The time: 9:21 on a windy Cape Town Spring evening.
The place: Nonna Lina’s Pizza and Pasta joint, Gardens, Cape Town.
We order the bill. Just ok food, and very slow service. It was a pit stop on the way home after a long day out.
Bill arrives. Something is wrong. Something is very wrong.
Food is totalled, then a service charge is added.
Below that the gratuity line is left blank.
Below that the bill states “A service charge is not included”.
We ask our waiter to explain what’s going on. He hurriedly explains that “I only work here”.
Manager appears. I complain. “Oh yes”, he says, “This is something we do to foreigners!”.
What! A tourist Tax? I should add I don’t have a South African accent.
Backpedalling, excuses “Europeans don’t know how to tip…”.
I e.mail the owner, a Mr. Scamuzzi. (Real name) and ask him to explain, outlining that if I had paid the normal 10% on the “bill total” I would have ended up paying a total tip of R83.50 on a bill of R373.
That’s a whopping 22%.
Mr.Scamuzzi replies, blaming the waiter who should have highlighted the double tipping and admitting, actually admitting, their double tipping policy. I quote:
“It is true that we put service mainly for european turists (sic) and to be honest the worst are the Italians (I am Italian), but not because they don’t want to tip, it is just because in Europe in general tip is not in use, waiters got paid fixed monthly amount so you don’t have to tip…”
He adds, without a hint of irony;” About the bill printing I have to apologies and thank you very much to have pointed to me. I already provided changing the writing, now state “service might be included, please check your bill”".
So Mr. Scamuzzi, hold on while I lift my jaw off the keyboard, what you are saying is that you tried to rip me off, but in future you will ask me to check, as I may or may not be ripped off by your attempt at double tipping.
I phoned a well known Cape Town restaurateur and he spluttered in disbelief down the phoneline when I related my story.
I also called Wendy Alberts, CEO of the Restaurants Association of South Africa, RASA for short.
“Shocking, dishonest, morally incorrect” was her immediate comment.
She was quite unequivocal in her condemnation of this practice. “Restaurant owners are obliged to pay their staff the minimum wage, they cannot expect the public to pay their staffs wages”.She said that RASA had issued a press release in February this year condeming the policy of double tipping.
So the tourism season is almost upon us, and, fuelled by all the positive exposure South Africa gained during the World Cup, thousands will descend on South Africa and eat in restaurants across the country.
How many of them will be double tapped??
Cnr Rheede and Orange Street
021 424 4966