Lousy Server Tacks on Automatic Gratuity

October 13, 2015

in Server Stories

A little DINER BEWARE! story when eating at a place known for being fun, rodent-oriented… and expensive.

This was a few years ago so I’m not sure if this lady still works at this particular restaurant, but always better safe than sorry. It was our first night at a certain mousy venue, and we decided to leave the kids with the grandparents at the hotel and have one romantic dinner together for our anniversary. So we head over to an Italian joint in the aforementioned theme park, and the hostess who seated us put us into one of the nicest tables at the restaurant in honor of our anniversary. That’s where the celebration died a quick death where the restaurant was concerned.

Our server was a lady who, if you remember the television show Alice, resembled Flo in eerie detail, right down to her Aqua-Net helmet hair. It was kind of fun, because normally you would see someone like her at a time-warp-type of restaurant in the movie theme park, so we figured she was a straggler or a floater. The first question out of her mouth was, “Are you on the dining plan?”, and when we answered “yes” her eyes rolled up so fast I’m sure she was staring at her brain. I know it’s typical for diners to treat the plan as a cover-all and not tip, but that’s not us.

So cue ninety minutes of waiting… and waiting… and waiting. We saw this woman twice more: once when she took our order and once when she took our check. After waiting forty-five minutes for our orders to come through, we had to stop another server and tell them we couldn’t find our server or our food. Another runner brought it out immediately, unfortunately a little chilled, along with our only refill of the evening, but still no Flo.

She finally showed up about seventy-five minutes into our trip to the Twilight Zone, only to spend another ten minutes pin trading (trading colorful pins with patrons) with a man and his wife at another server’s table. The server actually had to run her off! She barely acknowledged us as she pulled out our tab, and much like Forrest Gump’s feather it floated onto our table as she had already become a ghost. As we stared at the slip we noticed an 18% auto-grat on the bill. When she stopped by to pick up the bill we asked her about it. She snottily replied, “It’s automatic when you dine on the dining plan.”

We almost resigned ourselves to paying it and ending this weird experience as quickly as possible. Still, something didn’t seem right about it. We filled out the receipt, putting a “0” in the tip section as I already felt like we over-tipped. But something stuck in my mind on the way out, enough to request a manager from the hostess table. The manager took one look at our bill and asked, “Were there six people at your table?” which of course we said no. He then got this very perturbed look on his face, asked us if he could offer us anything for the mix-up, which we declined, and told us he would make it right. We learned later that we weren’t supposed to be charged the auto-grat and the tip was returned to our credit card.

I wanted to feel badly about it, but when I realized the lady basically STOLE from us that urge to feel sympathetic to her plight didn’t last. I do wish we could have left something for the runner who fed us, though. The food was good, if not a little chilly!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Traveler December 16, 2015 at 12:34 am

My suggestion for next time (if this ever happens again), is to complain, and ask to speak to a manager immediately. Tell the manager that you received little to no service, and point out that you were not informed of the grat imposed on customers who use the plan. I know that it seems tacky to kick up a fuss to avoid tipping (and 99% of the time that people do, it is), but it seems warranted in your case.

In every restaurant where I have worked, the auto-grat exists for large parties that suck up a servers time and space. It is there so the server, who will likely spend the bulk of his or her time waiting on a large table on a rush, will not get stiffed and have absolutely nothing to take home after a night of hard work. The tables are informed of the grat in advance, and servers who have integrity tend to mention it again when they drop the bill.

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Traveler December 16, 2015 at 12:43 am

Ugh, my laptop is being screwy and did not allow me to read your final two paragraphs. Apologies.

You did the right thing…what she did was not just unprofessional, it was criminal. Disney is infamous for treating its employees like garbage, but that does not excuse fraud.

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