How to get out of paying an auto-added gratuity

You and 5 of your friends go to a restaurant for dinner. Service is lacking: the waiter bumbles the order, 2 people go the entire meal without seeing their food, you wait 10 minutes just for your drinks, and yet the waiter has time to chat with his buddies. When your friend with nut allergies almost chokes to death at the table because there were peanuts in his dish even though he specifically said he was allergic to nuts, the waiter doesn’t even comp the meal.

Then the bill arrives and there’s an 18% gratuity tacked on. You try to complain to the manager about the lacking service, but all up and down the line you only hear “that is restaurant policy.” What can you do? I’ve done this, and it works.

1. Cross out the line with the gratuity

2. Pay with a credit card

3. Take a picture of the receipt

Of course, the service doesn’t have to be egregious. If you, for whatever reason, don’t believe that the server deserves an 18% gratuity, you can’t be forced to pay it. Why? Your credit card company owes no allegiance to the restaurant, but makes money off every transaction you make. Whose side will Chase bank take? Yours!

If the restaurant runs the bill through with the auto-added gratuity, simply dispute the charge with your credit card company and email them a photo of the receipt. You can also elaborate on the circumstances, but the credit card company cares about your happiness. The merchant won’t stop taking Visa, but you have dozens of different banks eager for your business, so you are at an advantage.

I think too few people know about this, and they think they have to pay up because it says so right there on the menu. Waiters may also tend to neglect bigger groups because they have a guaranteed tip. Don’t be bullied by restaurant policy: the automatic gratuities can’t be enforced. More importantly, they won’t be enforced by your credit card company.


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