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Tip request

We’ve been in Spain and France for the past 7 weeks. We mostly had an apartment in each location but we did eat out several times a week. Our server last night (casual place) after she took my credit card in her hand and inserted it into the machine (we had previously tapped to pay on another visit to the same place so that threw me) asked me “how much to add on for tip?) I was not expecting that request so I said “pardon?” and she repeated the question. I told her I would tip in cash. First time anyone requested a tip!

So as not to be a liar, we left her some coins. Comments anyone?

Posted by
2054 posts

I have never heard of such a thing in France. You were definitely being taken advantage of. It’s OK to leave a few coins, but only the uninformed would leave a tip of sufficient size that it would need to be added to the card charge.

Posted by
11432 posts

My response would be the same everywhere.......don't return to that restaurant. I doubt your server asked the french speaking diners that question.

Posted by
2054 posts

it could happen in any country.

French restaurants have no means for a customer to pay for any amount other than what is on the actual bill. If this was in France, and the OP did not specify that, adding a tip to the overall charge just means that VAT was also charged against the tip amount.

Posted by
6003 posts

I can't say for France for sure, but I have had the itemized printout you get as a check say at the bottom...and circled in ink,,,"Gratuity not included" in English (oddly, when the rest of the printout was in the local language). But that was a restaurant likely to be populated with visitors, in an area with hotels, so I took it in stride.

But look, Americans in Europe are well known as tippers, and heavily so. Just go back and search this forum, and you will find many people talking about tipping and very, very insistent that they tip at home, so they will tip when they travel (They are paying for an expensive trip, they can afford to give alms to the pitiful ones) Waiters and those in the travel industry are aware of our proclivity to leave cash, and will angle for a tip when they hear you speak. Of course, it is as likely that previous Americans complained that they did not have a chance to add a tip, so she was trying to ease the situation to your satisfaction.

Posted by
5149 posts

We've had something similar happen to us this year several times in France and Italy. The last time, the server said, in English, even though we had been conversing all evening in Italian, "Service is included, but you can leave more."

Posted by
8493 posts

Outrageous. I hope those were small coins you left.
Please give us the name of the restaurant. It may have been only one employee, but travelers on this Forum should be aware.

In 50 years living and traveling in France, that has never happened. No, this is not how it is in France--normally.

Posted by
135 posts

Wondering about taxi drivers in France.. we have never used a taxi until now but will this summer on a trip. Thanks

Posted by
953 posts

"she took my credit card in her hand and inserted it into the machine"

I would get more concerned that the server set up a DCC transaction, and with all the kerfuffle, the patron wouldn't have noticed and just entered the PIN to get the H out of the place.

Posted by
2054 posts

Staff is not supposed to handle your credit card, nor take it out of your view. These rules protect you from having your information compromised.

Posted by
4136 posts

In France at least, it is not unusual for the waiter to take your CC and insert it themselves into the machine, rather than them holding the machine in mid-air waiting for you to do the same. Contactless/"tapping" only works up to €50.

However, the "tip" question sounds like a scam. Never happened to me. You are free to tip a little; in France it is quite usual (but not at all universal) to do so, but cash is the only way to do so.

Posted by
6779 posts

We've seen it a couple of times and I chalked it up to us being Americans, who they know can't stop tipping.

Posted by
214 posts

The bill was just over 50€ ; we didn’t sign the receipt. Restaurant was E-Space in Lyon. We struggled to find something open on Sunday evening in our not terribly desirable location near the Perrache station and bus station.

Posted by
1780 posts

This happened to us two weeks ago at a restaurant in Paris. We’ve been to this place more than 10 times over the years but that was the last time.

Posted by
953 posts

"Staff is not supposed to handle your credit card"

Yep, where I'm from, NO ONE touches the card other than the credit card owner.

Posted by
786 posts

Funny, in Canada, that's absolutely bog-standard. EVERY time you pay for a meal with a card, there is an option to add on a tip. She was just asking you so she could enter the number for you, before returning the machine to you for the PIN.

Posted by
3329 posts

Something similar happened to us quite a few years ago in Sorrento. The waiter had the gall to “remind” us to leave a tip after he earlier had pretended that there was no house wine and foisted off on us a €14 half bottle. No wine list. We only saw the price when the bill came. Or, maybe there actually was a wine list; but the waiter saw an opportunity to put one over on some American tourists. Anyway, when the bill came, I hissed at my husband, “Don’t you dare leave a tip!” He didn’t; and at least we had the satisfaction of knowing we had let that jerk of a waiter know we weren’t entirely gullible.

Posted by
53 posts

We've had that happen twice -- once at L'escargot Montorgueil a few years ago and once at Les Deux Magots in April. It really taints the experience. (We try to hit Deux Magots a couple of times per visit for breakfast and people watching and have always enjoyed the experience, so this was particularly jarring.)

Posted by
11432 posts

Funny, in Canada, that's absolutely bog-standard. EVERY time you pay for a meal with a card, there is an option to add on a tip. She was just asking you so she could enter the number for you, before returning the machine to you for the PIN.

It may be like that in Canada, but in France there is no line for a tip.

Posted by
177 posts

I've been enjoying not having to tip much while I've been in France. I usually leave a few Euros. But in Sarlat, a waiter gave us American style service and was really great, so I tipped him what I would have tipped in the US.(I figured he was might be angling for a tip, but that's okay, he deserved it) It also didn't hurt that he looked like Andy the footman from Downton Abbey!

Posted by
2401 posts

Contactless/"tapping" only works up to €50.

Is that a France thing? My card is approved for tapping up to $200. It's been no problem in Scotland with that amount.

Posted by
214 posts

The card I was using doesn’t have a PIN but I know not to ever complete a cc transaction any way except by tap or swipe.

Oh well, at least it was only once in 7 weeks! And I wish the restaurants in my home area would bring the machine to the table.

Posted by
953 posts

"My card is approved for tapping up to $200"

My card is approved for $250, in Canada, or the equivalent amount in foreign currency ... roughly 185€ using today's Visa exchange rate OR not, depending on the merchant.

Posted by
8493 posts

That was my thought, too, Nick.

Posted by
4136 posts

Yes, the €50 limit for contactless purchases is a France thing.

Posted by
953 posts

"but I know not to ever complete a cc transaction any way except by tap or swipe."

Swiping that magnetic strip is the least secure method of all when using your CC or DC.

Posted by
6720 posts

never leave so much as a 5 cent piece for someone who asks for a tip. This is something they only run on people they consider rubes -- gullible tourists from the US. France pays waiters and they have total health care -- unlike the US where waiters can be paid 2.25 an hour and rarely have health insurance from their employer. It is not a tipping culture.

Posted by
2054 posts

a waiter gave us American style service

Nick is correct, waiters deliver food, nothing else. Attempts to be your best friend are creepy and inappropriate.

Posted by
177 posts

Wow folks. he wasn't creepy or anything, we found him very nice. Sheesh!

Posted by
12970 posts

"...no line for a tip." There is in Germany, at least in Berlin. One of the Berlin restaurants where I'm a regular (for years), such a "tipping" line exist. They know I am from here, ...no problem. I like the owner, the staff sees me as a regular, always talk to the owner. This is the only German restaurant I tip American style...so what by filling in that "tip line." All other places I do German style, this restaurant I make the exception.

Posted by
2737 posts

a "clever" restaurant will ask for the tip, just because. think how often it probably works with Americans and Canadians, why not try? I'm not justifying, just saying. The tourist industry is hurting and some owners will try to play some games.

Posted by
32 posts

Bonjour,

We have been in France a few days now and have use contactless tapping for almost all purchases since we arrived. How is the 50 Euro limit applied? Our hotel allowed contactless for the full bill (over 1300 Euro) and several meals have exceeded 80 Euro with no problems. The only place we have had to swipe a card is the RATP machine for the 10 ticket carnet.

Rob

Posted by
953 posts

"Our hotel allowed contactless for the full bill (over 1300 Euro)"

Couplea questions if you don't mind, because I'm always interested in the workings:

  • Did the hotel do a placement on your card when you checked in? When I say placement I mean - when I travel in NA, and stay at say a Westin, they always put a placement for the total bill + say $200 - because the credit card company accepted the placement quite often the Contactless Payment will go through for that placement amount.

  • What is your Contactless Limit stateside?

  • Are you using an Amex card or one of the regulars?

Posted by
8493 posts

Fred--this is France, not Germany. It's the west side of the Rhine, not the east. We don't have a line for tips

phred--nothing clever, just rude and aggressive, shaking down uninformed tourists. The aggressor has the upper hand, having made the first move and caught the tourist off guard--no different from the bracelet guys standing above the tourist walking up Montmartre and catching the tourist off guard. Both are aggressive attacks. In this case, the waitress had the customers' card in her hand, held hostage, a no-no in France.

Posted by
8394 posts

“Attempts to be your best friend are creepy and inappropriate.”

In the US (i am specifically talking about the US, not Europe), because wait staff depend on tips to support themselves, a smart server will act as friendly as possible. I like friendly, but not overly friendly. I was a server for several years back in the day, and being one gives a person a very different perspective and understanding than people who’ve never been in those shoes.

Posted by
2923 posts

I have been asked for a tip three times at a restaurant, not including tip jars that are on counters . Two were in France (in Paris and in Saint Paul de Vence) and one was at a Mexican restaurant in New York City at Grand Central Station. The time in NYC, I specifically dd not leave a tip because the server was rude and then imagine compounding the rudeness by asking why we did not tip him. The two times in France (once at La Colombe d'or and I forget the name of the place in Paris but it was one of the Mamma pizza places) I paid by credit card and the servers asked me as I was leaving if anything was wrong and said they were asking because I did not leave a tip and Americans tip unless something is wrong. Both times, I had used my credit card because I had no cash on me so I could not leave even a euro as a tip. Both times, I was very embarrassed because I felt like the entire place was staring at me. As to tip jars, I see them in quite few "younger" leaning places in Paris but the first one I ever saw, I saw in 2014 at the crepe stand right outside Odeon metro station. I worked my way through college as a bartender and a server so I have a lot of sympathy for servers and I always round up when paying with cash In France and I now only pay for restaurants with cash so I can round up.

Posted by
8394 posts

JHK, wow, that rude waiter had the nerve to ask you why you didn’t tip him?! I hope you told him… : )

Posted by
12970 posts

@ Bets....I said nothing of France regarding the tip line, only pointed out where I saw such a line. I could have mentioned Poland, Austria, or any other country it applied. That was my point.

Posted by
7691 posts

Yeah, that is pretty bad.

I would just add in response to phred's thought, that my perspective on this is completely the opposite:

a "clever" restaurant will ask for the tip,

A clever restaurant, to my mind, would absolutely not ask for a tip, since they risk losing clients any time they do it. It's not a good long-term strategy. I guess if you literally only ever serve one-visit tourists, it might work out okay. Otherwise it seems like a really dumb idea.

Posted by
3329 posts

@ Kim
I believe that asking for a tip is a ploy reserved for customers perceived as tourists, most particularly American tourists. I’m sure it’s rarely or never exercised on locals. That’s another reason for getting away from tourist areas for meals.
P.S. I confess even knowing what I know about tipping practices, I feel uncomfortable not leaving a gratuity. (But I’m working on that. 🙄)

Posted by
953 posts

I know all about tipping etiquette / "rules" both at home and in Europe. I still tip based on exceptional service - the great bartender in Brescia, the great taxi driver in Torino, the great bartender / overall service at Giardino's in Vancouver, the woman at TIM in Verona who got me up and away with 2 data SIM cards, no fuss no mess, the stock clerk at my favourite grocery store for digging in the back for something that wasn't on the shelf AND, most importantly the housekeeper at the Four Seasons, Houston Galleria, who over 30 years ago, set the bar for what is exceptional service, she was GEM - the list is endless, all were worth a tip.

Posted by
74 posts

It's been a tough couple years for the food service industry; many probably earned a lot less due to restaurant cut back or closure. Maybe just leave tips for this year, if you want to :)

Posted by
8493 posts

Lack of income is an assumption, not a fact. You need to research how salaries were supported during the restaurant shut downs in France. Wait staff are salaried employees, so they received the same compensation as everyone else. Flinging tips as a charitable act only makes this worse.

As a French citizen, I've been in France on and off all during the shut downs and reopenings. No one has ever pushed this tip game on us. We're French speakers of course, a native and I speak very well. This is very sad and maddening that Americans are seen as targets and are being taken for suckers.

Posted by
1780 posts

The worst part about this is since being taken for a sucker a few weeks ago I’m very conscious of the tip ‘scam’. I’m on lookout for this happening again and it’s cast a shadow on all the restaurants and servers. That’s a shame.

Posted by
2737 posts

Kim just to circle back, the whole reason that tourists are targeted is (as you mentioned) they're not coming back! that's why cabbies can play games, and restaurants, and street hustlers. not only are you not coming back, but if you tried to go to the police they would laugh you out of the station. It's a one-sided game, again I'm not justifying it I'm just describing it.

this is also why American cities stick all kinds of absurd taxes/fees/charges on hotels, rental cars, restaurants, etc. Because the people who have to pay that "convention center usage fee" to stay in a hotel can't vote and aren't coming back!

And the final point, people in the tourist industry quickly learned that Americans come from a tipping culture, where service staff are barely paid a wage and the customer is expected to pony up 15 or 20 percent on top of each meal. Heck, I had a Japanese bellman follow me to my room and stand there waiting for the tip (even though I carried my own one bag!), and Japan is just about as no-tip as you can get. But he learned.

Posted by
2923 posts

Look, don't think of it as being taken for a sucker. It's not that they think you are a sucker but that they think or know that you are unaware of some key local facts and they can make a couple of bucks. A sucker is someone who is gullible or easily deceived -- that is not what these people are banking on. They are banking on lack of local knowledge which is very different than being a sucker. It's no different than a taxi taking a route that makes the bill larger when the driver concludes the passenger is not familiar with the area. When I moved to New Orleans in the late 1980s, the taxi driver taking me from the airport took me past the Superdome heading east. I thought nothing of it but after I had lived in New Orleans for about a week, I realized that there was no reason for me to have seen the Superdome from the eastbound Ponchartrain Expressway for a trip from the airport to Uptown.

Posted by
7691 posts

It's been a tough couple years for the food service industry; many probably earned a lot less due to restaurant cut back or closure.

Well, maybe a little bit less, but the French government paid all restaurant workers something like 85% of their salary all through the pandemic (I know, because my husband works in a restaurant, and this decision by the government to support restaurant workers meant a hell of a lot less stress for us). So maybe ppl didn't get 100% of the salary -- but they got by far the vast bulk of it. And they would have not gotten the tips they usually make. But then again there was nothing to spend any money on either.

It's just a choice that the French government made to ensure that jobs would still be waiting for people in the sector when the worst of the pandemic was over. Other governments made other choices -- but France did not leave its restaurant workers flailing.

Posted by
7691 posts

Phred -- the problem with trying to "target" an American as a non-returning tourist is that there are a hell of lot of Americans who come back often, who live here for a year or two, who buy a place and come annually, etc. Any savvy person will hope that they can turn a one-time customer into a repeat customer -- or give the one-time customer such a great experience that that customer tells their friends when they get back home what a great place they went to, or they write up a wonderful place on the Forum or TripAdvisor or whatever.

Obviously there are people who don't care, and people who run places that are only about churning through the one-time visitors. But it's not everyone. There are lots of owners and workers who take a lot of pride in offering an excellent product and a memorable service. Is it 100%? Absolutely not. But it's probably more than most people seem to assume.

Posted by
18 posts

Last month I was in France for 3 weeks - Paris, Provence and St Tropez and Nice.

Tapped our way through Paris and Provence. First night in St Tropez the waiter asked if we would like to add something for a tip and that happened the next 4 meals. I guess all us Americans have gotten them used to tips. We did not tip in 2 of the 4 restaurants - the other 2 had extra special service so we did add a small tip.