Service charges, taxes and Facebook hoaxes

Every time I dined out, which is pretty much every weekend, I ended up paying ~30% extra on items, which I did not fully understand. There were VAT, service charges, service tax and on top there is tip! 30% is huge amount, it can easily buy me couple of coveted dishes, for which I generally have ‘reserve’ apatite even after a full meal.  I paid every time and returned hungry.

Recently came across a facebook post telling me what I did was wrong! Full content of the facebook post is pasted bottom of this post. It claimed India restaurants charge service taxes on top of total bill amount rather than just service charges.  This is that hallelujah moment, where you realize you’ve been cheated but you are not alone.  Generally I don’t believe facebook posts, but this post is telling me just what I wanted to hear.

So basically, so far I understood:

  • Service charge is optional
  • Service tax is on service charge rather than full amount.

Next first thing I tried is one of those fact checking sites, like this one. Unfortunately Hoax or Fact site declares it FACT! But if you see the explanation is about service charges rather than service tax it self.

But all joy was short lived when I read what I did not want to hear. Apparently bill was right, they were according to law, which include “don’t dine outside”. read this for complete understanding on service tax   – Service Tax in Restaurants – What the law really says!

1) Service portion in an activity wherein goods, being food or any other article of human consumption or any drink(whether or not intoxicating) is supplied in any manner as a part of the activity, at a restaurant – 40 %

2) Service portion in outdoor catering wherein goods, being food or any other article of human consumption or any drink(whether or not intoxicating) is supplied in any manner as a part of such outdoor catering – 60 %

Finally, let me summarize

  1. Service tax and service charges are two mutually exclusive overheads on your bill
  2. Service charges are ‘almost’ mandatory tips, will be distributed with all employees of restaurant (technically).
  3. Restaurant has obligation to let you know that there will be service charges, even before you dine/order. In case no such display or abysmal service, you can refuse to pay that (technically)
  4. Service tax, on other hand, goes directly to government, will be 40/60% either on top of total food bill, which includes VAT.
  5. Never trust facebook post on first look.

Happy dining out with your inflated bills !

—————————————————————————————————————————–original content

Interesting. I find restaurant bills often so confusing. I just give up and pay the amount shown n the bottom line. Perhaps we shouldn’t.

Incidentally, I also resent the inclusion of Service Charges in restaurant bills, because it assumes that I was satisfied with the service. Just a matter of principle. Service Charge should be something I leave behind at my personal discretion. I recently demanded that the service charge be removed as the service was non-existent. After a short – very short! – Discussion, it was removed. About Service Tax….. Be aware

service tax
service tax

This happened at the restaurant. Let me explain. We had been to several restaurants recently. I observed that “service tax” was being misused in the way it was being charged to customers.

Let me give an example.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Food and Beverage = Rs. 1000.00
Service Charges @ 10% = Rs. 100.00
Service Tax @ 4.94% = Rs. 54.34 (on F&B + Service Charges)
VAT @14.5% = Rs. 145.00
Total = Rs. 1299.34
As per the definition – “Service Tax can be charged ONLY for the services provided to the customer”.

Now, see what is happening here in the above example. Service Tax should be charged only on the Service Charge amount i.e Rs.100 ONLY, and NOT on the entire amount (1000+100). In this example, the customer should be charged only Rs 4.94, whereas he has been charged Rs. 49.00 extra. Where does this money go? Only the restaurant owner and the chartered accountants who work for them know.

• So, I have started asking them the questions – and am surprised to see the reaction from famous restaurants. Either they say: “Sir we cannot change the format of the bill – so , we will recalculate and tell you the revised amount. You may pay only that.”


• “Sir, you do not need to pay the Service Tax amount itself”!! I now have 3 to 4 restaurant bills, but for which I have paid only the service tax on the service charge and NOT on the total amount.

Every bill MUST carry the TIN number and Service Tax Number, if they charge it. So . . . , I ask for the Service tax number if it is not available in the receipt that they provide.

As we cannot go to any government official and ask them to get this right – because of our system. Please remember – we cannot change any political leader – but we can change ourselves. If we change ourselves – things will change. Please do share this with every one of your friends and known people. Ask for the right tax calculation and Pay only the tax which is supposed to be paid. Verify every bill and receipt that you make payment on.”Please share if you think its worth”

Formula one – Hamsters running on wheels

Formula one, I still opine, as nothing more than hamsters running over wheels. It’s pointless, waste of time, money and talent. There are at least 10s reason why I still hate it. Go ahead and prove me wrong.

  1. It’s not sports: Don’t call a bunny-turtle race, a sport. You give same car to all drivers, and then we’ll talk.
  2. It’s not race: What kind of race needs one of its competitors to slowdown due to team order? It’s like Yohan Blake asking Usain Bolt to slowdown because Jamaica said so.
  3. Crashes: I was told spectacular crash will be spectacular to watch. Even I was informed movies like Death Race is inspired by races including F1. If is true, its really sad.
  4. It’s not exciting: Around six blokes always ahead of game, the rest always behind. I take a nap, take a shower, grab a coffee and browse back to the channel – they will be still racing in same race in same position!
  5. It’s a pit race:  By the sound of it, races are won in pit stops rather than tracks. It’s like cricket is won in dug out, not field.
An “Exciting” moment in F1
An “Exciting” moment in F1
  1. Expensive: Considering you’ll only see start, finish and one glimpse per lap! Even 1$ is expensive if the deal is to sit there and yawn.
  2. Technology: I was also told, money is being put into good use of invention automobile industry. A $500mil a year for each team from last so many years, I had expected some alien car craft!  They still breakdown at signal.
  3. Rich-men sport: How easy is it makes an entry for a team? Suppose you do, how many years you need to compete to make a single point on board?
  4. Hype: F1 is nothing more than a ponzi scheme of sports world with blown up go-karting.  People follow because it is uncool not to follow. It’s a fashion statement.
  5. F1 geeks: They irritate me every day with specifics of turbo engines, rpms, cylinders and other part which never amused me!

This is part 2 of what I had written few years back.


Update 25/01 : Due to a lot of good friends of mine objected the wording of #3 on crashes being spectacular,  I have reworded it to have less exaggeration.  But content remains same. I cant believe you never heard about it. One example right away, this author explains the romance between danger and dependency of F1 revenue on it. He writes :

……No one, myself included, wants to see drivers die, but by eliminating the potential for death (as nearly as possible), the danger which led to the popularity of the sport is lost. 
The remaining glamour, without the danger, is empty and superficial—glamour for glamour’s sake—an endless parade of celebrities shuffling up and down the pit lane and drivers throwing their cars into turns knowing the risks have been diminished should they get it wrong.

I still stick to all other points, unless convinced otherwise.

My experiments with perfume samplers

Perfume samplers are perhaps most annoying bunch of salesmen out there. They are like urban cowboys with a set of perfume bottles in their holster and will shoot at sight like dirty Harry. It hardly ever happened to me that I went to shopping mall and did not get ambushed by them. Its not seldom I ended up buying one of those expensive perfumes, plus came out smelling like a bouquet.

My sympathies with all those who got scammed like this, welcome to “I got tricked into buying perfume I didn’t like” club. We meet on Thursdays.

For others, I dare you to try once. Go to any mall in India and this is how whole process goes:

  • He will start with, if you like is “Eau de Toilette” or some other phrases you don’t even recognize. That’s your clue, if you are impressed with his knowledge on few European phrases, you are trapped.  Simple psychology is, if you don’t understand what is asking, most probably you will stick with what he recommends
  • Then he will ask which flavor of perfume you like, fruity, nutty or shitty. Don’t answer that – it’s a rhetorical question. He will pull one sample no matter whatever you answer. Don’t get scared, not at least – not yet.
  • Then, like a ninja pulls a ninjastar, he’ll pull one sampling strip. He does it so fast you will be tend to think its magic. If you must ask, go ahead and enquire if he does birthday parties.
  • What he does next is something amusing. He will pose like Usain Bolt, like he did after winning gold. Or maybe it is T’ai chi, you’ll never know. Anyways, He will hold paper strip in one hand and bottle in other with a appropriately calculated distance.
joey tribbiani as perfume sampler
joey tribbiani as perfume sampler
  • Then he’ll spray sample into air, more precise than sparkplug of a four-stroke engine! in slow motion.  I was like – OMG splay it already!
  • Before it disperses into air he will wave the testing strip where he sprayed. It’s like a WOW! This is that exact moment you’ll think this guy really knows what he is doing, and perhaps he is topper in fragrance sampling college.
  • And just when you think he will give it you to sniff, wait, there are more steps! how else would this poor fellow justify overpriced liquid? He will blow air on that perfume strip before handing over to you. Don’t be surprised if it smells like onion-fish fry he had that afternoon.
  • There’s more to procedure if you challenge his choice of perfume. He will make you smell some coffee beans. Then procedure repeats from beginning
  • Finally only four thousand saar ! You pay, then you go home having spent entire days budget in one counter,

share your thoughts,

Earworm – Sails of Charon

Over the years I’ve had many earworms, no matter how strong they stuck; eventually I found solutions.  A piece of advice, when an earworm gets irritating, just listen to Altaf Raja! Not only you’ll start hating any sort music, you ears get clean like a whistle.

Jokes apart, let me introduce you to my all time favorite song – Sails of Charon by Scorpions in their 1977 album Taken by Force, unusual because I don’t particularly like Scorpions, they are just fine.

Sails of Charon, did not have a good video in YouTube, probably because the song itself older than me and you.  But recently someone reengineered the video and uploaded HD version of it, not sure how he did that but god bless him!

Watch it for just first one and a half minutes of guitar solo, a mesmerizing neo-classical by Uli Jon Roth. This guy, without giving a damn about rest of the world, delivers a solo in single breath. I think rest of the guitarists would have made a big Nautanki out of it, if they’d played so many notes together, so correct. Enjoy.

Once Klaus starts singing about dark nights and blood etc, you can close it ;)


How to survive Arnab Goswami through logical fallacies

As you already might have guessed, I am a regular viewer of the the Newshour by Arnab Goswami, and a big fan. It is a ‘complete’ show. There are multiple reasons I choose to watch this – It provides good entertainment, alternatives are poorly scripted; also in a weird sense, this is a kind of adventure sport, for panellists.

Surprisingly though, there is not even a single guide available on how to survive his show. I expected at least a book in market, something like “Arnab for dummies”, nope! So I thought I’ll write one, not book, a post. If you happened to be invited to his show please feel free to use any of these.

BTW, if you do not know Arnab Goswami, please go back into your cave and close the rock door properly. I heard spiders are good protein. For others, let’s start.

Arnab Goswami
Arnab Goswami

Right, Thumb rule is, there is no correct way of doing it. However, there are several wrong ways.

  1. You can never win an argument, you can only survive it. So stop trying to convince him, it will never work.
  2. Do not practice! In fact, you don’t even need to know what the discussion is all about. He will set the premise, then he will ask what “nation needs to know”.
  3. Never ever ask for a proof. If it exists, he has seen it. As it was famously described before by media crooks –  every piece of document, including your bus ticket will have to go through his desk. Stamped.
  4. Use the words he uses, he may show mercy on you. ‘National’ television, you’re ‘exclusive’, etc. While there, don’t use the words ‘paid’ and ‘media’, or ‘you’ and ‘PR agent’ in same sentence. Prostate exams seem better than what follows.
  5. Use this as final resort, only if you are cornered. Close your ears and eyes and sing a song, need not be a patriotic song, even Sheela Ki Jawani should work.
  6. If that doesn’t work, use your rugby skills

I will update the list as and when I find more, but as of now above should help you through half an hour of his show.

On a different note, below are some rhetological fallacies I noted. This is in general, rather than Arnab’s show. These are real fallacies, I did not make any of these.

  1. Burden of proof – It’s not my job to find proof, it’s yours. E.g. Give me proof for something I claimed
  2. Special pleading – pleading for exemption without justifying the exemption. E.g. Give them time, they will prove eventually, so don’t scrutinize.
  3. Insufficient sample – broad conclusion on a tiny sample E.g. The latest ‘ground-breaking’ survey had “..about 2000 people – was small and was concentrated on the 18-45 age group”
  4. Relative privation – argument on existence of severe, but unrelated, problems. E.g. How can Madhuri Dikshit and Salman Khan can attend a show while people don’t have blanket in refugee camp.
  5. Appeal to accomplishment – because of his credentials! E.g. have you ever read Arvind Kejriwal’s Resume?
  6. Nazi card – simple branding. e.g. we are liberals, by definition we are open to all ideas except anything remotely right.
  7. Appeal to ridicule – E.g. Idea of abolishing income tax is ridiculous, we don’t even need to talk about it.
  8. Appeal to nature – argument solely dependent on the topic being ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural’. E.g. Homosexuality is unnatural.
  9. Appeal to novelty – better because it is modern. E.g. since it is written in books before
  10. Appeal to fear – fear towards the opposing idea e.g. FDI in retail will bring devastating impact in economic fabric
  11. Appeal to the majority – Since majority seems to think so, must be true E.g. majority is gullible
  12. Cherry picking – celebrating on few features of an achievement while ignoring significant information of related cases or data that may contradict that position. For example Delhi water problem solved!
  13. Appeal to ignorance – because it is not proven false; so true. e.g.  You did not give him a chance yet, he can do wonders.
  14. Appeal to common sense – I cannot imagine how this could be true, therefore it must be false. E.g. I can’t imagine how such a big actor can drive over people sleeping on footpath.
  15. Hedging – using words with ambiguous meanings, then changing the meaning of them later. E.g. we said we will live like common man alright, we also agreed to end VIP culture. But that simply means we won’t use beacons, but gas guzzling SUVs stay. Apparently practising austerity is not for common man.
    More will be added here.

Carnatic music and deadly mispronunciations

I recently observed many of Carnatic signers mispronounce words in a well defined lyric.

carnatic music
carnatic music – toon by Keshav, The Hindi (

It is surprising because some of these are very common words in day to day conversation; also these songs have been around from ages. Sad part is, this is not limited just with junior artists, seen this with senior singers as well. For example, sharanu is being pronounced as charanu; not sure if they realise this gives a totally different meaning how originally intended. Sharanu is surrender and charanu in feat!

The charanu might still be harmless change. Sharanu siddhivinayaka… if changed charanu siddhivinayaka…; is like changing ‘surrender to lord ganesha’ into ‘feat of lord ganesha’. It gives different meaning, but still fits the purpose of praising the lord. But, all such word mutations don’t end so well. Take this example: If you know the song ‘gajaananam bhotaganaadisevitam…’; there is a ‘Phalasaara bhakshitam…’ in-between. A lot of people sing it as ‘palasaara bhakshitam…’; which is about a changing ‘fruit enthusiast’ to a ‘meat eater’!

I thought there will be some heated discussion over internet. For my surprise, even by the fans of a very conservative art form, this phenomenon is being forgiven by those who noted it. Music might not have a language, but your lyric does, isn’t it?

There is no question on the achievement in this field and dedication, generations of artists have maintained and enriched all attributes of this form of music, but if lyrics are ignored, that is one purpose failed. Decades spent on learning music, why not spend a fraction of it to learn the meaning as well?

On a separate note: There is a famous quote in Sanskrit “api mAsam masam kuryAt chandobhangam na kArayet” which perhaps written much before Carnatic music became classical. This translates to “you can change, if required, from mAsam (beans) to masam (month) but never ever should break the rhythm of a poem”. In other words, this is the famous poetic licence taken (rather imposed) by pretty much all poets till last century. But note, that was a provision rather than freedom.

Delhi free water – 5 things wrong with it

Delhi government under Arvind Kejriwal has kept its first promise, while media is watching it closely. Or is it other way round? – Since media is watching Delhi government kept its first promise?

Delhi water problem
Nothing will change for these, who actually need water (image credits to

By free water and cheaper electricity, as I understood, as supposed to be achieved through the efficiency through bringing down corruption, fixing wastage, suppress mafia and improve operations scientifically. Apparently answer is none of the above, instead it’s a socialistic populist freebie.

I am not impressed so far, in fact I am worried on what’s coming next. Here, let me list down 5 things which, I think, are wrong by the way it is implemented

  1. Some detailed, the money for free water is taken out of from the profits made by delhi Jal Board in past years. The Idea is, profit out of public money, should go back to public, for free! Remember India 40-50 years back? Never_dream_of_profit policy? This is version 2.
  2. What happens after this profit in coffer wears out? They either will have to stop free-water flow or raise money through taxes. Either way, won’t be free anymore!
  3. What about houses which aren’t in water grid? They don’t have free water now anyway, later point these guys need to pay for something they aren’t exactly benefitting from. Double trouble!
  4. One of the feature least thought about is, If a meter consumes even a litre more than ‘free’ limit, entire consumption is charged! There are no slabs. This means dilwale Delhi people can no longer host any guest who baths daily.
  5. Free-water does not translate to availability of it. Honestly, I still wonder, what is the bigger problem in Delhi? Not having water round the clock? Or paying for the service who brings it to you?

A tick on free water, electricity next. Without even an audit, 50% tariff reduction is written on stone. Let’s see how they mess this up?