The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

Why is my expensive Thai hotel is ripping me off with a 10% dining-in service charge?

Written By: herbrunbridge - Aug• 11•13

pafaranghalo[1]The Good Manner: Advice on Thailand from WoWasis’ Pa Farang

This week’s scam unveiled: My expensive Thai hotel is ripping me off with a 10% dining-in service charge

Dear Pa Farang,

I routinely stay at one of the top Western hotels in Thailand, and eat frequently at its top restaurant.  Each time, a 10% “service charge” is added to my bill, and my server insists it doesn’t go to the wait staff, but instead is shared among all hotel staff.  Who really gets the money?

– Frequent Guest

Dear Frequent Guest,

It differs by hotel, and each has its way of doing things.  I’m not sure if “all hotel staff” are getting anything, but I’m quite positive your server gets none of it.  What follows is my educated guess…

Your retaurant is not owned by the hotel.  Instead, it pays rent to the hotel.  This could be a flat monthly fee, a percentage of net profit, or a percentage of gross receipts.  It could even be a combination of all three.  I suspect yours pays 10% of its gross receipts as rent.  A convenient way to pay the fee is to charge the customer a 10% surcharge, which means you, effectively pay the restaurant’s rent on top of what you pay for the meal.  Any “hotel staff” who asks where his or her “service fee” money is will probably be summarily sacked as a troublemaker. The staff are not ignorant, and will refuse to jeopardize their jobs by asking to actually receive the fees which are allegedly collected on their behalves.  You, on the other hand, are quite possibly on expense account, so you may not ask too many questions either.

ThailandPromoBannerFact is, you’re being dunned twice, once for the tip to your server, again to pay your restaurant’s rent.  If you want to ensure that your server does indeed get a tip, give him or her paper money by placing it in his or her hand. If you place the paper money tip on a plate or in a leather credit card envelope, it will either go directly to management, or be shared among all restaurant staff. That restaurant managers worked their way up through the system, and generally speaking, believe they deserve the tips left in plates and charge envelopes. After all, they were victims of this unfair systems once themselves.

If this situation angers you, vote with your feet and go elsewhere.  And yes, we consider 10% meal service fees a scam.

Avoid all scams, show the Good Manner, and have a great time in Thailand.

Marayat dee,
– Pa Farang

Read Pa Farang’s other columns in WoWasis for more advice on relationships and cultural matters in Asia

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One Comment

  1. benjamin says:

    I’m impressed, I have to admit. Really almost never do I experience a blog that’s both educative and enjoyable, and let me tell you, you have strike the nail on the head with this post. We’ve probably all been ripped off this way.

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