A busy lunchtime in downtown Burlington, but some diners are getting more than they bargained for. Some waiters and waitresses are tacking on an 18 percent tip to bills for Canadian customers.
"I really believe they don't understand the customs," Barbara Bardin said.
Bardin owns the restaurant Splash at the Burlington Boathouse, where Canadian diners make up 60 percent of customers. She says her servers were sometimes getting stiffed by our neighbors to the north. The waiters earn just over $4 an hour and count on tips. So servers here started adding tips to bills of diners appearing to be Quebecois. In Canada, waiters make twice as much hourly and tipping standards are different; giving less than 15 percent is OK.
"It's hurtful, it's a shock, especially when they rely so heavily on their gratuity," Bardin said.
Diane Ferchette of Quebec says she's been blindsided by the charge at restaurants from Burlington to Stowe. Ferchette feels comfortable leaving less than 10 percent if she's not happy and says the automatic charge is insulting.
"No way, I think it's not a good idea," she said. "What about liberty?"
This isn't just an issue that Splash is dealing with. At Ken's Pizza the owners did not want to talk to us on camera, but they're dealing with the issue in a more direct way-- putting on the menu "Canadians-- tipping is not just for when you're in a canoe."
The Vermont Human Rights Commission has not received any complaints about tip profiling, but is ready to investigate if they do.
"Too many waitresses were waiting on groups spending $150 and leaving them $2 or $3," said Bob Conlon of Leunig's Bistro.
Leunig's addressed the low tip issue three years ago by putting a calculated tipping guide on the bottom of each bill. Owner Bob Conlon says it's helped.
"I figure a lot of people don't know," Conlon said. "This is an easy way to say these are our customs; 15 is about the lowest, 25 percent is a great tip."
At Splash they are working on a policy and servers are no longer able to tack on a tip based on nationality.
"I meant for this to be educational, not an insult," Bardin said.
A new cross-border controversy, but even so, Canadians we spoke with say they won't be bidding adieu to Vermont.
Asiana Noodle Shop on Church Street also admits to tacking on the 18 percent surcharge for Canadian customers.
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