Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Ve Haff Vays of Makink You Pay

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Video and full story here

If you’re frustrated by poor service at a restaurant, think twice before you decide to not tip. You may be in for a bit more than just a dirty look from the waiter.

"Nobody, nobody wants to be forced to pay a tip or be arrested for terrible service," Leslie Pope said when her happy hour ended in handcuffs.

Pope and John Wagner were hauled away by police and charged with theft for not paying the mandatory 18 percent gratuity totaling $16 after eating at the Lehigh Pub in Bethlehem, Pa. with six friends.

Pope claimed that they had to wait nearly an hour for their order and that she had to get napkins and silverware for the table herself.

Rest of the story

A couple of weeks ago during a trip to North Carolina, all five of us drivers and our five escorts went to "The Australian Themed Steak Restaurant" to eat supper. Their policy is to charge a mandatory 18% gratuity for groups of eight or larger, for which we qualified. We saw the notice, and knew it going in. But, we're nothing if not cranky individualists, so when presented with the actual dunnage - it pissed us off.

We'd had nothing but exemplary service - unlike the younguns in the news - so we had no complaints on that front. It was just the idea. A gratuity an option for rewarding good service, not a forced requirement by the restaurant. I can understand why they do this - I know people who think a dollar is more than enough for a tip no matter the bill or service. The restaurant is trying to protect their servers from getting stiffed on tips from a large group. I get it.

Conversely - if the restaurant is so concerned about making sure their help is adequately compensated for their efforts - geez, isn't that supposed to handled by their wages? So the food price is higher - ok, what's the difference when they're jacking the bill with mandatory tips? And causing hate and discontent with such a practice? Pay the help, already, ya cheapskates - if that's truly their concern. I also get the idea that restaurants underpay their wait staff and depend on tips to supplement their income and provide an incentive for good service. But that scheme requires cooperation from the customers, not coercion.

That forced gratuity actually hurt our server, because I and others would have definitely popped 20% - and I'm one for going 25 to 30% at a "nicer" joint if service is above and beyond. It was in this case - I was figuring somewhere between the 25 and 30 numbers when the 18% sort of floated into my consciousness and harshed my mellow. So 18% was it and no more - I happened to have exact change.

And, it turns out the police dropped the charges.

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said Pope and her friend were right and recommended to Bethlehem police that the charges against the couple be dropped, according to the Allentown Morning Call.

“It would not be the kind of case that should be processed criminally, Morganelli told the paper. “It was one of those matters that should be processed civilly.”

The couple will be appearing on CNN for their fifteen minutes of fame. An attorney for the pub

said he was a bit surprised by the news.

“We do not agree with the facts as presented in the press last week. Sheenan told the Morning Call. “This is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Bethlehem Police Department, not Lehigh Pub, and we will defer to them as the legal process plays out.”

The pub claims they offered to comp the couple for their bad experience - before the arrest, which leads me to believe they did not retract their demand that the gratuity be paid. Yep, a bit of free food and drink at a place that has my blood boiling and has proven to give poor service yet requiring me to pay a tip for said poor service would have me telling the manager where to stick that offer, and it ain't sunny there. Since the customers were balking at paying the gratuity, I'd find it hard to believe that requirement was withdrawn, then the police called in to arrest 'em for non payment. I'd sure be interested in what the pub's version of the facts are and why they acted as they did.

If this is the wave of the future at sit down restaurants, it just might be Mickey D's for this tubby trucker. I'm just sayin.'


CGHill said...

I'm a 25-percent kind of guy, usually; if someone gets 15 out of me, it's the equivalent of a rebuke.

We had a chatroom party in New Jersey one year. About 10 of us, and we worked the guy ragged all night, it seemed. Tab was something like $680; we gave him a flat $200.

Jeffro said...

A dollar from me - when the bill is well over five bucks - is my way of bitching.

Jinglebob said...

This is BS.


I will pay when it is fair to great. And what I pay depends on what I get. That is the Capitalist system at it's best. Places like this are part of why this country is going down the tubes. That and the wait staff having to share tips.

Anytime you force something, it is wrong.