Whether it’s the weight of inflation or tight purse strings due to the upcoming holiday season, the obligations surrounding New York City’s tipping culture are up for debate.
A piece published by the New York Post outlined that the Olive Garden in Times Square automatically adds 18% gratuity to patrons’ bills. However, the establishment confusingly marks the gratuity with an asterisk and as “suggested” despite its contribution to customer receipts without their consent.
The asterisk explanation on the Oct. 24 Olive Garden bill said: “Please feel free to increase or decrease the suggested gratuity amount based on your dining experience.”
The New York Post claimed that automatic gratuity charges seem to be common in touristy NYC neighborhoods.
On X, online users have expressed qualms with NYC’s current tipping culture.
Various posts pinpointed an annoyance with unexpected charges and workers shaming consumers for not tipping more. Others hated feeling obligated to tip, especially when they experienced bad service.
New York City Tourism’s website offers insight into the city’s tipping culture and expectations.
If tip isn’t automatically included for the consumer, it’s suggested that waitstaff receive 15%-20% of a diner’s total bill. More frankly, the source stated that the higher end of that tipping scale has become “more of the norm” in the Big Apple.
“This is the one place where you really must tip,” stated New York City Tourism on the food service industry. “Unless you’ve had awful service, staff may look askance [or disapprovingly] at anything less than 15%.”
Additionally, it was highlighted that bartenders “typically expect” a minimum of a $1 tip for every beverage served. Or, if paying with a credit card, the tourism authority advised that you add a 15%-20% gratuity to your bill.
The city’s government states that restaurants are prohibited from applying surcharges in addition to listed food and beverage menu prices. Examples of illegal automatic charges include an administrative fee or mandatory gratuity.
NYC’s officials clarified that eateries can apply “a bona fide service charge,” but it has to be “conspicuously disclosed” somewhere patrons will see it before ordering.
“It is a violation to include the disclosure on the back of a menu, hidden in the design of a menu, or on a sign that is blocked from public view,” added the source.
Olive Garden is a chain, so it’s understandable tourists would gawk at the Times Square location’s 18% “suggested” gratuity — especially in comparison to what they might tip in their hometown. Still, gratuity expectations in NYC may be justified, considering that the 2023 Quarter 1 Cost of Living Index reported by the Council for Community and Economic Research found that Manhattan has the highest cost of living in the country.
The minimum wage in NYC is currently $15.00 per hour. According to real estate appraiser Miller Samuel’s Elliman Report, the average rental price for a 1-bedroom in Manhattan in September 2023 was a jarring $5,442.
The current minimum wage in NYC is not comparable to the cost of living. However, attempting to offset this imbalance with increased tipping demands is causing great concern.
Sound off in the comments with your thoughts on NYC’s tipping culture — is it justified?
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