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. Kivatar

    I usually tip 20% if the service is good. Even with a large party, though, if the service is bad, the restaurant should be willing to accept a lesser gratuity.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • bobington

      If you do your job you get 15%, if you do your job well, are friendly, etc you get more than 15%. If you do your job poorly you get less than 15%. I also take into account that the kitchen can cause delays in service, food prep, etc and won't punish the server for that.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  2. Morons.....

    People don't seem to understand that tips constitute payment for service. If you want to go out to eat, and have someone bring your food to you, expect to tip. The amount displayed on the check only reflects the amount of money necessary to pay for food and drinks. If you want someone to take your order and bring you the food and drinks you request, then you need to pay them for it. If you do not want to tip accordingly, then stay at home or eat fast food. In reference to the story above, was anyone else not surprised that the people refusing to tip were black?

    May 17, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Executive

      No, I wasn't surprised, although I wish that weren't the case. While growing up through graduation from b-school, I heard that "blacks don't tip well" but I chalked it up to prejudice because I had no personal experience as a server. When I got my first job at a Fortune 100 company, a group of colleagues went out to lunch and the African American woman began the meal by laying several dollar bills on the table and informing the waitress that every time she was given poor service, $1 would be taken away. I am sad to say that at every business meal that I've since attended with black co-workers, at a minimum that co-worker has insisted on a low tip (10-15%) if not outright berated the rest of us for being too generous. I don't know why this seems to be such a cultural gap. Europeans and Australians who visit the U.S. sometimes tip poorly (or not at all), but that's because they have a very different compensation scheme for servers in their countries. I think anyone who grows up in the U.S. and understands what tips are expected, only comes across as rude and ignorant when they are so tight-fisted and nasty to the hardworking servers.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
      • WOW

        Executive, I honestly don't know how to respond to what you posted. I am African-American, and I have never left a small tip. If anything, I leave too much. I typically leave 25-50% of the check amount, regardless of the service. I've never had anyone say anything like that to me. Maybe the people that you have some across were not raised in an honorable manner. All the African Americans that I deal and have dealt with tip on the same manner.

        May 20, 2012 at 12:08 am |
        • Barbara E Bj

          Wow, WOW. I really get a kick out of your moniker... but I must say that I hope that the bills you are paying 50% tip on aren't the huge $400 checks that one can see at some restaurants. That could get heavy on the wallet.

          But, the industry standard for the U.S. is 20%, and I have paid quite a bit more than that (up to 100%) when all I bought was a cup of coffee somewhere, got conversation with that cup of coffee and couldn't bring myself to leave 20% or what used to be a 50¢ cup of joe because I didn't have enough pennies on me.

          When coffee went up to $1.00, I started leaving anything from 50¢ to $1.00 if that cup of coffee was all I bought, because by then, I couldn't bring myself to leave two dimes since it looked too much like the statement against the waitress that some people did with the penny (which I always thought was sooooo rude.) At least two quarters on that one cup of coffee seemed more appropriate and if I got conversation with that cup, it was well worth the $1.00.

          But, I have never paid more than about 22-25% for a full meal and that higher than the 20% standard was generally because the 20% came out to some odd number that involved too much change or because the cash I had didn't include enough $1.00 bills to make it to 20% and no more. Has always seemed tacky to get too rigid about the percentage - as tacky as to go too cheap on the tip, in my opinion. With credit cards, now though, we don't have to deal in the hard cash at all if we don't want to do so and sometimes I take advantage of that option - other times, in some restaurants where I suspect that the waitress may not get her tips (for one lurking co-worker reason or another) I will give the tip ion cash DIRECTLY to the waitress even if I have to hunt her down before leaving.

          But, I must say that your standard tips are definitely out of the ordinary and cause me to imagine that the wait staff of your favorite eateries must get all excited when they see you coming. My father would tip in that range when he got too drunk (if he didn't spend too much on the liquor before paying the tips...)

          There are pros and cons to everything. Enjoyed your comment.

          May 21, 2012 at 3:06 am |
    • ServersPOV

      Tipping is not a requirement, that’s why it’s called a gratuity.
      You said that tips constitute payment for service. Actually, that’s why you get a base wage….to do a base job. You’re providing a customer service and your wage to provide that is already built into the cost of the food. Receiving a tip is based solely on the opinion of the customer to determine whether they think you’ve gone above and beyond expectations in providing that service to them. It is THAT simple. How much tip you receive, again, is left to be determined by the customer. There is no ‘set amount’ when it comes to tipping. There’s an average we generally go by as a standard. But with everyone having been raised differently, there’s no guarantee on what that average percentage is to absolutely everyone. That’s the risk you take when you’re in that industry. But if you can (or at least try to) treat just about everyone that comes in to your establishment like they are at your own kitchen table…chances are, you’ll walk away with a pretty percentage in your pocket.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
      • Amanda

        Servers here in Georgia make $2.13/hour. Is that really a base wage? In addition they often have to give bartenders and bussers a percentage of their total sales. So, if a patron doesn't tip the server actually pays to wait on you.

        May 17, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • slick

      Waiters get paid just like anybody else who works tips should be totally on excellent service ,,, not force pay if the waiters are just workin for tips it should be stated so and the food should cost less

      May 17, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
      • Zee

        Not so – I come grom two generations of waitreses and a family that includes retauranteurs. Standared minimum wage does not apply to tipped professions in a number of states. It is entirely up to the management as to what they pay their servers, beyond the minimum wage for a tipped profession which often is less than $3 an hour. It is the practice of restaurants to leave it up to their patrons to directly pay for service, rather than you paying for your meal and mgt paying the waitstaff from the profits.

        May 18, 2012 at 9:59 am |
      • calendulasun

        Servers get paid less than $2.50 per hour in Wisconsin, which is not enough to even cover the taxes on my "check." Tips are the only way we make money, and claiming that everything else on top of the "base pay" is extra or bonus is just ignorant.

        May 18, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  3. Ted

    Food is being over inflated by unchecked speculators. This gives servers an undeserved pay raise, their patrons didn't get.

    If the average diner check rises from $35.00 to $135.00 in one year, that 17% tip goes from $6.00 to $22.00 for no extra effort on their part, and their patrons certainly didn't get a 300% pay increase for the year.
    IT was 15% for ever, and food prices have inflated, but somehow along the way, the servers have given them selves a percent increase and it changes depending on where you go, anywhere from 18% to as much as 30%.

    Then there's the silly suggested tiers on the check, just do a good job and I'll tip accordingly, I would rather tip you jackquat if you provided worse service than I could have gotten up and got it my self from a self serve joint.
    Which when in the heck, did buffet places employees expect a tip. I think people need to talk to the guy that employs them, they are running a scam on them, under paying them in hopes that "I" the hard cash paying customer will pay more than is customary.

    This is all the more reason, the only people that eat out anymore are the morons that can't cook.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  4. Eddy

    We usually just go with the 18% for large parties. However, I have personally disputed the mandatory gratuity with my credit card company for a very bad server experience. Most credit card company will side with their client. If you are not disputing the products (i.e., food) received but is disputing the service fee they're charging but you did not receive then you have a good chance of getting that 18% refunded by your credit card company.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  5. No way

    I can't figure out when it graduated to 20% being a base amount! You start at 10% and step up accordingly. If you give poor service, 0. Nada. Of course, it depends on the restaurant. You Applebees folks be glad you get 10%!

    May 17, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • State Of Cheapskates

      What are you, Mormon? Gratuity for perfect service is %20. Not %10, %20. If you can't afford to tip the person bringing you your food, napkins, etc and 'waiting' on you (hence the name 'waitstaff'), stay home and wait on yourself. What is %10 of a $200 meal for two people? $20. If you're spending $200 for food, why WOULDN'T you spend a little extra for perfect service? If it's not perfect, that's fine. Leave a smaller tip. If it's awful, don't leave a tip. But at least start your cheapskate scale where it should be... Or stay home.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  6. DonP

    My minimum tip is $2, and I always tip 20% for good service and better for great service but my experience has been the restaurants that add the auto gratuity for groups of 8 or more I have have never had issues. Every single restaurant I have been to that added the auto gratuity for groups less than 8 people I have always had not just bad service but extremely bad service.
    When I run into those I always talk to the manager and tell them that I made the tip 20% instead of 18% since they will need the money after I explain in detail the service I received on that visit, if it was a bad night and a good manager they kick in some type of compensation, if they do not I never eat there again.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:50 am |
  7. Rahul Iyer

    Here is what my wife and I do regarding restaurants and tips:

    1) I put the tip in cash. I do not put it on my credit card. If they add it to my credit card, I ask to speak to the manager, and explain to them my preference....one manager called my bluff, and I then I stood in front of him counting out the tip in single 1 dollar notes. I then told him to fix his bill if you want me to leave a tip. I said this in front of the manager and the owner.....I think they got the clue, and fixed it. The waiter got his tip.

    2) When I get good service, I give more then 20%.

    3) Regarding poor service, I once had this occur, and rather then file a complaint, I gave the waiter a half cent as a tip, after talking with the Manager........the service was so shoddy. They wanted me to fill out a questionnaire, I simply told them that a half cent tip to the waiter says enough.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • twoell76

      I couldn't agree more. My experience with autotips has been dismal. Rarely do I eat out with more than a 5-top (family + a guest). This seems to be where the autotip kicks in. And, this is usually where lousy service kicks in. The 1st time I encountered autotip I didn't have a clue, so I added a reasonable tip to my credit card slip. Boy! That server certainly got a payday out of me. I now pay attention.
      I spent quite some time reading the other posts here. Some were very worthwhile. Some were written by idiots that were trying to justify the fact that they never tipped at all. A lot were written by wait people, and a lot were written by regular restaurant customers. The majority of these posts made a lot of sense.
      Personally, having been a bartender in my salad days, I am a generous tipper. But, on the very few occasions that I receive really lousy service, I sometimes leave my server nada. Some posters here said I should complain to the management in these cases. Let me tell you, when I have taken my family, or friends, or business associates to a restaurant and received lousy service I am already embarrassed enough and just want to end the experience and get on to a positive one. Going up to the manager and expressing my disappointment, be it the food or the service, just adds to my humiliation. I just make it a point to never patronize that establishment again.
      Let's face it. Management already knows and you will really accomplish nothing by humiliating yourself in front of your guests.
      Wait people know when they good are bad. My guess is that you actually earn their respect when you tip, or don't tip, accordingly. The restaurant knows when the don't get repeat business that something is wrong and they react accordingly or go out of business.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:35 am |
    • File 1

      Actually, you should have filled out the questionnaire, or at least spoken to the manager about why you're leaving a bad tip. Not for your sake, but for the waiter/waitress.

      People have a bad experience at restaurants for a variety of reasons. Let's say you had to send your meal back three times before getting it correct, and since the waitress didn't write it down at the table, you felt that she was getting the order wrong each time. This could indicate that she needs more training, or different habits. So telling the manager this might help her improve her service for next time.

      Or it could be that the kitchen keeps getting the order wrong because someone there is not paying attention – therefore not her fault at all. That's a big problem for a restaurant. The restaurant staff might have to work out who's a fault on their own, but if a pattern is developing, it can help them fix the problem.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  8. Kalispell

    The IRS part of the issue here. As a server, my sales are calculated at the end of the night. An average night is about $1,000 in sales. 15% of that is $150. So, my restaurant REPORTS to the IRS that I made $150.00!! So I'm taxed on $150 even if I made $90. This is now common practice for many restaurants. And yes, we make BELOW minimum wage hourly.

    You can be the fastest, most polite server in the world and people will still leave bad tips for whatever reason (they don't know better, or they are just cheap?).

    May 17, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • Scott

      You have the option of tracking your own tips and using that as the basis for your taxes instead of what is reported to the IRS by your employer, at the end of the year you can choose the lesser of the two. If you do this keep great records of every dollar and cent for every shift worked and don't try to cheat the system. Please note, if you are having trouble making the 15% you need to either A)provide better service, B)change restaurants, C)get better shifts, or D)relocate to a city or town that isn't full of cheapskates.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Solo

      Nope... that's not how it works. Your restaurant reports final sales for the day, and also sales quarterly. They submit your average worked days to compare the sales vs. gratuities applied. That's how it works. You can adjust this anytime when you actually file a tax return. If you are going to earn your living in the restaurant business, please know what you're talking about, rather than blame customers.
      (www.irs.gov will provide you with help on your tax dilemma, if needed.)

      May 18, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  9. deb

    I was a server at an applebees. I now own a small business. Applebees did not have the >5 auto apply tip rule. I worked my tail off for rowdy, poorly dressed parties of 15 or more and would receive a two dollar tip. Often. I quit after 3 weeks. My coworkers got similar treatment. No one wanted the big tables. Sometimes it was the bar where people would cheap out, or simply skip out. I now tip 30 percent if I get good service. Or bad service. It is the charity work they do that allows me to have a cheap night out. They dont have to work slave labor, but they do. Many of us have worked as slaves in our youth, and we should never forget what it was like.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  10. Nick

    I'm turned off by it, but I don't complain. I regularly tip over 20%; if it's automatically added on, I won't give any extra money. Additionally, if service was terrible, I would also speak to the manager about having the charge taken off.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Jennifer

      I agree with this. I was a server at a nice restaurant that had the 18% autograt for tables of 6 and more. We were able to _not_ put it on the bill if we thought we might get more, but to put it on the bill if we had concerns. I had to a couple of times due to rude and demanding individuals who behaved like it might have been their first time in a restaurant. I don't get offended myself at the autograt and have honestly rarely even had it applied to the bill. I think it's likely because I've given no indication that I am going to stiff the server.

      May 16, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Kalispell

      Customers need to take more responsibility for their behavior in this equation too. It seems more and more people have a chip on their shoulder and take it out on waitstaff. People come in pissed off and angry at whatever, and are rude to the waitstaff. Maybe sometimes you don't realize how rude you are being. So, if a server isn't treating you the way you'd like, then STOP and think about how YOU are acting first. I don't know any waiter who is openly rude back to customers like this, but we just try to avoid the table and interact with you as little as possible. So, if we're not getting there every time you need something, we are probably off taking care of people who are a little more normal or just more pleasant to deal with, even though it may cost us money.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:05 am |
  11. Matt

    My thoughts:

    1. It is definitely ok for a restaurant to charge an auto-gratuity; but only if it is a LARGE party. Most restaurants I have been to charge 18% for parties of 6 or more. I am sorry, but anything less than that is not "large", and if a server/restaurant cannot handle that, then screw them.

    2. If the customers had issues about the service, and nothing was done about it, then they should reserve the right to not auto-grat at all. That being said, I would have still paid it, and then filed a complaint with the better business bureau over the matter, and the local chamber of commerce.

    3. If the manager and wait staff LOCKED the family in the restaurant, that is against the law. Those people are now being held against their will. The police officer on scene should have immediately notified his superiors of the situation. They basically took hostages, and wanted a ransom. That is ludicrous.

    4. I hope that restaurant gets the S*** sued out of them. No one should have to go through that.

    May 16, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  12. Joe

    So the patrons technically commit a misdemeanor for not paying their full bill, then the wait staff goes and commits felony false imprisonment. Real intelligent.

    May 16, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Fred

      Joe –

      You forgot to list another charge any good attorney would tack on to the lawsuit – *extortion*!!

      The article does fail to state whether or not the 'mandatory' gratuity was mentioned before the orders were placed – regardless of what the menu says. My cut is simply that a gratuity (see the definition of the word) should be EARNED, NOT DEMANDED!

      May 16, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Bill

      What crime did they commit?

      No, don't say theft or failure to pay ... every time this has come up in a court, it has been ruled that gratuities are never mandatory, even when they are automatically added in situations like this.

      May 16, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  13. Dee

    You servers are hilarious. Where the heck do you work that you are worrying about what exact percentage you get??? When I was younger, I used to make more money serving than my husband did cooking, and he worked just as hard as I did, and he had a great hourly pay for the job. I could have been paid ZERO dollars an hour and made a killing every night...and this wasn't even a high end restaurant!

    If I get good service, I leave a big tip. If I get shoddy service, the tip is minimal. Really anger me and you're not getting a penny. You want big bucks? Do your job properly, work in a busy restaurant, and there is NO need for demand gratuity and no need to worry about a few tables that left a less than stellar tip! The only unhappy waitresses and waiters I've ever met are those with nasty attitudes and bad work habits. I know ladies who work a few hours over lunch or dinner and bring home full time pay. Paaaalease.

    May 16, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Barbara E Bj

      Now, Dee, my sister might have agreed with you for most of the places that she worked. She was a waitress from the time she was 16 through the time of her passing, and she generally made enough to support her entire family while owning their own home and having a husband who preferred being on workman's comp or unemployment.... he also passed already but from less than natural causes.

      She didn't drive, but rode her bicycle to and from work even when work was more than 25 miles away along major highways. And, she usually worked at very nice, upscale places where she did not have to worry about tips because she made enough from those that tipped well to make up for the ones that never tipped well.

      But, even she enjoyed the auto-gratuity at some of the places she worked where conditions weren't as good, but she didn't stay at those places for very long because the grass really is greener outside other restaurants when it becomes too hard to make enough to pay your bills.

      Experience on the job does bring in the bigger tips, only partly because most of the customers recognize good service with good tips. She was one of the ones who told me about the Canadian visitors and some from other countries who would forget that it is expected for customers to tip in the U.S. because they don't make a real salary. And, I forgot earlier about the IRS bit. They do require now, and have for a long time, for the waitresses to report their tips and they do take out the taxes from those tiny paychecks for the pay AND the expected level of tips (or in one place where I worked, the amount of tips written on the nightly tip sheets.)

      Some of the restaurants would require the waitresses to share all of their tips with all the other waitresses, too, evening it all out and making it the same for everyone - and believe me, no one could cheat on that system for too long without special training in the art of scamming because other wait staff would be WATCHING to see what sort of tips the others were getting throughout the night. (That was the worst sort of system because it made everyone disgruntled either because they suspected other wait staff or because they were getting really good tips while others weren't getting much of anything ...)

      All things are not equal, but experience over years does improve the odds of making a pretty penny at waiting tables - especially when you learn how to push those appetizers and deserts and LIQUOR - which is harder now that everyone has to be licensed even to merely serve the liquor and is personally responsible if someone overdoes it....

      It's a racket, but can be a good racket if you learn how to play it well. I have met a lot of success stories (who unfortunately changed jobs a lot, too) and have also known a few who didn't make it to the point of experience because they couldn't handle how bad it is when you first start out.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:05 am |
  14. Laura Lee

    I experienced something similar while on vacation. The service was HORRENDOUS, so we paid in cash and deducted the added-in tip. The waitress actually followed us out of the restaurant, demanding her tip! My husband had the foresight to look at a framed certificate with the owner's name before we left, and asked that she give us his number instead. She walked off in a huff and when we got home (which was in another state), my husband took the trouble to look up the owner's home number and call and tell him about this waitress. He asked for a detailed description, then invited us to come back for a free meal anytime. I strongly suspect she lost her job. She deserved to!

    May 16, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  15. sillybean

    As a former server myself, this autograt is just a part of the larger problem of restaurants not wanting to compensate their employees fairly! They get to rake in tons of dough on food, alcohol, entertainment but pay their employees $2/hour and no benefits! Restaurants treat their employees like garbage. Imagine if you showed up to a job eery day where you had to deal with rude/demanding people AND your employer paid you only $2/hour, no benefits, made you CLEAN everything off the clock and offered no paid time off or sick days, etc? Frankly, if you can't afford to tip your server at LEAST $10 (minimum) then you cannot afford to go out. Period.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Lydia

      I always tip 20% min, usually more. If you automatically think you are entitled to $10 regardless of the amount of the check, then your crappy attitude is why you probably never made any money as a waitperson. Big shock. I used to be a bartender. I now make over 6 figures as a lawyer... I haven't forgotten, but I also havent forgotten that a sh*tty atitude will get you a sh*tty tip.

      May 16, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
      • Barbara E Bj

        I think he meant 10% and got so excited that he wrote the $ before the 10 instead of the % after. I almost did that in one of my comments, too. LOL!

        May 21, 2012 at 4:17 am |
    • Bill

      "made you CLEAN everything off the clock"

      Time to contact a lawyer, not whine to us. This is a violation of federal labor laws.

      May 16, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
      • Kalispell

        People who make less than minimum wage don't usually have the time, knowledge or power to fight for their Federal rights. And I don't hear "whining" in the previous comment, just a stating of fact. Restaurant employee turnover is so high because waiters are treated very poorly for the most part. If you say, "hey, you have to pay me to stay and clean after my shift" you get fired. So, waiters usually just look for another job & leave a place that treats them that poorly.

        And yes, factoring in a tip is part of the cost of going out for the night – just like factoring in for parking costs, gas, and a babysitter.

        May 17, 2012 at 12:18 am |
        • Scott

          When I worked in food service I always calmly explained to my employer on the first day of employment that out of respect for them, I couldn't possibly work without pay as I wouldn't want them to get in trouble with (insert state agency). I was always treated according to the law and I was never once fired. This worked in California where the state agencies come down hard with a single phone call, you may have different results in other states.

          May 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Uwe Fisher

      I have read many of the reviews, I think we should go to a model like Europe, Asia or Australia where the cost is built into the service since it seems to me that many people or not satisfied. Having been born here, and lived in all four areas that I mention, I say pay them a rightful wage and no TIPPING as I have seen in many other countries. Tipping would be acceptable beyond the usual, but charge the rate and pay your people a fair rate to do a job and charge for the food as most restaurants are already ripping most people people off anyway!!

      May 17, 2012 at 3:37 am |
  16. Silentsword

    I'm perfectly okay with an added gratuity for a large group, and I'll generally pay it. However, the restaurant needs to understand that if the service is poor, we're going to dock for it, and if necessary, we will pay cash to avoid allowing them to add it onto the card. While I understand the forces that drive the restaurant to try to guarantee a minimum payment for the waiter stuck with an enormous group (I quite frequently find myself eating out in groups of 12-24 or more), I also expect that the wait staff will earn said tip, and if they don't, that's the end of it.

    As for the whole "eating out with business associates or people you don't know well" issue, I have a very simple system I use: rather than passing the bill around and having each person put in some cash (which is never enough to cover tax/tip/etc, because people forget), I have one person take the bill and a pen, and go down the table.

    One at a time, each person puts in an amount equal to:
    * the cost of all the food and drink they ordered;
    * their share of anything that was split, rounded to the next dollar;
    * Round this total up to the next dollar;
    * Tack on 20% in a no-tax state (divide the total by 5), 25% in a tax state (divide the total by 4);
    * Round up to the next dollar, again.

    If someone wants to put things on a card, either they handle the whole transaction and everyone else gives them the cash, or we ask the waiter for a slip of paper to note how much should be charged to each card, including their share of tip and tax, determined the same way.

    The rounding up ensures that tax and tip are properly covered, and leaves a little bit extra for the wait staff as well.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  17. Sophia

    I was raised to tip properly and actually more if the server was a woman, whether her service was worthy or not. My mother always told me you never know their story and if they are doing this job, they are more than certainly struggling – either to go to/stay in school – or to support a family. The look of appreciation is ALWAYS worth it ... even from the ones who really didn't seem to try too hard ... they would look in puzzlement at my mother and she would say something to the effect of realizing they must work very hard and that she would visit them again – the next visit, the servers always remember her. It takes so little to spread a little kindness, even when it may not seem to be deserved – kindness begets a change for the better whereas a stingy mean spirited manner perpetuates so much that is negative and destructive.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • humanbeing

      Very nicely put.

      May 16, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • ag

      Extremely sexist.

      May 16, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Chris

      I think that tipping a woman xtra, even when they don't deserve it, would perpetuate laziness or a lack of effort, and possibly make said woman feel that she should get rewarded for a poor job just because she is female, which is the LAST thing I would want to teach my daughter (if I ever have one).

      May 17, 2012 at 1:51 am |
    • Dogma

      True, true. Plus you gotta figure the pole probably rejected her.

      May 17, 2012 at 7:00 am |
  18. Jaime R

    Dear "Bill" & others who don't tip your server,

    People like you are responsible for stereotypes and terms such as "inbred hick." if you don't agree with America's tipping process don't eat out. Visit your local McDonald for dolar menu items and refil your own effing drinks. Like I tell some of my "customers," keep your change apparently you need it more than I do.

    Ps I hope you never reproduce, and if you already did I hope your... litter... never does.

    Best regards,

    May 16, 2012 at 7:29 am |
    • Jose R

      If you buy a canoe and don't want it to tip, Paint it black.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • Kirby H

      Before you rave, you should probably read Bill's whole post. He already did say he doesn't eat out anymore. The tipping process isn't even American. As a previous poster pointed out, it's European in origin. He made a clear and rational point from his personal experience. You just screamed. In reality, you proved yourself to be the inbred hick. I sincerely hope you do not reproduce.

      I go out to eat fairly frequently and usually tip anywhere from 20% to 50% (now that I think about it, that is a little much. Maybe I should cut back) depending on the restaurant and how much I like the restaurant. However, gratuity is just that, gratuity (a favor or gift in return for services). Which means it's mandatory. If you go to a chinese, japanese, really, any restaurant that isn't ran by a corporation, a gratuity is unexpected by the owners and staff. If gratuity is needed by a position to make the position profitable, the company that runs the restaurant needs to redistribute where the profits of the restaurant is going to keep it sustainable. Any thing else is just greed and exploitation. Example:

      May 16, 2012 at 11:28 am |
      • Kirby H

        correction: It's *not* mandatory.

        May 16, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  19. 00jm

    Large groups, especially those requesting separate checks, don't tip well regardless of service level. This is a fact. Providing good service to a group is much more difficult than serving the same number dining separately, so a more experienced staff is required and are generally going to be monopolized for the dinner hour, if not the entire evening. Also a fact.

    Servers who are capable of handling a large group didn't start waiting tables last week or last month, and they ain't there for the paycheck. Another fact.

    So everyone crying about the auto tip... no auto tip means you get the newest guy on the staff with the least serving experience on the entire staff. Good luck with that. Personally, If I'm taking 14 people out to dinner I'll take the pro for the extra 1.8 cents on the dollar, thank you very much.

    P.S. You people that think ownership can or will just "pay a decent salary" without jacking up the every last menu item, what are you smoking? Or will you just cross that complaining bridge when you get there... There's a tradition at every restaurant on the morning of January 1st of any year with a min wage increase... it's called replace the menus and reprogram the POS system with a hangover before you open fun time. Or any restaurant that wants to stay in business anyway.

    May 16, 2012 at 3:48 am |
    • Math

      Pretty sure that 1.8 cents on the dollar = 1.8%. 18% is 18 cents on the dollar, or $18 on a $100 bill, not $1.80 on a $100 bill. Still not much, but 10x what you think it is.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:50 am |
      • Kirby H

        If this is your job, 00Jim, you need get another one if it's so bad. This is the land of opportunity. There's a better job out there. And if you can't get a better job, then that's your own fault. That's a fact. This is America. You either get off your behind and work or get out.

        May 16, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  20. cam519

    Just to clear it up; "to insure prompt service" is a misnomer, made up by cheapskates in the 20th century. The practice itself referring to giving a server extra compensation for extra attention dates back to the 1700's, examples of giving a tip date back to the 1500's. The idea was that the more you shell out the better your service is, not the other way around. And if you decided to skip out on your tab, youd be held in the stocks or worse.

    In Europe, servers make a fair wage and there is no expectation of a tip, though people regularly still leave the change voluntarily. It turns out that the U.S. and Canada are the only countries where servers are paid poorly, and any loss i.e. people walking out on their bill, comes directly from the servers' pay. So why would this group of 5 get off with not paying their full legal bill if they were caught? The server/proprietor has every legal right to hold them, literally, to it.

    It really is just a matter of time before gratuity is added in on all party sizes if the adult population can't come to terms that someone who isnt your spouse is waiting on you for next to nothing. The difference being that mercifully, you leave after you're done and your spouse is the one unfortunately stuck with a penny pinching shmuck.

    May 15, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • stan

      its important to note – in europe people leave the change. as in the loose coins. NOT bills. and many times that dont even leave that.

      May 16, 2012 at 7:42 am |
      • improvementsahead

        It's important to note that in Europe servers make a living wage. In the U.S. servers are exempt from minimum wage laws because they are tipped employees. They often only make $2.50 to $3.50 an hour and rely on tips to make up the difference. These people are not our slaves, they are human beings providing a service. You expect to be paid when you provide a service, why is this any different?

        For those of you that do not tip and/or tip very little, call up your representatives and tell them you want servers to not be exempt from minimum wage laws. Have them be paid a living wage and then you will not have to deal with the burden of tipping them.

        May 16, 2012 at 10:35 am |
        • Harlon Katz

          The issue is when the staff provides BAD service – not refreshing drinks, delivering cold food, wrong orders, etc. WHY does that person deserve an 18% TIP? Plus, if the restaurant is ALWAYS going to add on the tip, it should be sued and forced to just mark prices appropriately.

          May 16, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • KDub

      ... and in Europe, wait staff are generally horrible. Unless you are in a high-end restaurant, good luck finding one who treats you with anything better than contempt.

      I am a generous tipper, and I agree waiters are underpaid. But I do like to be in control of the amount paid, and not forced to reward bad and good service equally.

      May 16, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
      • FormerEuropean

        I have to agree. I lived in Europe for the past 13 years and have to say that on average, the service is worse than in the U.S. Where I lived, the printed price in the menu included a 17.5% tip and sales tax. The servers were definately better compensated with base salary than in the U.S., but they often acted like they were doing you a favor by waiting on you. At least when the amount to be tipped is unknown, you have a better chance of receiving good service. However, if hte service is poor, I feel you should have a right to choose the amount of tip (if any). I also disagree that large parties leave smaller tips than small parties. My expericence is that it is the other way around.

        May 16, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  21. Dave Seavy

    I won't go to a restaurant that requires a tip. A tip is a reward for good service. If I don't get good service, I don't tip. Mandatory tips takes away the server's incentive to take good care of the customer

    May 15, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  22. Bill

    If you say it enough people will believe it. In my lifetime restaurant “guests” have gone from being led to believe that it’s their moral obligation to pay the restaurant staffs paycheck to being told that it’s an absolute requirement for eating out.

    Let’s suppose that a family of four all orders a steak platter priced at $20 each and another family of four all orders a hamburger platter priced at $10 each. Although the server realistically should spend about the same amount of time serving both families, according to the unwritten “rules” the family ordering steak should pay the server twice as much for the same amount and quality of labor. Or is the server going to provide less service to the family that’s ONLY eating hamburgers.

    Thirty-five years ago, I worked as a line cook in a nice department store restaurant for minimum wage, but although the waitress’s tips were somewhat dependent upon the quality of my cooking, tips were not shared with the cooks. Back then what “guests” were being told was 15% was customary for good service and this was before the days of automated or required gratuities. I always found it ironic that a waitress could get a tip for one really large party that would be more than my entire evenings pay, yet she would raise a stink because it wasn’t the full 15%. However if a person came in and only ordered a 50 cent cup coffee, and left a 25 cent tip, the same waitress would whine about the cheapskate, even though it was a whopping 50% tip.

    For all of you commenters extolling the heroic virtues of your profession and demanding that guests absolutely must pay you a 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, or whatever the hael percent gratuity, like it’s your constitutional right, and be extra nice and coddle your special little axx at the same time, I have good news for you. I’m so sick of the tipping craep, I just don’t eat out anymore, so you will never have to worry about me “not paying a fair wage”. The next time you don’t have enough customers to keep you busy, please remember me. Get a life!

    May 15, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • 00jm

      Bill, Your family of four needs to educate themselves before spouting off, because the unwritten rules are very much in writing. An unwritten rule and a written federal law are not the same thing... check with the IRS if you don't believe me.

      May 16, 2012 at 3:15 am |
    • LIAWOI


      I understand you don't like the idea of tipping. It seems the system is too complex for you. I'll do my best to help. For a business to stay in business, they must make more money than they spend. If they spend more on wages, then they must either raise prices, buy cheaper ingredients, or make portions smaller. What most restaurateurs have found is they can keep the dining experience better and less expensive for you by having you tip and pay some of the labor cost. They pay less in payroll tax, hence they can spend that money on either higher quality food, or pass that savings on to you.

      Servers, like any profession, vary in quality. If you are very good at your job, I would assume you would try to get paid more than others who do the same. The server who works Saturday night, at a fancy restaurant, spending an hour of time serving you and your family dinner didn't wind up there by mistake. They may not have a degree or training equal to what you do at your job, but they are at the peak of their profession. Also, you may pay them more in that hour than you make at your job, but don't assume that is their standard hourly rate. A $40 tip on a big dinner on Saturday night helps to subsidize the hours spent rolling napkins and filling salt shakers, cleaning the mess under the table, possibly mopping the floor at midnight after you leave. They do this with the idea that overall, it will be worth the work. When a customer decides to ignore the implied social contract, and doesn't tip, it throws off the balance.

      If servers were paid an hourly wage equivalent to what they make with their current combination of wages and tips, the restaurants would need to pay a significantly higher tax rate. To stay in business, they would need to raise the menu prices to reflect the change in their costs. That would be at least the 15 to 20 percent that you don't feel is your obligation to pay. But wait, there's more. Under the current tipping system, servers get paid more when they are busy, less when they are not. The advantage to you is that at $3.25 an hour, the management of the restaurant can afford to keep a larger staff on hand, and you reap the reward of better, faster service.

      If every server or "greedy restaurant owner" was making money hand over fist, we'd all be servers doing it ourselves. Like any other business, I'm sure there's more to it than we see.

      As for the included gratuity, it is a turn-off to me personally. However, if it is on the menu, I feel it should be paid. If the service was poor, and the manager did nothing to help, then they should not return. Usually a tip is implied in the pricing, but here it was actually spelled out. Perhaps they could print different menus for groups of 5 or more to use, where the price is 17% higher

      May 16, 2012 at 11:49 am |
      • File 1

        That is totally not true whatsoever. Restaurant can and have made it while paying their entire staff a living wage – and they didn't have to raise their prices to ungodly heights either.

        Put it this way – McDonald's pays minimum wage or more to all workers. Are you saying that there's enough margin in a $1 burger to pay for their salaries, while there's not enough in a $15 burger to do the same? Yes, I know, volume differs greatly. But if we sat down and did the math, I think we'd find that pretty much any restaurant could pay their staff at least minimum wage and keep their prices in a reasonable range.

        As a society, we've come to accept that it's ok to pay less than a living wage no matter the price of the food. We just expect it, and then justify it by saying that any other way would cost us all a fortune. But when you think about it, it makes no sense.

        May 17, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Alex

      Hoora Bill!

      Being a server was too "complicated" for me. If I wasn't shiny and smiling, I didn't get tipped well, which didn't make me shinier and smilier – i understand the causality and couldn't compensate for it. but I did spend quite a bit of time listening to other servers complain about things just like you mentioned. Additionally, our cooks NEVER got props for better food, turnaround time, etc. but they ALWAYS got lambasted for "poor" service.

      Mandatory tips are, as many other things, a wedge to drive between the customer and their money.

      May 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  23. mel

    To the people who want restaurants to pay employees more and double food costs instead: If you don't want to tip for service, simply order your food TO GO! You don't NEED someone to wait on you, but if you choose to you should tip for the service. I choose this option a lot to save a little cash, and I wouldn't want to pay more for my food if the service werre to be included in the price when I do not elect to receive table service.

    May 15, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • youblinked

      I like to tip. I often over-tip if the service is really good, but I hate to be forced to tip especially if the service is bad!!! I'll decide and I'll be fair, but I won't be forced!!!

      May 15, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  24. 3eyedjohnny

    Should have left the friend that can't find a date at home - then there would have only been 4 eating. Pay the 18% as you agreed when you read the menu. If you didn't get good service discuss it with the manager and see if you can get comped or something better. If the manager refuses get your pound of flesh through Yelp and Twitter.

    May 15, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Dave

      If someone doesn't pay their bill–for the food (which could be inedible, for instance,) or the tip, (for terrible service), the restaurant has the right to press charges, which can be defended and decided in a court. The diners can then argue their case of terrible food or service, the restaurant can argue their policy. But there is NEVER A right to hold the diners against their will–that is kidnapping and a criminal offense. And there is NO way that kidnapping someone till they pay ransom is legal. Everything else being discussed misses that basic point.

      May 16, 2012 at 1:58 am |
  25. NotForYou

    Go ahead and lock me in your restaurant for not tippinig. By the time you open the door again, you won't have a restaurant anymore.

    May 15, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Galicant

      Ditto. I just e-mailed them and let them know they lost any chance at my business.


      May 16, 2012 at 8:40 am |
  26. Dan

    Caveat emptor. If you don't like the policy of the restaurant (which is lawful and, more often than not, fair) then just don't patronize the place.

    Any new restaurant you go to is going to be a different experience. What if you just didn't like the food, but the service was fine? Would you try to skip out on the bill as a matter of personal preference? You aren't guaranteed happiness.

    This is why Yelp! exists.

    That said, it does sound like the management over-reacted; but this is also common practice. If you feel like the service was bad, the proper etiquette is to pay the grat (you did, after all, sit through the entire dinner; you can always walk out before you receive your order) lodge your complaint with the management, and then tell others about the service you received.

    Sometimes, you're going to have a bad experience. If you don't like that, stay home and cook.

    May 15, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  27. Eric M

    I once had a waiter attempt to impose an automatic gratuity on me for a 3-person table. The restaurant was not crowded, yet he managed to screw up by the numbers. He didn't bring water or silverware to the table until asked. We twice had to walk up to the bar to put in our own drink orders. He wrote down the wrong soup order for my sister, and then tried to argue with her about it when she pointed out that the mistake. He even told me not to take an attitude with him when I told him his behavior was unacceptable and demanded he correct the order.

    Finally, he brings me the bill. It has both soups on the tab. I send it back. He brings the new one and I notice he has now applied an automatic gratuity. I immediately object. His explanation? "I thought you weren't going to leave me my tip". Luckily, I knew the owner personally, and marched right over to her with my complaint.

    Funny part is that I was still going to give the kid 10%, despite terrible service. He tried to slip one by us, so instead he got a penny and an extended high volume lecture on proper customer service in front of me and the entire restaurant. Worst service I've ever had in my life.

    May 15, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  28. Tunderbar

    Geez, here is a novel solution. How about the restaurant charge their customers the real cost of delivering the meal and running the restaurant and then actually pay their staff a decent living wage so they don't have to rely on and beg for tips and the kindness of strangers. Then if the customer wants to give the staff a reward for good work, they can knock themselves out and it'll actually be a bonus and not part of the servers basic income. Tips are the most incomprehensible way of doing business out there. Why would people even take jobs that force them to depend on the vagaries of customers for them to earn a decent living wage. If the customer doesn't like the service the will express that by not coming back.

    May 15, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • JCNOW

      Clearly. If a restaurant cannot pay a living wage to its wait staff it has no business being in business. Minimum wage is a joke. In Florida, for example, they are trying to lower the minimum wage for tipped employees to $2.13 per hour.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:22 am |
      • twoell76

        It is already $2.10 in New Mexico.

        May 17, 2012 at 1:27 am |
  29. Guy

    The cop was not only useless, but dumb. It is very clear that it is not only illegal to lock the doors during business hours, but to lock them to make somebody comply with a civil issue? False imprisonment bordering on kidnapping is an easy call. The cop needs to go back to P.O.S.T. for basic instruction or at least should have called a supervisor.

    May 15, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  30. mr. butters

    I think the reason in the article is my main problem with auto-tipping. Sure, it's an easy way to figure out how much is owed. But if your service was terrible (and I think most people have experienced this at some point) then you don't want to give them any tip, or at least a very small one. And I'm not talking about a large group. I mean a normal 4 person meal.

    May 15, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  31. PandoraDoggl

    Tipping is a little bit ridiculous, if you ask me. I think it can be compared to extortion. The poor wait staff is paid peanuts so the management can list the menu items at a lower price, and the customer is made to feel guilty about it and expected to cover the difference. Restaurants should pay their wait staff a fair wage and charge accordingly. If their service is crummy, then patrons will stop coming.

    That said, I almost always tip 20%+, but if a restaurant decides they want 18% and adds it to my bill, that's what they're getting.

    May 15, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • T. E. Lawrence O. A.

      Tips are earned and anyone who's never done the work has no basis for informed opinion (and sounds like a privileged snob poo-pooing the practice). It's far better to 'reward' the occasional poor service than to stiff hard working wait staff – and the most wait staff ARE hard working and competent (or they don't last).

      Who can abide some pompous buffoon treating the issue as though it's purely Academic? Wait staff rely on Tips FOR THEIR LIVING – would you care for some stranger to decide your salary for you!?!

      Of course, locking the doors is idiotic and whomever is responsible for that genius decision deserves what they get...

      May 15, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Guy

      Tip stands for, TO INSURE PROPER SERVICE. I reserve the right to determine that. Just like any other employment, we get evaluations on a regular basis. If we are performing well, we get a TIP. If we are not we don't. That is the responsibility of the business. Not mine as the customer. Period. If I get lousy service and you automatically add this to my bill, what makes me want to come back.? Excellent service can certainly overcome other deficits. I have been to a restaurant where upon first glance looked really bad, but the service was awesome and the food was ok, and I have been back many times. I have also been to a fantastic looking restaurant, with awesome food, but poor service, and I won't go back. It's that simple. I decide, not you.

      May 15, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
      • Guy

        Also, lets be clear. A business for safety reasons, is not allowed to lock their doors for any reason, ( other than an emergency). This is clearly not an emergency. The manager could be cited. If I chose not to pay that portion of the bill, that is what civil courts are for. Clearly I better have a good, provable reason, but do not lock the door. That could just escalate thing's that could certainly backfire on the management. Not a good move on their part.

        May 15, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
        • Galicant

          I think the backfire just started for La Fishermen. Next time I visit Houston I'll avoid it because of this story. How many other folks reading this will do the same? Locking those folks in is going to cost them thousands. I hope they go under as an example to any other foolish person who thinks they can play the part of judge jury and prison guard.

          May 16, 2012 at 8:04 am |
      • JCNOW

        So when you get your oil changed in your car, I'm assuming you pay 25% of what the service station charges and then get to decide whether you want to pay the remaining 75%? Or how about when the plumber comes to your house, do you withihold 75% of his customary payment until he prances and smiles around you to your satisfaction, and then reward him with the monie he's entitled to? In reality, restaurants should be paying living wages and adding that amount to the cost of your food. That way, the ability of the wait staff to earn a living wage would not be dependent upon whether they bowed down to you to your satisfaction.

        May 16, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • Lydia

      I wonder how much the 18% backfires. I always tip 20%-25% percent myself, but when I see the 18% autotip, that is what I give. I figure, if that is what they are gonna force, then fine.

      May 16, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
      • Chris

        I suspect more people tip less than 18%... Why would they pick 18% if customers were usually tipping 20% or more?

        May 17, 2012 at 1:55 am |
  32. webyourstuff

    My family had a favorite "better" restaurant where we went for major events for many years.
    The restaurant changed hands (forcibly – the landlord refused to renew their lease because he wanted to put his friend in there).
    We had one event there under new management.
    The prices were significantly increased. The food quality was adequate for a budget restaurant, but not a quality restaurant. The food quantity was not enough to fill a person (This was a $50 – plate meal!). And the service was terrible. Then we were hit with a 15% gratuity.
    I suspect too many people had walked away without leaving anything, and this was the manager's way of fixing it... instead of fixing what he did wrong.

    Within months, the restaurant was closed, and too my knowledge it is still empty 4 years later.

    May 15, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  33. stephensonbillings

    We have no moral obligation to tip, esp when it supports the slothful lifestyle of slackers and 20 somethings who think they can get away with anything in their liberal and wretched lifestyles.

    May 15, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • T. E. Lawrence O. A.

      HILARIOUS! Braying donkeys like this who see 'vast liberal conspiracy' behind absolutely every silly story in the news – a new breed of so-called 'Americans' who seem to actually hate millions of their FELLOW AMERICAN CITIZENS.


      May 15, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • Iguessyradouch

      Clearly you have no idea what labor is involved in the food industry, and consider all blue collar work beneath you. Slacker would be the last word used to describe those who SERVE YOU. The fact is, I doubt you would be capable of a day of such labor serving jerks like you in a busy place. Most states pay $2.35 an hour for waiters, legally, and expect tips to pay the salary. After years in that industry making a fair living, I still don't necessarily agree with set gratuity, especially if food and service is awful, but so many jerks stiff good waiters to save a buck that it is a necessary evil, and floor managers should no the difference and act accordingly.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Courtney

      How rude of you to think that all servers are lazy and slothful. I waited tables while I was taking night classes trying to get my degree and also while raising TWO children. So...raising two kids, working full time at a restaurant waiting on moronic assholes like you, and getting my degree. Tell me what it is with you do with your life that is more worthy?

      May 15, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Rude Gonzalves

      I agree, tips? why tip? thats an act of begging. or Expected Alms
      If I was a server ever I would refuse to accept a tip
      No dignity in accepting money that way.
      If was President of United States I would have abolished that practice, may be someday.

      May 15, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Bonnie

      But I'm sure you have no problem paying a stripper $20 so gyrate around on your lap for three minutes...

      May 17, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  34. James

    There has been a change in perspective in the food industry. The basic assumption is now that you, the customer, are there to serve them. Everything from where you are told to sit, to the "gratuity" you are told to pay, is centered around this basic premise.

    They get away with it because apparently today's customer is so desperate just to get some food, that any level of service at all is now considered acceptable. It doesn't have to be this way.

    I tip up to 25% for exceptionally good service. As for this restaurant, if my experience was like this family's, let them arrest me. I'll be glad to settle it in court, and get a fat settlement for my emotional distress at having been imprisoned and threatened.

    May 15, 2012 at 1:41 am |
  35. Keith

    My wife always wants to tip 20%, I think 15% is enough. I do tip more if the service is exceptional, I have tipped equal to the cost of the meal.

    Auto gratuity is to insure crappy service for large tables.

    I also “Chef” for some restaurants when their Chef needs time off. If a table has over 15 people, I greet the patrons and supervise service.

    May 14, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  36. paul

    utter bull.GRATUITY means gift.no one can be forced to give a gift.as for the whiners who go on about the poor rates servers get,if the servers refused to work for slave labor the bosses would have to pay properly.i know damn well i dont get tipped when i do a job that im paid to do.poor wages is the servers choice for allowing bosses to walk all over em

    May 14, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  37. Larry

    The auto-gratuity is an absolute farce. For a party of 5! - that is simply ridiculous. That means many American family can not dine together without being a large group! My wife and I have a son and two daughters. That in NO way qualifies as a large group.
    My wife and I live most of the time in Europe - 10% is considered a generous tip and wait staff are delighted with that amount. The greed in America is two-fold - restaurant management needs to pay a fair base wage, enough for someone with no tips and auto-gratuity makes the quality of service often disappear. The staff knows they are going to get it anyway - why provide good service? That does not include everyone - we have had some great wait staff experiences in America (and Europe), but it is when the customer gets to reward excellent service, not basic "here's your meal" attitudes.

    May 14, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  38. jasonervin

    Are the people complaining about tipping willing to pay more for a meal, and get "minimum wage" level service when they dine out? That's what would happen if we eliminated tipping as etiquette. It's not just the per hour increase that costs would have to cover, but additional payroll costs as well. Then when less people dined out due to rising costs, add a little bit more to the cost of a meal for the people still willing to pay. There's also the unintended consequence of unemployment, and not just for college kids waiting tables while in school. In today's economy there are college educated men and women waiting tables. In the long-run, it's less expensive to leave a 15-20% tip. The only exception is if a server is deliberately rude. (Even for "slow" service I still tip something because I don't know what's going on "behind the scenes".

    May 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Thea

      I don't believe in the "Minimum Wage" service level.

      If the restaurant are going to pay a minimum wage, they are going to make sure that their employees deliver a certain service level or go out of business alltogether. People will simply chose to eat at places where not only the food but also the service is ok. That might actually be good for the excellent waitstaff since their services would be in great demand and that again would lead to higher wages.

      May 23, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  39. Gus

    The cop was useless, this was false imprisonment. A disgrace. Nobody is obliged to tip for bad service even on a mandatory "gratuity". A tipping dispute is a civil matter not a criminal one. Holding someone against their will is a serious matter. I hope they get a lawyer to teach this restaurant the error of their ways.

    May 14, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • tdspringer

      You are absolutely correct, Gus. Locking the doors amounts to false imprisonment and is a felony.

      While I understand the reasoning behind the mandatory "gratuity" (by definition it is not a gratuity if it's mandatory) if the service is really bad I don't blame the customers for refusing to pay it. A "gratuity" is SUPPOSED to be a reward for service. If the service is just so-so, 10-15% is customary. If the service is above average, 20% or more is called for. But if the service is really bad, why should the servers be rewarded for that?? Frankly, I say, do away with tipping. Pay servers minimum wage to start. Then, if the service is bad, you complain to management and, if they are smart they make part of your dinner free and the server is punished or fired....

      May 14, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
      • nathanbrazil

        The do away with tipping thing does not work either. You will still pay the extra. Under the tipping system the restaurant owner is transferring some of the cost of the service to the patron (theoretically to encourage better service by the waitstaff). If they did away with tips and just paid minimum, they they would simply pass that cost on to you in your bill anyway (they have to get it somewhere, and the only thing in the restaurant that is a source of income is your wallet). So you would still pay the 15-20%, you would just be doing so regardless of service.

        May 14, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
        • Bill


          What is the basis for your statement "you would still pay the 15-20%". I respectfully disagree. I don't believe that the employers are going to pay these people the same amount they convince us to tip them, and in order to be competative, they may pass the savings on to the consumer. I.e the menu price will be higher but your total bill will probably be less. By the way I have no problem with servers being paid a fair wage. However, when I used to eat out, I sometimes calculated that the acceptable tip equated to a higher hourly wage than I received at my place of employment, and my work requires a higher skillset. Why am I expected to do this? That's why I don't eat out anymore, and hence don't contribute to the racket at all.

          May 15, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • nathanbrazil

      Not exactly true. The manager could make the claim that they were attempting to commit a crime (by not paying the bill) and then made a citizen's arrest, which would allow them to hold them for the police. I am not saying it is smart, but it is not automatically false imprisonment. Store owners CAN hold shoplifters (but they better have solid proof). This is similar. It is still dumb on the part of the restaurant.

      May 14, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
      • gatecrasher1

        Imposing a physical barrier such as locking a door weakens their citizens arrest defense. Under a citizens arrest, the person is still free to leave. Likewise, anyone can call the police if they feel they have a reason to, either the restaurant owner or the patron in this case.

        No matter what, this is not a case that the police are eager to be involved in. More of a headache than anything else.

        May 14, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
      • Bill

        Courts have ruled in EVERY case that has been litigated on this subject that gratuities are voluntary, even if they are automatically imposed for a large party size. So the diners were breaking no laws by refusing to pay the auto-grat.

        May 14, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
      • badfreakinmedicine


        May 15, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
        • stan

          actually, yes – it is. not paying your mastercard bill is one thing. skipping out on a bar, resturaunt or hotel bill is treated as theft, and people DO go to jail for it.

          May 16, 2012 at 7:52 am |
    • Sarcasm0

      It's false imprisonment if a chain like Best Buy stops you at the door to mark your receipt and won't let you out, too. There is case law supporting this.

      It will be funny when the restaurant reimburses this group 1,000 times over.

      May 15, 2012 at 10:02 am |
      • badfreakinmedicine

        It will be even funnier when they go out of business, replaced by another restaurateur who has a damn clue

        May 15, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  40. Dave Lieberman

    Regardless of the tipping issue, locking the family in could be considered unlawful restraint under Texas Penal Code §20.02. If any of the children were under 14, that's a state jail felony with a minimum sentence of 180 days in prison.

    Me, I'd have busted the door down or broken out a window and called the police from outside.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • gatecrasher1

      Don't counter a crime with an unjustifiable act. Unless you are physically threatened, destroying property to escape will not help your case. You do not need any suspicion on yourself of vandalism or disorderly conduct, which will diminish police sympathy for you.

      If you can safely call 911 from your cell phone or another phone to which you have lawful access, do so and say that the restaurant employees are harassing you and your family and holding you against your will. If you have witnesses, even better.

      May 14, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  41. Amanda

    Last night at a restaurant in NYC where my husband and I live, we ate dinner near a fairly popular tourist attraction. The problem with this and several other locations throughout NYC, is that they don't trust tourist to tip properly so they throw in the autogratuity without reserve of the size of the party (and without notation on their menu). Just last night my husband, a friend, & I had the worst service. After sitting at the table for a while, we had to ask for menus, after waiting for a while to place our order, we had to check on the status twice after other patrons who arrived after us, received their meals. Additionally, the waitress never checked in on us. I needed more water and napkins so my guest went up to the bar himself to get what we needed. The service was so poor and the food was not great and then we get the bill and there was the auto gratuity of 18%. We were going to pay using a credit card (and object to the gratuity amount) until we were waiting forever again for them to pick up the bill, so instead we left cash and walked off. I am not ashamed to say we covered the food, bev & tax portion of the bill, but left less than indicated on the total b/c we were not going to be subjected to paying for an unwarranted tip.

    May 14, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • tdspringer

      This is why you ALWAYS need to look at the bill carefully before you pay it. Not only that, but you should NOT be calculating the tip on the total including taxes. Not a big deal in some places but, in Canada if you look at the "bottom line" to calculate your tip you are tipping on an additional 14%! Sorry. I will tip based on the cost of the food and drinks NOT on the state's share!

      May 14, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
      • Soup Dog

        They do that here in Maryland too, it's perfectly legal.

        May 15, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • pattysboi

      Good for YOU, Amanda! I would have done exactly the same, and had NO qualms about it.

      May 14, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  42. Dan

    My wife use to serve when she was younger, she showed me her tips, and she talked to me every night about her day. She averaged about $13 an hour and a small diner. The customers weren't always the most pleasant and there were some other terrible servers, but make no mistake, she knew her job was to keep that customer happy no matter how annoying. I evaluate my servers based on how my wife would serve in the same conditions. I am extremely generous, 21% is a base tip for ok service, 30%+ isn't unheard of. However when it comes to large parties I ask for the 18% gratuity to be removed; if the server is confident enough, which they usually are, they generally get at least the 21% aforementioned.If not then 18% it is. I don't take discounts from managers based on service, food I will but not service. I will however speak to the manger and let him know either way how it went.

    May 14, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  43. freddysaces

    Sorry, but the most relevant part of the article, if true, is that the party didn't get the service for which they we being auto-billed. If in fact the wait staff was rude, didn't refill drinks, and gave generally poor service, the dinner party should have had NO obligation whatsoever to pay that tip. I feel absolutely NO remorse for the wait staff if this is true and the only difference for me is that I would not have paid the tip – period. By the way, I have only not paid a tip one time and believe me that was well deserved.

    Now just as a side note that I'll throw in since I was a business major, one of the FIRST things you talk about with regard to customer service is that the customer is ALWAYS right. ALWAYS. The owners of this restaurant need to have a clearer picture of future revenue streams and what bad press does for the reputation. Nobody in this dining party is never coming back. We can't say they would have if their tip would have been removed, but there is a much better chance they would have had the next set of circumstances not followed. In addition, I can't imagine this restaurant wants this kind of publicity in the national news. My wife and I like to eat at nice places and we typically remember things like this and avoid such places, or at least check into them more before we go. Just food for thought, La Fisherman. That $20-30 bucks you refused to take care is going to cost you way more than that down the road.

    May 14, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • badfreakinmedicine

      Damn right it will. I just emailed them to let them know I will never eat there, EVER.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  44. kdf

    Here is what I have an issue with... I do not get tipped at my job! I do for others all day long and I get zero compensation for it. Why should it be my responsibility to pay the staff for a job well done. Shouldnt the restaurant be the one responsible for this? I think, waiters/waitresses should be paid by their employeer the standard minimum wage or greater depending on how long and well they do their job and it should always be the an option for patrians to pay anything on top of that. If I get bad service, you will get nothing, if I get great service , you will be compensated for it, but I should not be required to do so.

    May 14, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Ali Be

      I bet you make more than $5 an hour, though. When I work 38-40 hours a week, I only bring home roughly $85 on my paycheck. Whether you tip or not, I am stuck tipping out an expo, busser, and if alcohol is ordered, the bartender. After all that, I STILL have to claim tips when I clock out. Because of this, I have actually lost money on cheap-ass tables. And let me be clear, I am a good server. Not a perfect human being, I sometimes make errors, but I do my best to remedy the situation.
      I am sick to death of tables full of needy dirtbags who keep me running around the restaurant, to the point where my other tables are neglected, and not receiving a tip. It comes with the territory, but unless you have worked in food service or any other tipped industry, you don't know that feeling after working as hard as you can and receiving nothing, or just rounded up to the next dollar (last night, MOTHER'S DAY, I received 30 cents on a bill that came to $59.70. They received perfect service, by the way).

      May 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
      • thedude

        With an attitude like that you should never get tipped. If anybody is a piece of garbage I am sure it is you

        May 14, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
        • Iguessyradouch

          Dudesanidiot, Waiting on tables in a busy place and serving asses like yourself with a smile for close to an hour is a tad more difficult job than many minimum wage jobs. Many are incapable of it. You are literally running during your shifts and performing a balancing act of handling incompetent waiters tables along with your own, and covering for cooks having bad days. Some places you even bus your own tables because the owners are saving a buck. A week in the industry would cure your holier than though attitude, but if you act this way in public I'd hate to guess what you actually have been served in your food. Maybe you shouldn't eat out.

          May 15, 2012 at 10:06 am |
      • Bill


        Sounds like you not in a fair situation. If someone is forcing you to stay there, you should call the police. Otherwise find employment at a better establishment where your hard work will be rewarded with better tips. By the way, you have just validated my point of view that employers should just charge a little more and pay the employees a fair wage instead of expecting employees to be paid via generous customer tips. Thank you!

        May 15, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  45. jrvinnh

    Making the tip manditory and a fixed percentage kind of defeats the purpose of tipping in the first place. "Tip" stands for "to insure proper service". The gratuity is supposed to be an incentive for the person providing the service to do a better job. If the giving of a tip and having a set percentage is made automatic, where is the incentive?

    May 14, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • fyi

      Although your intent is admirable, I wanted to let you know that it is a common misconception that tips stands for "to insure proper service". It does not. If you wanted to "insure" proper service you would pay "insurance". On the other hand, you may leave a gratuity in advance if you wish to "ensure" proper service. Giving money in advance does not ensure good service. Check out the definition of tip both on dictionary.com and snopes.com and you will see the difference.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  46. rccllap

    I worked in food service for the better part of 20 years, as a hostess, bartender, and server. I even made it to trainer and manager status. Let's be clear. TIPPING IS NOT MANDATORY. That's why it's called a GRATUITY. It's a way for the customer to say "thank you for a job well done." The problem is that the industry has developed a dependence on the tip system as a way of paying very hard workers for their time. Minimum wage for a tipped staffer is generally about $2.13 an hour. No one can live on that in this country. But every restaurant and bar in the US has decided that the staff must survive on what the customers give them. Policies like the manadatory grat on larger parties is an insult to both the server and the group served. It basically says, "You aren't going to get the same level of care as a smaller party, even though the server is only working for you right now. Therefore you MUST give them money." It's nothing short of extortion. Unless I was required to do it because of a computer system I couldn't shortcut, I never added the grat and I ALWAYS earned more on big tables. Upwards of 30-40% sometimes! But the bottom line is, we live in an entitlement culture and until people change their thinking to be more compassionate of others, the tip system in the service industry will prevail. We should have living wages at every level of the employment chain...but we don't. We shouldn't have the reliance on the wealthier...but we do. Sad, sad.

    May 14, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  47. Joe

    Two others concerns not mentioned:
    1) In many States, including Maryland, the waiters and waitresses are responsible for covering the cost of "walkouts" – those who leave without paying. The waiter is responsible for the "walkout"s felony offense. Though in my mind this is synonymous with a thief stealing from a person's wallet, if the waiter holds the thief or chooses to restrain them, they will receive a harsher penalty than the crook. Absolutely ridiculous!!! Where else in our so-called Justice System is someone else held accountable for a crime they didn't commit or aid?
    2) The pay scale used to be that waiters/waitresses had to be paid half the minimum wage but the Feds decided that the rich weren't rich enough (though 5% now hold 75% of the wealth), so they let the percentage slip along with the now current minimum wage. Servers got dissed on both sides of this issue. Aristotle once proposed that no citizen of Athens, regardless of what they did/accomplished should be paid more than 3 times what the minimum wage worker made. You see Aristotle realized the need to tie wage to "EFFORT". Capitalism and inheritance produces the biggest free-loaders in the country. One lucky ancestor and you get to live like a king/queen in a country that supposedly was founded with a distaste for royalty. Capitalism is NOT a perfect economic model. Did the CEO of APPLE really "EARN" over a million dollars a day last year? Does the minimum wage janitor, who works everyday, still deserve to live in poverty? According to the Republicans – YES! Do servers deserve to have no benefits while serving the kings and queens of capitalism? This is a country only for the rich who keep getting richer. So where were we? Oh yes – complaining about some of lowest wage "Earners" in the country. This is just another smokescreen to keep Americans from worrying where the money from most of the fruit of their labor goes to – the top 1 and 5%.

    May 14, 2012 at 8:00 am |
    • brutalmaster

      I would have sued the owner for holding the party hostage. they could have had felony kidnapping ( SEE OJ SIMPSON IN HIS LAST CASE) i would have filed charges and STILL NEVER PAID. A TIP IS NOT A REQUIREMENT OF DINING. IT IS TO COMPENSATE THE STAFF FOR GOOD SERVICE, and by not tipping you are sending a message to the employee about the bad service to. here is a tip, be glad it wasnt me in that restaurant. you know what i mean?

      May 14, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • Ryan

      Great post! Awesome work! I couldn't agree more! Every conservative should read this and try to respond meaningfully. There is no right answer; it seems that 50% of the country is not only poor and ok with it, but willingly perpetuates their poverty through the voting booth.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Soup Dog

      Look up the history of tipping. The tip-credit law was enacted by DEMOCRATS. The restaurant lobby is supported by a large number of democrats. This is not a left/right issue.

      May 15, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  48. WWRRD

    The Auto-tip should be considered a minimum. It should however not be considered mandatory. Diners should be able to pay less or none after a discussion with the restaraunts owner/ manager. This will protect the restaraunt from poor service from the wait staff.

    Let's be real, there are really bad wait staffs and there are really bad customers. This is a good policy to protect the interests of most waiters and customers.

    May 14, 2012 at 7:43 am |
  49. Tim

    Auto-tip is just idiotic, my servers on my slowest shifts still average in the 15 dollar an hour range. They do a good job and bust their ass for a customer. Auto-tip, tip pooling, or any manipulation of the system will just make servers care less about a table. In my personal opinion this restaurant is awful, calling the cops before a manager tries to resolve the situation? Either the manager needs to be fired or an employee that mishandled the situation, calling the police and locking the doors seems like it create a very negative situation for other customers. And applying an auto tip to a 5 top? Maybe a 10 top or 15 top I could see maybe doing it, but seriously a 5 top isn't taking 1 servers full resources, and if it is they should be getting some amazing service that 17 pct tip is well deserved, not empty cups and rude service.

    May 14, 2012 at 6:22 am |
  50. Michael

    If restaurants paid service staff a decent salary, this wouldn't be an issue at all.

    May 14, 2012 at 5:47 am |
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