I frequently dine in classy or fancy restaurants and always observe the culture of tipping. In fact, whenever I go on a trip, I often check the percentage of an acceptable gratuity of any service rendered by somebody in that particular state before I hit the road.
Last Sunday, my daughter took me and my wife for a birthday lunch at Zen Buffet (ZB). (To those who are not familiar of ZB, it is a classy (shall I say pricier) buffet of Japanese and Chinese food, with some Italian (pizza) flair and an array of cakes and other sweets for dessert.)
As usual, the sushi and seafood were to die for.
The waiters and waitresses’s demeanor, on the contrary, were unappetizing. They were so rigid and impersonal. I didn’t see anyone smiling and interacting with the diners, even when they’re collecting the used plates and silverware or chopsticks.
But here’s what was mind boggling! When the waitress gave us the chit, included was the suggested tips ( and mind you; they were 12, 15 and 20% with the corresponding amount).
I laughed, but deep inside me, I have tough time rationalizing the suggested tips! I know that Labor Code Section 350 and 351 defined tip or gratuity as an amount left by a patron for an employee rendering a service to a customer; however, it usually is not strictly mandatory and the amount depends on the manner of service rendered to the customer.
For a wait service (buffet), the customary gratuity is only 10% pre-tax. A wait service (sit down) is 15-20% before tax in so many places. Take note that ZB is literally a BUFFET! And with the very impersonal manner they waited on their customers, it definitely was not worth the suggested gratuity percentage. Anyway, my daughter chose the 12 %. Before her card was taken, I saw the family of 6, whose table was next to us, only left a $10 tip, Cheaping out? I dont know, but most likely they were so disappointed with the lady who waited them.
I know that the degree of rigidity (in intercultural communication) by the host is highly influenced by a demand for conformity.
Based on the premise of conformity and uniformity, it’s possible that the reason why ZB has started printing these 3 percentages (with corresponding amounts) for tipping was ZB’s way of educating their customers. Nevertheless, that pouting face of the waitress, who picked up the $10 tip by that family of 6, didn’t support this assumption. Instead, I could assume that ZB’s reason behind the suggested tips are gull and greed.
Granting that duping and selfish desire are not ZB’s motive, would such strategy of educating diners appropriate? I don’t think so. Matter of fact, I asked 10 people about it. All negatively reacted to it. One even said, ZB cannot demand a mandatory gratuity, because mandatory gratuity or service charge only applies to formal contractual agreement. An example of this is a restaurant hosting a banquet. In this case, the mandatory gratuity is spelled out on paper.
I hope Zen Buffet could read this and stop- once and for all- printing this suggested tips in its voucher or chit. Otherwise, ZB would end up losing its customer. I, for one, even though I always give the appropriate tip for services afforded me, would consider going to Hometown Buffet or Todai the next time around.