Where I've been traveling lately (Europe and Africa mostly), many restaurants add a service charge to the bill, somewhere between 5 and 10%. So if the price is quoted at 500 Rupees, I end up paying, say 575, where they add 25 for taxes and 50 for service.

Why is the service charge not included in the price? Unlike the tax, it is usually not disclosed ahead in the menu. It seems like a forced tip but the principle of a tip is that the customer decides how good or not the service was, and gives accordingly.

In the Seychelles most times a machine just adds a fixed percentage onto the printed bill. In Brazil last month, it was added by hand over the total printed by the machine.

Are these charges added for tourists only? Do locals pay them too? Can they be contested if service was not satisfactory?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Rory Alsop, chx, Giorgio, David Richerby, Maître Peseur Apr 1 '17 at 6:27

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • When I visit higher end restaurants in Ghana and Nigeria in West Africa, everyone including locals pays the same thing regardless of tourist or not. It's a forced tip which many times the restaurant doesn't even share with the waiters. You can't contest them. – user 56513 Mar 30 '17 at 20:05
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    If it's not on the menu (at least as a small note in the footer) in Europe you can contest the charge. Everything has to be upfront. – JonathanReez Mar 30 '17 at 20:25
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    As for the purpose - it's to scam their patrons into thinking their prices are smaller than they really are. Avoid such establishments in the future and be sure to review a horrible review. – JonathanReez Mar 30 '17 at 20:26

From a restaurant's perspective it is useful for a couple of reasons:

  • as JonathanReez pointed out it allows menu prices to be lower if they are stated before tax and service charge.
  • Stating a fixed service charge allows the restaurant to know what they will collect. This is especially useful if they typically get less than that (perhaps because they deliver poor service)
  • Many customers will not contest the service charge (even in those countries where they legally can) as they don't read the small print, or want to challenge the "default" payment.

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