Tuesday , 28 February 2017
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Hotel staff sour as service charge not mandatory

PANAJI: Even as people in Goa who frequent restaurants are pleased by the fact that service charge is not compulsory any more, staff and employees of restaurants and hotels are displaying unhappiness over the news.

According to employees of Grade A restaurants and starred hotels, they stand to lose income if service charge is optional because “some customers may refuse to pay it.”

A senior waiter working in the restaurant of a city-based star hotel said that income in the form of tips is an integral part of earnings of people working in the hospitality industry. “We look forward to it at the end of the month. It is an attractive element of our profession,” he said.

On the other hand, hoteliers claimed to be neutral on the recent provision of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, wherein customers are free to refuse to pay service charge, if they are unhappy with the quality of service offered.

General Manager of Fidalgo Hotel in Panaji Tapas De said that service charge has always been optional and guests have every right to demand its removal, if they are dissatisfied. “The charge is levied to motivate employees to continue to provide good service and it is not an income to the hotel,” he said.

De said that the service charge collected from the different restaurants in Fidalgo Hotel is aggregated and then distributed among the employees. “Customers need not tip if they pay service charge. So far, rarely have customers asked us to remove service charge from the bill although we have done it in some instances,” he said.

President of All Goa Hotels and Restaurant Owners Association Gaurish Dhond pointed out that only some standalone restaurants in the state levy service charge. “Mostly the employees’ union wants service charge and, therefore, owners charge it,” he alleged.

Restaurants charge a host of taxes and cess from customers which taken together work out to about 30 per cent and increases the bill. These include VAT, service tax, luxury tax, Swacchh Bharat cess, Krishi Kalyan cess etc, which together with service charge shoot up the final amount shelled out by the customer. Most customers pay up uncomplaining and also tip by habit, even if they are dissatisfied with the waiter’s service or attitude.

Under the recent provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, hotels and restaurants cannot compel people to pay service charge on food and beverages. Customers can refuse to pay the additional charge, if they are not satisfied with their eating out experience. State governments have been asked to sensitise hotels about the ‘optional aspect’ of service charge.

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