Berlin restaurants have begun scamming customers

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The "service not included" bit seems likelier to read as a scam to American diners. But in Britain it's still commonplace for "discretionary service charges" to be automatically added to a bill, even though servers are (as of last year) required by law to be paid at least minimum wage apart from this fee. It's a much more dubious practice, considering that both food and service there are usually terrible and few customers are ever so bold as to challenge the charge.

 

When I worked at a restaurant in England, most customers asked if service was "included" in the bill. They didn't mean "does the price on the menu cover your wage," but rather "has a separate service charge already been added on top of the total?" The next question was usually, "if I tip, do servers actually get the money?" Basically, they didn't want to tip twice, and they wanted to make sure that their contribution actually benefitted the server. When the same folks visit Germany, they might have the same questions, but what they're less likely to realize is that there's not a real minimum wage, and the "service" paid out to waiters could be damn near anything they'll put up with when unemployment is through the roof.

 

Were it not for the chance of good tips, no one with any skill or social graces would put up with the job. If you think that all servers do is carry a plate across the room, it means your server has successfully obscured the dirty work from your view.

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I the UK it is insoidious that restaurants can and DO keep service charges and "pure" tips rather than them going to catering workers

and that has been leider upheld in the courts. :angry:

 

I try and avoid places with serves charges and if I tip leave it as cash and not on a credit card.

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They way I figure it, in the States, nearly all restaurants automatically give you a glass of water, then keep you glass full during the whole meal.

in denmark, some places charge you for TAP water..why? cause they have to wash the glass.

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By the way: A not to uncommon practice is that the tip goes straight to the owner of the restaurant. So I am not that much pro tipping at all. This new practice in Berlin could also be seen as an indicator of the current economic crisis with less and less turnover in the restaurants?

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There is certaily preassure in the catering industry, that is partially related to the recession (bit not exclusively) but I suspect this in Berlin is down to good old fashioned greed by the owners.

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Yes, we had this happen to a group of us in Berlin back in December. Funny thing is that even though we were all ordering in German(most German relatively well, except for me) they still pulled this trick on us. The funny thing is that the service and food were crap so we just laughed at the thought of giving a tip that was "not included" in the bill. The waitress did not deserve an extra penny and she did not receive it! Had the service been better, then of course a tip would have been given!

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Hey all, i just want to confirm something, disregarding the principal of tipping. In Germany tipping is absolutely not mandatory or bounded by law even if it has been automatically included on the bill as "tip"? Or through other sneaky implied ways as "service not included" and the waiter/owner says you have to tip?

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In Germany, I tip by rounding up to the whole amount, or add one more euro if it's close. If the service was exceptionally slow or the waitstaff were rude, then I sometimes don't tip. German customer service is non-exsistient IMO. I've been living in Germany on and off for the past 17 years and I'll admit, either my skin has gotten thicker or the Germans are coming around to the whole customer service concept.

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I agree lived here 4 years ago for 5 years and thought they were very rude too but having moved back last year suddenly found how polite and customer friendly they are getting! Obviously there are still some rude people out there but better than it used to be. they just need to learn how to queue now and some need to learn that please and thank you are not just used when asking for a drink but also when you help some one or let them in front of you at the supermarket!!! Hey ho there are bad eggs and good eggs in every country! ;) Generally tips are given for good service - you have the right not to give if you are not happy with the service. It's a shame so many people tip without thinking about it as those staff that go out of their way to make sure you have good time and have what you need (within their job!) should be rewarded and those who just simply do their job and make you feel like you are a bother should have a kick to realise either they shouldn't be in a customer service industry or at least learn to smile! :D

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Actually I have yet to experience "bad" service in Berlin, despite all the complaints. Most of the time, servers seem to give what their German clientele would want - efficient, accurate, no-BS service, polite but unintrusive. They appear when I need something, I get the thing I ask for (despite my awkward German and weird accent), they keep the dining area clean, and they leave me alone when I don't need anything. Plenty of smiles, but no annoying personal questions. Sure, the Americans are definitely more generous with stuff like water, but then again nobody but the Americans has a culture of "free refills" for anything, and I don't go out to a restaurant for its tap water.

 

As a general rule, if I can't accept the rules and customs expected of me as a guest in someone's establishment, I simply don't go. Hence, I almost always tip, and I haven't been inside a church in 20 years.

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The good aspect of tipping:

One portion of the bill one has direct control over, which the wait staff are aware of, hence encouraging better service.

Akin to saying to the police “hey I pay you wages” and then actually being able to back it up. (Wouldn’t that be great)?

 

I do get the feeling that the connection between getting a TIP and good customer service is lost on the Germany

 

Bad aspects of tipping (outside of USA):

Modern tipping culture spread from USA, to countries that have good minimum wages for wait staff. And now the “TIP” is being also expected.

So really you actually pay for service twice, first as the mandatory built in service charge (which is you paying for the good service, whether you get it or not)

And second as the extra TIP you are pressured into feel like leaving when you actually get the good service you already paid for in the first place.

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Apologies, forgot to point out I was talking about my experience in Irl and Eng (someone mentioned a few posts back that Eng had also to introduced minimum wage.

 

Saying that the (very few) people I know that work here in this sector do get an acceptable wage (beats working at McDonalds for them).

Tips are just extra.

 

Also if German wait staff were dependant on the tips, I could imagine the service would also be like those other countries where they are dependant on tips. E.g USA.

Buts it’s not so its fair to say they aren’t.

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I try and avoid places with serves charges and if I tip leave it as cash and not on a credit card.

I once paid with a credit card and did not tip. By chance I actually checked my statement against my receipts and I noticed a difference. When I called Visa they told me that I had added 10 pounds as a tip. I complained and got a prompt refund. Hopefully the owner of the restaurant in question was shot by firing squad, but I never found out what happened.

 

Nowadays, I always cross out the 'tip' section on the CC slip and sometimes you can see a look of disappointment on the waiters face whilst you are doing this. I always give the waiter cash in his hand and never leave cash on the table in case the owner or the the person at the next table picks it up.

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Also, if you add the tip to the cc slip - it goes to the restaurant and not the person who waited on you - so I always give a direct tip in cash if I can.

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The big thing about tips in Germany - and why the waiters do get paid on them to a considerable extent - is that tips are tax-free. So, unless the job's done without paying taxes anyway, the employer will actually strive to push as much of the wage as possible on to the "tip section". That way, they can easily keep the "nominal wage" as a 400 Euro job too, even with people who work 20 or 24 hours or more per week.

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Also, if you add the tip to the cc slip - it goes to the restaurant and not the person who waited on you -

Nor necessarlit true, it depends on the restaurant rules.

 

I know several restaurants were tips are divided equally between the kitchen staff and the waiting staff, as the thinking is that a diners enjoyment comes not only from the quality of the service but also the quality of the food.

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Also if German wait staff were dependant on the tips, I could imagine the service would also be like those other countries where they are dependant on tips. E.g USA.

Buts it’s not so its fair to say they aren’t.

 

Full disclosure: although I considered my previous post from the customer's perspective, I also work part-time as a waiter in Berlin, and were it my full-time job I would absolutely depend on the tips. No restaurant worth its salt could afford to pay a high enough base wage to attract the level of skill and competence customers like yourselves expect. Deferring this to the opportunity for tips means that they don't have to cut staff (meaning slower service), reduce hours (meaning less convenience), raise prices (duh), or close altogether (meaning less variety) - in other words, the practice of tipping helps restaurants survive hard economic times.

 

Also, don't forget the cultural element in what customers actually do expect. Germans tend to be put off by the artificially friendly, overattentive service that Americans are used to; they'd rather just have their needs efficiently handed and be left alone. However, if you're feeling homesick for the American way, I can point you toward a few nice places that specialize in that service model as a sort of gimmick (once again, full disclosure - I work for one).

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if the service does not match, fuck em, they get zilch... germans dont get the whole hospitality thing and while they make you wait for the warm, watered down soda, because they are bullshitting with their colleagues, talking on their cheap cell phones or stinking themselves up with smoke... me as a consumer isnt obliged to pay anything. Why is it if yo go to poland, france, spain, switzerland or dennmark the service immediately jumps up? what is it about german speaking lands that make these people so miserable and unenthusiastic about life? why are the german people such doormats and too weak and scared to demand better quality?

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