There has never been an occasion when the restaurant bill, which comes at the end of every hearty meal, has failed to surprise me. Almost always, it is significantly more than I expect. For an epicurean amchigaelo1 like me, plodding through all the pages of a menu is an ordeal. If anything, it only increases my hunger. So the price total at the end is as unanticipated as the sudden fish bone that pierces your upper jaw in what you would have till then considered to be the yummiest bite.
One reluctant look at the bill and things become clear. While there can’t be much debate over items prepared in the kitchens of restaurants, what always leaves me amazed is the rate of certain packaged items brought to the table – soft drinks, mineral water and finger chips to name a few. These victuals are available in the free market and their price is anyone’s knowledge. But most restaurants quote a significantly higher rate in the name of ‘service’. A litre of mineral water is always on the higher side of Rs 35. Coke, the pesticide of an option available for teetotalers like me, is corrosive on the pockets too – Rs 25 for a 200 ml bottle, to say the least.
How can these establishments flout the law that explicitly prohibits charging above the MRP, in the name of ‘service’ 2? If service is what is the real intention, then it should actually be lesser than the MRP isn’t it? If after receiving your ‘service’ I am worse off than before, how is it a service at all because by the very definition, service is a benevolent, voluntary and selfless act that benefits someone. The only possible way this can be perceived as a ‘service’ is perhaps to the owner of the restaurant himself because we as clients are unthinkingly, willingly and even happily contributing to his well-being! So it is WE who end up doing the service, not he.
I have very similar sentiments on tipping waiters at restaurants. As made known to me, you tip a waiter when you are ‘very happy’ with the ‘service’ offered. Two things to be noted – very happy and service. I have already ‘served’ enough justifiable evidence to prove the fallacy behind the ‘service’ thingy so let me not get on to that again. And hey, I for one am never very happy doling out cash to a guy who is actually helping his bosses in, shall I say, ‘serving‘ me?
Moreover, why pay someone for what he is supposed to do? A waiter is supposed to be efficient, patient and quick. He is getting his salary precisely for that. If the hotel management ever comes to know of one laggard of a waiter on their payrolls, he will undoubtedly have a long wait before he becomes a waiter again. So why tip a waiter who is actually doing exactly what he is required to? In fact, he should be the one tipping us because we are giving him a chance to prove his diligence and hence, stay employed!
Restaurants and hotels being deemed as part of the ‘service’ industry is nothing but an oxymoron. In fact, it would be appropriate to say that any one but they belong to it. Who says charity begins at home? I think it begins in a hotel!