This restaurant in New Jersey is imposing a special ‘Teen Tax’

I put tipping in the same bracket as chores: no one really wants to do it, but you kind of have to for the benefit of everyone involved. Not being a native of the US though means that my opinion on the socio-economic convention is always going to be a little skewed, though.

I understand the fundamental reasoning behind tipping, I’ve even lived off of tips for a while, but being judged or mistreated for not tipping, or even forced to tip – something that isn’t mandatory – has never sat well with me. A group of people who should be allowed to skip this optional payment are kids.

Not too long ago we had a restaurant ban all kids because of their bad behaviour. It seems now they have to deal with the adult problem of tipping now too.

Last week, an 11-year-old milkshake lover going by Bella Venezian was shocked to discover that a mandatory gratuity fee had been added to her bill at the Wayne Hills Diner in Wayne, New Jersey.

Her mom, Melissa, had been to that same diner earlier in the day but did not receive any mysterious charges on her bill. It turns out that the Wayne Hills Diner sometimes applies a “teen tax” when they suspect that younger customers might not tip.

Talking to the local CBS (the news team that discovered the story), Melissa said: “It’s not how much she paid, it’s the simple fact she didn’t have a choice.” As a result, “she was double-tipping the server because she didn’t realize they were adding the tip onto the bill”.

The concerned mother also thinks that it wouldn’t be such a big deal if that charge was applied to all bills for customers both young and old, regardless of how they look. “Make it for everybody,” Melissa remarked. “Adults, children, everything.”

When asked about the sneaky charge, the owner of the diner referred the CBS reporters to the restaurant’s lawyer, who explained that kids have been showing up in hordes of 20 or even 30 people, staying for a very long time and not tipping at the end of the service. They feel it’s justified.

The menu also clearly states that “management reserves the right to add 18 percent gratuity.” Despite the warning, Melissa and Bella Venezian feel slighted, and won’t be on their way back to the Wayne Hills Diner any time soon.

I’m no expert, but I think that to structure your business model around tipping will do more harm than good. You will always have bad days as well as good days, and even then, a good day doesn’t always mean good tips. Turning what is optional into something mandatory means you’ll probably drive people away.

Whether more restaurants follow suit is not clear yet. Here’s to hoping they don’t start charging for the time it takes to split the bill properly. Otherwise, everyone will be in big trouble.

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