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‘Racketeering’ Restaurants Are Pushing Famous French Beach Town Out of Reach for Tourists and Locals Alike

You need to spend more than $5,000 to get a table.

Saint-Tropez is a billionaires’ playground. Celebrities and the richie rich of the world hang out in this former fishing village on the French Riviera. Just this summer, Leonardo di Caprio, Brooklyn Beckham, Tobey Maguire, and Elton John have been spotted on their luxury yachts. So, you can imagine that it’s not exactly a budget destination by any stretch of the imagination. But what’s worrying locals and tourists is the new trend of restaurants screening their patrons by the size of their wallet. 

Related: How Did Saint-Tropez Become so Ridiculously Chic? It’s All Due to One Actress

“Wealth-screening” has become a thing with restaurants. According to insiders quoted in the Nice Martin newspaper, restaurants are now checking names of diners in their databases and refusing tables to anyone who didn’t spend enough previously or leave a big tip. Sources say that if you aren’t a high flier with a substantial bill, you will be refused a table. You will be told that a table isn’t available, or there’s a price for the table—€5,000 ($5,400) or €1,500 ($1,600) per head.

Restaurants also want patrons to tip them over-and-above the norms in France. Tips are already included in the service charge, but reportedly, restaurants want an ultra-generous 20% on top of it. 

Another controversy emerged from Saint-Tropez when a waiter followed an Italian customer into the parking lot after the diner left €500, 10% of the bill. A friend of the diner was quoted, “He thought he had been generous by leaving €500, instead he was reprimanded. The waiter told him that it wasn’t enough and that he could still make a small effort to reach €1000 because it was more consistent in approaching 20% of the total amount of his bill.”

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The mayor of Saint-Tropez Sylvie Siri isn’t happy about this. She told local media that this is ruining the town’s image and she will remind restaurant owners of their responsibilities when she meets them at the end of the season. She called this extortion, illegal databases disregarding privacy laws, and racketeering, and those guilty could potentially lose their late-night licenses.

It’s not just a problem for tourists though, locals are getting outpriced by these practices. “We have already been chased out of our flats, and pretty soon we’ll be chased out of our restaurants too – unable to eat out,” she said. 

Tipping is also a raging debate in the U.S. where automatic requests are now showing up in bills. Customers are being guilted into leaving a handsome reward not just for restaurant staff but also at places with minimum or no service (concerts and automatic car washes for example). Businesses don’t pay their employees enough, so tips supplement incomes and it doesn’t matter whether or not you are happy with the service, you are expected to tip 15-20%. It has become more than a voluntary practice, so people are often shamed in the U.S. for not tipping enough. 

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 Unlike the U.S. where customers are expected to be generous with their money when encountering any service staff, it’s not part of the culture in Japan because premium service is the norm. Every country has its own rules when it comes to tipping, so it’s a good idea to confirm what’s polite when you’re traveling. 

Related: 5 Countries Where Tipping Isn’t Expected