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A mum has said she’s “fuming” after being charged £5.53 as a service charge at a popular restaurant in Middlesbrough – and urges others to check their bills before paying.
Carlie Fletcher and her partner, Colin, enjoyed a parmo, ribs and 16oz rib-eye steak at Central Park earlier this week.
But, while they enjoyed the food they were gobsmacked to see they’d paid a charge that she insists she would never have paid if she had noticed it was added to the bill.
The restaurant, on Linthorpe Road, says that Carlie would have been told about the charge and management stated it was clearly printed on the bill with the word “optional” in bold.
A director also told Teeside Live that service charges are needed because customers no longer carry cash to leave tips – and they’re common in the area.
Mum-of-three, Carlie, said that she wanted to raise awareness of the charge so that people know exactly what they’re paying for.
She said: "I don't even want a refund – they can keep that £5.50.
"The argument here is that they need to make it clear there's a service charge in place."
While regular diners may be used to paying service charges it seems Carlie isn’t alone.
One recent Facebook review on the restaurant's page stated: "We weren’t made of the service charge which was around £25 (we nearly tipped on top of this) this is something that customers should be made aware of because it caused confusion and is extremely unprofessional."
And, a complaint to Citizen’s Advice meant that the Trading Standards team at Middlesbrough Council is looking into it.
Carlie stated that she only realised she’d paid the service charge after settling her £60.83 bill.
She noted: "On the way out my partner said 'that seems like a lot' so when I went into the car, I checked with my flashlight on the bill and I seen the optional 10% service charge on the receipt.
“Nobody had even mentioned it. I thought surely if there's a service charge it should have been discussed before I'd even eaten."
Carlie called management and admits they offered her a full refund, but she declined.
She said: “I don't even want the fiver back.
“She asked for my card details but I'm not giving them over the phone – what if they end up on the floor? The place is rammed.”
The mum also said she didn’t mind tipping when then service was good.
Carlie added: “And if they are taking a service charge it should be more noticeable, and it shouldn't just be taken."
A director of the top rated restaurant said: "There are other Teesside restaurants that have been charging a service charge, not just Central Park.
"All the service charges that Central Park receives is shared between 60-65 staff that we employ.
"And it is highlighted, in the bill in bold writing, that it is option. If people don't want to pay the charge at reception, we are quite happy to take it off the bill. That's why it says optional in bold writing.
"And if anybody rings up because they haven't realised it is on the bill, we will immediately refund it."
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Carlie feels like the messaging could be clearer though as the visually impaired may struggle to spot it and it makes people feel awkward to deny the charge.
She said: "It makes you feel scruffy if you don't want to leave that £5.50 – not everyone wants to.
"Last night we had no reason whatsoever to leave a tip because the staff were walking around like headless chickens. But the food was spot on, and we could not fault it.
"But it was not worth a tip – so when I saw that, It just thought 'how dare they'."
Daily Star contacted Central Park for comments but this was not available at the time of publication.
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