Friday, 10 September 2010


There was a new story in another newspaper a couple of weeks ago entitled “Culture of tipping still to take root in Botswana”. This discussed the supposed unwillingness of the people of Botswana to tip people in restaurants.

We probably all agree. There is a perception, I think, that we don’t generally tip waiters for the service they offer us.

Just a few weeks ago I wrote a column based on an experience my family and I had in Jo’burg. We had been offered fairly mediocre service by a waiter whose main interest seemed to be getting us out of the restaurant as swiftly as possible. However he had at least brought the food quickly, he hadn’t stepped on my toe or insulted my wife or kids and he hadn’t spilled wine in my lap. So there was a chance of a tip. I genuinely think that waiters deserve a tip, it’s “the done thing”.

But this particular waiter lost the tip we were about to give him when, as we were paying the bill using a debit card and preparing to leave a cash tip, he failed to see the impending cash and demanded “Excuse me, you haven’t included the service charge!”

Two things. Firstly there’s a difference between a service charge and a tip. A service charge is an extra payment that you are usually required to pay in a restaurant because of some added difficulty you have offered them, usually because you’ve turned up in a large group. I can understand this, I suppose, if I’m feeling charitable. I’ve never worked in a restaurant but I can understand how difficult it might be if you’re a restaurant manager and you are faced with a table of a dozen people who all need their freshly cooked, hot and tasty food delivered at exactly the same moment. It’s surely a lot more difficult to do this if there’s twelve people at the table rather than just two.

We’ve had various complaints over the years about service charges mainly when customers were required to pay a service charge that he hadn’t been expecting. There’s no problem with a service charge if, and only if, the customer knows about it in advance. And of course, if the service is actually acceptable. You are not required, says Consumer Watchdog, to pay a service charge of the service wasn’t good enough. By now many of us know about Section 15 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations, which says that “a supplier of a commodity or of a service shall fail to meet minimum standards of performance if (…) the service is not rendered with reasonable care and skill”. See, it states explicitly that a “service” is covered by the regulation. If the service is sub-standard, you are NOT obliged to pay for it. End of story.

Then there’s the issue of tips. A tip is an extra payment you give firstly to the waiter for the personal service he or she has given you. This is entirely up to you. You can’t or should not be forced to pay a tip. Yes, I know there are countries where tips ARE compulsory but these are clearly nations that have sold their sanity and common sense to the highest bidder.

But we’re not one of those insane nations. You and I should give a tip to reward good service but ONLY when there has actually BEEN some good service. Then be generous.


Several readers have come to us either asking us to investigate their concerns and to warn other Mmegi readers about them.

Visiting business people

One reader was almost scammed out of a small fortune by being asked to share the cost of a flight from London to be taken by a potential investor in a business venture in Botswana. He had sent over a genuine flight booking with KLM that had been made all the way from London to Cape Town, costing over £4,000. The first clue he had that something wasn’t right was when the “businessman” repeatedly couldn’t get his video camera to work and couldn’t use Skype to have a video meeting over the internet to talk about the practicalities.

We got in touch with KLM to check this out and they told us it was a fraudulent booking and they’ve urged the real person in question, who lives in the UK and whose name and identity had been used to call the cops. The lesson is to double check, in fact triple check the existence and identity of anyone who wants your money.

Ventura Capital Partners

A VERY dodgy Grenadan “investment company” who cold-call people inviting them to give them money to invest. The financial services authorities in both Grenada and the UK have warned the public not to deal with them. They also plagiarise the contents of their newsletter from other sources on the web. We’ve already heard from one person who claims to have sent them P200,000 and is now scared. If they call you just hang up, OK?

TVI Express

Several people have been in touch to find out more about TVI Express, the things that this particular pyramid scheme won’t tell you and you won’t find out until it’s too late. Like the fact that none of the so-called rewards you get are actually free. You have to pay “taxes and processing charges” before you can obtain the free holiday they say you’ll get. Like the fact that the vouchers they offer are obtainable much more cheaply elsewhere. Like the fact that the “free flight ticket offer” they tell you about is “valid only for domestic flights” and is only offered when you have already bought a ticket with real money.

Like they lie about their “partners”, claiming partnerships with companies like Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa, Avis and Marriott. Like the fact that the authorities in China, Australia, Indonesia, India and Hungary are all on their case. Like the fact that they are a classic example of a pyramid scheme. You’ve been warned!

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