Tips in the Middle East

Submitted By Maggie

I started working at an authentic middle eastern restaurant about a month ago. The owner said that because many of the customers are students who recently came to the US they aren’t accustomed to tipping, so for all foreign tables we charge a “surcharge” of 18%, which servers receive half of, if the table doesn’t tip at all. However, if it’s an American table or a family from another country, we do not charge a surcharge, since they will most likely tip. If we forget, or choose not to charge a customer, and they still do not tip, we get nothing. If after all our tips are added up we did not make at least $50 for our shift (which is typically 6-8 hours), he pays us the difference. We also make $4 hourly wage, and don’t have any tip out’s or taxes being taken out.

I have worked in a lot of bars and restaurants, and have never encountered this, but all of my previous jobs were at American places. Is this common in a middle eastern restaurant? I feel like because we don’t charge a surcharge to all customers, or to just large parties, this is profiling, and I feel bad when people leave me a good tip after I basically charged them gratuity based on their race. On the other hand, I know if I don’t charge a surcharge, I will make significantly less money every day. I also don’t like that sometimes, the surcharge (which I only receive half of) is more than a small tip a customer will leave, which would have made it a better tip if they hadn’t left me anything. In this case the restaurant just keeps the surcharge.

What are your thoughts on these tip policies?

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