College Students Arrested For Refusing To Pay Tip

Should you be required by law to pay a gratuity if you don’t think the restaurant’s service was worth it? The police in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania think so, and they arrested two college students for refusing to pay a $16.35 tip over what they claim was poor service. Update 11/23/09: the charges will be dropped.

“You can’t give us terrible, terrible service and expect a tip,” said Pope, a 22-year-old Moravian College senior who’s a Pottsville native, according to the Lehigh Valley Express-Times.

They had to find their own napkins and cutlery while their waitress caught a smoke, had to ask the bar for soda refills, and had to wait over an hour for salad and wings, they told NBC10.

The pub, which was very busy that night, took the $73, but then called the cops, who treated the matter as a theft.

“College students arrested for not paying tip” [] (Thanks to WinShape!)
(Photo: BLW Photography)


Edit Your Comment

  1. El_Fez says:

    Oh, no – they SHOULD have left a tip: one dime. That way you make your displeasure known, ensure that you just didn’t skip out on leaving a tip and get the point home about shitty service.


    • orange20854 says:


      NO! Leaving a dime, or penny, or tiny amount of change is the WORST thing you can do. If you unhappy with the service, and really feel as though it warranted no gratuity, you should leave nothing. Period. Leave nothing, but before you leave, inform the manager that you have decided to leave no gratuity because the service was terrible.

      That way, you aren’t a jerk, and you have justified your decision.

      • JohnDeere says:

        @orange20854: if you leave nothing they may believe you just forgot. if you leave a couple pennies they know they were shitty and will do better next time.

      • Kaosian says:

        @orange20854: I have used this int he past and I will use in the future when I believe it is warranted.

        Works only with a paper napkin: Write

        “In the future if you would like money for your tip please try using better customer service.”

    • brandymb says:

      @El_Fez: Leaving a dime or another small amount wouldnt have mattered in a place like this that adds 18% to the bill. Leaves you no choice but to pay it whether the service sux or not. The wife and I NEVER patronize a place with mandatory tipping. Where’s the incentive for good service? We do tip 25%+ when we go out if the service is good.

      • Sudonum says:

        @brandymb: went to a TGIF in St. Louis with a couple of employees, didn’t notice the sign that said “18% gratuity automatically added to parties of 6 or more or totals of $75 or higher” Of course after several rounds, appetizers, and meals, I get the bill and notice the “auto grat” on it. Now I typically tip 20% for good service, I questioned the server, and she was apologetic about it. I told her that I hoped TGIF’s policy was working to her advantage because she just lost 2% on my tip.

        And yes I realize there are people who say I shouldn’t have screwed the waitress for the restaurants policy, but she is also the one benefiting from the policy in cases where people might only tip 15%. If she feels she’s getting screwed by their policy then find another place to work, or talk to management about changing it.

  2. heismanpat says:

    I find it odd that this is considered a criminal rather than a civil matter. I guess the menu/receipt said a tip is automatically added to the bill, but still….

    • Amish Undercover says:

      @heismanpat: When you put it that way, it sounds like a hidden fee & not a tip.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:


      Theft of services, and yes, it is a crime. If it was made clear on the menu that the service charge wasn’t optional, then leaving without paying it is no different than leaving without paying a part of the bill at any restaurant.

      • SonicMan says:

        @NeverLetMeDown: It really depends on how it was mentioned.

        “18 percent gratuity added to check of parties of 6 of more”

        Is what the story stated.

        So the bar was basically saying that they are adding an optional 18% fee on to the check.

        It is defined as “something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service”

        The kids were not ini the wrong here, the bar added something OPTIONAL to the check.

        • Nogard13 says:

          @SonicMan: That is exactly what I was thinking. If you read the statement “an 18 percent gratuity will be added to the check of parties of 6 of more” in plain English, it says that an 18% optional charge for good service will be added to your check if there are at least 6 people in your party. If gratuity means optional by definition, then not paying it isn’t a crime. If it were worded differently, something like “an 18 percent service fee will be added to the check of parties of 6 of more”

          Any lawyer worth his salt will successfully argue this point in court. The language isn’t even vague, it’s pretty clear. If the owner’s INTENT or MEANING of the word differs, that is not the client’s problem.

      • Amish Undercover says:

        @NeverLetMeDown: Do you pay for services you never received?

    • tonberry says:

      @heismanpat: i have never seen this on a menu other than the larger than 8 in a party. but if i got a bill with an added gratuity, and was not told about this before i ordered, i would not pay it either. if i went to a place that had that, i would never have ordered, and found somewhere else to eat. you have to work for your tips, this whole generation of entitlement makes me sick. and i am only 30.

      i tip 10 to 15% for decent service and %20 – 30% for excellent service. terrible gets pennies, but you have to be really bad for that, like the guy chatting up the clearly under age girls in the booth behind us, for a long time before getting my wife her coffee. he got a penny.

    • windycity says:

      @heismanpat: I’m just trying to understand why only 2 people were arrested out of this party of 6. What happened to the other 4? Did 4 pay the gratuity and these 2 not pay? Did 4 leave and these 2 got stuck with the cops? Also, 18% of $73 is not $16.35. Was this just their share of the total bill? One of the stories circulating on this says that the manager offered to comp some of the meals, which makes me wonder why, if they were willing to comp some of the meals, they made an issue of 16 dollars.

  3. rpm773 says:

    Looks like the establishment has been sent to Yelp hell, with a large number of 1-star reviews popping on there today.

  4. Enduro says:

    I know a lot of people in the service industry here in Detroit and from their stories (especially tables paying in casino comps) they’d love to be able to call the cops on the “2 dollars for bad service” and “5 dollars for good service” flat tippers/no tippers.

    However, I hardly see how this is a crime so long as they paid what was quoted on their bill. If they had left a dime would that have been enough to satisfy the police?

    • witeowl says:

      @Enduro: See, that’s the problem. They didn’t pay what was quoted on their bill because the “gratuity” was added onto the bill.

      The best solution would have been to get up and go to another establishment once they saw the automatic gratuity listed on the menu. Of course, it’s one thing to just vow to never return to a place that has mandatory tipping (as I do), and it’s an entirely different thing to actually get up before ordering and go elsewhere.

      • Coelacanth says:

        @witeowl: Good luck finding places that don’t automatically add on gratuity for “large” parties in many places.

        The distiction between “gratuity” and “service fee” isn’t trivial.

      • The Porkchop Express says:

        @witeowl: when they saw that, they may have thought there would have been service. There was no service.

        It’s like getting an oil change and paying full price to later find out they didn’t change out the filter.

        You already signed up for something and didn’t get what was promised. Ok, maybe good service isn’t promised but if they’re adding 18%….it sure as hell is expected.

  5. Elcheecho says:

    this is ridiculous. if it’s not optional then it’s not a tip, it’s a service fee. if it’s a service fee then there should have been service. you wouldn’t pay for an empty glass if you ordered a soda.

    • Brontide says:

      @Elcheecho: New York has had two cases that I know of, both times the restaurant has had to back down because they used the improper language on the menu and bill.

      NYS has basically said that a Gratuity can not be mandatory unless there is a signed contract involved. A service fee can be demanded based on menu disclaimer, but not a gratuity. Mandatory gratuity is a contradiction in terms no matter how you slice it.

      In the first case the restaurant settled out-of-court after the person countersued for libel and false arrest with a 10k donation to a charity. In the other a public apology was given.

  6. 2 replies says:

    Tag Win.
    “It’s Not Really A Tip, Then, Is It?”
    Pretty much sums it up.

    And I’d continue with that since it’s not really a tip/gratuity, but more of a ‘service charge’ then couldn’t it be argued that these restaurants are engaging in false-advertising?

  7. Telekinesis123 says:

    What law did they charge them with?

  8. delphi_ote says:

    gratuity – 1. a gift of money, over and above payment due for service, as to a waiter or bellhop; tip. 2. something given without claim or demand.

  9. RandomHookup says:

    As long as there are college students, there will be upset waitresses getting stiffed on a tip.

    After all, there is beer to be bought.

  10. Al Swearengen says:

    They should have left a note on the bill – WILL NOT PAY TIP, TERRIBLE SERVICE. This way the place knows there was bad service. However, if the menu and bill clearly say a tip is automatic on larger groups, they are going to be assumed to have agreed to those terms by eating there, and so will probably be legally on the hook for this.

  11. Red_Flag says:

    That’s insane. And the tag is right. If you have to pay it, and most certainly if you can be arrested for not paying it, it’s not a “tip”.

  12. scootinger says:

    While they might have “agreed” to pay the 18% gratuity by eating there (which I think is asinine personally), didn’t the restaurant agree to provide a reasonable quality of service in return and fail to do so? That makes it even more disgusting that they’re trying to extort a service fee for a service that they failed to provide.

    If this were any other kind of product or service, would you write it off as acceptable for them to charge you full price for the service delivered while not providing the service that you paid for? Why the double-standard for waitstaff?

  13. Boulderite says:

    Did the menu say that a “Gratuity would automatically be added for a table of 6” or something along those lines?

    If so then when they sat down and ordered they agreed to that automatically added gratuity. And since it is added to the bill, then when they didn’t pay the gratuity they didn’t pay the entire bill. They essentially ran out on part of the bill.

    I don’t agree with automatic gratuities. But when you agree to them, then you must pay them.
    If the service was that bad then it was their responsibility to speak with the manager and work it out with him. Not decide not to pay and walk out on part of their bill.

    • ShadowFalls says:


      Which is why I will never eat at a place that forces that on you. I tip based on quality of service provided. I have even personally tipped the cook before. If you as a restaurant is trying to force me to tip a certain amount, I just won’t do any business with you. Otherwise they can just give you bad service and still get the same amount which in itself is atrocious.

      Maybe I am old-fashioned, but a person shouldn’t get more than they deserve. Also, one must prove their worth, not have it set in stone.

  14. Atheist Jew says:

    Yet another reason why I love living in Japan (when I do). In Japan, excellent customer service is simply what is expected from everyone, customers and employee alike, no matter what the business is.

    I have been actually chased down in Tokyo by waiters/waitresses for leaving a tip behind when I left the restaurant.

    They gave the tip back. Gratuity is bullshit.

  15. AvatarofBelle says:

    Even if the place automatically charges gratuity to large parties, the customer can adjust the gratuity amount to whatever amount they want. If it’s a service charge, that may count as theft. I think the police are in the wrong here.

  16. gollerpr says:

    At what point are the police culpable for false arrest… it would seem the case here… Unless there is some notice that ALL bills will have added to it a gratuity, tipping is completely at the patron’s discretion. The cops should have their butts sued to high heaven…

  17. AdvocatesDevil says:

    Look at these reviews on Yelp:


  18. BytheSea says:

    I’m from PA, about an hour from Bethlehem. I heard there was some sort of incident and the *couple* called the cops. FWIW.

  19. outlulz says:

    I would have been a smartass and asked that they split the check six ways.

  20. psm321 says:

    This happen to a group I was in once… we basically told the manager he could either get the full amount (including the automatic tip on the bill) and never see any of us in there again, or we were not paying the full tip (horrible service).

  21. nsv says:

    I’ve left a 100% tip when the service warranted it. And I’ve left a handful of pennies. If the restaurant leaves it up to me the wait staff will get the tip they’ve earned.

    If we’ve got to have this stupid system of giving money to wait staff to reward the service they’ve provided, then we should be allowed to do exactly that.

  22. Reading Rainbow says:

    Isn’t there a lower limit on charges for theft? I thought it had to be at least $20 or something for civil matters…? And I think the police here should be held MORE accountable than the restaurant. Coming to see the situation is one thing, but actual arrest of the patrons…they should be reprimanded for this!

    • treimel says:


      There is no lower limit on theft charges in Pennsylvania. I have seen at least one person charged (she pleaded guilty, incidentally) for stealing two tootsie rolls.

  23. heldc says:

    I can’t think of ANY sit down restaurants in the DC metro area that don’t automatically add an 18% tip to the bill for large (usually defined as 6 or more) parties. But, I’ve also known plenty of people who asked to have the automatic tip removed when the service was poor, and never heard of anyone having a problem. I’ve done this myself, once. Another time I would have done so, but we’d spoken to someone during the meal, and when the bill came our drinks had been comped, so we figured it came out to about the same thing.
    If the restaurant accepted the payment, and the payment was in full including tax other than the tip, it’s insane that the restaurant would then call the cops.

  24. RvLeshrac says:

    Of special interest: In Georgia (at least), it is illegal to verbally solicit a tip.

    Also of special interest: The “X% Gratuity will be added to parties of Y or more” has less to do with your specific waiter than it has to do with the additional work often required by waitstaff and cleaning crews to clean up after a larger group of people. Small groups of diners tend to clean up after themselves, for the most part, but larger groups frequently *destroy* their table and the surrounding area.

  25. Ptath says:

    If it is mandatory, it’s a fee, and not a gratuity. A tip is something extra I give to show my appreciation of the quality of service (and NOT the food!).

    I NEVER tip bad waiters or waitresses, with the hope that they will quit and be replaced by somneone who is good and actually cares about QoS.

    If this make me sound harsh, I am not: I an an understanding, agreeable customer. If there are delays in the kitchen, and I am told – that’s OK. I have worked in and owned restaurants, I know that these things happen. I don’t ask for much, but it is depressing hopw often I don’t even get that.

    As for payscale: A good waiter or waitress will make a good amount of tip and a decent living out of this hard work. What mandatory tipping means is that the lousy slackers now have no incentive whatsoever to be good.

    Eventually – clients do not come back. THe restaurant starts making less money, then closes. And the GOOD staff lose their jobs along the bad ones.

  26. Tallanvor says:

    This reminds me of the airlines tacking on extra fees for busy travel times, and they’re being investigated by the government now, because they don’t collect taxes on those fees.

    If a restaurant makes tipping mandatory, then it’s part of the cost of the meal, and they should also have to charge taxes on it. I think that might make more people take notice…

  27. lehrdude says:

    I usually just pay the “mandatory gratuity”, and not a penny more. If a restaurant can’t trust me to leave a tip based on the service they provide, then I will respond by paying exactly what they think their service is worth. Obviously I won’t eat in a place that has a 50% gratuity…but who would?

  28. dreamfish says:

    For those commenters who seem to imply the tip is compensation for a poor wage, why not campaign for that to be stated clearly on the menu: “A 10% mandatory poor salary compensation fee will be added; for tables of six or over, this will be 20%”

    It would inject a degree of honesty into the situation for the wait-staff, the diners (i.e. the public at large) and especially the restaurant owners.

  29. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    Tip… Definition: give a tip or gratuity to in return for a service, beyond the compensation agreed on; “Remember to tip the waiter”; “fee the steward”

    Mandatory Tip… Definition: A tax levied on customers/clients to subsidize or pay in full the wages of employees. Alternately, a scam by scumbag employers to scoop more cash out of the pockets of their clients in the guise of rewarding “good service”. Alternately, A tax levied on customers/clients to subsidize or pay in full the wages of employees who no longer have any incentive to actually provide decent service to the client.

    Making a “tip” mandatory ensures that service is optional.

  30. wkm001 says:

    First and foremost, if you can’t afford to tip then you can’t afford to eat out.

    Secondly, by requiring a tip there is no incentive for the server to offer good service. Waiting tables well is hard work. But if you have guaranteed money coming from one table it is only human nature to slack a little. I’m sure there will be arguments against this but only comment/reply if you have actually waited tables.

  31. justsomeotherguy says:

    I am sure Lehigh Pub in Bethlehem is going to love being in internet hell.

  32. jfp14reg says:

    This will never stand up in court. I can’t believe that the police actually followed thru with it.

  33. MrMan09 says:

    “Pope and Wagner, members of a party of eight during happy hour, refused to pay a $16.35 service charge on top of their $73.87 tab because of what they say was shoddy service as well as a surcharge that was nearly 5 percent higher than the 18 percent listed on the menu.”

    Who committed “theft” here?
    snipped from

    There also seems to be some confusion as to if there was food comped in response to complaints.

    I wonder if they comped something in a way that it wasn’t deducted from the gratuity. If they were so busy they couldn’t get a salad and some wings out in under an hour, I’m willing to bet the students looked at it and said f this and refused to pay it rather than wait for them to get their “stuff” together and fix it.

    The fact the amount charged was more than the “posted mandatory” will destroy their case.

  34. whiteears37 says:

    Gratuities are voluntary by definition
    The local DA not be happy when he gets this one. It will never make it to court.

  35. duckfat says:

    Karma has been balanced. If this has been on the local news then they’ve lost much more business than the lousy tip came to. I’m sure the case will either be dropped or they judge will fine them the 18% and leave it at that.

  36. chrisholland03 says:

    I think there’s way more to this story than the 3 paragraph blurb the newspaper article provided.

    I would have complained to the manager before I left the ‘mandatory’ tip off…we don’t know if they did that or not.

    Either way I won’t be eating there, and me thinks the bad publicity they’re getting will shut them down.

  37. That's Consumer007 to you says:

    What is called for here is a mass boycott / sit in attack where people order food, then leave, or sit there refusing to pay anything at all, or refusing to order.

    On separate notes:

    1. I am thrilled to see this place has been SLAMMED on with hundreds of bad reviews since the story came out .

    2. The victims need to hire the ACLU to sue this place for everything they are worth. Their freedom of speech was violated – because that is what a tip is – your feedback, and you have a RIGHT not to leave one. Restaurants cannot legally require them.

  38. ahleeeshah says:

    In college, a group of five of my friends and I went to a local Greek restaurant. None of us were unruly or rude or asked for anything special, and the automatic gratuity was only on parties of eight or more. During the entire night we received horrible service. No drinks refilled, wrong orders given, rude waiters, and when we asked for our check, they brought out one overcharging us by about $40 first. Once they fixed that, they refused to split the check for us (they had done it before), so one person had to pay for it all.

    As we were all college students, we were not very well off, and this meant that the person paying did not have a lot of money to leave for a tip. They left what they could, and we didn’t really care that it wasn’t a lot because of the amazingly poor service (I usually tip at least 20%, for the record). We were then chased out of the restaurant by the owner and told never to come back.

    Good times!

  39. stuffedcrust says:

    At my restaurant and others I know, the grat. will be taken off the ticket if the customer complains about it. At mine it is added for parties of eight or more. I did work with someone who didn’t try as hard on big tops like those.

  40. bentcorner says:

    What I don’t understand is why the cops arrested both Pope and Wagner, but not the other four people in their party. Not that I think they should have been arrested. I just don’t understand the logic in arresting the person that paid the bill excluding the tip along with their significant other.

  41. sp00nix says:

    I’ll tip great if my service is great, but when they try and slip this fee on my bill i will give them what they ask for, which will be less then what i would left on the table.

  42. amberlink says:

    This is actually old news. There’s the famous case (wish I could find it) of the group of lawyers sued by a restaurant for not paying a “mandatory” gratuity. By its very word, the word gratuity means gratuitious, or at discretion of patron, there are definitions all over the place about the word and its meaning:

    “Something given voluntarily or beyond obligation, usually in response to or in anticipation of service.”

    Then there’s the website that cites the (as of yet, then) unpublished decision in CA:


    Just because a restaurant puts in their menu doesn’t make it enforceable. Matter of fact in NY, if you protest the gratuity being added, they take it off. More people are inclined to leave more, just the slimier places think that by adding it, that some customers won’t realize that a tip was already automatically added and they add MORE so instead of the “mandatory” 18% now the restaurant is getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 35%.

  43. vladthepaler says:

    It used to be that not tipping meant the lousy waitstaff takes home a little less cash. But now, not tipping gets you arrested and gets nationwide bad publicity for the restaurant in question. Interesting how the internet has changed things.

    Tips should never be required. The kids have got a case, I think.

  44. uberbitter says:

    When will people learn that a businesses’ policy is not the law?

  45. Cheapskate Brill says:

    When the Lehigh Pub in Bethlehem goes out of business, they’ll know how stupid they were. If I were the owner, the manager or whoever called police would be fired.

  46. razz4901 says:

    I think tipping for service should be optional. But if you go to a place that clearly states on the menu that an automatic amount is added to the bill for parties of some many then you are basically agreeing to the charge. If you order an item off the menu that is clearly priced a certain amount and you do not like it you don’t usually have the option of paying less than the listed price…bottom line is we should avoid places that charge this automatic service fee….

  47. Cameraman says:

    Hmmm. That’s outrageous.

  48. smokinfoo says:

    leave without paying next time. just get up and walk out.

  49. LeChiffre says:

    It looks to me as though the management took advantage of “college students”. If it were someone my age, maybe they would have been more open-minded and would have known better than to call the cops. In fact, I would have encouraged them to call the cops because this is BS. There has to be more to this story because you cannot get arrested for not tipping. That is just plain ridiculous.

  50. xkevin108x says:

    I guess this means that if you get lousy service, not only should you not leave a tip but that you should also walk out on the bill entirely. I would have left within the first hour when the food didn’t show up.

  51. gerrycomo says:

    The students were tipped to the police.

  52. RalphyNader says:

    This is a delicate situation in the restaurant world. So many tables will stiff a server on “accident” when you have a big table and the check gets split. (Restaurant people know exactly what I’m talking about.) However, the mandatory tip on large parties is to ensure GOOD service. If a server has a large table they most likely doen’t have many other tables, hence no very many opportunities for income (tips). All of a sudden servers don’t want to take large parties or only greedy servers that spread themselves too thin.

    I know it seems rediculous to people who haven’t worked in the restaurant industry, but with turnover being so high, it is actually a good solution to a weird problem.

    I agree with the students for not leaving a tip. Although, I would have liked to have them address the management instead of just leaving the total for the bill.

    I am wondering though….how did the cops get there so fast? And why do cops care about this sort of thing?

  53. mmrohm says:

    If the police in this town is arresting people over $16.35 then either this is the most crime free town in the world or I believe my city is wasting my tax dollars and they should be after real criminals. I do believe that the students should’ve asked to speak to the management before not paying. It does irk me that you can get charged for services not rendered, but it was posted. There are adult channels to take though before refusing to pay. It sounds like the server should also be in another field if she can’t do her job and I would definitely spread the word about this pub.

  54. dkmurphys88 says:

    I don’t get this if you go to a restaurant and when you get there the menu says if over 6 or more tip is on the check and you don’t agree with this then don’t eat there . in america tipping is expected if you don’t like to tip or you don’t have the money to THEN EAT AT HOME!!!!

    • coren says:

      @dkmurphys88: While I do agree in principle, many places that have such policies also have significant wait times – I’ve already driven 10-20 minutes to get to the place and waited at least that long to be seated…I’m not saying this causes me to have no choice but to eat there, but at the same time it hardly makes it convenient to up and leave either.

    • Difdi says:

      @dkmurphys88: Go look up the definition of gratuity in the dictionary (or dictionary site) of your choice. A tip is indeed expected, but it is never demanded. On the other side of the matter, the customer also expects good service. If the service is bad (or nonexistent) then the tip should match.

      If the server can’t provide even adequate, let alone good, service to a large party, then the restaurant needs to either fire that server, or assign a different server who can do their job. Anything else is arguably theft on the part of the restaurant, for charging for something they never provided.

  55. Caveat says:

    The merit of the arrest rests on the line “18 percent gratuity added to check of parties of 6 of more” which shows up on the menu and on the receipt. First, there is no indication that the accused saw or read the line on the menu. As far as the receipt, that is presented after the fact of ordering and consuption and has no legal basis.

    A gratuity is defined as “an award (as for meritorious service) given without claim or obligation”. Therefore the students were under no obligation to pay it.

    Also the statement says that the 18% will be added to the check but it say NOTHING about it being mandatory to pay it. They could have just as well added free dessert or whatever.

    A complaint should be filed against the police for false arrest. This is clearly a civil issue, not a criminal one. If the DA does not drop the case before the trial date, the Obama’s comment in Penn. about “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them ” rings true.

  56. billy says:

    I’m not sure where people are getting the idea that this couldn’t possibly be a criminal matter. It certainly is.

    Pennsylvania Code

    § 3926. Theft of services.
    (a) Acquisition of services.–
    (4) Where compensation for service is ordinarily paid immediately upon the rendering of such service, as in the case of hotels and restaurants, refusal to pay or absconding without payment or offer to pay gives rise to a presumption that the service was obtained by deception as to intention to pay.

    (c) Grading.–
    (1) An offense under this section constitutes a summary offense when the value of the services obtained or diverted is less than $50.

    Note: this doesn’t get to the actual merits of the case. But it’s not like this situation wasn’t contemplated by the legislature as being a criminal offense.

    • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

      The law you cited pertains only to the provision of food and lodging. Gratuity is a separate voluntary payment not covered by this. Even if it is “policy” to add it to the bill, it is not legally binding. This case will never make it to court, and if the kids are smart, they will lawyer up and sue the establishment for their trouble and humiliation.@billy:

      • billy says:

        @maltboy1: >>>The law you cited pertains only to the provision of food and lodging.

        That’s why this ordinance applies.

        And, like I said before, I’m assuming that the judge wouldn’t buy a bs argument like “even though it says the gratuity will be added, you don’t have to pay it.”

        Where are you getting your info about this policy not being legally binding? It’s part of the cost of service that the parties agreed to when they sat down at the restaurant.

  57. stlbud says:

    The whole reason restaurants have mandatory tipping is because they refuse to pay their servers for the work they do. They fully expect you to subsidize their payroll.

    Bill B.

  58. Archangelo says:


    And IRS audit.

    The “added” gratuity on large parties is a “service fee” and is reportable as income to the establishment. The IRS should descend on these fiends like a pack of wolves and audit them and all of their employees for the past five years. That will teach those morons.

    The students should also sue the police and the town for false arrest. It is clearly a private contract (civil) matter rather than theft of services (criminal), and the evidence of this is the fact that the proprietor offered to negotiate the fees when the customers expressed dissatisfaction. It may be a present sale under the UCC, but even that can be rescinded (abrogated) by the conduct of the parties. The police violated clearly established Constitutional principles (the right to form a private contract) and will be liable in tort when this heads to court. I’m willing to bet that corporation counsel had a freakin’ coronary when he heard what happened the next day.

    With a smart lawyer, the students will go into the restaurant business on the former site of the Lehigh Pub.

  59. maruawe42 says:

    Excuse me, but I thought the term gratuity meant ” in gratitude’ . Also this is not part of a restaurant bill legally . When eating out (my family and I) we pay a tip or gratuity for good service from the staff , if the service is not good the gratuity is proportionate to the service given. In some cases I have failed to leave a tip or all . Service is service not an excuse for the restaurant to charge more for your patronage …………….

  60. dkmurphys88 says:

    the one thing that bugs me if you have every worked in resturant and had to handle complaints when someone says they waited for over an hour its usually not the case . its usally only an hour also i agree with some of the people on here they should had talked with manager.

  61. That's Consumer007 to you says:

    I contacted the local ACLU on the diner’s behalf. They said if the diners contact them, they will represent them in a lawsuit against the police and the diner and getting charges dropped. Contact info:

  62. sufreak says:

    I agree with you. But it is also motivation to do a good job. I’ve been a waiter, and I’ve seen bad service. I give no less than 20% when the service is mediocre…I leave 10% for bad service.

    But theft? I don’t think.

    Also..FYI…when gratuity is added for a party 6/8 or more, it is not required. It is a suggestion. If the service was poor, speak to the manager and inform them. Just another thing I learned while working as a waiter. (It was someone else, not me, I can proudly say.)

  63. andre_nickatina says:

    The (18%!) tip was added to the bill. They didn’t pay the full bill, just the food. That’s why the restaurant called the cops.

  64. jgan says:

    I sure hope they go out of business, that will teach the others a lesson.

  65. turtlebax says:

    This is an example of how our use of language has been distorted. A tip is no longer a voluntrary payment, it is now mandetory. Warrenty? It’s not really a promise to stand by your product or service, it’s …it’s… we’ll have to get back to you; maybe.

  66. tizeye says:

    There is a reason you pay after the meal. I understand that by ordering the food you are entering in a contract, but if the service is less than expected or plain unacceptable, the amount of gratuity should be negotiable.

    What these kids did wrong was walk out instead of bringing the bill to the manager and disputing the gratuity expected (but I believe not legally required).

    I waited tables for 6 years in my teens and 20s. If you are good, you make a lot more money than most jobs that don’t require a college degree (plus free or discounted food, heck yeah). If you are a bad server, you get bad tips. Sometimes you just get bad customers who think that tipping is their chance to prove their rights and won’t tip over 10%, if at all. It stinks but you don’t go chasing anyone down for it. What percent tip would have been acceptable in this case? Why is a party of 6 held to higher tip standards than any other patron?

  67. atlibertytosay says:

    I have a hunch that this would be a perfect case to handle on People’s Court or Judge Judy

  68. respectthet says:

    This is a tough call.

    I can say, as a former server, that Automatic Gratuity has saved me quite a few times. When you’re taking care of a large party, especially if it takes up your entire section, it can become exceptionally challenging to keep up with all of the requests.

    Automatic Gratuity is designed to protect the server, whose livelihood is based almost exclusively on tips, from being screwed. It’s like insurance against the fact that you have all of your eggs in one basket. If you run your ass off for a table of 12, which takes up your whole section, give good service and they leave you $5 on a $400 bill, is that fair?

    That said, I’ve never heard of automatic gratuity on a table of less than 8 people, and I’ve certainly never heard of a situation where a table has objected to auto gratuity and not gotten it taken off.

    There has to be more to this story. Either the server wasn’t as terrible as claimed, the server was friends with one of the managers who went to bat for her, or there’s some kind of history here.

    In sum, Automatic Gratuity is an invaluable protection for good servers against bad patrons. But they have to earn it. It shouldn’t be an entitlement.

  69. MissUnderstood says:

    I can’t believe all the stingy people on here. Restaurant workers are paid less than minimum and then taxed on estimated tips. Without tips they make almost nothing. The tips ARE their pay. If I don’t like the service in a store I don’t shop there again, but the salespeople still get paid. If you stay an eat you have already gotten service. Just pay and never go back. Jeez, you all sound like nightmare customers, makes me wonder if it’s really the waiters that are the problem.

  70. imagaymer says:

    I would have left her a tip on the napkin. I would have written “don’t stare directly into the sun”.

  71. CompyPaq says:

    @Oranges w/ Cheese has 2 cats! ahahaha.: I always see this too and also just cross out the line. I think its just how the restaurant Point-Of-Sale systems are set up and they would be surprised if you tipped for pick-up.

  72. whylime says:

    @Oranges w/ Cheese has 2 cats! ahahaha.: Sometimes I leave a $1 tip for to-go orders. I know you don’t really get full-service when you order take-out, but someone does have to take the time to pack the meal, include things like utensils and sauce and bread and stuff. I don’t feel obligated though, and I don’t think it’s standard practice. It usually depends on my mood, or how the people at the restaurant treat me while I’m waiting. Sometimes the waitresses are really nice, and get me water while I wait, etc.

  73. Ananelle says:

    @Oranges w/ Cheese has 2 cats! ahahaha.: I work as a host doing just takeout some nights and we do curbside take out. While our POS system does automatically print the same receipts for table checks and to-go checks, I usually get a tip on curbside takeout because I bring them everything and wait on them hand and foot as if they were at a table. ie: when it was sweltering hot, I asked if they’d like me to put some ice water in a cup to go while they went shopping (I work right next to a shopping complex) etc etc…

    So, no. I wouldn’t expect you to tip every time. It’s just about service, plain and simple.

  74. mrgrigson says:

    @Oranges w/ Cheese has 2 cats! ahahaha.: I wondered about this for a while until I saw a comment from Waiter Rant. Since then, if it’s a place that usually does sitdown service, I’ll throw in 10%. I usually do 15-20% for sitdown service, but I’ll go as high as 30-40% if it’s breakfast (given how cheap the meals are to begin with, and if they check the level of my coffee cup at least twice over the meal).

  75. SteveBMD says:


    When my grandmother receives bad service, she calls over the manager and explains to him why she’s not leaving a tip.

    And then she tells the kids to get off her lawn!

  76. Scatter says:


    Your dad pays a dollar to complain about bad service?

  77. Zeratul010 says:

    @gmxperry: I’m still learning contract law, so my analysis may not be dead on. As I see it, the offer is made to the patrons when they order – they get to eat X food in exchange for paying Y price listed. They accept the restaurant’s offer by placing their order. The restaurant then performs their side of the contract by supplying the food. The patrons are then obligated to uphold their end of the contract, and pay for the meal.

    A counter-offer in this case would’ve been “Hey, this item is a bit expensive – can I pay two dollars under Y?” If the restaurant made it clear that a party over 6 would have to pay a mandatory tip, that was part of the restaurant’s initial offer. The language on the notices may get the restaurant into trouble there – “18 percent gratuity added to check of parties of 6 of more” isn’t specific as to whether said gratuity is mandatory.

    (Caveats: I don’t know Pennsylvania statutes or case law. They may have had cases already that put this matter to rest. They may not have, however, which would be cool for the lawyer who gets the case. Also, if the students were arrested, that’s a criminal matter – haven’t gotten to study that yet, but different criminal statutes may change what was required of the students.)

  78. That's Consumer007 to you says:

    @gmxperry: @gmxperry: @Oranges w/ Cheese has 2 cats! ahahaha.: No cashier deserves a tip as a routine course of things. Accepting payment for food is not a “service”. And they should be friendly to you anyway.

    If it’s a buffet place, if they are just handling plates and your drinks, yes tip is warranted, but only maybe about 5% at the most.

  79. Michael Belisle says:

    @gmxperry: As defined in the OAD, a “tip” is not strictly optional, thought probably implied by “reward”:

    tip n. a sum of money given to someone as a reward for their services.

    But it didn’t say tip. It said mandatory “gratuity”, which has no implication that requires it to be optional:

    gra•tu•i•ty n. money given in return for some service or favor

    So I see nothing wrong here with the usage of “mandatory gratuity”. It is money required to be paid as a condition of receiving service for 6 or more.

  80. t0ph says:

    @Kimaroo – Fortified with Kittydus Purrularis: My girlfriend working in a place that does .20 and .10 wings on some night. They had to set restrictions such as you have to order at least $2 worth of wings and order a minimum of $4 of drinks (which is 2 sodas or 1 beer). And there is a 20% gratuity added to all checks, and it says so on the menu.

    Before that, they had people ordering $2 of wings, drinking water and not tipping. Because people don’t realize that it is a business, instead they think it is a system to game and the people working there are all slaves.

  81. BCMHGB says:

    @Kimaroo – Fortified with Kittydus Purrularis: Pay decient wages for service staff? HA! Sure we as an industry will do that so you do not have to tip..oh that $20 steak you like just turned into a $60 steak. That $8 burger became $25. Need I go on?

    Americans want cheap food. The system that exists works. Forced gratuity should only be used for private parties/catering events. Not for a “group of 6 or more.” It is horseshit to FORCE people to pay for bad service.

    Oh and do not tip poorly because the food was crappy. Did your server actually prepare the dish? No? Ok, tip accordingly. Don’t be a dick.

  82. Alessar says:

    @Kimaroo – Fortified with Kittydus Purrularis: In this particular case it was the mandatory tip for having a certain size party. I understand this is to protect the waitstaff (and did you know many places deduct the credit card processing fee from the waitstaff’s tips?!) but on the downside it means they don’t really have to *work* their money is guaranteed.

    What they should have done is called over the manager about the reprehensible service they got and demanded a reduced charge (some free drinks etc) on the bill. Or, a different waitstaff person. When they went to the bar and personally got refills though, red flags should have gone up all over that place.

  83. Dyscord says:

    @Kimaroo – Fortified with Kittydus Purrularis: Some of my friends feel that it’s mandatory for a tip if the service is good. Sometimes if it’s busy they feel the need to tip. I know waiters/waitresses have low wages, but if the service is crappy, you’re not getting a tip. Plain and simple.

  84. flavious27 says:

    @Kimaroo – Fortified with Kittydus Purrularis: it deals with restaurants then paying a server a full salary not $2 or $3 an hour. for wait staff and patrons, this system works because you are paying someone to treat you right. the cost to the consumer will be the same if wait staff is paid like $10 an hour because the restaurant will just increase prices to cover the added salary expense. wait staff for the most part gets a good deal because 1) they only pay taxes on the money they report 2) your good regulars will pay you better than a set rate.

  85. thisistobehelpful says:

    @Oranges w/ Cheese has 2 cats! ahahaha.: Uh… not in England I guess? Same way we didn’t tip bartenders but you could buy them drinks if you thought they were exceptional.

  86. tjrchicago says:

    @Michael Belisle:

    I think you are correct, but that isn’t exactly what happened. They offered (counter-offered in legalese) to pay the check without the gratuity. That offer was accepted by the restaurant. Then they called the cops.

  87. ludwigk says:

    @t0ph: I disagree completely. $.20, and $.10 wings are definitely a system to game, and that ordering what you want, and maximizing your utility per dollar are a customer’s right, and the definition of rational behavior.

    When you say “people don’t realize that it is a business,” you should include that the *business itself* doesn’t realize that it is a business. If they can’t make money by having $.20 wings, then they shouldn’t do it. If they are trying to motivate a particular result, they need to accept that they are not always going to get it, or they need to change the nature of the bargain. Sounds like they wised up, but any ‘abuse’ they suffered before that is simply their own fault. They may not like me buying just $2 of wings, but if the bargain is “$.2 wings,” and 10 wings is precisely what I want, why would I order anything else?

    If the low ticket values screws over tipped employees, again, that is *the business* screwing over the employees, not the customer. Customers are not obligated to buy stuff they don’t want to maintain an average dollar sale that the wait staff expects. That is not the customer’s problem.

    If drinks are required, that’s a drink minimum. If gratuity is added to all checks, it’s not gratuity, its a fee. If that’s working now, if that is the bargain that they wanted, that’s what it should have been from the beginning, not the problematic 10 cent wings that are imminently abusable, for which they only have themselves to blame.

  88. mattarse says:


    I’m sorry but if the only stated rule is that wings are 20 cents you’re not gaming the system by ordering the wings at 20 cents – you’re getting exactly what is being advertised.
    Same goes for the system now where they say you must order dirnks and pay a gratuity – you are doing exactly what is being asked to get the 20 cent wings.

  89. the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

    @t0ph: Offering 10 and 20 cent wings is a ploy to bring in customers on slow nights in the hopes that they purchase more. If you’re not willing to risk that someone is going to drink only water and only purchase a handful of wings, you shouldn’t offer the discounted wings. When you start adding restrictions and requirements on the discounted purchase, it gets awfully close to false advertising in my mind. It’s the same with a mandatory tip. That’s not the price advertised. It’s plain bait and switch. I have no problem with charging mandatory tips on large groups (of 10 or more), but then you better have mandatory excellent service from your staff as well.

  90. SkuldChan says:

    @t0ph: I really have to ask – why not sell these “wings” for the proper amount?

  91. bravohotel01 says:

    @t0ph: Um, if the restaurant can’t figure out how to price their loss-leader food so they actually make a profit, then it is up to them to either:

    a) Figure out how to get people to buy the usual ‘overpriced’ items once the loss-leaders get them in the door, or

    b) Eliminate the loss-leaders and chalk the whole thing up to “setting prices is haaaaaarrrd”

    c) Making up some ridiculous rules like the customers have to order at least 10 wings and two sodas, even if they don’t want that many.

    Since they picked “c”, that will work until they get a competitor that knows how to do “a” and puts them out of business.

  92. Difdi says:

    @UGAdawg: When I get appallingly bad service, I tip two cents, for the symbolic value.

  93. DangerMouth says:

    @Difdi: Income tax *is* paid on tips by the people who actually see the money- wait-bus-bar staff and the host(ess). And yes, the lousy tip generally gets split between that many people.

    The biz itself doesn’t get that money, why should they pay tax on it? It would be different if a service charge was added to the bill and the FOH staff was paid a decent wage, but that it not currently the case in the US.

  94. Eric Jay says:

    @whylime: Yes, this. I’ve waited tables at places where we didn’t have staff assigned to take out. Whichever server was in the kitchen when the order was up would take care of the packing, ringing-up, etc. It was a nice bit of lagniappe when someone added a dollar or two, especially if I went out of my way to accommodate a special request… but it certainly wasn’t something I expected or felt was necessary.

  95. mralmostpopular says:

    @H3ion: See, here’s the problem with calling it a gratuity: the definition of gratuity is (as defined by Websters) “something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service”. In other words, they are not obliged to pay it. Since this is not only the official definition, but how we socially understand it, when it’s put in writing, then it’s generally legally binding. The restaurant may as well have put “completely optional fee”. The problem with putting things in writing is that if you don’t fully understand what you’re putting down on paper (menu, receipt, etc), you can end up screwing yourself over. This is exactly what the restaurant did when they called it a “gratuity” as opposed to a “service fee”. I have a feeling this will not stand up in court, unless the guys don’t even try to defend themselves. Simply being arrested doesn’t mean much, since police officers generally have a fairly limited understanding of what’s legal and what’s not legal. That’s why you have prosecutors.

  96. Scoobatz says:

    @H3ion: First of all, when did 18% of $73 become $16.35, as indicated in the original story? But, I digress.

    I really hope these kids win their day in court and set precedence for the rest of the industry. Of course, I’m sure we’ll never hear the outcome of this case.

  97. Michael Belisle says:

    @Difdi: According to any dictionary, the phrase mandatory gratuity is an oxymoron.

    Not according to the Oxford American Dictionary that I consulted in the post you’re responding to, so obviously this statement is false.

    Is the restaurant paying taxes on the bill, or are they committing tax evasion on a portion of it?

    Neither. Tips and reasonable mandatory charges are not included in sales receipts and aren’t subject to sales tax, as long as they are properly documented and the entire amount is dispersed to the employees who provided the service.

    They are, however, considered income. Hence the employee who receives the disbursement should be paying individual income tax on the earnings.

  98. MamaBug says:

    @Eric Jay: exactly. I think that many people do not grasp the 2.13/hr, and that tips = sole income, check = taxes. a service charge is the more appropriate term for auto-grat.

  99. El_Fez says:

    @self-check: Yeah, but who brings along a buck in pennies? Unless you anticipate trouble or something. . . .

  100. petermv says:

    @BCMHGB: I always find it amazing when someone mentions that eliminating the tipping system will make everything hideously expensive, how does that work? Over here in the UK we do not find that to be the case and we pay servers at least the minimum wage and we still have £20 steaks and £8 burgers. Oh, yeah, we also have full health care and it is provided by the state through our taxes.

  101. Covertghost says:

    @BCMHGB: Adding gratuity on the check doesn’t magically triple the cost of your food.

    If gratuity is optional (which it is if it isn’t on the check) this arrest was unlawful.

  102. David in Brasil says:

    @BCMHGB: Are tips not pooled in the US, to be shared by kitchen and waitstaff together? Here in Brasil, they are. And 10% service charge is added to every bill. When I’m in the US for business, I sometimes forget to leave a tip because it’s done automatically at home.

  103. SonicPhoenix says:

    @BCMHGB: Maybe the $20 steak would turn into a $60 steak if bistromathics were involved. But if wages were kept at their current level for waitstaff and tipping was eliminated, the math would seem to suggest that the cost of the iems would rise by the average tipping percentage. So the $20 steak should, in thoery, become a $23-$25 steak.

  104. DoctorMD says:

    @BCMHGB: A great steak already costs $60

  105. seanpenn says:

    OK, that place calls for a 18% “mandatory” tip.
    Let’s call it a 20% service charge.
    Add that to the $20 steak, it becomes $24. How can your steak now be $60 if servers are being paid a decent wage?
    Are you saying that after tips a waiter would make $4 whereas if he were working for a real wage (as oppose to tips) he would make $40?!

  106. drizzt380 says:

    @Difdi: I think this place is on a road to fail. Had it said a service fee is added for parties of 6 or more, they would probably have a leg to stand on. But mandatory gratuity? I believe there have been several court cases which have found in favor of the customer on this one.

  107. soloudinhere says:

    @coren: I’m glad someone else noticed that…the amount they were reportedly charged was MORE than the mandatory gratuity. It sounds like their waiter/waitress was pretty sleazy.

  108. JulesNoctambule says:

    @coren: Thank you! I was wondering why no one else seemed to have noticed that.

  109. davere says:

    @DangerMouth: I’ve gone through the experience of receiving bad/non-existant service and then not tipping and adding “NO SERVICE, NO TIP” on the receipt without notifying a manager until I exited. Not because I dislike confrontation (I have no issue with that) but because the last thing I need is something nasty done to my food if I was to complain.

  110. Hobz says:

    @RvLeshrac: Most people don’t seem to comprehend that food is rather cheap for restaurants to buy. My grandmother and grandfather have owned restaurants for the past 30 years. Purchasing bulk food from suppliers is 10 times cheaper than what you purchase in the grocery store with equal or greater quality. A dish that they sell for $12.00 may only cost them $3.00 in actually materials. Tack on another $3 to $4 for labor and lights and the owner walks away with $5 to 6$ profit on just the food alone. Drinks are a whole other story and even more profit for some.

    The other day I took my wife and family to the Melting Pot for her birthday. The bill at the end of the night came out to be $225 after a $25 coupon for a free desert. My party consisted of only 5 people, 2 of which were children. They charged me a 20% gratuity for that visit. Now, granted we were there for 2 hours, only because of the way their restaurant experience is setup. Meals come in courses and it takes a while for the customer to go through the courses. None the less, that waitress made $20 an hour on our table and because the restaurant is fondue, we cooked our own food (again part of the experience).

    Give me a break…

  111. Mecharine says:

    @RvLeshrac: Of course, how would you deal with terrible service? This is the case here, that the service was terrible . Are you saying that no matter the level of service, the tip should be paid?

  112. jc364 says:

    @RvLeshrac: “Why should the waiter bother coming by to check on your drinks if they aren’t getting paid based on performance?”

    If waiters/waitresses are crappy at their job, they would get fired. Just like any other job.

    We ALL get paid based on performance.

  113. Techguy1138 says:

    When I was in Japan. Food was cheap and plentiful the wait staff, bell hop, etc were all super helpful. There was no tipping there.

    You are just full of crap. Same argument as to why execs NEED their uber bonuses. Pay a fair wage, give a bonus (tip) when appropriate and business will still exist.

  114. bdgbill says:

    @RvLeshrac: What are you smoking? “Why should the waiter bother coming by to check on your drinks if they aren’t getting paid based on performance? “

    Ummm.. Maybe for the same reason I do my job ..BECAUSE ITS YOUR JOB.

    If I have to eat a meal with nothing to drink, not only may I stiff you on the tip but I will never come back and will likely tell everyone I know about the crappy experience i had at your restaurant.

    I get decent customer service from lots of businesses without paying for it separately in cash.

    Waiters and waitresses all seem to think there is some great art in taking an order, accurately communicating that order to the kitchen and carrying the order back to the table.

    The whole idea of tipping has been perverted out of all reason by the industry. One of the biggest problems is tip sharing, where all tips are combined and doled out equally to all the servers. This undermines the entire idea of tipping for good service.

  115. macruadhi says:

    @RvLeshrac: I disagree with you, McDonalds restauants do quite well, and they pay at least minimum wage! I realise the food is not the same quality as that found in “sit down” restaurants, but when you consider that the “biscuit makers” make in excess of $2 over minimum wage, and several products they sell are less than $2 each and they are profitable, yet fancier places couldn’t?

    Why should a waiter/waitress check on you? IT’S THEIR JOB! The tip is meant to be a layer of icing on the cake that is their wages. Don’t give me personalised service?, don’t get the tip.

    Time limits on how long I can stay there? Then my shadow shall not darken your door, nor will the shadows of all the people I have persuaded to boycott your business. Would you rather loose a few bucks due to slow turnover?, or loose hundreds of dollars because you don’t know how to treat a customer?

    And lastly, given how I’ve been treated at these places, I’d much rather they be self serve. At least then I would something that resembles proper service.

  116. Tabe says:

    Well, here in Washington, wait staff start at $8 an hour and still get tips. And yet restaurants haven’t all magically gone out of business. And steaks don’t cost $60.

    The idea that food would suddenly become ridiculously expensive is nonsense.

  117. Hobz says:

    @soloudinhere: I got an idea, why don’t all restaurants raise their prices 15% and pay their employees a decent wage? Why?

  118. LastAndLeast says:

    @madtube: It seems odd to me that a dog groomer would get a tip at all…

  119. Toffeecake says:

    @katia802: The article doesn’t say that they complained to the manager. Personally, that probably would have been a much better idea, since they could let the manager know about their terrible service, and they might have gotten the gratuity taken off the bill or better. That’s assuming the manager cares about the customers, of course.

    I’ve gotten a couple waitresses fired before, oddly enough, from the same restaurant. The first time, I was breastfeeding my baby in the bathroom. One of the servers walked in, used the facilities, and walked out without washing her hands. The second time, I think my family just drove the server crazy.

  120. plim says:

    @katia802: and that right there is a “breach of contract” by the restaurant. you can’t charge me for a contract if I have to go fill my own drinks.

  121. NatalieErin says:

    @Mecharine: You deal with it the way you deal with poor service from retail establishments, telcos, etc – you complain to management and, if necessary, take your business elsewhere. There’s no shortage of restaurants and bars, ferchrissakes.

    The argument that getting rid of tipping will somehow make dining out service free holds no water with me. My former-chef boyfriend and I spent a summer living in Ireland and visited other countries while we were in the vicinity. There was just as much variation in service as you see in the states. At least there we knew that the price we were paying on the menu was close to the actual price of the meal.

  122. Anathema777 says:

    “The issue here was that the restaurant assessed a mandatory 18% service charge because they had 6 people. If they decided not to pay it, it should have been left at that.”

    Yes. It should have been “left at that.” It wasn’t. That’s why people are upset.

    Enlighten us. What do you think “really” happened?

  123. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    @jamar0303: I agree, this was not the case in Australia either (The only other country I have experience with)

    The food seemed reasonably priced and the service was friendly.

  124. t0ph says:

    @Persistence: “If you’re not willing to risk that someone is going to drink only water and only purchase a handful of wings, you shouldn’t offer the discounted wings.”
    I is a private business and they can risk or hedge their bets any whic way they want.

    “When you start adding restrictions and requirements on the discounted purchase, it gets awfully close to false advertising in my mind.”
    Everyone that walks thru that door knows before hand about the restrictions, it is written on all advertisements. No false advertising.

    Give me a break.

  125. ludwigk says:

    @Powerlurker: I know, but even after reading the article, I was struggling to find *any reason* for the restaurant to have any recourse at all. *Other people* don’t know that you don’t call the cops for a contract dispute, and that could, in this case, include the cops.

  126. The Cynical Librarian says:

    @petermv: I’m with this guy. Seriously. The only reason the scenario that’s been put forth by Rvleshrac would ever really happen is because of greed on the part of owners seeing an easy way to make a quick buck.
    Yes, strike fear with the idea that MILLIONS would be homeless and jobless. Obviously, as stated above, this is how it happens in another part of the world….like the U.K.?

  127. t0ph says:

    @ludwigk: What a crazy, cheap-ass nerdy response. Like I said below, it has been this way for years and it works. The only people who complain are the people like you, who probably have NO loyalty to any particular restaurant or business, who just go for the cheapest price for everything.

    I don’t know where you live, but where I live, we make damn sure to tip the people working at bars and restaurants because we fucking know that that’s where their wage is coming from, instead of not tipping and taking out our frustrations on the industry on them.

    And businesses do not DESERVE abuse, because their promotions were not well though out or due to printing errors etc. Ok, so lets call it what it is:
    a drink minimum (which is what I called it in my post)
    A Service charge( fine you are getting service by the waitress, and it is automatically charged).
    What are you gonna do about it? Not come in? DONT. Do us all a favor.

    I know that was poorly written, I just woke up.

  128. waltja26 says:


    well said ludwigk. Sightly off-topic but might I add that if the servers do not like the decisions the business is making, they are free to be a server for another business. This is the nature of at-will employment.

  129. bhr says:

    @Difdi: That is not at all true. Not one word of it. And they can probably bill you the cost of the menu that you intentionally destroyed.

  130. windycity says:

    @Michael Belisle: The restaurant is calling it “mandatory”, but the menu says something different:

    ~The menu clearly states, “18 percent gratuity added to check of parties of 6 of more,” and a similar message is printed on receipts, a pub employee said this morning.~

    To my way of thinking, that makes it a gratuity, which I am not mandated to pay.

  131. DangerMouth says:

    @drizzt380: Illegal for the tips to be split with management, but legal, normal practice to be split among Front of House staff.

  132. sqlrob says:

    @gmxperry: It’s not mandatory. Comments in one of the articles refer to precedent in New York State over the same type of thing.

  133. drjayphd says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: No, the worst would be at Coldstone. They sing when they get tipped, showing that there’s some expectation of it. That’s worse than throwing a cup out there and seeing who puts money in.

  134. Cheapskate Brill says:

    I’d submit for a chargeback with the credit card company.

  135. DangerMouth says:

    @The Porkchop Express: ah, gotcha.

  136. drizzt380 says:

    Your right, has one section that says tipped employees must retain all tips. But more digging into weird pages does bring up [] which has a true explanation.

    Of course, it does still say that only tips that don’t count toward the tip credit can be pooled.

  137. t0ph says:

    @SkuldChan: They do, except for during Sundays, Mondays & weds. packsd the bar and keeps people drinking.

  138. amuro98 says:

    @Oranges w/ Cheese has 2 cats! ahahaha.: Well, a lot of places will tack on an automatic gratuity of 18% for large groups.

    The question is…are you required to pay this automatic gratuity?

    I can’t see this standing up in court, and frankly I hope the students at least take the restaurant to small claims court to recover the time and money they’re going to spend defending themselves from a baseless case.

    However will this now mean that restaurants will simply change the wording from “automatic gratuity” to “required fee” or something similar? Is it still fair to charge someone 18% more simply because they’re part of a large group?

  139. YardanCabaret says:

    @Scoobatz: I wondered that as well. Not only did they get arrested for not paying a voluntary payment they were charged 4% more than they should’ve been. I think all the 6+ groups that have eaten there over it’s entire operational life should sue the place for those 4% that they’ve been stealing.

  140. billy says:

    I don’t see a problem the way this is worded. They list a service for a price. If you don’t want that service, don’t eat at that restaurant. If you take the service, pay the price. If service wasn’t rendered (as they seem to argue here) negotiate it out with the manager (this would be the same situation as if you ordered a sandwich and didn’t get what you ordered). The article doesn’t mention if any attempt at renegotiation was ever attempted. If you don’t get satisfaction, the extreme remedy would be court.

    All of the above argument is contracts 101. Most likely, though, you would just report it to the news and never eat there again (which is what happened here).

    As a strictly legal matter, I don’t think that dictionary definition is enough to sway anybody. If I remember my contracts class correctly, common sense and industry standards should be considered as well.

  141. j-mo says:

    @DangerMouth: The business still has to pay payroll taxes on the tips the employees receive.

  142. richtergasse says:

    @DangerMouth: But it’s not a *tip*. It is a mandatory service fee the restaurant is charging.

  143. kexline says:

    @t0ph: I waited tables at a crappy home-cookin’ restaurant as a kid. If you drew a sleepy afternoon shift in that kind of environment and managed to lose a $20 bill sometime during the shift, it was entirely possible to make good tips all afternoon and still wind up paying for the privilege of working there. Madness.

    And that was back when $2.13/hour was half of minimum wage! Now it’s not even that, it’s just an arbitrary number of pennies you get so that they can keep track of you in the HR system.

  144. Difdi says:

    @amuro98: A fee, if levied by the restaurant (rather than a government agency) is part of the bill, and thus, subject to restaurant or sales tax (depending on the exact local laws).

  145. ScarletJew72 says:

    @amuro98: Mr. amuro, you have obviously never worked as a server and never had the experience of receiving a horrible tip after working your ass off to give the party great service. Bigger parties require a greater amount of work, especially if you have a nearly or completely full section.

    More people = More time
    More time = Less time allotted per person
    Less time allotted per person = A very busy server

    Gratuity is added so the party cannot cheap out and the server gets the tip they deserve (so as long as they give good service). And if gratuity is added on a check, the party is required to pay. And if they do not pay the gratuity, they can be charged. Automatic gratuity does mean required fee and there generally is no confusion concerning the meaning.

    So yes, it is completely fair to charge someone 18% more simply because they’re part of a large group. Also, keep in mind a server deserving of a 20% or more tip could get screwed by gratuity by way of the party simply paying the gratuity that is required and no more.

  146. Difdi says:

    @Hobz: Because restaurant bills are taxed (restaurant tax, sales tax, etc, depending on local laws) and tips are not.

  147. billy says:

    @Difdi: When the elements of breach of contract (a civil matter) also happen to be the elements of a theft of services, it turns into a criminal matter.

    Lots of events can trigger civil and criminal matters.

  148. billy says:

    @mralmostpopular: >>>Since this is not only the official definition, but how we socially understand it, when it’s put in writing, then it’s generally legally binding.

    I completely disagree. “gratuity” by itself might mean what you mean, but we socially understand that “18 percent gratuity added to check of parties of 6 of more” means that 18% of your bill will be added if you’re in a party of 6 or more. If it meant “gratuity” the way you think about it, there would be no reason to explain it in the restaurant’s terms. They might as well just apply the gratuity to any number. After all, if it’s just optional in any situation, why print it there?

    Besides, industry definitions and common sense (see above) factor in as much as any dictionary definition does: you can’t just ignore those factors. A judge shouldn’t either.

  149. Ananelle says:

    @NatalieErin: Something along the lines of they’re not giving us fair wage if we don’t make the actual state minimum. We’re not really allowed to go into overtime either, I don’t know any corporate serving job that allows you to, actually. You are allowed to once a month, and if it happens again, fired.

    There’s a lotta shit people don’t know about the service industry, which is why I get so passionate during these “waitress/tips/suckage” articles.

  150. H3ion says:

    @billy: It’s a reach, but I would argue that the menu constituted an ad or even a contract between the restaurant and the patron. The prices in the menu are binding on both. If the gratuity is couched as a gratuity, the definition of which is a voluntary not a mandatory payment, then there is no obligation to pay it and if the restaurant jacks up its prices by 18%, I would argue that’s a false ad, or a breach of contract. Either way, it’s a reach but filing a criminal complaint for failure to pay a tip is even a greater reach IMHO. Cops don’t know the law and there could easily have been an anti-student bias at work here.

    On the other point, the menus, at least in a lot of the restaurants I’ve eaten in, have something on the menu indicating that a gratuity will be added for groups of X or more. First of all, that screws the waiter who would normally receive a 20% or greater tip. Second, it is clear that it is being calculated for convenience (whose I’m not sure) and is still a gratuity, not a mandatory service charge as is typical in Europe.

  151. billy says:

    @H3ion: I completely agree that this should (or could) be viewed as a contract.

    The question is, “what does that line mean?” I understand that you believe that “gratuity” means “no obligation” but there’s just no way to interpret it that way in the context of what’s on the menu. It’s common sense that it means that “if you and 5 or more of your friends are eating here, we’re tacking on a mandatory charge.” Again, if it didn’t mean that, why did the restaurant feel the need to put it there?

    It’s not a false ad: they told the customers that they were adding the charge and they did it.

    It might be a breach of contract. But before I get into that, it can only be a breach of contract if we understand the contract to be “in exchange for food and service, you will be charged an 18% fee for service on top of your food charge.” This is an entirely different argument than what you said before: that any mention of the word “gratuity” simply means that it’s optional. In order for it to be a breach, it can’t be optional.

    The breach happens when the restaurant doesn’t fulfill their end of the bargain: service. Technically, only a court can determine if there was breach. The students shouldn’t have just left without paying what they’ve agreed to pay by staying there, ordering, and eating.

    >>>it’s a reach but filing a criminal complaint for failure to pay a tip is even a greater reach IMHO.

    These facts seem to fit a theft of service charge. Calling the cops is a bit overboard, but it’s certainly available to a restaurant when something like this happens.

    >>>Cops don’t know the law

    You’re telling me that a cop doesn’t know what theft of service is? For that matter, you’re telling me that there is no such charge that’s applicable here?

    >>>there could easily have been an anti-student bias at work here.

    Or not. Where are you getting this from?

  152. windycity says:

    @billy: To make people believe it is an obligation or requirement so that they then pay an 18% gratuity (or in this case, a 22% gratuity – can’t make the math work with the numbers they give) without question when in fact that gratuity is an option. Also, to ensure that large parties don’t short the server who does give good service. Bottom line – does the restaurant want me to pay it? Yes. Do I have to pay it? No.

    Most people see language like that and assume they have to pay. That is what the restaurant is counting on.

  153. jamar0303 says:

    @t0ph: Apparently because you all but force them to… Where I am I can get wings that cheap without restrictions.

  154. t0ph says:

    @bravohotel01: Please. You act as if I said that fucking .10 wings is their only business. The kill it every night. And no one complains about the restrictions, because customers know it is fair, and we live in NY where things like this are the norm.

  155. Zeidust says:

    @Toffeecake: Cowards. I leave twenty percent on bad service, and tell the server what was wrong. And not “Bad Service” I’ll tell that person anything on my mind. But then again. I tip 25 to 30 so every damn place I eat at I get the best service ever..even when my server is in the weeds.

    And all you customers need to learn how to be good customers. You all are Baby Dicks about everything.

  156. Lynadianya says:

    My fiance is Scottish. Last year (when the dollar was about .50 to the Pound) we went to the UK for his sister’s wedding. The amount of money that we spent on food was mind boggling! It was far and above the most money we spent on the trip.

    Example: Burger King. I need a whopper pick me up (spent an absolute fortune the night before getting buzzed at the hotel bar and I have found the best solution to a scotch hangover to be a big greasy Whopper). I ordered a Jr. Whopper meal with a fries and a coke which came out, I think, to be about 5 pounds. That, at the time, was a $10 fast food burger – something I can get here for less than $4. Now, lets look at lunch. My fiance, his father and I went to a small restaurant in the Borders. Lovely food, great service, $18 worth of coffee!!! Free refills on coffee apparently don’t exist. The coffee was 3 pounds a cup and we each had 3 cups. That was 9 pounds for coffee alone. We had a small appetizer for 8 pounds ($16) and each of our lunches was anywhere between 10 and 15 pounds ($20 to $30). The portions were ample and the service was great (we even received the best performance ever of the Haggis tale from our waitress) but I still think that this meal was ridiculously overpriced. This lunch ended up costing us about $90. And to top it all off, my Fiance’s father still put down a couple of pound coins for tip.

    So, yes, you have your 8 pound burgers, but understand that is at least $12 to us here (now that the dollar has gone up a bit against the pound). Our restaurant food prices are significantly cheaper.