Help: Tip or Service Charge?!

You dine in a restaurant, have a good meal, then it’s time to go. You ask for the bill… you skim the bill for anything missing or extra… you see the word “Service Charge” added to the bill and you assume that it’s part of the bill so you pay for it.

I have heard many times that Service Charge was optional. Than you may choose not to pay it, but i am still skeptical. If i had a choice not to pay it why does it come already included in the final amount? That gives off an air of finality right?

Now if you choose to pay the service charge without question, which i usually do, whether it’s here or abroad, are you expected to leave a 10-15% tip as well?! We always disagree on the matter, some of my dinner companions would say we already paid them service charge and that counts as a tip. Others, including me, think that service charge is something set by the restaurant for dining in, you must pay it anyways, and has nothing to do with tipping the waiter…

I am not sure which scenario is the correct one. I am not sure i am supposed to pay a 15% serivce charge plus 15% tip on a meal out either… why the extra 30% y3ni?!

What do you usually do?!


30 responses to this post.

  1. I think that the service charge will eventually be split among waiters at the end of the day. Having to pay a service charge that is not optional bothers me, specially when you go somewhere and leave with a bad mood due to their horrible service..I tend to settle for paying it anyway..not leaving a tip.


    • Posted by danderma on December 8, 2010 at 1:11 PM

      that’s a good point… sometimes i am being served very badly and sometimes i have to beg for service especially abroad… why do i have to pay both tip & service charge when i don’t think they deserve anything since we hardly got any service at all?! But i always end up paying in the end…


  2. I don’t know how either.. kil marra adfa3 shay lol if I like the restaurant and service I pay more but if i don’t then i pay less . bas generally I don’t count because I don’t KNOW how to lol


  3. Posted by Kinz on December 8, 2010 at 12:05 PM

    The mysterious service charge and whether to tip afterwards is something I wonder about frequently. I don’t think the service charge is optional, if you try to pay only the actual amount on the bill without the service charge the waiter or cashier will expect the rest of the amount. We in Saudi are of two camps. One says that the service charge is supposed to be distributed between the wait staff so no extra tip is required. The other camp says that the management keeps the service charge and the waiters never see it. I think the second argument is more likely so what we do is depending on the bill add an extra 10 riyals per person as a thank you for good service unless the bill is under 100 riyals then it’s 5 riyals each. If the service was only average we might not leave an extra tip, or if it is a minimum service buffet and we are only two people I leave 10 riyals on the table for the busboy and pay the service charge.
    If you really hate service charges order takeout.


    • Posted by danderma on December 8, 2010 at 1:14 PM

      True i think they expect you to pay the service charge since it’s already included in the bill… and i think most likely it doesn’t go with the waiter.
      Some restaurants state that there is a 10 or 15% service charge on all dishes and that is inside the menu… you know that before you put your order… though i don’t understand why they don’t include it already within the price of the dish itself. Other offer no such explanation and when the bill arrives you are expected to pay. I would always rather pay the waiter/waitress instead of pay service charge but i am still not sure if i am expected to or supposed to or what exactly…


  4. Posted by om mothi on December 8, 2010 at 12:36 PM

    alllaaaaah its snowing here 😀 .. ana dayman asma3 ena aslan mo qanoni ena they add it to the bill o ena tegderen teshteken 3alihom if they sign the bill bas 3adi kil el nas tedfa3.. ma7ad esawe shay .. ana madri marat adfa3 bas el extra charge o marat if they were really good and friendly i tip them.

    danderma? mako dathra khalas?


    • Posted by danderma on December 8, 2010 at 1:07 PM

      Ana wedi i never pay them tip if they already add extra charge bs a7es el waiters yakseron kha6ry i feel they would get nothing… i am not sure where that extra charge goes exactly…

      La ako insha2 Allah 3amma qareeb… bs let me settle back ishwaya o ma y9eer kha6rech ella 6ayeb 🙂


  5. It also frustrates me. I usually end up walking out paying about 30- 40% over what I actually used. I remember in Toronto, restaurants used to give the option of a service charge or not. It was explained to me then that it was the tip that would go to the waiters. But here in Saudi, I have spoken to some waiters, and they say that they don’t get the service charge, and that it goes directly to the restaurant. I think that is wrong. The service charge should go to the WAITER, Not to the establishment. Period. The establishment has already overcharged us for the food, drink etc and thus that is the reasoning for the inflated prices we pay on the food. Anyway, I still end up paying the service charge and an extra tip for the waiter. If I had a choice, I would NOT pay the service charge and instead directly tip the waiter for their service.


    • Posted by danderma on December 8, 2010 at 1:22 PM

      hmmm i never ever got the feel that i had an option not to pay the service charge abroad… but maybe all we need to do is ask?

      But then our suspicions are true… waiters never get the service charge! But tipping is supposed to be for waiters… why service charge when you are already paying over what you had gotten anyways?


  6. Ideally, the service charge and the tip are one and the same thing. and it should be optional. But since most restaurants are as far away from the ideal, the service charge is always compulsory from our experiences in Kuwait and you can never be sure if it’s going to be distributed among the waiters. So what we do is judge on the service,if they went out of their way to make the experience pleasant we don’t mind adding the tip on top of the service change…otherwise they can forget it.

    And to be honest, I lost count of the times we have to almost do a little dance and wave at our table to get the attention of waiters who are usually standing in a little circle looking everywhere except at the customers :S


    • Posted by danderma on December 8, 2010 at 7:36 PM

      you think the service in Q8 is bad? The service in Europe in horrible and it keeps getting worse and worse! yet i suppose they all expect some tip on top of the service charge or else you will be the cheap customer…


  7. Posted by noora on December 8, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    never knew ina service charge is optional!
    i leave a tip, but if theyve included il service charge i honestly wouldnt tip!


    • Posted by danderma on December 8, 2010 at 7:31 PM

      my hubby thinks the same way, we don’t have to tip if they included the service charge but we always end up tipping because it feels weird? Madry chinna mafrooth we tip?


      • Posted by noora on December 8, 2010 at 7:52 PM

        esadqen ma ya ebali min gabil ina service charge would be divided between all waiters! ma3nata tip ra7 3lehum msaken

        bs now that i know ina it’s optional e7taret minhum!

        plus esara7a ana ma a7i6 tip 2 KD if the bill came for 20 ya3ni! ana a7i6 1 oO azeed il rdood sa3at!!
        what about u?


        • Posted by danderma on December 8, 2010 at 10:17 PM

          I usually tip at least ten percent o elrdood azeed 3lehom till they complete ten percent but etha fee service charge i dont feel compelled to complete el change till it comes up to ten


  8. No the service charge is the tip.

    I refused to pay the service charge mara in Lebanon. My bill was barely 20 dollars and the cafe had a flat service charge of 50 dollars JUST for sitting at the table, which btw they didn’t tell me about until I was done. I refused to pay and they couldn’t do anything about it 😀


    • Posted by danderma on December 8, 2010 at 7:27 PM

      50 dollar when you ordered only 20 dollars?! Laish!?
      and they didn’t do anything about it? Zain wallah


      • It was ”5aleeji season” thats why a table downtown cost $50. Ilshay yle y7r is that people paid. And ma sawa shay ilmanager because he knew he was wrong and he wasn’t charging the lebanese.


  9. Posted by daggero on December 8, 2010 at 9:52 PM

    The service charge is a charge for using the premises for consuming the food .so if you order take away food there should be No extra 10% or so charge

    The Tip is an appreciation for the service provided by the staff or the cook . In Europe you are not expected to tip but it is appreciated . In USA it is bad news if you don’t tip and it is 20% as it is considered part of their salary since most are paid minimum wage .Some time the server(they don’t like to be called waiters or waitresses )may follow you outside the restaurant to ask you bluntly why you didn’t leave a tip as in Which part of our service you did not like Sir or Madam

    In Japan , if you tip the waiter or service provider they will return the tip back to you with an apology for not accepting it , and if you leave the shop they will follow you to return your tip .

    A cover charge is to prevent people from coming to a busy restaurant and sit there for hours and order only fries or a coke thus preventing the establishment from making money from other clients who want to order a high value meal .


  10. I think the service charge does not go to the waiters so I always end up paying 10 to 15% tip depending on the service/waiter


  11. Posted by ln on December 9, 2010 at 7:35 AM

    La laa :p look when there’s service charge hatha china tip, + its not optional al7een sar lazm, fa when u see the service charge mawjood u don’t give a tip, bs lama mako, well yeah then u have to add a tip :p


  12. Love your London posts! So intriguing!


  13. Posted by expatozziegal on December 11, 2010 at 9:54 AM

    I really don’t understand why there are service charges in Kuwait.Service charges are normally VAT or municipality taxes and as there is no tax in Kuwait I fail to see why this is applied to the bill. It makes me quite angry when i see this applied to the bill – what am I paying for? I’m sure it doesn’t go to the waiters, so what is it for??


    • Posted by danderma on December 11, 2010 at 6:10 PM

      beats me… today i had to pay service charge o 1.300 KD for a restaurant with HORRIBLE service and horrible food and the waiters were snobby and they didn’t even write down one of the main dishes in the bill!!! My husband refused to pay them a tip but we already did pay 1.300 KD extra for a service that wasn’t going well… i don’t know if i could have asked for it to be taken off the bill or not and frankly if i knew for sure i would have asked for it to be off!


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