Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ray's Hell Burger

So, went to Ray's Hell Burger in NoVa. Very nice. Had the Hanger Steak. Fantastic.

Got home, and noticed that the bill notes "20% gratuity added" into the bill already. This was not mentioned on the menu (at least not in an obvious way), and it was never actually mentioned. The bill was LONG, because we ordered a lot of stuff. (There were also a lot of us).

The bill was also folded up, and tucked behind the "sign here" bill, which listed three lines:

Total: $287.55
Tip: __________
Grand Total: ________

I did not unfold the long bill, just saw this bill, and added a tip of $55. That's about 19.2%.

The point being that I paid $342.55 for a meal that cost $240. The service was fine. But the server intentionally folded up the main bill to disguise the fact that a gratuity was already added, and the bill to be signed just had a total, and a line for "tip," not "additonal tip."

Now, I understand that restaurants do this, and they are welcome to.

But I am welcome to do this: be careful if you go to Ray's Hell Burger III, 1650 Wilson Ave, in Arlington, VA. They are a bunch of sneaky, dishonest thieves. I certainly won't be going back to that ripoff joint.

Raising the point, for this blog: What is the burden of restaurants to explain charges? Am I right to feel ripped off? Is the restaurant obliged to provide an itemized bill that is understandable, or is the two page one enough? And should the waiter say, "Since your party is large, a 20% gratuity will be added," to make sure you know. She obviously did not WANT me to know, and did everything she could to hide it.

On the other hand, it is common for groups of six or greater (we were definitely greater) to have such practices. Is the italicized segment above just out of line?

Finally, I did NOT call and try to get the charge removed. I did not give the restaurant a chance to respond, or to make it right. I went straight to the internet. Isn't it more accurate to say that *I* am being the jerk here, giving normal restaurant practice?


  1. I always highlighted the additional gratuity and made sure I told the customers. Why would I want to alienate a customer who might continue to come back with large parties? If you call them you can probably get the additional gratuity refunded.

  2. From my experience (five + years), what Anonymous said. I could steal from people too, but then I'd be real jerk. Complain to the manager. They're either incompetent or corrupt.

    And if that doesn't make you feel better, this will:

  3. The added gratuity for large parties is quite common to the point of being practically universal), and you can typically get it removed (say, if you had very poor service), and you could probably still get the charge reversed given your mistake, so I think it's a bit unfair to call them "a bunch of tricky, dishonest thieves." It's definitely a far call from being fraudulent, so I think your critical review is hyperbolic, at least the middle sentence. I think looking over the receipt to make sure the charges are correct falls well in to what we should expect from buyers.

    This would be a different story though if you tried to get the charge reversed and they said no.

  4. I like their cave-aged cheddar, but the important question is how long will you be in NoVA? If you're still in town and able to make your way to Carow Hall on the GMU Fairfax campus, I usually make it a point to elbow my way into lunch. It's been some time since we've shared a meal.

    I even promise to review the bill before we apportion shares.

  5. Incidentally, Peyton Manning did something similar over at the Angus Barn in Raleigh recently, only he probably knew about the gratuity and just threw in an extra 20% himself.

    The waitress who leaked the receipt as evidence of this generous tip to the media promptly got fired.

  6. When out with a group, if somebody picks up the tab, I'll pick up the gratuity. And, usually, vice versa.

    Maybe this isn't a polite behaviour?


Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?