Diners Say They Were Locked Inside Restaurant For Refusing To Pay Automatic Gratuity

It’s a common policy at many restaurants in the U.S. — if you have a party of a certain number or more, say, five or six, gratuity will be automatically added to your bill. But should you be able to refuse to pay that gratuity, if the service wasn’t so great? One group of friends thought so, and ended up locked inside a restaurant until the cops arrived.

Channel 2 News in Houston reports on the story of Jasmine and her friends, who dined out at La Fisherman. According to her, the service was less than stellar for many reasons. The wait staff was rude, they didn’t get drinks refilled and their entire order didn’t arrive.

So when the bill came, Jasmine says they didn’t want to pay that 17% gratuity that had already been added. She asked the manager if they could opt out and add the tip they felt their server deserved.

“We asked her, could the gratuity be removed? Could we give our own tip? She said it was part of their policy and there was nothing she could do about,” she said. “If you’re not satisfied with the service, you shouldn’t have to pay gratuity.”

Since the policy was marked on the menu, the manager said they’d have to pay the gratuity. Jasmine then claims that she and her friends weren’t allowed to leave the restaurant without paying it, and said workers locked the door and called the police.

“She was like, ‘You have an unsettled bill and ya’ll can’t leave until you pay it,'” Jasmine said. “We paid our bill for what we ate, we paid the bill.”

She says when the cops arrived, she asked an officer repeatedly if it’s against the law to not pay the gratuity, and he was unable to give her an answer. Eventually, the group paid the gratuity instead of drawing out the ordeal.

Yes, policies are in place and (usually) clearly stated for a reason. But a policy isn’t a law, and perhaps there could be some leeway when tipping is involved, if there is a valid reason or reasons for a customer to not want to pay the entire automatic gratuity.

*Thanks as always for the great tip, Harper!

Family says restaurant locked them inside over tip refusal [Click2Houston.com]