.

    As far as we can tell (from their website and menupages), the menu
    only states a policy of automatic gratuity for parties of 6 or more.

    Well, thanks again for letting us air this out. Hopefully, they don’t
    try this crap with everyone.”

  7. RandomHookup says:

    Can we find a new application to handle the graphics for the polls here? It looks like a multi-color Rorshach test and I still can’t figure out what it means.

  8. TheBrianIsAstonishing says:

    If it’s not posted on the menu, I think it’s BS… and moreover, if the bill was 174$ with the gratuity, she was still getting better than 15%. Chasing the four dollars that way is pretty weak sauce.

  9. Jesse in Japan says:

    You should go back to the restaurant immediately and get a copy of the menu. If you cannot find any mention of the gratuity anywhere on the menu, then you’ve got a case for the BBB.

  10. ModerateSnark says:

    …Ah, there’s the poll…

    Somewhere else on Consumerist I posted a comment saying that (for anyone who didn’t already know) a good way to browse safely is to use the free NoScript extension with Firefox. (I think it was in response to the “Yap Browser: The Worst Browser Ever” post. With so many comments currently “hiding,” I don’t know if you’d find it there.)

    I should update that comment (if anyone saw it) by saying that after installing NoScript, you should not only turn on javascript for to post comments, but you should also turn it on for to see and respond to polls on (as I just did).

    If RandomHookup hadn’t mentioned the poll, I probably would never have noticed it existed.