Lunchtime Thai Rip Off

May 30, 2010

I was working for a couple of days this week in the West end of London. On the first day, I went out at lunchtime to find a place to eat. It’s expensive in London anyway, but it can be super expensive in the West end. I found a Thai vegetarian restaurant just a few yards up the road, with an all you can eat buffet for £5.50. Result!

I went in and was promptly led to a table. I picked up a plate and went to the buffet to fill it, just a little at a time, to pace myself. I managed three delicious platefuls before I was full. I was then ready to pay. I gave £6.00 to the waitress and waited for my 50p. It didn’t come, so I asked her if the buffet was £5.99 or £5.50, just to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood. I wouldn’t have quibbled over 1p, I’m not that tight, but I don’t have a lot of cash like many of us in these recessionary times, so I would’ve missed that 50p. Besides, if I had decided to leave it as a tip, I would’ve liked it to have been my choice, not hers. She gave me the 50p, but she was not happy and neither was I. I didn’t realise it was going to cost me 50p to be led to a table, and there wasn’t any service because I had served myself. That’s the nature of a buffet, is it not?

Cheeky cow.



  1. Have you considered that she both had to lead you to the table AND return to the hostess stand?

    • Hello, Oma. Thanks for starting this one off.

      Yes, I had considered it. There are only two reasons I wouldn’t tip: 1) if the service and/or food was too awful for words and 2) if I’m on a tight budget. The latter reason doesn’t sit well with me because I’m a generous soul and will tip whenever possible, knowing that generally people in the service industry are not paid well. I also try and give cash directly to the person who served me. What I resented in this instance was the assumption of the tip by keeping all of the money. I suppose if I don’t want to tip I could go to McDonalds, or KFC, but my waist and arteries wouldn’t thank me for it.

      • No no…I’m sorry P, I wasn’t calling you on the carpet, I was being sarcastic about her reaction. I’m not sure why she would think she’d done something worthy of a tip.

        • Calling you on the carpet. What a great saying. I’ve never heard that one before. I think it must be a full moon coming as this is the second online miscommunication of the day. To be honest I wasn’t sure if you were taking the mick, or if this was a rare moment of offence. I thought I’d cover all bases, just in case.

  2. I agree pie the choice of giving any type of tip should be yours and no there should be no tipped expected at a buffet. Dozens resturantes are looking for hand outs in the form of tips here in the US as well, almost as if ts on the menu or something.

    • I don’t mind tipping, but I know in America (or parts of it) tipping is a big thing and it’s a minefield. I’m sure I offended many people when I was in New York a few years ago, because whether I tipped or not, I received a look like I’d just shat on their doorstep, probably because to their mind, I’d not given enough. But what is ‘enough?’ I need it in plain English. Telling me it should be 10 or 20% means nothing to me. If you said for every pound you add 10p, that makes more sense. Perhaps I should bring a calculator on my next trip.

      • Exactly my point!

      • lol @ I should bring a calculator on my next trip.

        well make sure you bring them the employment section of the local newspaper as well… with that “you owe me something” attitude they have i`m sure that would be the best tip they could recieve

  3. I live in Asia, where usually the tip is included in the price of the product. Honestly, I think this is probably a better way to do tips! Whenever I visit the States, I always have to wonder about how much I should leave for tip!

    • I like the Asian system. Perhaps that’s the way to go, but here’s the question: do the staff receive what they deserve in tips at the end of the night, or does it all go to the restaurant? If it goes to the restaurant, does that mean the staff are well paid?

    • 15% Gratuity is what it was back when I was in school, and working as a waiter, and bartender…as far as the standard suggested percentage …and it still is 15%, from what I understand…though, like someone else said, adding it to the meal price, sort of makes it something other than Gratuity … I mean, gratuity is something that you WANT to give…because you have gratitude for a service well done…but, as we all know, for what ever the reason, there are MANY times that we are not satisfied @ all with the service, and therefore, why should we leave a tip. Unless, of course, we feel sorry for the server, whom we see is obviously over extended or whatever. But, I don’t know about the rest of you…but, it’s gotten to the point, that one feels uncomfortable at leaving without leaving a tip…even when we know that they didn’t deserve one…Hey, I wonder how they would like it if we all BRING our OWN SERVER to the next Buffet Beef-out we go to…or, in your case Pie…Vegan Thai…God Bless keep up the great work here…see you around the sites.

      • I’ll be seeing you, Sonsothunder. You’re a very fine contributor to the WP forums.

  4. I had a similar experience to you yesterday Pie. Found a nice Indian buffet on Drummond Street. We had tried the others along the street and this one I had eaten in before – where the food has always been good. Plenty of staff on hand to lead us from the door to our table to point out the buffet table AND take our drinks order 😉 When it came to paying the bill and waiting for the change – we were a quid short… Unlike your experience it was a genuine mistake and I offered to leave them a calculator as a tip! Food was great (£5.95each+drinks) and the service was good (they heated up our desert for us) we ended up leaving a tip anyway.

    • Now that’s what I’m talking about!

  5. What’s even worse is a server getting their nose out of joint at not getting a tip, when the menu clearly states “Gratuity included”! This practice REALLY annoys me anyway because it turns something that should be optional into something obligitory and I totally RESENT that they rudely include it in the bill.
    A Tip in my opinion should be reserved for “exceptional” service, and not the service the server was paid to provide anyway. …
    If people plead poverty because the wages are too low? The owner should be obligated to pay a decent wage and charge food prices accordingly, and not the customer become obligated or expected to foot the staff wages bill as well as the food one.
    Ahhh, rant over, Thanks!!!

    • Oh, ho, Kiwi. Don’t even get me started on that service included rubbish. You can be sure that the staff won’t get that benefit, which is why some would expect extra payment through tips. I’d rather give the money directly to the person who served me, particularly if they were good.

      You rant away, it’s my pleasure! The photos of your New Zealand trip on your blog are very relaxing. I was particularly taken by the one with the clouds. Lovely stuff.

  6. … Oh and Yes, that attitude of entitlement is all pervasive it seems these days and really sucks.
    Take back the 50 pence on principle!

  7. i had similar experiences before waiting for change.. somehow the service staff have a way of making u feel bad when u ask for the change back!

    • They do, don’t they? There must be a special training for it.

  8. Yeah, that’s the general idea behind buffet. Of course, here in America, certain buffet places assign you a waitress, who, from most of my experience bug the crap out of you the whole time you’re trying to eat,and can’t be found when you run out of tea..and are strangling to bad to call for a waitress, but, they do hover over the table as you are going out the door …either smiling back at you from whatever, if any green gratuity that you left them…or sneers and lighting bolts out of their eyes…lol

    • “Bug the crap out of you”. I like that. What is that hover over the table thing about? That’s not what happened here, but I have witnessed it from time to time and it’s extremely irritating. I wondered if maybe it’s the British “don’t stand close to me” attitude that makes me feel like that, but it appears it’s universal (or American at least).

  9. Here tipping is a HUGE deal. But for the most part, it’s because (depending on where you live) servers make an hourly wage that is less than the minimum pay. They make less pay because they are fully expected to claim their tips as taxable income. We even tip for coffee at the drivethru. I absolutely agree with you, tipping should NOT be an expectation and should ALWAYS be the choice of the patron. In that situation, I completely would have left with the 50p in my pocket and left her thinking about why I did so.

    • Worry not, SBC, I took that 50p. I didn’t have to say a thing. She knew she was wrong.

  10. no need to funny stares and veiled attitude when tips are not given when it should’nt be expected in the first place.

  11. Hey pie, I’m a little curious. Why do you think she did it because she’d assumed a tip? Could she have just thought she’d pull one on you?

    • Well, bubble, whether she felt an entitlement to keep the change and therefore made it an assumed tip, or thought I was a soft touch and decided to try her luck, it was still an attempted rip off in my book and I was having none of it.

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