Ask any North American restaurant server what their biggest pet peeves are, and you’ll likely hear complaints about visitors from countries where tipping isn’t customary.
To prevent its wait staff from getting short-changed on gratuities, a Hawaii restaurant started tacking 15 per cent on the bills of customers who don’t speak English, sparking complaints of discrimination.
The Waikiki restaurant Keoni by Keo’s told local media the measure is merely meant to help its servers and its customers, many of whom are international visitors. According to the Associated Press, around 17 per cent of the nearly 7 million visitors to Hawaii last year were from Japan, where tipping is not expected.
The controversial policy has caught the attention of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, which will likely investigate the restaurant’s practice, AP says.
Although he didn’t comment on the restaurant specifically, Bill Hoshijo, executive director of the commission told the news agency: “Discrimination based on language is ancestry discrimination.”
The restaurant, however, says the 15 per cent gratuity is printed in red on the bill and is explained to customers. If they don’t want to pay the tip, they don’t have to.
Despite the criticisms, at least some people are sympathetic.
“I don’t approve of it, but I see where they’re coming from,” one woman told AP. “When you live off tips, when people don’t tip, it really hurts your income.”
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