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Tiny Giant, Jumbo Shrimp, Mandatory Gratuity

A young couple in Bethelehem, Pa., was arrested on theft charges recently when they refused to pay an 18% tip that had been rolled into their restaurant tab, 'cause they insisted service was so bad their waiter didn't deserve a tip.

Pope and John Wagner had a meal with friends at Lehigh Pub in Bethelehem and waited for about an hour for their food. They also had to fetch their own napkins and silverware.

When they got their $73 tab, they noticed the 18% gratuity had been rolled into the bill. So they told the head bartender that service was whack, paid him for the food and tax, and prepared to leave.

The bartender, most certainly a weasel considering his next move, called the police and reported the Wagners had stiffed the restaurant.

Charges probably won't stick. So this was all a big fat waste of tax $$$.

So I'm clear, if service is good you must tip. If you don't you suck and will suffer bad karma. There are few less rewarding jobs than waiter/waitress, save eye booger cleaner in a room full of allergy sufferers, or toilet-paper-roll-replacer in a busy nightclub or airport bathroom.

And if you have a really high tab, I don't have a problem with a restaurant adding an 18% or 20% tip to your bill and marking it clearly as such.

That's sometimes necessary to combat the tiny-minded person who thinks it's a sin to tip more than $5 or $10, even when their total bill is several hundred dollars.

But if service is bad, I don't have a problem with you tipping accordingly.

I've made exceptions. Mrs. B and I have been out to eat and gotten lousy service, and just as I prepared to teach the waiter/waitress a lesson for not being nicer, one or both of us noticed a tear in their eye or a miserable look on their face. And it struck us that they were having a bad day and that a bad tip would teach them nothing. It would just make them bitter and add to their bad day.

Still, a theft charge for not tipping? Harsh. Nothing gratuitous about that.

Follow me, please: http://twitter.com/jamesburnett.


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They did it wrong. A bartender isn't necessarily a manager and may not have the authority to knock off the tip. Any place that has a mandatory gratuity (yes it's a bull term) has the policy written in the menu. If you don't agree with the policy, don't eat there.

While I agree that they shouldn't have to tip, they should have definitely fought it out with a manager in a proper way and not left until it was resolved.

Jeni Hill Ertmer

As a former waitress as well as restaurant manager, I can appreciate the need (often) for the mandatory gratuity. I can also understand not wanting to leave a tip too at times, however, when deciding on that issue, one has to be objective too as to where the "bad service" issue at hand originated. Was it truly ALL the fault of the server? Or were there other mitigating factors perhaps that created the so-called "bad service" to the customer. All too often, people who know nothing at all about food service tend to blame everything on the server and don't seem to realize there are other factors that often impact on the meal too. (How many other customers in the place and did they all land at pretty much the same time? How much grill space is there on the cooking appliances in the kitchen?) Just two seemingly unimportant things but which can really have a huge impact on customer service then overall. And finally, please remember that a server does rely heavily on those tips and gets taxed too on the amount of each person's bill, whether a tip is left behind or not. How would others feel if anytime they weren't feeling up to par or some other entity came into play and affected their job and then, they had a bit of their income lost as a result of things that often are beyond the control of that person? You don't necessarily have to be a big-big tipper all the time, but just try to put yourself in another's shoes when deciding no tip is the route you really want to take.

class factotum

If it's not the waiter's fault, then I want an explanation: "I'm so sorry, we're swamped tonight, two waitresses called in sick, dessert is on us," etc, etc. I want some attempt to make things right. It might not be the waiter's fault but it sure isn't mine. I am paying for someone else to prepare and serve my meal and I want a nice experience. If the waiter relies so heavily on those tips, then he needs to make sure my experience is good enough that I am not bitter about paying a mandatory tip.

And yes, I have waited tables.


I kind of see your point about a waiter/waitress having a bad day. My waitress at Olive Garden seemed a bit anxious everytime I turned down additional meal items, like the wine, margarita, and dessert. I was just taking my son out for his birthday and I had no need for an alcoholic drink being the only adult and the responsible driver plus their desserts are ridiculously over-priced. My son being a true aspergers child had nothing do with anything but his chicken fingers so dessert for him was out of the question anyway. I am sure she needed the extra income. She did a great job serving us but I could see she seemed disappointed that I only wanted the meal. Perhaps they are pressured to make these sales and it's stressful and that makes for a hard working environment.


I hate the whole system of tipping. Yes I know it is essential because the pay is so crappy... I just wish they would pay them more.

I loved Japan... no tipping, everything cost exactly what it cost. When you appreciated good service or food you told them so. The end.

Yes I tip, probably more that I need to because I feel bad... but I think we should decide if the tip is a signal of service or an automatic add on. It simple can't be both and be both well.

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