A Hawaiian restaurant has recently caused a stir with its decision to add a surcharge to the bill of any customers who do not speak English.
In Waikiki, Honolulu the restaurant Keoni by Keo’s is under fire for adding on a 15 percent gratuity for patrons not speaking English. Their reasoning is that many tourists come from places that, by custom, do not leave tips, and of course, there are the plain ol’ cheapskates. And since the IRS requires that eight percent of total sales be counted as tips, waiters often have to pay taxes on tips they never actually receive.
The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission will likely send a letter to the restaurant asking about the practice and is also likely to investigate such actions at other restaurants.
The commission’s executive director Bill Hoshijo said any language referring to non-English patrons is a recipe for trouble.
“Discrimination based on language is ancestry discrimination … Places of public accommodation can come up with different ways to address those concerns that are non-discriminatory,” Hoshijo said.
And not only could the addition to the bill be considered discriminatory, it also brings up the issue of what “non-English speaking” means, because some tourists speak a few words or English and others are even conversationally, but that does not mean they will leave tip. So at what point do “non-English” speakers have the gratuity added.
As the commission looks into the matter, Keoni by Keo’s stated that the extra charge is printed in red on the customers’ checks and is explained to them when they pay. Keo’s added that if the customers do not want to pay it, they simply don’t have to.
Though, one question remains, if someone does not speak English, will they even understand the explanation of the gratuity?