Melvin Pan is a Canadian from Vancouver, and he speaks English without a Chinese accent.
He’s happy about tipping, and he intended to do so when he and his girlfriend dined recently at a Quebec City restaurant.
To his surprise, a 15 percent service charge was added on his tab.
Later, Pan discovered that the gratuity was tacked on his account because of his Asian features.
As for the non-Asian-looking clients at Aux Anciens Canadiens, or the Ancient Canadian in English, the automatic service charge doesn’t apply.
“This has never happened to me before,” Pan told Mahtani.
According to him, if a service charge needs to be automatically included, it should apply to all, and not only to people with specific racial attributes.
He recalled in the radio show telling the restaurant manager, “This is pretty much racism right here.”
Restaurant owner Serge Duval explained the policy of the establishment regarding gratuities.
“For sure we have customers from Japan, from France, many, many peoples who are not used to give gratuity. So we politely ask to the customers when we think he doesn’t know, ‘Would you like us to include the gratuity on your bill?’,” Duval told the Georgia Straight by phone.
In the case of Pan, Duval said the server asked Pan if he wanted to take out the service charge that was included in the bill, and the Vancouver man supposedly said no.
“So he left and he came back 10 minutes after asking for a refund, so I did refund the entire amount of gratuity,” Duval said. “So my waiter did no money to serve him.”
Pan has a sciences degree from a local university. He is currently a trainee at a medical research centre.
While in Quebec City, he and his girlfriend dined at the Ancient Canadian. He had meat pie, and his companion had duck confit.
Service was good, and he was confident that he didn’t sound like a foreigner when he was talking with the server.
Even though he was surprised that a service charge was added to his receipt, he paid and he and his girlfriend left.
Feeling that something wasn’t right, he went online and saw postings of other people’s previous receipts with the Ancient Canadian, which had no service charges added on.
He called the restaurant, and was referred to a manager, who told him that a service charge is automatically added to bills of Asians, specifically Chinese, Japanese, and Korean tourists, because it is held that tipping is not practised in the countries where they come from.
The manager explained that in order to ensure that servers are tipped, a service charge is added to the receipt of Asian clients.
For Pan, this practice of doing business differently with people based on their race is wrong.
According to him, it’s “pretty disgusting”.
Pan told the manager that he is from Vancouver. The manager apologized, and asked him to return to the restaurant for a refund.
According to Pan, he was again told, in person this time at the restaurant, that the restaurant’s policy applies to Asian patrons.
Pan told radio host Mahtani that he learned a lot from his Quebec City dining experience.
Pan said that he previously didn’t know what it felt for people to be treated in a certain way because of their race.
“I kind of understand now,” Pan said.