Tipping is a really complicated issue in the US. What was once introduced as a way to reward good service, has now turned into a way for patrons to actually pay the salary of restaurant workers. One of my biggest pet peeves with tipping is the mandatory tip on groups. This used to be added to groups of 12 or more, then it dropped to 8 or more, and nowadays most places consider a group of 6 people to be large enough to warrant a mandatory 18% tip – no matter how lousy the service.
Leslie Pope and John Wagner encountered this stupid rule at the Lehigh pub in Bethlemen, PA. Their group was served by a pretty useless waitress who made them wait over an hour for their order, forced them to refill their own drinks and even navigate the restaurant to get their own napkins and silverware.
When it came time to pay, they were presented with a $73 check, plus a $16 tip. When they refused to pay the tip, the pub called the police and had them arrested. They were actually handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car.
The owner of the restaurant claims he offered to comp them their food, and admitted that it look a long time to serve the food. At the moment, the couple have been charged with theft, but chances are the charges won’t hold up in court.
To me, the big question is whether the Lehigh Pub really thinks all this is worth the horrible publicity they are getting – to have a restaurant actually call the police when someone attempts to refuse paying for lousy service is a surefire way to make people avoid your restaurant for years to come. Because of their actions, reviews on sites like Yelp, and Rateitall have dropped to one star. Serves them right.
What do you think? Should you pay the “mandatory group tip” even if the service was really bad?