The claims sparked an outcry on a local Facebook page when customers learned that staff at The Gallery wine bar do not get to keep the tips handed to them during shifts.
Melissa Hillier, a regular customer at the branch in Lytham, said she was outraged when she learned of Booths’ policy towards tipping.
She said: “Who knew that when you tip the lovely waiters and waitresses in Booths wine bar that the tips go into a locked box and are taken at the end of each shift by management, never to be seen again.”
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"The wine bar is lovely,” added Melissa, “but what an awful way to treat your staff and to deceive your customers.”
She was further infuriated when she was told that staff who make customers aware of the policy have allegedly been reprimanded and warned not to tell anyone.
Melissa said she first learned of the policy when she went to hand a tip to a young waitress.
She said: “When I offered a tip I was politely told,“Thank you, but we don’t get them anyway. They watch us on the security cameras to check if we’ve taken any and we get in trouble if we don’t put them in the box, so you may as well keep your money.
"I even tried taking the waitress into the cafe area but she was really fearful of being caught.”
Her social media post caused a stir among fellow customers who regularly tip the waiting staff in appreciation of their service. Some have vowed not to return to Booths until the policy is changed.
“I love Booths”, she said, “and have been to the wine bar on several occasions. I just want them to do the right thing by their staff. Until this policy changes I won’t be going back.”
Some former staff members have since come forward to share their experiences working at the Booths wine bar.
One young woman, Jess, said: “I worked in the Booths wine bar for 11 months. The tip situation was one of the main reasons I left.
"We would usually make around £100 in tips on a busy night between three or four of us.
"However, we didn’t get any of it and we had to put the tips in a locked box and we didn’t see it after that.
"The managers told us it went towards a “staff fund” for Christmas parties and raffles. But the Christmas party for us wine bar staff was organised and paid for out of our own pocket.
"Booths did not contribute at all. And the Christmas raffle was also just things off the shop floor such as tins of biscuits and a few bottles of wine.
"I don’t think this reflects what we earned in tips.
"I did tell some customers to keep their money as it doesn’t go to us staff. They were mortified.
"But then when they emailed Booths to complain, the managers told us to stop telling people we don’t take the tips and just accept them and say ‘thank you’.”
What Booths said when we asked them about its tipping policy
Booths said claims that management keep the tips ‘are simply not true’, but admitted that tips do not go directly to the waiting staff on shift.
It confirmed that staff at the wine bar must hand over any tips they receive from customers, which are then placed into a secure box and ‘shared by all colleagues’ – including those on the shop floor - at a later date.
It refers to this as a ‘shared social fund for everyone to enjoy equally’, but did not say how and when the tips are distributed to staff.
But a former staff member told us that the tips are generally used to fund staff social events, such as Christmas parties, which are usually organised by management.
A Booths spokesperson said: “We value good customer service and teamwork throughout our business. The Gallery Lytham is a wine bar within our supermarket, colleagues work in a range of roles throughout the store.
"A customer assistant may work in a shift in the café or on the supermarket shop floor.
"It’s customary to tip for good service in a café or restaurant but perhaps less so, to tip your greengrocer or checkout assistant.
"At Booths, we feel all our colleagues should be rewarded for giving good service, so the tips generated in the wine bar are pooled into a social fund that is shared and enjoyed equally by all colleagues at Booths Lytham.
"Booths leave it to the discretion of our customers as to whether they leave a tip for good service and wish to make clear that these gratuities are shared by all colleagues at Booths Lytham.
“We hope this clarifies our position and reassures you that Booths value good service and teamwork amongst colleagues and share gratuities equally.”
We asked Booths whether it has any plans to reconsider its policy. A spokesperson responded with the following additional comment.
"Many establishments pool tips and share amongst the team as a whole and this is very much the case at Booths.
“Booths wish to make it fair to all colleagues that work at Booths Lytham, so there are not financial advantages for working in one area of the store over another.
“The teams that work hard to give good customer service on the tills, stacking shelves or washing the dishes should have the same rewards as those working in the wine bar or café.
“Booths find it works well to treat colleagues equally and sharing the gratuities as a team is the policy at Booths.”