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Vermont Restaurants Busted For Adding 18% Tip to Canadians' Bills

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Burlington, Vermont.
Burlington, Vermont.
Photo: Shan213 / Flickr

Servers in Burlington, Vermont totally got busted for tacking automatic gratuities onto the bills of unsuspecting Québecois tourists. Seven Days discovered that as French Canadians have a bit of a reputation for not tipping well, diners with French accents were starting to get restaurant checks that were 18% higher than expected. This practice apparently goes by the charming moniker "Queeb tax."

According to the Calgary Herald, the automatic gratuities have stopped since the Seven Days' piece: a local restaurant manager told them, "I don't think [servers are] doing that anymore since the story came out." In Québec, servers make about $8.55/hour as compared to the $4.10/hour Vermont servers make. It's standard Québecois practice to tip 10%-15% on a restaurant meal, pre-tax.

Still, the American custom of leaving a 20% tip often seems strange to foreign visitors, and Vermont restaurant owners told Seven Days they're not sure what to do about it. Barb Bardin, owner of Splash in Burlington, says that some restaurants put suggested tips on their receipts, but she thinks that's tacky: "You're damned no matter what you do."

In any case, it seems like the practice of auto-gratting foreign diners was largely at servers' discretion. Unlike the restaurant in Hawaii that tacked on a 15% tip for non-English speakers as a matter of policy, the Vermont auto-grats were not a managerial decision at any of the restaurants that spoke to Seven Days. The practice was merely tolerated.

· Are Burlington Restaurants Discriminating Against Québecois Customers? [Seven Days]
· French Canadians Singled Out as Bad Tippers in Vermont [Calgary Herald]
· All Tipwatch Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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