The W Dallas – Victory hotel offers Bonvoy Platinum members and above a $15 per person breakfast credit as its way of satisfying the chain’s requirement to honor ‘continental breakfast’. A bagel, cream cheese, and juice costs.. $16.
A year ago the hotel was quoting $30 per person breakfast credit in the restaurant, this guest was told $15. That’s not even what’s striking about this check, though let’s do the math.
Here’s the $30 breakfast credit ($15 apiece for two people) taken off the folio. Bagel, cream cheese and juice with tax and mandatory service charge comes to $20.43. If that is all you ordered – no fruit or coffee, even – you’d still be out money on your free breakfast.
What’s confusing is that the service charge on the bill presumably covers service. Most guests would assume they do not need to tip on top. After all, the obligatory service charge is for a percentage (18%) which – naming aside – would easily be confused with the tip.
Unfortunately, as challenging as tipping etiquette can be, ‘service charge’ etiquette is worse. You have to investigate whether the service charge actually goes to the employee or not. Under California law a mandatory charge which appears as though it would be for staff must go to staff though some hotels still flaunt this. Not so for the W Dallas – Victory.
According to staff at the hotel, “HR had a meeting with everyone to go over the new fee last week.” It “is not a gratuity” and instead goes towards:
- New employee training
- Broken dishes/servingware
- Hotel and restaurant owners
- Returned food (spoilage)
- Small % to waitstaff
You know what else is supposed to cover onboarding, dishware, labor costs, and profit? The published menu price.
You’re charged 18% more than the actual published price of what you order, and then likely assume it covers the tip. You should add another, say, 18% – 20% on top of the 18%. But since many won’t, not asking the question, this service charge almost certainly leads to lower tips even as it leads to higher profits. Other guests will tip less when they’re charged more for the same thing. In other words, it’s not just the guest being cheated it’s the employees too.
The price on the menu should be the price charged. Even publishing “+18% service charge” and forcing guests to do math with every order is absurd. Though here’s the menu online, no mandatory service charge disclosed. Actually, the printed menus are interesting. Outside of Sunday brunch the fee is not disclosed at all. If you’re going to charge it, you darned well need to disclose it.
The Saturday breakfast menu doesn’t disclose the service fee. The brunch cocktails menu says “a 18% service charge is included on all customers bills” (sic). Note that it does not say it is added, only that it is included (in the menu price?). Large parties (4 or more during the week, 5 on the Sunday brunch menu) add a 20% mandatory service charge. Both fees are called service charges! And outside of Sunday brunch, it’s only for large parties. The hotel is adding a fee that not only isn’t disclosed, but that the menu implies shouldn’t be charged at all (for groups smaller than 4).
The sort of service charge added by the W Dallas – Victory used to be de rigueur for hotel room service orders, and it was awkward because you didn’t know ‘does the service charge cover the tip?’ and so you’re getting fleeced when adding an additional tip, or are you being chintzy if you leave that off? Spreading the practice to the basic restaurant is gauche, if not outright fraud.