Surprising new charges at restaurants – and some oldies as well

Peter Holland 16 June 2008 135

Talking to a mate today, he told me that he got slugged at a restaurant at a birthday party for the following charges:

Corkage – an oldie but still around

Cakeage – What the?? it is a cake, you get a knife, you cut it. Not really haute cuisine…

Service Charge – apparently similar to an american “tip”

Cancellation charge – one member of his party cancelled, cost him, wait for it….. $29.00!

His reaction to these charges, never go back to that restaurant, which he wouldn’t tell me the name of, priceless.

have you heard of these charges or other new ones that seem a bit over the top?

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135 Responses to Surprising new charges at restaurants – and some oldies as well
vg vg 10:57 pm 16 Jun 08

Duke said :

tori – I should also add that tipping at a restaurant you frequent has many benefits. The staff get to know you and know your name (which always impresses clients, girlfriends, family) and can lead to better table placement, discounts, priority bookings and freebies. I’m the guy at the quiet table in the corner, vg and other misers sit at the wobbly table next to the mens loos!

Won’t be me. If I had a table like that I’d politely ask if it was possible to be moved. If that was not possible I would thank them for their time and move quietly on. I’d hardly call that miserly. I’ve done harder, more dangerous and far more difficult work than any waiter/waitress. My reward was my pay.

I have an Entertainment Book and Privileges Card that get me discounts better than any bull shit tipping. Its funny that when people decline to hand over something they are not obliged to they are miserly. I would just call that Australian

vg vg 10:59 pm 16 Jun 08

mouthface said :

Thumper said :

It’s also a matter of greasing the wheel, tori. Staff are less likely to spit in my food or knock a Merlot into my lap if they know their tip is dependent on their efforts.

So tipping is blackmail?

Actually, tipping is bribery. And that is exactly what it is supposed to be. Most people may not understand the nature of tipping and therefore choose to be critical of it as a practice. Certainly nobody is obliged to tip and should never be made to feel that they have to. In the American system, it actually is a service charge rather than a true tip, because the way hospitality staff get paid works a little differently.

The beauty of the tip, when done properly, is that it is a bribe to extract extra service from the waiting staff and have a perfect night out. For example, if you want the best table in the house, and slip the waiter a tip before the service, then by rights, you should be able to have it. The tip is proclaiming “I am a big tipper, and if you give me extra special service, you will be rewarded”. If you are a regular, and known for being generous, then staff will probably go out of their way to make sure everything goes smoothly for you. That shouldn’t mean that if you don’t tip you should receive shit service, but well known big tippers will get the extra attention. Kind of like the highest bidder on ebay wins the item.

No its not. Does the eBay bidder have to pay extra on top of the listed price to secure their item? They pay the displayed price and postage. No more, no less.

Tipping is a wank

Deadmandrinking Deadmandrinking 11:46 pm 16 Jun 08

I only tip (mostly to taxi-drivers, actually, when I’m under the influence) if I feel the service is deserving. I do not feel obliged to do so and I certainly don’t feel the need to ‘bribe’ anyone. If a restaurant provides me sh*t service because I don’t tip, I never go there again.

Crap, I kind of agree with VG.

vg vg 11:51 pm 16 Jun 08

Thats twice, you like the same Vietnamese as me

mouthface mouthface 12:06 am 17 Jun 08

tipping may be a wank to most people and that’s fine. Once again, I am saying that nobody should have to tip, and certainly not to secure competent service. Sometimes however, it can work to get a few extra privileges, or to show ones gratitude if the service has been extra special, that’s all. If you don’t want to do it, don’t. Nobody should hold it against you and I’m sure they rarely do. I know I certainly don’t do it all the time, but sometimes I feel it’s deserved.

Some years ago, I used to work in a restaurant and a well known affluent Canberra gentleman came to dinner with some friends. A couple of them were a little pissed when they got there and carried on like pork chops for most of the night. The staff put on a brave face and looked after the table regardless, never got upset at the drunk patrons who gave us a bit of a tough time and generally ensured that they were very well looked after. The guy tipped us $100! Obviously this was a form of thanks and an apology for his boofhead mates. Surely there is nothing ‘wanky’ about that.

The next time he came we made sure he was very well looked after, but he never tipped that much again. We never forgot that generosity though and always went out of our way to make sure he had a good night.

BTW, the ebay item usually does not have a listed price. He who makes the highest bid wins the day.

mouthface mouthface 12:10 am 17 Jun 08


just noticed your earlier post. An entertainment card and a privileges card? You are the worst type of customer any restaurant would want to see on a busy night. Of course you won’t tip, you just forked out all that money so that you can get a discount. Good for you, scrooge.

vg vg 12:29 am 17 Jun 08

Ass Monkey

I’ll clarify something for you. I was given my Privileges card by ACTEWAGL. Didn’t ask for it, got sent it after I dared support a local business venture as opposed to taking my business elsewhere.
My Entertainment book I was given by the ACT Cancer Council after donating $100 to them. You can buy your books from them for $50. I give that much to the Cancer Council every year because I have lost family members to cancer. God forbid I should dare to use something that I have been given. The restaurants offer the discounts. No one forces them to. I could decline to come out at all and have the restaurant share in no part of my income. But people who tip in the hope of receiving discounts, favours and the like are so very different and on a higher ground morally are they? When you grow up one day you may (heaven forbid) procreate and find out that not everyone can afford to eat out every single week but when they do, according to you, they are somewhat lower than average because they dare to partake in an offer extended by the very establishment in which they eat?

You seem like so many of the hospitality industry to have a holier than though attitude towards your ‘craft’ and the patrons that dare to trouble you in your employ. What I would suggest is that if you feel so strongly about it, next time you see someone have the temerity to use Privileges or the Entertainment book that you approach them and reflect the above to them. With any luck it will be me. Hopefully your medical benefits will recover the cost of having my card removed from your cake hole.

Better to be thought of as a scrooge here than to open one’s mouth with comments such as you have and categorically prove you’re a fcukwit

Deadmandrinking Deadmandrinking 12:31 am 17 Jun 08


It’s good vietnamese though. The owner’s a nice bloke too.

vg vg 12:33 am 17 Jun 08

“The next time he came we made sure he was very well looked after, but he never tipped that much again. We never forgot that generosity though and always went out of our way to make sure he had a good night.”

If you were professional and good at your job you should be doing that to every customer, regardless of how much equal to or above the bill they pay. No customers, no job for you, but its hard to see the forest for the trees isn’t it.

I have saved people’s lives in my worklife. All I got for it was my fortnightly wage. Get a bit of fcuking perspective

vg vg 12:33 am 17 Jun 08

Deadmandrinking said :


It’s good vietnamese though. The owner’s a nice bloke too.

He is

madman madman 7:13 am 17 Jun 08

What are we… American’s….

I never give a tip, and I think of it as rude as the establishment wanting one.
They provide a service, I use the service – they charge accordingly for the service – we’re all done here!

Who tips ACTEWAGL for the exceptional service they provided in the last quarter? They provided a service that you used.

Do you tip the bus driver after getting you to work safely?

What about when you get your friday takeaway – do you tip McDonalds? They have some pretty fast service there – you’d be tipping a pocket full.

Why should it be an industry specific – I think get rid of tipping and don’t pay it at all – and certainly it should not be included and pre-calculated on the bill.

Clown Killer Clown Killer 8:05 am 17 Jun 08

I view tipping in Australia as a completely personal decision. It should not be considered rude if it is withheld and it should not be expected. I tend to agree with vg. If the service is excellent then the staff have carried out their role properly – in my book, a tip is earned when the service exceeds this – when some connection is made that elevates the dining experience above simply a great meal.

I view comparisons with the US as spurious as there, a gratuity is an established component of the waiters/waitresses income stream and their base wages reflect that. That is not the case in Australia where the wages paid reflect the level of skills required to do the job.

What I therefore object to is the arbitrary inclusion of a ‘service charge’ on the bill which removes the discretion of the customer. If such a charge was included on my bill I would simply refuse to pay it.

And mouthface, I’m interested on your views regarding entertainment and privileges cards. Why would a customer bearing one of these be the worst type of customer any restaurant would want to see on a busy night? Didn’t the establishment where that card is accepted voluntarily enter into an arrangement with the card providers?

Special G Special G 8:13 am 17 Jun 08

Exactly, they don’t do write ups. They don’t get to publish uninformed comment, which is what was suggesting. S/he has no idea about restaurants judging by what s/he has written, yet feels justified in calling an establishment a rip off because they charge corkage. Pull your head in!

Uninformed people do write ups. I did the other week. I don’t have to have an impecable palate to know a lamb cutlet is overcooked. The beauty of sites like CAnberracafe and RiotAct is anyone can submit their restaurant reviews. Critics get perfect service and the chef puts some effort into their meal as a good write up is ‘a pretty good tip’. If the staff treat the average punter like crap the they get the word of mouth treatment. If you have been in Canberra for any time then word of mouth is far better than any other method of advertising.

@ Ulysses – you can’t read to well champ – go back to school. I said Cakeage and Corkage were acceptable charges for bringing your own food to a restaurant. Service charge is what you pay for the food and drinks, etc when you go into the restaurant and should be reflected in the price of the food, an add on service charge is crap. THAT IS CALLED PAYING FOR YOUR MEAL. As for a cancellation charge I would tell them to bill the guy who cancelled.

As for the Entertainment book it is obvious how people in the industry view people who use it. If you don’t like it don’t advertise in it. I have had one for the past several years and use it all the time. Because of the offers and menu samples in it we have gone and tried many resaurants we otherwise wouldn’t have known about, and then gone back the next year. If not tipping for crap service and getting a discount offered by the establishment are being a scrooge then label me as such.

@ Mouthface and Ulysses – if the customers are getting in the way of you enjoying your work change careers.

Thumper Thumper 8:19 am 17 Jun 08

Staff already get paid to do their job. If the restaurant owner wants to pay them less than the award then take it up with Mr Working families.

in the US tips are a legitimate supplement to low wages. In Australia it shoudl never get to the stage whereby restaurants can employ people for low wages and expect the palready paying public to make up for the owners greediness.

I for one am not going to tip. Once it starts, it will be a slippery slipe to the US system and restaurant owners will see paying staff less as a way to cut costs.

tylersmayhem tylersmayhem 8:53 am 17 Jun 08

I agree with Thumper. It maddens me how in the US they underpay their staff, and the customers have to foot the added cost to pay the staff a reasonable rate. To me, we already see a method of this in Australia where a 10-20% surcharge is added on Sunday’s. The staff deservedly get paid a hight rate by law, but the customers have to take that added cost on the chin. I think it’s pretty bad.

After living in London for several years recently, the method of automatically adding 10-15% on to the bill before settling was rife. Added to this, the service was rarely particularly good, and the extra money seemed a right of passage to the businesses. You can of course refuse to pay it, but at the cost of feeling quite obliged to pay it. If this starts happening in Australia, I urge everyone to knock it on the head before it goes mainstream.

mouthface mouthface 9:02 am 17 Jun 08

@Special G.

I don’t know about Ulysses but I don’t work in the hospitality industry. I did once about ten years ago and always enjoyed it. Even dealing with the odd ‘difficult customer’ did not matter. I deal with just as many ‘difficult customers’ in my current career and that is not what this is about.

I am going in to bat for restaurants because I am self employed and understand that nothing is free. Somebody has to pay. That’s the way it is. I don’t know what you do for a living, but you should understand that restaurants, like all small businesses, do not simply appear as a public service for your convenience. They are there to make their owners a living. If the owner can’t make a living, no more restaurant. Then you can spend your evening at the leagues club or the fast food chain. And the point I made about ‘half-arsed food critics doing write ups’ earlier was about someone’s business being labeled a rip off because they had the ‘audacity’ to charge legitimately for a service.

I am yet to see where anyone has remotely hinted that you should tip for bad service in this thread. And, yes, You are a scrooge.

It seems we have some people who don’t want to pay for services that they get in restaurants, such as the staff looking after them regarding serving their BYO drinks and cakes, yet complaining that the owners of the establishments should pay their staff more so that, heaven forbid, they don’t have to tip. Isn’t it a bit hypocritical for people to demand all sorts or freebies from a business because ‘they are doing it a favour’ just by being there, even if they don’t actually want to buy that business’s products.

Thumper, tipping had already started and has always existed in Australian restaurants, and ONCE AGIN you don’t have to if you don’t want. If you feel so strongly about employers paying their staff more, I agree with you that hospitality staff are not highly paid and do supplement their income with their tips, but who do you think will pay for higher wages? The customers, brainiac. You seem to think that what you pay for in your local eatery is not related to what the staff are paid at that eatery.

It’s typical of some people in this forum to assume that Ulysses or I are in the hospitality industry simply because we made some points supporting restaurant charges. You obviously can’t see past your own noses.

Thumper Thumper 9:15 am 17 Jun 08

Put prices up on the meals to cover staff wages.

it’s not rocket science.

Clown Killer Clown Killer 9:15 am 17 Jun 08

It seems we have some people who don’t want to pay for services that they get in restaurants, such as the staff looking after them regarding serving their BYO drinks and cakes

I have no problem with paying an acceptable corkage charge when appropriate glassware is provided, the wine is decanted when requested, an ice bucket is provided for white or sparking wines and where more than one wine is consumed, fresh appropriate glassware is offered. Anything less is simply charging for nothing and I object to that.

I had no idea that people brought cakes to restaurants before this thread. I’d view ‘cakeage’ in the same light as corkage, although I view the idea of taking your own cake to a restaurant as a bit sus.

As far as tipping simply because someone can do their job competently – that’s just bollocks. There seems to be theme developing here that the price you pay for the meal somehow needs to be augmented because you don’t have to walk into the kitchen and get the plate yourself when the chef rings the bell.

tylersmayhem tylersmayhem 9:32 am 17 Jun 08

Also, people need to keep in mind that another reason that corkage is charged is because establishments need to cough up a huge amount of money to be allowed to alcoholic beverages to be server on their property. In some cases, the corkage would only just cover this licensing over a 12 month period.

I also have no real problem with cakeage, as long as the cost is reasonable. I understand why some people bring their own cakes. Sometimes the only cakes available in restaurants are the usual cheesecake, chocolate mud cake and one or two others. If your Auntie Betty makes a wicked traditional Tirimisu or Hungarian Dobos torte for your birthday, then sure, bring it along for your birthday dinner/lunch. But be prepared to rightly pay a reasonable amount for the service, plates, washing etc for the privilege.

vg vg 9:36 am 17 Jun 08

Mouthface you are an ass

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