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Diner Owners Defend Their Automatic 'Kid Tip'

by Angelica Lai

Photograph by Twenty20

Restaurant controversies, especially when it comes to kids, aren't unusual. There's judgment over public breastfeeding, changing diapers at the table and giving children iPads in restaurants. Toddlers cry in restaurants only to have business owners yell at them. Oh, and there seems to be a heated debate sparked by kid bans every few months.

Talk about added stress to the already anxiety-ridden experience of eating out with kids. The thing is, there are no signs of it stopping. The latest issue? Automatic tips being added to kids' bills.

Wayne Hills Diner and Restaurant in New Jersey has come under fire recently for adding an 18 percent tip to middle and high schoolers who go to the restaurant after school.

Melissa Desch, who went to the same diner growing up, says her 11-year-old daughter recently brought home receipts that revealed the gratuity charge. The furious mom thinks the "teen tax," as several outlets are calling it, is discriminatory.

"Then on the bottom, it says something about please leave a gratuity and they've already charged them a gratuity. I was angry because I had been there the week before and I had been there with a group of five, some kids and some children, and I was not charged this gratuity," Desch told ABC 7. One of the owners told her that it's policy "because the kids run out and he feels that they don't tip well, and they don't know how to tip was the explanation. I said I could understand that, but again, they're not being given the option, they're being forced to pay them."

Toward the bottom of the menu, though, the restaurant offers this message: "Management reserves the right to add 18% gratuity to the check."

Co-owner Peter Logos told NBC New York that large numbers of kids go in at a time, especially on Fridays, which ties up the wait staff. And an attorney who represents the owners also told CBS New York that kids have been showing up at the diner in groups of 20 or 30, staying for an hour or two, and most don't leave a tip.

The diner's other owner, Nick Tsambounieris, also defended their policy, saying that they've been adding an 18 percent tip for large parties for a decade (though some Wayne High School students told NBC that they first noticed the addition around the time football season started). Tsambounieris also said that teens who go into the diner without parents run around and have broken bathroom doors on multiple occasions.

Despite that, "I have no problem with the kids. We love the community and the kids," he tells North Jersey.

Some people are boycotting the diner, adding that the way to support their workers is to give them livable wages instead of forcing kids to pay a tip. Others, though, have posted messages in support of the policy on the business's Facebook page.

"As a former waitress myself, I fully support the decision to add an 18 percent gratuity to everyone's bill. When 31 teens walk into a place at the same time, they are a group. I don't care if they ask for 31 checks, they are still a group, taking up a huge amount of time and space. I can personally attest to how frustrating it is to have a group of six to eight teens walk in, take up two or three tables, order something for a dollar, sit at those tables for a couple of hours, then leave a mess and no tip," one woman wrote.

Commenters also blamed the parents who complained.

"Parents: How about instead of being butthurt, you try teaching your annoying kids/teens how to tip. Maybe if you had done your job and taught them from the beginning, the owner wouldn't have had to start adding tip into their checks. Seems kind of childish to want to boycott a restaurant because they're doing your job for you," a new customer wrote.

"Parents have to realize if they are letting their kids out in public unsupervised then they don't know what others are having to deal with. It is not fair to the wait staff to have kids take up their tables, stay for an hour or longer and not tip. I ... have taught (my kids) how to act and how to tip when dining out," commented a mother of four.

So, uh ... no-frills boxed mac 'n' cheese for dinner, anyone?

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