Exorbitant Service Charge

DAYS of hotels, restaurants and other similar establishments that exact exorbitant service charges even against the will of the customers are apparently coming to an end with the proposed House measure authored by Valenzuela Cong. Magi Gunigundo I.

Magi, it was learned, prompted to push House Bill No. 216, after having personal experience with a Manila resto in which he and his group enjoyed a buffet-style dish only to cough up extra cash, aside from the bill he footed for the food, to pay for the service charge.

The Valenzuela solon clarifies that he’s not totally against collecting service charge but he’s more concerned if the extra amount being squeezed from customers is really distributed to all employees with only 15 percent of which goes to the management.

“With HB 216, we will see to it that the share of the staff/employees must really go to them,” says Magi who wants these establishments to suffer the penalty of six months to six years in jail or fine ranging from P50, 000 to P100, 000 once they fail to give out the apportioned share of the service charge to the employees “immediately” or at the end of the day.

The difference this time, which might be objected by owners and operators of these establishments, is the imposition of mere two percent service charge of the total price of the food, commodity or service as against the present set-up in which they collect from 12 percent to five percent for the purpose.

Although customers don’t mind giving tips or gratuity for good service, they are forced to pay such charges even when the service is not to their liking and in an amount that is exorbitant, Magi observes.

In his explanatory note, Magi says service charges are supposed to be a gratuity payment for the good service the staff has rendered to the customer, for guiding them on what’s good in the menu, for serving in a fast and quick manner the delicious and tasty food, for putting more ice as requested on drinking water and for getting spices and condiments to our table to suit our taste buds, or for displaying a sweet smile towards the latter.

But what if the service is lousy? Can customers refuse to pay up?

In Magi’s proposed bill, it’ll require food and beverage outlets to conspicuously display signs that they are to impose service charges and under what circumstances can service charges be imposed and at what amount.

Under the lawmaker’s HB 216, these establishments can only impose service charges only on certain conditions like when customers are an aggrupation of 10 or more persons except in cases where it is buffet-style or self-service and when customers are not senior citizens or persons with disabilities. Let’s hope the bill will get support from Magi’s colleagues and in case it becomes a law, let’s see again if this will be carried out to the letter.

Another Zarzuela

With several similar inquiries either from Lower Chamber or in Senate in the past, talking about the non-ending issue on jueteng, pointing at gambling lords, some of them now disguised as governors or mayors and beneficiaries as well but they all end up with no result especially when another controversial issue floats that needs another inquiries here and there from grandstanding lawmakers.

The focus is easily shifted just like the botched rescue of the Aug 23 hostage drama that obviously would make P-Noy’s acceptance and trust rating to go down in the next few weeks to “juetengate” following a retired Church official’s redundant expose and who knows it’ll just die down a natural death with another intriguing and burning issue to crop up in the coming days.

As I’ve discussed in my previous columns, the most practical way to put an end to this festering issue is legalize this illegal numbers game. So much reasons and explanations have been laid out to justify its legalization and yet government officials like the most controversial among P-Noy’s favorite men, Usec Rico Puno, are against it as they insist for the continued operation of the small-town lottery (STL) which has been merely regarded as front for jueteng.

Well if Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz is really to be believed, why would one push for its legalization when he gets P5-million to P8-million monthly in jueteng payola considering that he’s new in the government, which means, according to the good prelate, the take could increase much to the delight of the protector? Arlie o. Calalo

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