I at one time enjoyed going to the Olive Garden Unlimited for their Soup, Salad, and Bread Sticks. The price was about a buck above being a great value, but I enjoyed it and would go about weekly for lunch. One night my wife and I went out about a year and a half ago or so to Olive Garden. When we got the bill it was a couple of dollars more than I anticipated. I asked the waitress and she indicated that the price did indeed go up a dollar. It was border line worth it at the price it was. At a dollar more it was not worth it.
That was the last time I had been to Olive Garden until today. Remember that I previously went to Olive Garden almost once a week before that price increase.
Today was a coworkers last day and we went out to eat to celebrate. Someone chose Olive Garden and I figured to pay respects to my friend I would cave and pay the extra dollar. I was browsing the menu just out of curiosity since I knew I was getting my usual Soup, Salad, and Bread Sticks. I noticed at the bottom of the menu it said that for large groups there was an optional 18% gratuity. 18% is ridiculous, but I was pleased to see that it was optional and not mandatory as I have seen at other places. When I got the bill I noticed that there was a line for gratuity and there had included a value there as a part of my total.
What was I to do if I didn't want to pay that much gratuity, tell the waitress and tell her I did not want to give her that much and make her change it?
What I didn't think of at the time was that since there was a line for additional gratuity and a line for total I could've entered a negative number for the amount of the tip and a new total. I also could've scratched out the gratuity and wrote a new total.
I will not be back to Olive Garden if I have a choice in the matter.
Update 4 Oct 2012
Since there has been good discussion on this post about gratuities, I thought I would put something that came to my mind today. I am diverging from Olive Garden, but I the spirit of the post was to discuss how a culture of mandatory gratuities is keeping me from spending any of my money at places that have wait staff that expect a gratuity as part of their normal pay.
I was thinking about maybe going out to eat for lunch today. Some of the guys have talked every now and again about Red Robin and their unlimited steak fries. It was a bit more than I want to pay for lunch and I don't like steak fries as much as other fires, but I kind of a craving for a lot of fries. So I was figuring up the cost in my head and trying to convince myself to spend the extra. I was all set to do it and then I remembered that Red Robin has waitresses and that will cost a buck or two more.
As I thought about that I thought more about how I was paying too much for Red Robin any how and I could get a boat load of fries that I like better for the extra $3 for the burger and fries and the extra $2 for delivery. For the total cost, I could get two burgers and two orders of fries at a fast food place. I also wouldn't have to sit around and wait for it to be delivered to my table.
Update 1 Feb 2013
I've heard the last couple of days about a pastor that wrote comments on the Applebee's receipt for his party of 19. I think that his comments were out of line.
Nonetheless, I entirely agree with his protest of having an 18% gratuity added to the bill automatically. I heard someone on the radio taking the position that the tip is not optional, but part of the waiter staff's wage. I entirely disagree. A gratuity is given for service above their wage.
Yes the "pastor" was a jerk about it, but perpetuating the idea that someone deserves 18% just for showing up to my table is wrong.