Service Charge in Restaurants: is it just me?

In the last five years this has crept in to become the ‘norm’: 10 or 12.5% added to your bill in a restaurant. Automatically. Regardless of how many of you. Regardless of how good or bad the service is.

When a restaurant automatically puts service charge on my bill, I become absolutely determined not to pay service charge, and I also don’t want to leave a tip. If they did not put service charge on the bill I would probably leave a tip when I experience good service! Even if I have enjoyed the experience of going to the restaurant, and liked the staff and food, this taints the whole thing.

Today I went to a restaurant on Berners Street with my friend Samantha. It was just the two of us, and we wanted a quick lunch. Despite clearly being in a rush, we constantly had to call the waiters over, as the service was quite poor and we were ignored much of the time.

Can we have the bill please?

To top this off, when they brought us the bill (and then disappeared, as seems to be customary with all waiting staff, despite you holding your bank card in your hand) it stated 12.5% service charge. I folded the bottom of the receipt so that it just showed the sub-total. I then said I would pay the £9.95 I owed for my meal on my card. He pretended not to hear me! He unfolded the bill and said “you split?”. I explained no, I am paying for mine – £9.95. He put this through and I could see what was about to happen.

My friend then gave her card and said the amount she would put on it, and he said “the service charge?”. I said no, it’s optional, and he said “You didn’t like the service then?” so that I had to grumble something about putting some coins on the table instead. I didn’t, of course, as they were rude and what a cheek to charge a whopping 12.5%! As a result, I am never going back to that restaurant. It makes no difference that the food was quite nice – that’s forgotten in the wake of bad customer service and assumptions that you want to pay for their service.

Back in the day

“Service charge” used to be paid in the form of tips, if you particularly enjoyed the experience. It was always meant to be voluntary and friendly thing that the customer can do as a way of saying an extra “thank you”. This assumption that everyone should just pay it without question is appalling. I now go out of my way to give a big tip at places that really impress me, and that don’t feel the need to push their customers into it.

I found a place that does not charge service: Pizza Express. Who would have thought it?

Sorry for the rant – I had to get it out of my system…

PS: I was charged £1.20 “admin fee” in a black cab yesterday – does anyone know anything about this? Is this new?


Unwell Terrapins: the slow progress of HMS Belfast



I thought I’d go for a title that confuses everyone. Yes – I understand how this goes against all of the SEO knowledge I have at work, but this is personal!

Two of our terrapins have been a bit poorly.

They started showing signs of distress after a couple of months in the outside tank. It’s now winter, and though they have warm water and are covered, it’s still not the same! Ideally they want a good few hours of strong sun so that they can recharge their batteries.

Anyway, the two that were not well are Belly (HMS Belfast – as she was rescued from the Thames) and Bidet (no explanation available). Bidet (pictured below) was suffering from conjunctivitis and Belly was just not eating or swimming.

We took them both to Beaumont Sainsburys Vet at the Royal Veterinary College in Camden/Islington in London. We saw a vet called Nadine, who was fantastic. She prescribed eye drops for Bidet, who she was not worried about, and oral antibiotics for Belly, who she diagnosed as having pneumonia. The vet suggested feeding them food high in Vitamin A, as this is what they were lacking. We bought calves liver and some pellets high in Vitamin A.20130115-112721.jpg

This was over a week and a half ago, and we have been keeping to the medicine regime. Last Thursday we took them back in, and the vet said that Bidet was perfectly fine, as she was eating tons and her eyes have now completely died down and are clear as anything.

Belly still wasn’t eating, so we left her with the vet to do an xray. As it turns out, she has several lesions in her lungs as a result of the pneumonia and would find it uncomfortable eating. The vet said that if she doesn’t eat in the next few days then the prognosis was not good. She said that because there are so many lesions it would be impossible to operate, and all we can do is rely on the medicine and getting her weight up.


Anyway, I am pleased to report that on Sunday, Belly ate TONS! She then ate again yesterday and again this morning!! I have found that rather than feeding them before turning the hot spot lamp on, feeding them after they have basked under the light helps them become interested!

I will update soon about Belly’s progress, but fingers crossed…

Beaumont Sainsbury Vets

I must say I am blown away by how good Nadine has been. She wants daily updates about Belly’s progress, and has answered my email within a couple of hours. It seems like she really cares, and that really does mean a lot.

The vets cater for all different animals, and I think they deserve a mention: 

The Paris Marathon: An Apology

I feel it is necessary to apologise to a few of the people who come across my blog in cyberspace.

I am sorry to all those who are interested in boats, bikes, baking and/or books. I realise that since I signed up to the Paris Marathon it has somewhat taken over my life, and therefore my blog updates. When I first created this blog I was not a runner in any capacity, and could never have anticipated this change in my lifestyle (ooo I’ve just found a subject for another blog entry) (anyway…)

I shall endeavour to write at least every now and then about one of the topics my blog pretends to cover, and I am sure I will enjoy it! I know that my reptiles would like a mention, as ever since I wrote about our new moggy Boudica they have been a bit ‘off’ with me. So I hope you like reptiles!

I would be reviewing more books because I love to read, but since moving to central London I no longer have a commute! Shall attempt to review soon.

I hope that my sincere apologies are accepted for the constant stream of ‘running’ news, as I understand how annoying this can be.

Paris Marathon Training: it’s getting serious

Happy New Year to all!

Smashing my fundraising target

I would first like to say a massive THANK YOU to everyone who donated to Kidscape on my justgiving page. I am blown away by the generosity I have seen from everyone. I have now smashed the 100% mark and gone beyond! Asking for donations instead of Christmas presents definitely helped, though predictably everyone donated AND gave me a present anyway!!

Marathon training begins…

So, it’s now 2013 and I am well into my training! I don’t know how but I did keep it up over Christmas, though I admit I didn’t run on Christmas Eve/ Day.

On Sunday I managed 10 miles, and on the Bupa Marathon Training Plan I was only expected to hit 8 miles – so that’s good! I also managed a personal best of 1 hr 34 mins, which may not sound great to you, but to me it’s a milestone 🙂 I didn’t stop for breaks, either, and did a simple route around Regent’s Park and the Grand Union Canal.

This week I have managed a rest day (big achievement…) on Monday and yesterday I ran 4.4miles in 40 mins. Got another easy 40 mins today, which I will run along Embankment. Treated myself to a trip to Sports Direct to buy a running backpack to make things easier! This January activity will count towards my Janathon training too 🙂

A new personal record

Another personal record I have beaten (thanks to Runkeeper for pointing this out) is that I am now apparently faster… which is always good, I think. I am very close to a 9 minute mile, which is a great improvement! I think that interval training will certainly help, but I’m finding that quite hard as it sets of my asthma a bit…

Anyway, I’m sure this is not that interesting for many of you, but thought I should give an update! Good luck to everyone running a marathon this year and a big shout out to everyone joining me at the PARIS MARATHON!!