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Harrods Refuses To Confirm Whether It Keeps Tips Paid To Staff By Customers

The luxury department store has been accused of keeping up to 75% of the service charge it adds to bills.

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Harrods has been accused of taking up to 75% of the tips given to staff in its restaurants by a union representing some of its workers.

The luxury retailer, based in Knightsbridge, London, has been accused of taking a majority of gratuities paid by customers at its 16 company-owned restaurants.

United Voices of the World, the union, told BuzzFeed News it calculated that the company took up to three quarters of tips paid to waiters, porters, and chefs at its restaurants. The tips are paid as a 12% service charge added to bills.

Union general secretary Petros Elia said this cut had increased over the year based on "internal figures".

"This is affecting 483 staff members from managers to chefs, porters, and waiters. Harrods has been recording record profits and sales, this is not a company that is struggling," he said.

In the letter sent to Harrods, seen by BuzzFeed News, the union requested the company disclose "full transparency over the percentage which Harrods currently and has previously retained for itself".

"After all," it reads, "customers pay the service charge thinking that they are tipping the serving staff, not enriching Harrods." It has not received a reply and is planning a demonstration outside the store on Saturday.

BuzzFeed News understands that the company recently reviewed the system by which it distributes tips to evenly split them between the 16 restaurants.

This was because some restaurants took vastly greater tips than others. One worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said this system had been accepted as fair by staff.

However, they claimed Harrods also took the opportunity to increase the cut of the service charge kept by the company. They said this had contributed to tips for some workers being reduced by hundreds of pounds a month.

"Without us, there is no Harrods," they said. "Without the people working 10 hours a day there is no business, but we're getting less and less."

Companies are not legally obliged to pay tips to staff, however, former business secretary Sajid Javid recently said tips should go to staff.

The British Hospitality Association, the trade body representing the hospitality sector, also makes this recommendation, minus administration charges and associated costs.

A spokesperson for Harrods, which is owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, the country’s sovereign fund, did not respond to specific questions about tips from BuzzFeed News but said Harrods was reviewing the "current system through which it distributes its service charge".

They said in a statement the company could not provide further details on the distribution but would inform employees when the review was complete.

Sara Spary is a consumer business correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Sara Spary at sara.spary@buzzfeed.com.

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