Extra Food in a Restaurant
QUESTION 85: EXTRA FOOD IN A RESTAURANT
An employee in a certain restaurant sometimes offers
me free food or charges me less. Is this all right?
The employee works at the restaurant, but he doesn't
own it, so is it his food to offer? Would it make any
difference if I didn't know the employee, and if he's
just being friendly to me as a customer?
This question also applies to someone at a checkout
counter, or to any worker that may do you a special favor.
I believe that there is a certain range within which
these things are allowed, but beyond that range they
are not allowed. Why? An employee may treat you nicely
because he wants to make sure you are happy. If he brings
you a little extra food, he hopes that you will come back
again. His actions serve as a good will gesture on behalf
of the owner. The restaurant will be considered friendly,
and not a place where you have to pay extra for every
ounce or for every sip. The waiter will give you your
cup of coffee, for example, and then pour you a little
more. That's considered a friendly atmosphere, and people
like to come to a restaurant where they are treated with
warmth and friendliness.
On the other hand, this can be done in a corrupt way.
The employee may be doing this because he wants to buy
favors from the customer, or because he's doing a favor
for a friend. He may want to get better tips, or want the
customer to come back to his table, or for some other
reason. He may be courting the customer's favor by giving
away the food of the owner. He shouldn't do this.
But he can give a little extra while still within the range
of what a friendly restaurant gives. How do you measure it
precisely? We have seen many times where common practice is
acceptable as long as it's within a limited range. It's
permissible to take a single paper clip, but suddenly cases
or truckloads of them are being taken, and people say it's
mutar (permissible). They'll claim, "After all, I was told
that taking paper clips is mutar." Later on you find a person
taking home boxes or cases of them and even doing business
with them. These things happen all the time. You do have some
leeway, but don't overdo it.
Then again, restaurants and stores should not be places where
everything is so precise, where you don't even give a customer
a little drop extra. Chazal (the Rabbis) made a chiyuv (obligation)
to give girumov (a tip), which literally means a tip. By the way,
this is the origin of the word "tip". It means you tip the scale.
A balanced scale is perfectly balanced. When you want to measure
three pounds of onions, you put a three-pound weight on one side
of the scale, and add the onions on the other side until it's
perfectly balanced. At the end, the owner is supposed to throw
in an extra onion, so that he'll tip the scale in favor of the
customer. Instead of being perfectly balanced, the scale will
now be tipped in the customer's favor.
The concept of a "tip" comes from tipping the scales, which is a
chiyuv (obligation). It says, "Nosen lo girumov (Give to him a
tip)." To treat a customer with a little bit of extra kindness,
or to throw in a little bit more than the precise amount that he
deserves - that's what the person selling is supposed to do. If
you're an employee in a store, you're supposed to give a little
extra. If you don't, you're doing things incorrectly, since you're
giving the store a bad name. Being friendly and nice creates good
will between you and your customers.
Then again, why not give two or three extra onions? In fact, you
could start a racket and have people pay you on the side for
doing these things. If you're not careful, it could lead to abuse.
It could create corruption too, even when its origin was very
beautiful behavior. Still, 'tipping' (giving a little extra) is
something you have to do.
Both the employer and the employee have to keep their eyes open.
The employee shouldn't get carried away doing something improper
and the employer should keep his eyes open and realize that good
things have a tendency sometimes to get out of hand and lead to
situations where there could be corruption.
Let's say I have a $1 fine at the library, and the librarian says
"Forget about it." Is that within his right to decide? Where do
you draw the line?
It could be that the librarian may feel that you're such an
excellent customer that he'll waive the fee. You borrow books
all the time, you always return them on time, but this one time
you slipped up. He might feel it's not proper to embarrass you
by asking you for the fine. Still, if you feel that the person is
causing a loss to the library, you should pay the fine and not
accept the favor.
Favors are not something that's outside of proper behavior in a
business context. When limited to areas that create good will,
the small amounts of favors that are done are not only proper
and acceptable, but they're chiyuvim (requirements) as well.
In fact, one of the tragedies today is that we have these
electronic scales. If you throw in another onion, it will
register a higher price.
Let's say you have a friend who works in a restaurant. You order
a hamburger and he gives you a second hamburger. Is that over
Definitely. Doubles are not considered a small or acceptable
So you think the range is about 10%?
It has to be something. Let him throw in a few extra French
Fries. Everyone does that. People probably won't come to a
restaurant where the workers say, "No. I'm sorry, I can't give
you anything at all extra." Maybe we could consider the range
to be anywhere between 15 to 20 percent.
NEXT WEEK'S QUESTION 86: STUDYING USING OLD TESTS
You know that a certain teacher reuses his tests from previous
years. Can you study using tests from prior years, knowing
that one of them will probably be the test for this year?
Is this considered cheating?
Participate in the Honesty Forum, and discuss the issues we confront in this class!
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