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Busted For Not Tipping


K8memphis
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I'd read about this the other day, but the report I read said it was only a party of six. However, the restaurant's menu clearly stated that a gratuity would be added automatically for parties of 6 or more. However, with service that bad, I wouldn't want to leave a tip.

So I'm torn. I don't think in a situation like this they should be required to leave a tip, but the policy was clearly stated in multiple places.

I'm gonna go bake something…

wanna come with?

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Merriam-Webster definition of gratuity:

" : something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service; especially : tip"

When the menu says "a gratuity will be added to the check..." I take it to mean "we're going to put that on the check, but there's nothing we can do to make you pay it except twist your arm." If the restaurant menu said "a mandatory service charge of 18% will be added..." then they'd have a case. If the restaurant meant "mandatory service charge" then they had the chance to say that and they didn't. Too bad.

I've never actually refused to pay such an "added to check" group gratuity, even after a horrible experience at the Boa "steakhouse" in Veags. (On top of lots of other problems, they tried to claim that a party of 18 drank 34 1-liter bottles of Fiji water, when 4 us were drinking tap, and others only drank their beer/wine - bulls*@$.) It wasn't as bad as the folks in the story describe, but it was bad. I was pushing to directly cash tip the busboys and the "assistant" servers who actually all did a fine job, and refuse to pay any gratuity for the jerk/idiot who was our "main" server. Sadly, the group as a whole didn't show much spine, despite all of us being pissed off (Not to mention disappointed in the food - they may be fine in the LA/LV market where see-and-be-seen is the goal, but in Chicago, where actual food quality rules, they would fail miserably at half the price.)

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I like the comment on that article, "Unless you are in a group of 10 or more than the restaurant usually has the right to charge a certain amount." where the heck is there a law that the restaurant has a "right" to charge for gratuity? I just thought it was something that restaurants just did. if you dont want to pay it then dont go.

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It has been fun following the place's Yelp reviews today. They picked up 300 mostly non-favorable. Someone posted a picture of handcuffs with the label "place setting." Yelp deleted most of today's posts and they are piling up again.

With the impact of the Internet, this shows that a restaurant has to think twice before confronting a customer and a few more times before calling the cops.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Bad over-reaction on the part of management and the cops. Bad judgment on the part of the patrons. Management was worse. It won't happen again.... they should be out of business soon unless they start a big PR campaign up there that includes all kinds of apologies and comps to all involved. College students love to get angry about stuff (and this isn't an election year) so that place is in big trouble.

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This entire incident was handled poorly by every single individual involved. If I had to get up and get my own silverware or refill my own water glass and my server was outside smoking in clear view, the manager would have heard about it long before the check was dropped. I would have flagged down a different waiter and demanded to see the manager immediately. My server would have been informed when they finally reappeared to drop the check that their tip would be suffering because of their unavailability and incompetence. There was no need to arrest anyone if the diner's displeasure had been handled through the appropriate channels and in a timely fashion. The manager is clearly incompetent as well. He should have realized these patrons were righteously pissed off and offered to listen to their complaint. That server would have worked their last shift and those patrons would have been comped and apologized to. On the other hand, management isn't clairvoyant, and if the patrons wait until it's too late to prove the waitress was outside smoking, then they just look like assholes trying to skip out on the gratuity. If service is a problem, people shouldn't nod and smile and say everything is fine when they're asked. Management can only offer to fix that which they are aware of. No restaurant wants a patron leaving unhappy, but you'd be amazed at how many people won't speak up (nicely) and will then go on to bad mouth the restaurant. If service is bad enough to reduce or refuse gratuity, then a conversation needs to take place BEFORE paying the bill or leaving the restaurant. Seems self-evident, yet it rarely happens that way...

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I understand what you're saying Katie. When I have owned customer service businesses I wanted customers to let me know if there is a problem. But sometimes, as a customer, I don't feel like a dialogue with a restaurant - staff or management. Most times, in fact. Only time I do more than mumble "fine" is when I really like a place.

Floor management should be aware of issues and, if the kitchen is slow, make the rounds to tables to minimize customer issues. If they want me to help manage the restaurant, they can put me on payroll.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Holly:

That was part of my point. The manager absolutely should have known what was going on. But as you know, sometimes they get busy or distracted or have to answer the phone because the hostess is on a bathroom break, or have to plunge the toilet or fix the dishwasher or reboot the POS system or attend to any number of crises that have arisen during that service. And I'm not suggesting a long diatribe with the restaurant, but just not expecting them to literally be clairvoyant, and to let someone know if there's a problem that's egregious enough to effect your desire to leave the customary gratuity. We can only fix those things we're aware of. If I serve you a cocktail you really really hate, but you smile and tell me it's lovely when I ask if everything is alright, then I'm going to believe you. I have no reason to think you're lying to me. Then you leave most of your drink on the bar except for the sips you took when you were telling me how yummy it was and you pay the bill and leave. Now I can't offer to make you another or different one. I'm hogtied in trying to have you leave my bar a happy patron. This would all be fine if when the story was retold you told your friends that the bartender asked how your drink was and you LIED to her because you didn't want to get into a confrontation, but that's rarely the case. Most folks retell the tale that the bartender made an awful drink, the service was lousy and the restaurant sucks and they wouldn't go back there on a bet. See what I mean? The patron is part of the process, and needs to be engaged in it. It would be great if all service experiences were as if things happened by magic, water and wine glasses forever refilled, food arriving perfectly timed and always cooked exactly as we wished it to be with never an interruption or a distraction from our dining companions. Before I can show you to our finest table for this epic dining experience, I'll need to herd the unicorns out of the dining room first... :smile:

Back more specifically to this case, the arrest is just silly. But this place sounds like a pretty basic college dive bar to me, so I'm not certain that expecting fine dining standards of service is reasonable. Having to get up and get your own food/drinks/utensils is out of bounds anywhere, however. And I have had to do that in a few places here in Philly, so I completely understand the annoyance level of the customers in this example. The manager obviously didn't want to own how out of the loop they were on this and overreacted in the most ridiculous way possible. Stupid all the way down the line.

Edited by KatieLoeb (log)

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Just want to reiterate what Katie said: This story sounds so bizarre on its face, but I must admit that I give 18% for substandard service, 20% for regular good service, and upwards of 25-30% for very good to outstanding, exemplary service, because, well, why the hell not? If one has ever worked even a little while in service in the United States, which almost everyone has these days - or aspires to have, given the economy and the job market, as of late - then one understands that this is the way American servers earn their wages. It is absolutely assumed that most folks who eat in restaurants understand that servers don't earn a wage from their employers, and therefore gain their tips, to the extent that they have a separate minimum wage, based on a tip credit that the IRS doles out to restaurant owners, exempting them from treating their servers like real employees, or even real human beings, for that matter.

But no matter. The patron shouldn't be concerned in that matter at all, unless there is an auto-grat party, which involves the solubility of not only the server, but also the restaurant, itself. The restaurant absorbs cost for setting aside the table, the server absorbs cost for setting aside valuable real estate in a (likely) small section, and other patrons pay the cost of not being able to be seated at a large table, even if they are likely to order more food and more wine to go with the food. . .

What I don't understand is: Out of all of the costs of the bill, why is the charge for service the most debatable? It is so rare for people to ask for an entree to be removed from a bill, even if it was served in an entirely inedible state, yet there isn't nearly as much discussion of this sort of thing as there is, in terms of service. If service is bad, throughout the entire meal, it seems totally OK on this board for people to say nothing until faced with an auto-grat, without saying a single word to a manager about how slow things were, and then deny the auto-grat. It is equally uncommon for people to even notice the auto-grat policy that is printed on every menu for ever restaurant that has such a policy.

No, I don't get it, and I refuse to get it, even though I'm moving into finally a position where I'm not working in a restaurant, for the first time in over a decade. I don't understand the totally separate requirements for food service, as opposed to just about everything else - do you really get your money's worth every time you go to the dentist? Just a for instance, albeit a poignant one. . . - and yet, people on this site demand almost super-human capability, on the part of their servers, in spite of fulfilling their job descriptions, no matter where they eat. Amazing.

Go Katie! May she continue on for long after I get kicked off for my uppity personality!

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So I took your advice this morning Katie. I had breakfast at a place that just opened this week. Ordered the SOS. It was nicely plated, the toast was trimmed, red and green peppers gave it some color. Unfortunately, the portion of chipped beef was mountainously generous. Nice gesture but caused the dish to be too salty. Not inedible, but objectionable.

As is tradition, the server asked me mid-meal, "How was everything."

I broke from policy and answered, truthfully, "The SOS was kinda salty. Too much chipped beef."

"Well we're new, just getting started, still working out the recipes."

"I know. That's why I told you."

"Well, everything else was ok?"

I reverted to my usual response, "Yup, fine." I didn't mention that the French press coffee was a nice touch, but at $3 per press, too ritzy for my typical two to three cups of coffee with breakfast, which would have led to my suggestion that they offer both options.

My guess is that my observation never made it to the kitchen.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Myself, I don't wanna get my own napkins, don't wanna go get my server, don't wanna be the guinnea pig for the chef/cooks, don't wanna go find the friggin manager. To me larger parties get the auto gratuity because they require extra service yes? If nobody is taking care of you in the first place then it's exponentially more wrong for me to have to go find someone to complain to.

That's the point they should be knowing there's a problem if they are indeed providing anything for that auto gratuity. I think the auto part sucks. I've been to too many functions in restaurants on someobody else's dime and it's beyond awkward to have to try & vigilante manage the place while you're trying to not be an ungrateful guest.

We need a new system. The manager, head server, maitre'd someone every night besides the server's themselves should always be checking on any table with the "instant gratuity"--you don't even have to add water to be entitled to it! It's as wrong to expect the diners to manage their share of the evening's restaurant activity as it is for them to bus their own tables.

Anyone can see at a glance if glasses have been refreshed and if people are ticked off --all they have to is look.

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Very good points. Auto-grat always offends me and usually results in a lower tip than I would have given if not compelled. Mgt should indeed be monitoring the big groups, and i dont think that I've seen that 1 in 20 times.

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I've got it!

The next time I get a sweet invitation to a restaurant with a group--I'm going to call in advance and ask for the manager in order to do some preventive maintenance on the front end.

If I am hosting the group I will arrive early and tip in advance.

So maybe this will bring some resolution.

I'm NOT gonna sit there and take it anymore!

rhaaaahhr

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More than once I've simply told the person taking the reservation or the person I was referred to that we would prefer to determine the gratuity - the implication being we'd go elsewhere if that was unacceptable. Never had an issue.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

Twitter

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This is why I consider automatically added tips to be a poor policy. I can understand why they might seem like a good idea, guaranteed tip for so many people and not getting the shaft. But cases like this show why it is really a bad idea.

I've lost count of the number of times I have noticed a drop in service quality when in a group large enough to charge the automatic tip.

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A friend who's been a waitress for years (including a long stint as a cocktail waitress at a hotel bar that adds gratuity for everyone) has always been under the impression that the added tip is NOT obligatory. The customer still has the discretion to pay less (or more).

Paying nothing without having said anythin, strikes me as a major breech of etiquette ... but so does calling the cops on customers who are already pissed, for a charge that may not even be enforceable.

Notes from the underbelly

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absolutely ridiculous. since when is tipping a must? ive left many a restaurant and not tipped, yes im english and in america it seems to be the thing to tip alot but you dont enforce it.

ive seen the film waiting where he gives the tip back. im sorry but youre getting paid anyway a tip is an added extra, ive worked in places where you dont get paid tips.

calling the cops because someone doesnt give you extra money? stupidity. id never want go to a restaurant like that. disgraceful behaviour.

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absolutely ridiculous. since when is tipping a must? ive left many a restaurant and not tipped, yes im english and in america it seems to be the thing to tip alot but you dont enforce it.

ive seen the film waiting where he gives the tip back. im sorry but youre getting paid anyway a tip is an added extra, ive worked in places where you dont get paid tips.

calling the cops because someone doesnt give you extra money? stupidity. id never want go to a restaurant like that. disgraceful behaviour.

As mentioned in another post above, waitstaff often get paid much less than minimum wage, so although they're technically "getting paid", they rely on tips to raise their salaries to at least minimum wage (although it usually raises it much more).

But not mentioned in the post above is that some states do require that even waitstaff get paid minimum wage. In those cases, I would feel less pity for the untipped staff.

The restaurant didn't call the police because the staff didn't get "extra money". They called the cops because the contract was unilaterally broken. Should the matter have escalated to that point? No. But for all we know (and we don't), the guests could have become disruptive and threatening (i.e. the cops were called more because of their unruly behaviour than because of the lack of payment).

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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It's worth pointing out that, as far as I know, in many places servers are (or can be) paid below the minimum wage for their base pay because it's assumed they'll be tipped, and on top of that, their income tax is calculated on the assumption that they're getting tipped a some level. (Please correct me if I'm wrong!)

It's an absurd system, but it's what is in place. But as long as the restaurant refers to it as a "gratuity" there still doesn't seem to be any basis for calling the cops, let alone anyone being arrested.

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My guess is that my observation never made it to the kitchen

By your own admission it's just a guess, right? Perhaps the waitress did pass along your observations and the chef chose to ignore them. Wouldn't be the first chef that couldn't handle some constructive criticism. :rolleyes:

I'm not advocating sending a registered letter with a suggestion. There's only so many hours in the day and we're all busy people. But certainly if you say NOTHING then nothing will happen to improve the situation. It's kind of like the lottery. You can't win if you never buy a ticket. I get your frustration, but avoiding confrontation at all costs just because you think no good will come of it isn't the answer either. Well directed and well mannered suggestions should be greeted with thanks from management, not disdain. Perhaps I've been fortunate enough to be employed by folks that take this sort of stuff seriously, but I can't imagine any competent restaurant manager ignoring a valid criticism or suggestion from a patron that wasn't rude about it.

As for the "voluntary" nature of gratuiies, I've ranted on that topic in other threads and needn't go into it here. Those who have pointed out that most servers/bartenders make far less than minimum wage are correct. I personally make $2.83/hr. I defy anyone to try and meet their monthly mortgage payment if the vast majority of their salary were left up to the "kindness of strangers". Yet hundreds of thousands of dedicated professionals in the restaurant industry do so every day. 'Nuff said.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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in response to the front of house pay it doesnt happen like that in england, maybe in america yeh but i have never ever heard of floor staff getting less pay because they get the tips. i see it happens in america on films etc but over here we're tight arses so if that was the case there would be no waiting staff haha.

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It's worth pointing out that, as far as I know, in many places servers are (or can be) paid below the minimum wage for their base pay because it's assumed they'll be tipped, and on top of that, their income tax is calculated on the assumption that they're getting tipped a some level. (Please correct me if I'm wrong!)

In CA, waitstaff get minimum wage at the very least, without tips calculated into it. It's state law... so when I dine out, I don't factor the "poor underpaid waitstaff" into my tipping at all.

Cheryl

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