Tip Log: The Etiquette of Auto-Gratuity

While looking over the menu at Bindi, the new Indian-ish spot in the Midtown Gayborhood, we were slightly taken aback by a notice on the menu that a gratuity of 20% would be added for parties of five or more.

Even though we were only a party of two, we had a nice long discussion about auto-gratuity policy in general. Five or more? 20%? What’s the deal?

Auto-gratuity, the tip that is automatically applied to the bill of a large party, is a slippery beast. It varies in its application from restaurant to restaurant. While a ‘large party’ at one restaurant can be six or more people, at another it might be eight or more. The percentage varies as well. It can be 15%, but is more often 18% and it is not uncommon to see 20%. It is supposed to be applied to the amount of the bill before tax, but that doesn’t always happen.

We’ve been on all sides of this issue, folks – as a waiter who, when faced with a large table full of needy, drunken jerks, thanked the universe for the automatic 18% gratuity that was going to be tacked on to their bill. We’ve been a customer who has paid that 18% (or even 20%) automatic gratuity after receiving sub-par service. We’ve even been an event planner who tacked on the 20% gratuity to a large party.

Our view? 18% on parties of six or more is fair. Anything else is presumptuous. Besides, you know Foobooz is leaving 20% or more anyway.

Is auto-gratuity even legal? Can you refuse to pay it? Click here to find out!