Tipping point – family locked in restaurant for skimping on mandatory gratuity
May 10th, 2012
11:15 AM ET
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Our sister site HLN reports that a Houston, Texas family claims they were locked inside La Fisherman restaurant after refusing to pay a 17 percent tip on their meal. The restaurant's policy states that the percentage will be automatically added to the tab for parties of five or more.

Customer Jasmine Marks told Click2Houston.com that the staff was rude, the drinks weren't refilled and her group received generally poor service. Marks asked if she could speak to a manager to have the auto-gratuity stripped from the bill, but claims the staff locked the doors and told her that her options were to pay the 17 percent or speak with the police outside.

According to Marks, the police officer who was summoned was unable to give her a straight answer on the legality of the situation. Her party eventually paid the tip in order to avoid any further difficulty.

Automatic tips, or "autograts" as they're sometimes called, are often used by restaurants to ensure that their staff is fairly compensated for the greater amount of effort it takes to tend to larger parties. The server will sometimes have a larger table as their sole focus for the duration of the meal, and won't be making tips from any other tables. This tip, which is generally clearly stated on a menu, or when making a reservation for a larger group, ensures that a server will be compensated for their time and not miss out on earning money for that shift. Often, the tip is shared with other members of the floor staff, like bussers and bartenders.

Having a stated policy in place - usually 18 percent of the pre-tax amount - can eliminate awkwardness and confusion over tipping etiquette, especially if you're dining with business colleagues or people you don't know especially well. On the flip side, patrons sometimes feel they're being tricked into tipping more (especially if the server hasn't pointed out that the gratuity was already included) or discriminated against if the auto-grat isn't always applied. And servers, while they're ensured a base tip, run the risk of earning a lower tip than they would have if diners had been able to decide on the percentage, themselves.

Our tip: always check the restaurant's policy when you're dining with a large group, and be sure to pore over the bill at the end. Weigh in on the auto-grat in the comments below, and we'll share our favorites from both sides of the table in an upcoming post.

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Filed under: Lunchtime Poll • Restaurants • Service • Tipping

soundoff (1,424 Responses)
  1. Name*janet

    I give a good tip 25% usually...but if the service is crap (not the food – they didnt cook it) I've tipped as low as 10% ... to make a point. If I see service is shoddy I usually give the server many chances to improve throughout the meal.

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  9. Richard

    Let me first say that I have never worked as a server, I always leave at least 20% for a tip and I have been leaving that % for many years. That`s because it is well know that this profession is one of the worst paid in America, especially for what they have to put up with. The 20% I leave is what I consider reasonable for eating out and having someone else cook for and serve me. It`s also the same % I leave for picking up at a counter or taking out. The vast majority of the time, these people aren`t the owner and work very hard for the money they do make.

    Did you ever have a bad day, or 30 minutes out of that day. What a pathetic little A-hole of a boss would constantly look over your shoulder and short your pay for the 30 minutes you weren`t up to their expected standards?
    Guess what I do if I consistently don`t get the service I think I deserve? I don`t go back. Pretty simple, eh?

    With that said, it is disgusting to see the excuses that cheap people give for being cheap, because that is all it amounts to. I would say that you cheap people should stay home, but we all know that isn`t going to happen. You will keep on shorting other people, in life. The good thing is that your family and friends already know you`re cheap. No matter how you try, you can`t hide it. The absolute best outcome, for the rest of us, is that you are forever saddled with the sad pathetic little person that is you.

    September 17, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  10. Elena

    Tipping in the US brings out the worst in both the servers and the customers. In theory, tipping is optional, in practice it's not. Customers see tipping as an expression of their gratitude for the service they've received, and thus bristle at the idea of being "forced" to pay a tip. The waiters see tipping not as a courtesy but as a part of their salary (since they get paid less than minimum wage) and bristle at the idea of customers who don't understand this. And while customers and wait staff argue with each other till they are blue in the face, the real culprits for this mess - the restaurant owners who sneakily pass on a large part of their expenses to the customers, while appearing to offer cheaper prices - sit back and reap the benefits. And this will not be resolved until restaurants start paying their staff (waiters, bartenders, delivery people, etc.) fair working wages, raise their menu & delivery prices to reflect that, and thus pass on these expenses to the customers in a way that's clearly not optional. Then there will be room for any additional "gratitude" as a truly voluntary tip (similar to how this works in Europe and many other parts of the world), this time bringing out the best in both the servers and customers.

    So, how do we make this happen? Change the law that allows restaurants to pay less than minimum wage. Waiters and customers: we are all on the same side here! Instead of arguing and insulting each other in message forums, we can work on fixing the root cause of this problem.

    August 2, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  11. alex licht

    I was a bartender and also a server for more than 25 years.
    I worked at various classes of food/beverage venues.... from burger joints to first class luxury yachts, around the world.
    In all of those places I depended on tips to supplement my income
    Here are some points that I experience during my hospitality journey....
    The less expensive the prices on the menu, the cheaper the clientele, the less tip I made.
    The harder the guests ran me around, the smaller the tip.
    That French Canadian church going guests are the worse tippers, followed by the Britts, the French, and the Italians.
    Opps,i forgot the Brazilians,
    The more I smile, than the better the tips.
    That autograts should be automatic for any foreign party, regardless the party size.
    That people in the service industry are better tippers.
    That when the guest was overly nice, the smaller was the tip.
    That the better tips in the US came from patrons from Chicago, New York City, and Boston areas.
    The worse tips came from Alabama, Mississippi, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
    That I made great money and had a lot of fun doing.
    That I work my butt off.
    That I would do it again.

    July 27, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
  12. Ray

    There HAS to be two sides to This story. The Party was black so i'm Sure that whenever they sent back the drinks they got, or the food they got, the waiters visibly Rolled their eyes. I can make a living betting on how many of our Black customers are gonna send back the drinks. If i guess which cocktail, i double down. I've been in this exact situation. Some Black customers tip great, some don't. the percentage of bad-non tippers, though, makes the difference between whites, Asians and Latinos large.Mostly ive gotten the runaround from young Black tables, you know, the ones that are going to or coming from a Club. You get 4 on 50. Whatever. But then when they start to question the Au-Gratuity, you realize they have been causing trouble all night just so you do something wrong and Then you don't DESERVE the tip. Ohhh Now i get it, you think. Thank God i don't work at Aunt Kizzies Kitchen or Fridays, or Roscoes's Chicken and Waffles, cause those poor saps have to take it all day, and prolly walk with 9 percent. And i'm Black so while i definitely profile, i'm not racist. But it sure sucks taht we have to Have this discussion.Bullsh!t

    July 24, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
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  14. Randall

    I work on Guam which, predominantly has Japanese tourists. Most place catering to tourists add 10% to the bill since tipping is not a Japanese tradition. However, it brings up the issue that restaurants, bars, hotels, etc. could simply charge what they need to pay their employees a fair salary. Leaving the amount of tip up to the best actor or actress while paying them minimum wage isn't a great system. The bubbly cute server with the big smile and perhaps the big cleavage will always get bigger tips (in general) than the overweight unattractive one working just as hard. My idea: charge what it takes to pay employees without relying on autograts to make salary.

    June 18, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
  15. Edwin

    I have a very simple system for tipping. If the service was ok, leave a small tip. Exceptional? Leave a larger one.

    Service sucked? No tip at all.

    I refuse to go to any restaurant that forces me to tip regardles of how the service was.

    May 30, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Margaret

      If someone is cleaning up your mess after you, and bringing you food and drink, they deserve some kind of tip, regardless of if you think the service was good or not.

      June 7, 2013 at 2:04 am |
      • cm

        the waitresses are applying for a job to make money! They get paid minimum wage. They have a job to do which includes providing a good service to the customers, bringing the food, and picking the food back up after the meal is done. THIS is what they already get paid for. Why would you be forced to leave a tip for the work that they HAVE to do as a part of their job??? Even then, i definitely think they should be given the tip but it has to be up to the customers to decide that! that's why it's called 'tip'.

        June 17, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
        • dave b

          Wow you are the kind of person I hated to wait on.Stick to fast food and buffets.Get your own food and drinks.

          June 18, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
        • Name*

          Cm no they do not get paid minimum wage the get paid $2.13 per hour! By the time they get there check is probly $0 after paying taxes!! Inform your self better i would hate serving you

          July 24, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
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  17. Tau Myx

    TIPS = To Insure Proper Service. Tips are to give diners the choice to reward good service. The very point of a tip is lost if it is mandatory! If you have to pay it, it is a Tax, not a tip.

    February 1, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
  18. Larry

    Mandatory Gratuity is an Oxymoron. If it's Mandatory, it's not a Gratuity. If it's a Gratuity, it's not mandatory. Don't people even understand English these days.

    February 1, 2013 at 8:18 am |
  19. Jason

    Restaurants should have to price the meal properly to pay their expenses and make money.

    January 23, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  20. MattinLA

    Is it possible that the problem stems from the odd system that we have in the United States, where restaurants underpay the servers and expect diners to make up the difference? What if I were to go into Macy's to buy a suit that's really worth $200, but be charged only $150 with the "expectation" that I give the salesperson an extra $50 to cover his/her salary? That places me and the salesperson in uncomfortable positions since he/she is inappropriately dependent on my good will and I'm expected to be magnanimous. What if restaurants were to pay servers a living wage (whatever that is; I leave that to economists), those extra costs were built into the menu prices, and patrons tipped (relatively modest amounts) only for truly exceptional out-of-this-world service? And servers who weren't cutting the mustard, service-wise, were fired? This way, diners know exactly what their meal will cost, servers know how much they will make for a shift and the social equality is less unbalanced. This is the European model and seems to work well.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • scars

      I agree! I always tip, even when the service is awful and I'll tip very well when the service is good (or when I've had special requests) but I HATE the whole tipping system. I wish we used the European model. Since we don't, I don't want to punish the servers who have to make a living - but really, if we are EXPECTED to give a tip, then it is really isn't a tip. It is a service charge and should at least be labelled as such.

      February 1, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
  21. Mike

    I work in a resturant that delivers and has a buffet 6 days a week as well as a full menu. I have seen a party of 2 tip a waitress 75.00 because she had been verbally assaulted by another customer to the point where Police were called. I have seen large groups of college athletes come in 20 minutes before close, trash the entire lobby, order over $400 in food and complain that the service sucked because there were only 2 servers to handle the entire party. I have delivered food to factories for company parties and been told that, even though the total on the ticket was over $150, that I was not getting a tip because the now hiring ad in the paper says up to $15 an hour which is more than they pay their own employees. Needless to say I have seen the good, bad, and ugly side of the buisness. Most people do tip, but it is generally a small number and most servers are happy with what they get becuase we all need the money for whatever reason, but for someone to refuse to accept the autograt that is usually CLEARLY POSTED ON THE DOOR OR IN THE MENU OR BOTH is a slap in the face. I tip my servers when I go out with my family. The better the service, the better the tip. If I have food delivered, I tip the driver because I know that even if the driver is getting reimbursed for his gas every 2 weeks, he/she still makes minimum wage or less and has to pay vehicle expenses out of pocket. Most drivers work for places that DO NOT pay for brakes, Tires, oil changes and the like. But out of all the customers that really annoy every single employee I work with are the "Holy Rollers" on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. They come in en masse, wreck the lobby, let the 18 kids under 13 that are always present run wild, complain about the heat/AC, the sports on TV (cause Little Ricky isn't allowed to watch NFL because it's too violent) and then try to apologize after having the server split the check into 20+ seperate tickets to avoid the mandatory 15% we autograt parties of 8 or more. And on top of all that, they leave 3-4 dollars on the table usually in loose change and tell the server they would have tipped more but that was all the cash they had left after the offering that day when there is a place on their debit card slip to write in a tip. I have a serious problem with anyone trying to use the bible as their basis for failing to do what is considered the appropriate social custom. Have someone else prepare your meal, have someone else serve you your meal, have someone else clean up after you are finished with your meal and not kick them something, but give a church 20-30 dollars a week so they can have a new sound system, hd camera and screen, pay for a newly designed website, new stained glass, a brand new gold plated crucifix above the altar???I think I must have missed the verse in the bible that says that that is acceptable.

    January 2, 2013 at 3:18 am |
    • Tempered Storm

      I have no problem with an autotip policy that is clearly posted. The only time I would object is if the service was unjustifiably bad. If the establishment insisted I pay despite the bad service, I would pay, but then I'd file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau then write in my blog or my Facebook page about what I encountered in that establishment.

      April 10, 2013 at 6:10 am |
    • dave b

      I hate,hate,hate the people who leave a little jesus pamphlet instead of a tip.Stay at home cheapskates.

      June 18, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
  22. irlmwookie

    I don't like the automatic tip.

    Because TIPS (To Insure Personal Service) is a reward for anything above-and-beyond the bare minimum of service.

    Because Restaurants hire and pay the Waiters, and have a written contract that Diners do not have, and Restaurants may be forcing diners to reward a restaurant that pays sub-minimum wage wage or give low hours – Restaurants should pay waiters & buses at least Minimum, living Wage, not the Diner.

    Finally, when the Diner pays the bill, they already pay 3x or more food cost for the privilege of eating at Le Gastronomique, in which 1/3 pays for the labor. An automatic tip is redundant payment for the labor.

    Flip-side, as for the point that a waiter serves a large party at cost to other parties, a large party is a much larger bill and a much larger tip, earned with less energy than multiple tables. If the large party stiffs the waiter, that is also more devastating. But just recommending a percentage for large parties goes a long way to remedying the issue. And having worked at a Hotel banquet staff, I know that Waiters by seniority gets the larger tables at events, and in San Jose, a senior waiter makes about $70,000/year. And this hotel had automatic tips for large parties. And waiters are still motivated to give superior service so the table tips extra, a tip upon a tip.

    December 30, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  23. Kim

    It’s obvious from several posts, that some of you have never been on both sides of the fence – I have. I have been a server and there are a few actual facts you should know.

    Did you know that most, if not all servers in the country work for $2.13 an hour plus tips? If they don’t make minimum wage in an hour (with tips), then the restaurant is required to augment their pay to reach the minimum wage.

    And for that paltry sum, we have to:
    – Put up with customers that can’t seem to get off their cell phone to actually order and just leave us standing there waiting, like we’re invisible.
    – Put up with your kids asking for refills on their drinks about 50 times, and then of course something to play with or color with because God forbid you would take care of your own children while you’re here, nope – we’re responsible for that also.
    – Having you order your meal with this, without that, with this on the side, extra that. Good grief, if you don’t want or like it the way it comes, then why are you at THIS restaurant?
    – Have you complain that you have “decided” you don’t like what you ordered. I didn’t know it came with onions—can you read? The menu clearly states what is in each dish we carry. That’s sort of like going to Mom’s for Sunday dinner and sending back your plate—you wouldn’t do it to Mom, why do you do it to us?
    – Since drinks are free refills, you chug down your drink like you just got off the Sahara and want us to refill it at least as many times as we filled your kids.
    – If we sell chips/salsa—then that’s another 10 trips to keep refilling that basket.
    – And then of course we have to get your final bill, make trips for those to go containers, process your payment and THEN clean up all the chips, straws, napkins, etc., that you and your lovely kids left everywhere (including the floor and under the table).

    And all that for $2.13 an hour. No wonder we might be grumpy, we've served 10 families just like yours before you walked in the door.

    We deserve every penny of that “autograft” and more. There are a lot of extremely “stingy” diners out there who do not want to pay for the service we provide. No problem—go to a cafeteria where you get your own food/drinks, clean up after yourself and refill your own chip basket. But if you come to a restaurant where you have an individual server, then treat them like a person, not like a doormat and then reward them as such. While you may actually think your server was lousy – news for you – a lousy server usually means you were a lousy, demanding, rude guest. They go hand-in-hand.

    And for those of you who penalize your server with a lower tip because the restaurant they happen to work at “autografts.” Shame on you—it’s not the servers fault. You’re punishing the server for someone else’s policy. And this is why “autografts” exist. You have diners that come in with a bad attitude, bad mood, spouse yelled at them that morning—any reason to take it out on someone else and they usually take it out on their server.

    If I take your order, serve your drinks, deliver your food, pick up your dishes and deliver/process your bill – you don’t think that deserves at least minimum wage? Come on…most of you think serving is beneath you…it’s why you’ve never worked as one and probably never will.

    You don’t want to pay for me to bring you your food/drinks—no problem–eat at home, will save us both a lot of aggravation.

    May 24, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Mikel

      All those tasks that you are complaining about are part of the "Excellent Customer Service" that the patrons are entitled to. You didn't mention the folks that leave you a generous tip even though they were pretty undemanding and were in and out.
      Tips are not entitlements. They are earned thru professional services rendered. There are jerks in this world. You should not expect everyone to tip you out properly. If your tips are consistently poor, perhaps its because your attitude is reflected in the service you provide. TIPS = To Insure Prompt Service.

      December 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
      • Ashley

        In America, a tip is a part of the overall experience of being a consumer in a restaurant setting. Creating cute acronyms after the fact doesn't change the fact that it is a component of service that while annoying ensures a proper wage for someone who has in fact served you for a period of time.

        Tips are not an acronym. They are a fact of life for those who are both the consumers and the producers in that industry.

        While I believe tipping to be an archaic form of payment, it is in fact the standard form of wage supply in that industry, and if you can't comply with following the basic tenants of restaurant etiquette you should not enter the business itself.

        May 30, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Rich

      You are the kind of waiter is the cause of poor tippping. If you don't like the job quit. I generally tip 20% for good service. But, I can see you would be one of the surly waiters that I would probably consider tipping much less. And yes Ihave been on both sides. As a bartender not a waitress, but same issues.

      January 2, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Todd

      WOW Kim! What an attitude. If I knew where you served I would avoid it at all costs.

      June 4, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
  24. Bryan

    If the service is bad, I won't tip. I will let the police sort it out, that's fine. If I pay the rest of the meal, I can't see where the tip, the optional part of the meal, is mandatory. If I get locked into a store, I'll be the one calling the police.

    May 24, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Joy

      Poor service is not usually the fault of the wait staff but of the chef & kitchen management who cannot get the food out in a timely manner. – Wait staff generally work very hard for their money. - If you don't want to tip - go out for fast food at a drive thru. I've had college kids skip out on the check & I had to pay for their tab from my paycheck. - Truth is, a lot of people treat servers like crap.

      January 2, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  25. Adam

    Autograts are a joke. If you want my tip, do a good job and earn it. You're not getting an automatic tip from me just because you showed up to work. I tip generously, usually starting at 25%. I always put a minimum $5 tip on a $20 meal at my favorite place, though the service there is also always great, I've never had a bad server there.

    But if I go to a place and have a rude and inconsiderate waiter or waitress, if I have to ask more than once to get a refill (most places that I go to with good staff are asking me if I want a refill when my current glass is still only a quarter full, not me asking them), they aren't getting a high tip from me.

    They'll get something because it would have to be the worst service in the history of mankind for me to not leave ANY tip, but if it is a bad service, they'll get 10%, if that. Just because you showed up to work, but are a horrible server that day, doesn't mean you deserve an automatic 17% or 20%+ tip, and I'm going to show my opinion about that by leaving a tip comparable to the service I felt I was given. You do a great or amazing job, you're going to get a great, large tip from me. You do an "okay" job, you're gonna get an "okay" tip from me. You do a bad job, you're getting a small tip from me (and probably a negative review/comment card submitted to the manager/owner from me). You want that great, large tip from me, prove it to me with your service during my time there.

    May 24, 2012 at 4:13 am |
    • Craig

      Adam, thank you for tipping the appropriate amount when going out to eat, I am a server and I do give great service, I do have about 15-20 different regulars that come in and see me when they go out to eat. Autograting is to protect the servers that have to wait on tables that don't know how to tip. I have waited on parties of 7 where they ring up a $200.00 bill and only leave $8.00 as a tip and they think that was generous when they tipped. So this is to protect the less educated or cheap people that are out there

      November 16, 2012 at 8:30 am |
  26. Boise2005

    Want a tip do a good job. Holding people hostage for a tip this is ridiculous and criminal and CNN should be posting the name and address of this restaurant.

    May 23, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Varan

      1935 HWY 6 SOUTH
      HOUSTON, TEXAS 77077

      May 24, 2012 at 1:22 am |
      • ski2xs

        Thanks. I actually hopes their business suffers because of this. I know one restaurant that I'LL never go to if I'm ever in Houston.. . And for the crybabies wanting to berate me for saying that. . . . I pay 20 – 25% for good service. IMHO, if you're a GOOD server, theres typically no need for 'autograt'

        May 24, 2012 at 5:35 am |
  27. Chuck

    Tipping has gotten out of hand. I truely respect wait staff at restaurants and typically leave 20% when service is good because I have too been a waiter, however if staff were actually paid by the establishment for their efforts like any other job instead of the less than minimum wage maybe we could count on waiters/waitresses to be able to live off their profession and only tip in extreme cases. how many desk jockeys or laborers get a tip for meeting expectations?

    May 23, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • Jo

      That's exactly right. And if it's already included, they can get the attitude they can get lax, and in some cases rude, wthout repercusions on their tip.

      May 23, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  28. CT

    I understand why restaurants use these "autograts". That being said, the ones who do are costing their servers money when they wait on me. I'm generally a good tipper - I start at 20 percent and round up to the next dollar - but will not add a tip to the bill if the restaurant has already put one on my tab automatically.

    For example, I went to lunch with 5 coworkers yesterday and my relatively cheap meal had a $1.45 tip. If they hadn't put that on my bill, the waitress would've got $3 from me. Instead, she got $1.45.

    May 23, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • mslorretty

      Under Lockdown for not wanting to tip bad service?! That's crazy. And I agree with you to the extent that often the autograt can sometimes cause servers to lose money and quite often guests will assume that it's all covered nicely when you pay your bill. Factor in that a server might have to split tips with the Bar and Bussers...then he/she is losing out bigtime by the end of the shift. NOT TO MENTION.... since when did a party of 5 become a "Big party" worth an autograt anyway? I've been out of the biz for awhile but that seems rather ridiculous. That's simply the size of an average family.

      May 23, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
      • R.W.Alumbaugh

        I agree with someone else's response. Since when is 5 people a large table. The normal tip today is 20 percent & the 17 or 18 percent for a larger group is qite normal, however, if service is real bad & you ask to see the manager or owner & explain , the management should consider the customers complaint & make the every one happy.. Wait staff & cooks etc have bad days too, but it should not be taken out on customers. I owned a restaurant once so I realize both sides , although there are a lot of just plain cheap customers.

        May 23, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Katy

      The responsibility to pay the wait staff at a restaurant belongs to the restaurant. First they charge for the food, which is expected, of course, but then we have to pay someone to bring it from the kitchen to the table. It is not acceptable to me or many of my friends. I will pay a tip for good service. Period. I am not going to pay the server's salary.

      May 23, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  29. Michael

    I used to be a server and the gratuity added to a bill is optional to pay - just nobody knows about it. Check out the article on NY Times – http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/15/nyregion/15tipper.html?_r=1

    May 23, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  30. Debra W.

    I use to be a server & loved it! Now, I want to start a Server Training School because service in the restaurant industry has gone way down hill. Been to many restaurants all over the USA from Lawry's in Chicago to Olive Garden to Waffle House & a good waiter/waitress is VERY HARD to find. Give me good service & I'll tip up to 25%......give me lousy service & I give only 10%. If a person receives poor service, why should they have to tip a fixed amount? After all, TIP or TIPS mean: "To Insure Promptness" or "To Insure Prompt Service"!

    May 23, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Kim

      That's ENSURE, not INSURE.

      May 24, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  31. pdb

    I have a favorite sit-down restaurant that also does a great take-out business. They recently starting using new menus that prominently state that if you don't wish to tip, you should use the take-out window. This is obviously not one of the more expensive restaurants, but it's a very good independent restaurant, with mid-range prices, I guess. I laughed when I first saw it, but I think it's great.

    May 23, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  32. mshawaii808

    T.I.P.S. TO INSURE PROMPT SERVICE!! If the service is lousy , no tip, but if they insist, no problem I want a receipt for it so that I can claim tax on it!!! Then file a complaint on YELP, and with the BBB in that area. Texas is FAMOUS for their lousy service in the restaurants, they pay their employee's $2.20 an hour, and go ahead an force their wait helps to change 17% percent on the ticket to make up the difference that the cheapskate employer's refuse to give them.

    May 22, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
    • Benn

      Someone already addressed the misuse of the word "insure," so I'll address other issues.
      1) If you want to "insure" prompt service, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. IOW, treat your servers like people, not something you stepped in.

      2a) The word "tips" is not an acronym. It's an abbreviation of the word "tipster"

      "give a small present of money to," c.1600, "to give, hand, pass," originally thieves' cant, perhaps from tip (v.3) "to tap." The meaning "give a gratuity to" is first attested 1706. The noun in this sense is from 1755; the meaning "piece of confidential information" is from 1845; the verb in this sense is from 1883; tipster first recorded 1862.

      2b) There's also this reference

      3) Don't perpetuate myths. Do your own research and try spreading facts for a change.

      May 23, 2012 at 7:16 am |
      • Katy

        Why is it my responsibility to pay the waiter's salary? Not going to do it. I tip for good service. Period.

        May 23, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
        • Benn

          My post was an etymology lesson, Katy. Congratulations completely missing the point.

          May 24, 2012 at 6:53 am |
  33. larry

    I typically tip between 16 and 25%, but having never worked in the food service industry, I do not understand why one party of 10 is more work than five parties of two. Also, my experience has been that larger parties spend and tip more per person. Comments ?

    May 22, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • George

      You sound like a decent person, thank you... the reason why is when a server gives his whole night to one party rather than a bunch of smaller ones he is totaly dependent on that one party being decent people.. the work may be the same but chances are the 5-7 tables they serve will be decent and tip understanding they are not at Mickey D's and this person makes 2.13 an hour... sanctioned by the government for decades upon decades. If you want table service pay for it, otherwise... go to Micky D's idiots. Bad service? Well... tip 10% instead of 15-20% and complain to the manager and get the bad server fired or disciplined... but remember, every person has their own taste as how to be served too. Waiters casn't always read your mind, even slow service can be kitchen problems, NOT waiter problems TOO!

      May 23, 2012 at 1:20 am |
    • Mandi

      I worked as a server when I was in my late teens, after I finished high school. I live in Texas as well, so I can attest to the fact that back then I was paid $2.13 per hour. I didn't live at home, I had to fend for myself, so I wasn't just pocketing extra money; this was the way I made a living. The restaurant that I worked at did not charge gratuity unless it was a party of 8 or more, and they only charged it when they felt appropriate. They really tried to avoid charging gratuity unless they absolutely had to. So I really had to depend on my customers for my paycheck.
      I was always praised for being an excellent server. I was prompt, courteous, and I never had an empty drink sitting on my customer's table. Although I have a disability (I cannot turn my right hand, I have never been able to since birth, its a long story, but just trust me when I say that my right hand does not turn in the slightest), I still did my job just like any other server. We did not use serving trays, so I commonly carried out an entire arm full of plates, even though it is very difficult to set a plate in front of a customer using a hand that does not turn. I refused to let anything slow me down, so people following me with plates or making multiple trips was not an option.
      Usually, people tipped appropriately for my level of service, so I really had no room for complaints. However, once in a while you would get a large family that would take up a table for nearly 2 hours, allow their children to make insanely huge messes (and I have 3 small kids, so I KNOW messes, this was outrageous!) have a bill well over $100 that would leave me maybe A DOLLAR for a tip. After I had busted my behind making sure that their dining experience was everything that they expected. Its like a slap in the face. Did they not see me running back and forth to get them more silverware when their kids threw the first set? Did they forget that I refilled 8 glasses around 6 times? A few times, I had extremely large parties come in that left CHANGE on the table. Nickles and dimes was what I received for the time that I spent attending to their every need. A party of ten or more can take 3 times as long to get their drinks, take their orders, place their orders, bring their appetizers, bring their food and then bring any additional items they may ask for. So there is a huge difference between the work that it takes for a smaller party in comparison to the work that it takes for a larger party.
      And maybe a lot of people out there that do not tip appropriately are, as you are, simply unaware of the extra work that it takes because they've never done the job. Having a job that relies on tips is really a toss up. Some days you come home with a wad full of cash, some days you barely made enough to cover your gas going back and forth to work.
      Pizza delivery guys really get it the worst, though. These guys are out spending $4 a gallon for gas, trying to keep up the maintenance on their car, all the while delivering pizzas for well below minimum wage. My husband has worked for every major pizza business and I can tell you that they all operate on nearly the same wages: Usually around $4-5 an hour (sometimes they even make waitress wages!), $1 per delivery (yes, Pizza Hut charges you around $3, but your driver only gets $1 of that), and then whatever the customer gives the driver. Customers typically tip the pizza guy less than $5 because they figure that he is getting paid a nice delivery fee. Well, he isn't. Some nights, he made less than the gas that he used to make the deliveries. If employers were willing to pay these employees real wages, tipping wouldn't be an issue. Needless to say, I got out of the area of work that depends on tips because I simply cannot live like that. I would rather have an hourly wage that I can depend on rather than depending on the kindness of strangers.

      May 23, 2012 at 2:58 am |
      • dionysius

        Sorry guys... but if you cannot negotiate a wage with your employer, that's tough! I'm not going to make up the difference between what your boss thinks you're worth, and what YOU think you're worth... no "autograts" period! And if someone would have locked the door on me, I would have gone out a window.... having cleared the way with a chair or two! The familly should file a complaint for unlawful restraint!

        May 24, 2012 at 12:47 am |
        • claudia

          negotiate??? what part of the world are you from ?? go back to your video game and live in fantasy land. negotiate my.......

          May 24, 2012 at 8:55 am |
        • dave b

          Negotiate?With a restaurant owner?Stick to fast food take out,bozo!

          June 18, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • tk

      Waiting on one table of ten is more difficult than five tables of two because of the timing involved. Your five tables of two will not likely be seated at the same time and their service will be staggered according to when they were seated – greeting and menus, then drinks, then apps, then meal will all be ordered and served at different times per table. The table of ten will expect and should get the same prompt service, but order times will be longer because of the number of people involved, as will the delivery of those orders. If orders are similar it may be harder for the server to remember who ordered what, as it may be if there are people absent at the table when the food arrives. There should be a system of proper service taught at the restaurant, but that is often not the case, and it is much easier for a server to remember an order for two than an order for ten. Also, throughout each meal the server will be refilling ten possibly different drinks and supplying other items required by the customer.
      It is basically a memory game for the server; I hope that helps.

      May 23, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  34. theNewo

    Can't. Stop. Laughing!!!

    May 22, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  35. sftommy

    I would have asked to speak to the Police outside and filed a criminal complaint with them for false imprisonment and have the staff of the restaurant arrested and cuffed on that charge.

    May 22, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  36. Charles H

    All of you saying things to the effect of, "tips are optional/a reward, I shouldn't have to pay if I don't want to" have clearly never tried to make a rent payment working for tips. If you had, you might think a little differently. My approach? "That service was lousy - I'm only leaving 15% this time!" Otherwise, 20% is a good starting point (makes the math easier, too – just move the decimal one spot left, then double it). As to "autograts," if it's clearly stated, it's in play. Got a problem with the service, talk to the manager BEFORE the bill comes.

    May 22, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • bob

      whats it to me if you cant afford your rent? if thats a problem for a sever then it's quite likely that they are horrible at their job and many patrons are voting with their wallet, instead of the occasional customer being a skinflint. face it, not everyone is cut out for any particular job. if you cant wait tables properly, find a new job. it's not my place to pay your salary if you dont do your job well.

      May 22, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
      • kim

        i can see you have never been a server and suspect you are the kind we hate a very poor tipper, if you cannot read nor understand the policy then i have a suggestion eat at home where you serve and clean up after yourself or get it to go

        May 22, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
      • Want a tip? Do a good job.

        I have waitressed for many years at places that pay servers the $2 per hour from buger joints to very nice restaurants. If a restaurant is going to charge the 18% gratuity, the server(s) must do a good job. Good job as defined by filling my drinks, being pleasant, competent, etc. I don't expect perfection.

        I went to a Chinese restaurant once with five adults and two 2-month-olds who were asleep in their carriers. We had horrible service. Our drinks were not refilled once even though we asked. Some of the food was spicy, so we needed at least one refill on the water. We asked two servers for to-go boxes and didn't get them until we went to the counter. At the end of the meal, we noticed the gratuity. When I asked, the staff pointed out their policy on parties of 6 or more. I said there was only 5 adults. They said the two babies make 7 because they take up space even though they didn't eat or make a peek. I was shocked. I could see their point but then they need to follow up with good service. I normally tip at 20% minimum. Sometimes, I tip at Orange Julius. I realize the workers don't make much, but I also don't believe in throwing money away especially to enable laziness. They threatened to call the police and I accepted. They decided to just let me go. I am Asian, too, so it wasn't because of any prejudices.

        they needed to pay their servers. I said that is what minimum wage was for. This was in a state where servers are paid the full minimum wage. I said it was not acceptable for them to charge for the gratuity and not provide refills on water.

        May 23, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
      • Scott

        I agree with you Bob. Also, what's the incentive for a waiter to provide good customer service if the gratuity is built in?

        May 23, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
      • dave b

        Hey do you spell your name with 2 o's?

        June 18, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  37. EthanG

    Great points made on both sides, but I don't buy this family's claim. Look at the size of this restaurant...it's unrealistic to believe they were the only family there and that multiple exits were locked over a 17% gratuity. If this were a small family restaurant...sure. I don't doubt that the police were called, or if the family had simply claimed they were "restrained." Locking them in, in a restaurant of that size, is absurd.

    May 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  38. Mikey Doodle

    Nope.....you can't force 10 people to pay 18% MORE for their meal than two people. It is NOT the job of the customer to pay the waitstaff's salary.

    Gratuities are just that......GRATITUDE for good service. I don't care if the meal was horrible, I tip based the service. I usually tip between 20-30%, so please don't call me "cheap". If your attitude sucks, so will your tip. If your attitude is pleasant and helpful, I'll make up for the idiots who under-tip. Just don't ever assume a gratuity is a given.

    May 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • lainie

      Dead on. IT IS NOT MY RESPONSIBILITY TO PAY YOUR EMPLOYEES WAGES!!!!! Why the heck can restaurants get away with paying starvation wages and then act indignant when THE CUSTOMER does not tip to their expectations. PAY YOUR EMPOYEES A DECENT WAGE!!!! I, THE CUSTOMER, should not be expected to do anything but buy your product if I so choose to.

      May 22, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  39. JC

    -Unbelievable how often people go out to eat without knowing the facts.

    -I'm a server at the best restaurant within 100 miles.

    -I get NO paycheck. Literally. I am paid $2 and change per hour, which is taxed out of my paycheck and I receive a bi-weekly piece of paper that says "VOID."

    -Tables are rotated by numbers of people served to ensure everyone gets a relatively fair share of the action.

    -Sometimes I go into work and find we have too many servers or too little business and am sent home making $0 for the day.

    -Every dollar I make comes from tips. THAT is the industry.

    -If you are coming to a full service restaurant and spending $75 on a meal, with or without a tip, you are spending more than you need to.

    -That $75 buys about 65 double cheeseburgers at McDonald's, surely enough to feed any family.

    -You are making the choice to be served rather than have to lug a tray full of food across a dirty McDonald's floor and get your own kethcup.

    -You are making the choice to spend more on a meal than you have to but have a problem with spending more a tip than you have to?

    -The "going out to eat and having a nice dinner" industry runs on tips. It is not KFC, Subway, Wendy's or any other fast food joint.

    -You go out to eat at a decent restaurant, you tip 20%.

    -Auto-gratuities are the only way to ensure that a party of 10 feeling the need to spend upwards of $500 on meal (rather than get 450 McDoubles) and not showing their server the respect and gratitude for waiting on them hand and foot.

    -When you go out to dinner you pay for FOOD and you pay for SERVICE.

    -If you don't, stay home or eat fast food.

    May 22, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Tom Z

      Sounds like these people didn't have a problem paying for FOOD and paying for SERVICE, but they didn't receive SERVICE so why would they pay for it?

      May 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
      • kim

        have you been a server? they should have complained before the bill and i will never believe they were locked in most businesses have doors that will open from the inside even when locked

        May 22, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • ReligiousGuy

      @JC: You are a fool for working without pay. That is your fault. Don't blame the patrons for your stupidity. Patrons should tip based on their ability and service received. A person who is earning the minimum wages for some special occasion can bring his/her family members to a good restaurant for dinner and spend $75. You have no right to complain about it...its that person's money. For the serving you do, you are paid by the restaurant and not by patrons. Before I get the bill, I make it a point to speak to restaurant managers and let them about food and service. If service was bad, I don't pay tip and no one has tried to stop or imprison me. If service was good, I tip upto 20% without hesitation.

      May 23, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  40. Lovely415

    As a server and bartnder , I get pretty pissed when a large group wants to argue over the 18% grat. I am awesome at my job so its only happened once when a man saw the price, including the 18% that was written in bold, and handed me his credit card. I then ran it and returned to say my thank you and have a mnic e day. When i returned and he was gone, I noticed he crossed out the authorized amount and wrote in a total less the 18%! Since, he authorized the gratutiy, he couldnt do that and I still got my tip. The problem here wasnt my service as it was in this particular case in the article. The problem was a family who thinks they can come come in a large group ,with little ones, get great almost exclusive service, rack up a bill in the hundreds, and not TIP! I earn minimum wage, without tips on large parties like that, I couldnt survive. ALSO, THE NICER YOU ARE TO YOUR SERVER THE BETTER YOUR SERVICE WILLL BE!

    May 22, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Michael

      I normally tip 20% or more though one time I tipped nothing when a server did not show up to our table for twenty minutes, brought our food a half hour after we ordered it, I had to go to the bar to get my girlfriend's drink refilled (twice), and then had to find the manager to get a bill. Because of where we were seated I saw our server texting for a good portion of that time. People should realize that they are the only one's paying their servers and pay them, unless their servers refuse to do their job in which case they should be paid little or nothing. Tipping is optional for a reason.

      May 22, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  41. gatorguy1

    Automatic gratuities are not legally enforceable. The restaurant had no right to lock the patrons inside and if I had been there I would have said "Sure I will speak with the police. I would be happy to tell them how you unlawfully detained me in your restaurant to extort money from me that you are not legally owed."

    May 22, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • LiterateEater

      How are they not legally enforceable? It is clearly stated on the menu as are drink prices and food prices. Are those legally enforceable? If you go into a restaurant and order from the menu then you agree to price you are paying for food and for service (clearly stated on the menu as a percentage). If the service was so bad, why didn't someone raise this during the meal? If the food was bad, would you eat it all then say you shouldn't have to pay for it because you didn't care for it despite having eaten it? The reason restaurants underpay waiters and waitresses is that most people would look at the true cost of eating out and then balk at the prices. The notion of tipping gives some power back to the consumer but this power is sometimes altered in the case of larger parties that can subvert the whole process. Unfortunately a lot of people see this as a reason to assume the waiter/waitress should just get screwed over. These are people who should realize they were just meant to eat fast food as they don't understand. It is okay... know your limitations as a person and leave the rest of us who can read the fine print alone.

      May 22, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
      • pgrebus

        So, if I put "patrons will bequeath a BMW and 1st born child if party exceeds 1 person" on my menu, it's legally enforceable? I think not.

        May 22, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
        • BKkm23

          No that isn't enforceable. You also couldn't walk into that same BMW dealership and drive away with an M3 because you had a poor experience or you didn't think it should cost that much.

          May 24, 2012 at 12:21 am |
        • Macfad

          Exactly. Just like those construction trucks that post signs on the rear that say "Not responsible for rocks or other road debris that may make contact with your vehicle" cannot simply remove their liability by posting a sign that says they will. Only state and civil legislators make laws – not private business.

          May 24, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • Mike

      Locking them in the restuarant is a more serious crime than stiffing the restaurant on the gratuity. The presumption on the autograts is that at least adequate service is given. If that is not the case, the manager should have cut them some slack. I have found most do and even go overboard to make things right. I suspect the family was just being cheap. However, if the service was truly appalling, then they do not have to pay, since the autograt has an implied warranty of good service, which the restaurant violated.

      May 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
      • Dave

        Anyone discussing a civil action is mistaken. This is theft of services pursuant to the agreed to contract for eating in the restaurant. Just like a retail store, if they suspicion is reasonable you can be detained. Here they stole and the police were charged. In the case of a mandatory gratuity, it is obviously not "gratis" but built in and has nothing to with good service (contractually etc). You could bring a small claims suit for a refund, but at that point, you owe.

        May 22, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
        • Macfad

          Dave, you're wrong. If it's a contract violation, then it IS a civil action, and which, the police will tell you they do not have any authority to intercede, you must pursue your action through the municipal court system. Police WILL however, handle criminal law violations such as, kidnapping and false imprisonment. The restaurant was clearly in the wrong here regardless of what the patrons did or did not pay.

          May 24, 2012 at 12:38 am |
  42. hallieluya

    It angers me that tips have become an entitlement in this country instead of a reward for excellent service. Of course waiters and waitresses should be paid well for their work, but it should come from the restaurant and not be forced on the customer. Restaurants and other service industries should have the same wage requirements as every other business that struggles to make it in this country. A salesman does not spend time explaining a product to a customer and then add 15% to the price at the end. I enjoy tipping as a thank-you for good service, but I hate having my arm twisted to pay extra, even if the service was poor. Plus, I've observed that the minimum size for "large" parties is shrkinking, while the mandatory percent tip is increasing. This means that an undemanding party of 5 or 6 would automatically pay more than a very difficult table of 4.

    If tipping was not mandatory, waitstaff would be fairly compensated by the restaurant and would still be motivated by the opportunity to earn a tip on top of that. Someone above made the argument that tipping is not mandatory in Europe but the service is bad. Maybe in some places, but I did not find it to be the case in the 7 countries I've spent time in. In some cases, the service was much better than here, even when they did not expect a tip.

    May 22, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • dimanaj1

      How is your point not six of one/half dozen of the other? Perhaps restaurants should just raise their prices by 20 percent and put those new prices on the menu. Many states allow restaurants to pay servers very little, so they do live on tips. Why should we single out bad service to deny someone their income? People on salaries (like, for instance, some teachers) get paid for a service they in reality do very badly.

      May 23, 2012 at 8:29 am |
      • Ron

        Hey – what's with picking on teachers? Apparently it's become socially acceptable to use teachers as a synonym for unskilled, poor-performing workers. Frankly, you'd get paid much better to simply baby-sit 30 kids for six hours than to try to actually teach them something, so how about laying off the myth of lazy incompetent teachers?

        January 3, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
    • AnneSD

      I agree it should not be mandatory and should be extra, but the first thing that needs to be done is to have every state require that restaurant employees get at least the minimum wage, not less. High school kids at McDonald's can be making more per hour than the staff at a sit-down restaurant. That is messed up.

      May 23, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  43. rick

    sounds like possible civil action for false arrest, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of mental distress. I think the restaurant will rue this action

    May 22, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  44. Claude Gothic

    My mother worked weekends in an upscale restaurant (along with two other jobs during the week) and used to have a large party (~20) come in for brunch after church every Sunday. They would eat like pigs and run the staff ragged, then leave a single dollar as a tip for the whole group.
    Selfish, sanctimonious losers like that are responsible for policies like this.

    May 22, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • MikeS

      The 'church' crowd is the worst when it comes to tipping. You're dead in your description. They run you ragged, act all self-important and then leave you very little to nothing for a tip. Sometimes they'll even leave those little 'tracts' that look like a folded bill tucked under the edge of the plate. Unbelievable. I'm not working there to get Christ to save my soul. I'm working there to put food on MY table and feed MY kids!!

      May 22, 2012 at 8:17 am |
      • MikeS

        * dead on

        May 22, 2012 at 8:23 am |
      • Mark Schiller

        Be careful not to paint all "church" people with one large brushstroke. I have known church people that tipped badly and those who tipped well. For me personally, Christ died for my sins and my money means nothing, so I often tip 25% and have been out to eat with many church groups who have tipped quite large for the inconvenience of our group to the waitstaff. We even became good "friends" with a regular server at a restaurant we went to after church. I have also gone to lunch with workmates and have been ashamed and had to add significantly to the bill to make up for poor payment and tipping. So while there is many a "church group" where there are cheapskates, there is also many a "non-church" group that are cheapskates. Hopefully some of those who go to church will get the love of Christ in their hearts at some point and start treating others decently.

        May 23, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  45. TED409

    unbelevable . if they really wanted to make sure their workers were compensated fairly theyd pay them a living wage
    here in arizona waiters and waitresses are exempted from minimum wage laws
    talk about a bunch of cheapskate restaurants never heard of this restaurant but wont go in one anyway

    May 22, 2012 at 2:29 am |
  46. seriously?!

    I know what it's like to serve as a waitress, and i also know that although it gets busy, it isn't that complicated. You get drinks, keep an eye on them, take orders, give the food. Really, it's not that difficult. Plus, most places give you one or two small tables if you're working with a large group, so you shouldn't be too distracted, and if you are, it's because your not working, or horrible at multi-tasking. Either way, the party had a right not to want to pay the 17%. Tipping is a choice, even after working as a waitress, i've left a 25 cent tip before after having the most horrible service in my life! Do your job and you'll be rewarded, don't and you'll be asking for more hours so you can pay your bills.

    May 21, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Bob Ramos

      This is one restuarant to avoid. A tip is simply a reward for good service and nothing more and nothing less. In this case, the service was lousy so a tip is not warranted no matter what it is called. Had this happened to me, I would have also gotten on all of the social media and explained what happened at the restaurant by name with accurate details. The loss of business should make the management apologize in public and refund the tip.

      May 22, 2012 at 2:21 am |
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