Capitol Hill restaurant: Boosted ‘suggested gratuity’ was honest mistake

VonTrapps (1)Von Trapp’s wants customers who dined at the 12th Ave restaurant over the Memorial Day Weekend to know there was no monkey business behind miscalculated “suggested gratuity” values appearing on the Bavarian-themed venue’s receipts.

A CHS reader sent us this receipt from a Sunday visit to Von Trapp’s showing the mix-up.

Before this gets filed along with history’s greatest Capitol Hill receipt controversies or some of the small scams we’ve heard about around the Hill over the years (count your change when buying cigarettes, drunk party people), Von Trapp’s manager Rich Fox says the incorrect totals were the result of an honest mistake:

Last Thursday afternoon we made changes to our receipt printing, with one section being the suggested gratuity line. Our POS tech support coded the line and it should have simply calculated the 18% and 20% gratuities on the check total. Instead, it calculated the tip by taking 18% of the pre-tax total and adding the full sales tax amount from the check.

Unfortunately, Dustin and I both were out of town and out of touch Friday-Sunday. When we got back into town and got the messages on Sunday afternoon, Dustin called our POS tech support and got them to correct the formula. It’s embarrassing that it was incorrect for a few days and that we didn’t think to initially run a test on the formula but honestly, it’s such a common thing we didn’t even consider that it would be programmed incorrectly.

It was definitely never meant to lead people astray- the last thing anyone in our industry needs is to be putting dishonest and clearly incorrect data on each and every check, especially a place that has as many people come through the doors as we do. It was also definitely not a plot by our staff to get additional tips- it is impossible for staff members to “fool” the system by adding and deleting items. The only way that they could alter that line is by breaking through the security on our POS back office computer and re-coding the POS brain- or have a incompetent POS tech support person do it for them, I suppose.

The situation emerged as tipping in Seattle has become part of the debate in the plan to bring a $15 minimum wage to the city. Under the mayor’s compromise plan, healthcare and tips will be counted towards employee wages until the end of phase-in periods for small businesses with fewer than 500 employees in Seattle.

CHS posted about the situation on Facebook without identifying the location as we looked into what had happened. The good news, it seems, is there weren’t similar situations reported at other venues.

Von Trapp’s and E Pike’s Poquitos share ownership. Poquitos, we should note, is a CHS advertiser.

Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

21 thoughts on “Capitol Hill restaurant: Boosted ‘suggested gratuity’ was honest mistake

  1. Last year at Von Trapps I was getting charged different prices for my beers at the back bar then at the front bar. It almost seemed like they just pulled whatever price they wanted to out of the air. When my friend went to the back bar we tested it again. Sure enough, his drink was quoted as a dollar more than the menu stated.

    I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to cause an issue, but it made me think the bartender was being less than honest.

    • The first time going in my buddy ordered a pint and gave the bartender his credit card to close out the tab. When the bartender returned his receipt showed a $14 balance. He confronted him and the bartender said “You ordered a $14 beer and your card is already charged, too bad” despite the fact the price of the beer wasn’t written anywhere and he couldn’t explain why that particular beer was so insanely expensive.

      These practices definitely seems to be a trend there, but I guess that’s to be expected at a bro-magnet set up across from an expensive university.

  2. My wife and I ate there last weekend and when the check came, I thought that calculated gratuity seemed high! I Gould have pulled out my calculator and did the math for myself. I certainly would have said something. It did make me think they were up to something funny. This story certainly helps redeem them. Now perhaps we can be offered a chance to come back at a discount or something like that. That would certainly be some nice customer service.

  3. Calculating tips is pretty easy:

    20%: divide total by ten, double it. Done

    15%: divide total by ten. Divide that by two. Add them. Done

    17.5%: average 15% and 20% value – i.e. add them and divide by two.

    (pen and paper may be used)

    • Don’t forget, tipping is on the food amount only. In other words, the pre-tax amount. (No sense in tipping on the tax.)

  4. I’ve also noticed several merchants applying the tip percentages to the after-tax amount, rather than the pre-tax subtotal. Do your own math and keep the brain cells in good shape.

  5. I’m aways offended when places but in tip percents. You’ve implied that I’m too stupid to conduct my own math.

    Give your customers the benefit of the doubt. I say this and I waited tables for over 12 years.

    • Not sure about you, but I’ve been out to eat lots of times with people who are totally numerically challenged. Yes, TONS of people can’t figure a % out to save their ass.

      • I agree. I’m sure restaurant owners would say that putting a “suggested tip” on the receipt is just being helpful to their customers, but I find it offensive and condescending.

        And since when did expected tips get to 18-20%? I have always tipped 15% (unless the service is awful) and will continue to do so, especially now that I know the average server in Seattle makes $28/hour.

  6. Coincidental this happened on a holiday weekend when there’s going to be a large amount of people travelling to other cities and plenty of people who are unlikely going to be returning customers in the near future anyhow

  7. They are still off. These recipt calculations are based on subtotal plus tax.
    Receipt tip recommendations should be based on the pre-tax subtotal.

  8. Pingback: Capitol Hill food+drink | Single Shot bar and restaurant coming to Summit Ave E | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle