My friends from Austria treated me to a steak dinner. The meal was fine (except that the waitress delivered my medium-rare steak to one of my friends, who had ordered a medium one). After the meal, the check was presented. I asked to see it, just for curiousity. I was surprised that a "gratuity" of about 18 percent had been added to the bill. Of course, my two Austrian friends didn't know what a "gratuity" was. They had planned to leave a "tip" of 15-to 20 percent on the table. I told them not to, since a "tip" or "gratuity" already had been added to the check. I told them that in the U.S. a gratuity normally is not automatically added to the check unless a group of 5 or more is being served (we were a party of three). Later, I asked the cashier if the restaurant usually adds the gratuity to the check. She said some servers do, and some don't. I suspect that the gratuity is added to the checks of overseas visitors, particularly those from countries that have different tipping practices, such as Germany and Austria. But I also suspect the practice of automatically adding the gratuity to the check also could have the effect of harvesting additional tip income from unsuspecting diners without good command of the English language. This restaurant was among three recommended by the folks at our motel. Wished we had eaten elsewhere, as the episode left a bad taste.