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How to tell if the restaurant has "servis compris"

How to tell if the restaurant has "servis compris"

Nov 15th, 2002, 04:36 PM
  #1  
Linda
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How to tell if the restaurant has "servis compris"

I know that in France many menus have "servis compris" written on the bottom. Does this mean you do not tip at all; that 15% has been added to your bill automatically? If so, do you still leave a Euro or two if service has been exceptional? And what do you do if "servis compris" is not written on the menu...ask? I remember trying that; some waiters ignored me, others just said "non", then I wasn't sure what to do. Any advice?
 
Nov 15th, 2002, 04:57 PM
  #2  
mimi taylor
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Linda, as many times as I've been there I,m not sure, i'm hoping A real FRench person living there would answer.
 
Nov 15th, 2002, 05:35 PM
  #3  
Donna
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"Service Compris" means that the service charge is included in the prices. A service charge is not added separately to the bill. You are not obligated or expected to leave anything additional. Last I heard, French law requires all restaurants to include a 12-15% service charge in the price of all food and beverages served, and it must be stated on the menu with "service compris" or "prix nets" (on many menus, you really have to hunt for it). Whenever a computerized bill is presented, it will be printed on that at well, and it's pre-printed on the hand-written forms too usually. At a cafe, if you are paying cash, it is customary to leave the small change, but you don't have to (this is a nice gesture and the wait staff will remember you if you become a "regular" during your visit). There are some exceptions. If you stand at the bar at a cafe, prices may not include service charges, and they are not included if you sit at a bar and order cocktails. Waiters who ignore you or say "non", perhaps haven't understood you correctly. If you are paying by credit card, it's always a good idea to draw a fat line or large "X" on the gratuity line (if there is one) and then re-write the subtotal on the total line. It doesn't happen often (and I've heard more in countries other than France), but folks have reported that gratuities have been written in on their behalf. It's a good idea to save all your credit card receipts anyway and reconcile your statement after your trip.
 
Nov 15th, 2002, 05:38 PM
  #4  
Donna
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PS Many waiters have told me that plenty of Americans tip as usual anyway. Some appreciate this, others consider them "unsavvy Americans throwing their money around (or away). Cafes are different. The waiters are not as highly paid, work much longer hours, and have far more customers to take care of than restaurants, and they do appreciate anything extra.
 
Nov 15th, 2002, 05:43 PM
  #5  
Donna
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PS Many waiters have told me that plenty of Americans tip as usual anyway. Some appreciate this, others consider them "unsavvy Americans throwing their money around (or away)". Cafes are different. The waiters are not as highly paid, work much longer hours, and have far more customers to take care of than restaurants, and they do appreciate anything extra.
 
Nov 15th, 2002, 06:02 PM
  #6  
Former
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Whether or not "service compris" is written on the bill, the service charge is always included in the bill. This is mandated by law in France, and I believe it's also mandated that the bill say so. You do not have to tip in addition to that, though many Americans do. It is customary to leave a few euros if you think you got good service. Nothing else is necessary. Waiting tables is a profession in France, and the waiters are paid accordingly, not like "servers" in America, who depend on tips to make a decent wage.
 
Nov 15th, 2002, 06:18 PM
  #7  
Former Customer
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If by "professional" you mean bored, disinterested and surly then I think you have it.

This message is repeated constantly on this site: European waiters are professionals and well paid, while American waiters are lousy "servers" who are paid next-to-nothing.

In my experience, this is just self-serving europhile nonsense.

Tips encourage good service and gives the customer a chance to show appreciation; including an involuntary tip and calling it "servis compris" means the opposite.

Americans may be incredibly dumb (another oft-repeated canard here) and god knows we have our faults. But we do know good service from bad. We also know how to appreciate and reward good service. I always think of Euro-Disney having to teach their French employees to smile-- good service is far more rare in Europe than in the U.S. and our waiters are every bit as professional and provide far better service than you will find in most European restaurants, without the detached air of indifference that some mistake for professionalism.
 
Nov 15th, 2002, 06:39 PM
  #8  
Keith
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Bottom line: If it makes you feel better to tip above the 15% service fee you have already been charged, go ahead. Particularly if the service _really_ was above average.

In Paris there will always be people to criticize what you do, so do what feels right to you. If you decide wrong and are low, they still got the 15% service fee the government required. If you guess wrong and you are high, they got more money, while you feel good. And you are the one on vacation.

Keith
 
Nov 15th, 2002, 06:56 PM
  #9  
kara
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In our experience we were not trying to throw away our money. Far from it-eating out was expensive enough. But we found that "servis compris" was noted down only at two of the restaurants we ate at. Therefore, we thought tip was not included and the waiter ended up with a 15% tip on top of what was in the bill already.

I recall asking a few waiters if service was included and they said no so we ended up tipping. Towards the end we got it and just left a few euro and they didn't get angry so obviously that was enough.

But I agree waiters work really hard in Europe and even if they get more than what's usual in tips, they deserve it.
 
Nov 15th, 2002, 07:22 PM
  #10  
Linda
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Thanks to all for your replies; sounds like many of you have experienced the same confusions over this as I have. When I have asked if it was "servis compris" most waiters were honest in their response but a few just gave me that gallic shrug and responded with a "non". And my French is competent enough that I know I was understood. I'll just have to remember to look more closely at menus before handing them over and drop a few Euros on the table when service is especially good. I'm sure my husband made several waiters very happy with his generous 15-20% tips.
 
Nov 15th, 2002, 07:57 PM
  #11  
kara
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Hi Linda, I bet we made some waiters feel better too with a large tip. I do recall this one waiter in Strasbourg when we asked about whether the bill included service. His reply was "Sometimes yes, sometimes no." Not a "Non" even.

So of course to be on the safe side we tipped him. Then on our way out we saw that the menu did have printed on it "Servis compris". Well, okay, let's just say he works hard for his money and he deserved it, yet he sure acted like it wasn't much judging by his demeanor. But after that we were aware of what was going on.
 
Nov 15th, 2002, 08:26 PM
  #12  
Patrick
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If you say "is tip included" they will probably say no. If you say "is service included" they will probably (and should) say yes. The 15% service is always included whether it says so or not on the bill. A tip is something extra you may or may not want to give in addition. In the US, service or tip tend to mean the same thing. In France service and tip are two totally different things.
 
Nov 15th, 2002, 10:38 PM
  #13  
kara
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Yeah, I agree that the waiter should say "yes, service is included" but our waiter said "sometimes yes, sometimes no" making it sound like well, it's up to the patron to decide to give him a tip.
 
Nov 16th, 2002, 04:51 AM
  #14  
Patrick
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Kara, if a waiter replied with that line to me, I'd say, "I'm not asking about 'sometimes', I'm asking about this one".

But know you know, you don't need to ask. In France service is included.
 
Nov 16th, 2002, 05:02 AM
  #15  
frank
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Slightly off topic - in the UK tips given by credit card are not always passed on to the waiter.
A recent court case confirmed that a restaurant has a legal right to keep credit card tips.
Some supposedly good places do this.
 
Nov 16th, 2002, 09:01 AM
  #16  
kara
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That's a good response Patrick. I wish I had said so at the time-now I do know better. The more I think about it I can still see our waiter's poker face when we actually overtipped him by 15%. Inside he must have been jumping for joy.
 
Nov 16th, 2002, 11:13 AM
  #17  
Capo
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Former Garcon, I didn't know that. You're saying that, regardless of whether or not "service compris" is written on the bill, it IS compris, by law? So, if true, there's no point in asking if service is compris or not, right? Also, if true, what kind of establishments are required by law to include service, only restaurants?
 
Nov 16th, 2002, 11:20 AM
  #18  
john
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The simple answer is that you are neither legally nor morally obliged to pay anymore than the amount at the bottom of the bill.

"servis compris" means each "menu" line item includes 15%.

"servis non-compris" means each "menu" line item does not include this 15% BUT trust me there is an illegible SVC or SVCE line item added as the last line item on your check to cover this 15%. So in this case if you ask a waiter "servis compris", he is technically correct in saying "non", which only means the 15% is not collected line item at a time, but on the total bill. So he would add 15% SVC as the last line item. An unscrupulous waiter might hope that you did not realize this SVC line and leave 15% on top of the 15% already charged on the bill.

The few Euros mentioned, amounting to no more than 2-3% in cash, may be added for above average service especially if the bill is just short of a round number.

Many guidebooks are vague on this subject. Marling Menu-Master and the Rick Steves have good description on how to handle this particular subject.
 
Nov 16th, 2002, 11:43 AM
  #19  
Cris
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Former Customer - no one said French or European waiters are "better" than US waiters, just that they are regarded, both societally and legally, as professionals.

As for your statement "Americans may be incredibly dumb... but we do know good service from bad": did it ever occur to you that the concept of "good service" may vary from country to country? In fact, what's considered friendly and polite in the US may be considered insincere and therefore borderline rude in certain European countries. E.g. - typically in the US, when one asks a waiter for a recommendation, he will answer with information about his personal favorites - which is lauded as "personal attention". A French diner, on the opther hand, expects an objective respone from the waiter - which a US American might in turn consider cold and impersonal. What's expected in each society is simply different - but in both cases, the waiter may be considered by his compatriots to be doing a superlative job.

Why does someone always have to be better and someone else worse? Can't we just acknowledge that people who grew up in different societies have different standards, and that travellers may need to adjust somewhat to the prevailing culture if they don't want to be constantly annoyed?
 
Nov 16th, 2002, 11:56 AM
  #20  
Capo
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Thanks, John...very informative. I had absolutely no idea that "servis non-compris" means that, although each menu item does not include a 15% service charge, it is still added to the total amount of the bill (that would make sense, if a service charge is required by law in France.) As best as I can recall, I've never seen it explained that way in any guidebooks.
 

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