Couple gets arrested for not paying tip after getting awful service at pub

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Forget about getting bad looks from the waiter/waitress, not paying a tip might land you in jail, especially if it is the mandatory 18% gratuity for groups of 6 and above.

Leslie Pope and John Wagner arrested for not paying gratuity for ba service

College students Leslie Pope and John Wagner went to Lehigh Pub in Bethlehem with half a dozen of their friends on Oct. 23 for happy hour but instead of having a great experience at the pub,  they got handcuffed and arrested for not paying the mandatory 18% gratuity.


The group reportedly had to wait more than an hour for salad and wings and had to approach the bar themselves for drink refills and find their own napkins and silverware as their waitress smoked outside.Source:

So, as anyone would think, they decided on not paying any tip. The bill was $73.87 with an extra $16.35 for gratuity. They paid the tab for food, drinks and tax but refused to pay the gratuity. The waitress took the money from them but decided to call the cops. The cops handcuffed and arrested the couple on the charge of theft since gratuity was part of the bill.

“I understand that, you know, we didn’t pay the gratuity, but it was a gratuity, it wasn’t something that was required,” said Wagner.

The owner admitted that the group waited unusually long for their food, but said the pub was extremely busy that night. He said managers offered to comp the food, a claim the couple denies ever happened.

“Obviously we would have liked for the patron and the establishment to have worked this out without getting the police involved,” said Deputy Police Commissioner Stuart Bedics.

Police charged them with theft since the gratuity was part of the actual bill. However, it is doubtful that the charges will hold up in front of a judge. The couple is scheduled to appear in court next month.Source:

I personally have a problem with the mandatory 18% gratuity for groups of 6 or more. When I go in a group, I still get one person to take care of me and if he/she screws up, gives us attitude, spits in the food, forgets about us or just delays food, then there is nothing I can do, I still have to pay the premium tip. What is the waiter or waitress' incentive to give me a better service? It is not that I am making him/her do more work as a group of 6, rather than 3 groups of 2 each?

What do you all think?

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Comment by
November 20, 2009 at 17:43

This is definitely ridiculous.  Gratuity is supposed to be just that, gratuity.  Mandatory gratuity is an oxymoron, it contradicts the entire concept.  If I am not happy with my waiter, I refuse to leave a large tip.  Generally, I tip at least 20%, but at times I can go as low as 5% if I have a grievance with my server.

Comment by
November 21, 2009 at 02:37

Yes, this is ridiculous.  That's like saying "Mandatory Donation" or "Required Gift".  The only way you can show me you deserve it is by your service, not by whining that you need it to support you because you chose a foot-hold job as a career.  Just another finger of the politically correct fallicy.

Comment by
November 21, 2009 at 04:31

It blows that this escalated to the cops being called. This should not have happened and they're right and the owner lied to nbc about offering to comp parts of their then he's a coward and a douche.

That being said, a mandatory gratuity is something that's widely required for good reasons. For restaurants and employees in the service industry, the name of the game is turnover- income depends largely on how many different sets of people you can seat at your tables per night. Larger parties can easily take many times longer to settle their bills and leave their tables, cutting the waitstaff's income down a lot. Needless to say, minimum wage is not close to a living wage and waiters need the tips to stay solvent. A mandatory gratuity is a reasonable safeguard for the waitstaff.

Comment by
November 22, 2009 at 01:24

I think it is a stupid law to reward samebody to a bad job.  It is remands me what happened passed summer with bonuses which some companies paid their employees, even though their companies vent under, remember?  Bonus is like a tip to the waiter, if you do a good job you get a tip/bonus – if you don’t you wont get tip/bonus!

Comment by
November 23, 2009 at 14:01

Gratuity: "a gift of money, over and above payment due for service, as to a waiter or bellhop". 

key word is "gift".  If the restuarant claims it is a "service charge", then the question becomes: is that income for the restaurant and are they reporting that income and paying tax on it?  if so, where's the tip for the satff?  if it is an actual "tip", a gratuity, as in a "free gift for service", then bad, medium, or good service is irrelevant.  A free "extra" should be up to the customer.

Finally, if indeed some work requires an additional x% to cover costs and show a profit, the add it up front.  Don't call it a "gratuity", which literally means a gift or something extended freely to another.


Comment by
November 23, 2009 at 14:10

i hate tipping, it is such a ripoff.  you look at the menu, see something costs $10 and order it ... you run up a bill of $40, and suddenly the bill is $50 because you have to tip.  why not include the tip in the price and let people tip waiters that deserve it something normal like $5 or $10 irelevant of the order amount.  who made up this system anyway?

Comment by
November 23, 2009 at 15:10

I agree Alen!

Tipping should be fixed irrespective of the bill amount, rather than the percentage of the total $ amount.

Do you really think that the waitress would do a better job if I order $100 food instead of $20?

I remember, once I went out on a date and ordered an expensive Saki and some rolls, the bill ran out to $200. I ended up paying for $30 for tip despite mediocre service. All the waitress did was to serve us the wrong Saki and then correct it and give us the bill. Someone else from the kitchen came and served the sushi. Obviously, you don't want to look cheap, so I paid the minimum 15%.

I felt ripped for paying $30 per hour for it. She probably had 3 more tables and might have made an easy $100+ for the hour?

This whole thing makes you feel bad for this great waiter or waitress at a cheap grille and worse for the snobbish waiter/waitress in an expensive restaurant.

Comment by
November 23, 2009 at 15:36

This does raise an interesting issue, why do we tip a percentage of the check?  Who made this decision?  Is this just a way for restaurants to pay less in taxes?  Of course, they can raise the price of the meal, but then that is revenue for the restaurant, right?  ... which, in turn becomes higher taxes.  Of course, if they write off the revenue with higher wages, then it should all even out.  It doesn't make sense.

The only logic I can see in this is if a restaurant is doing terribly then they don't have to pay high salaries.  On slow days then can afford to have many waiters or waitresses in the restaurant.  But, is this a valid excuse?  Do I really care how much the restaurant makes?  I just want good food and above average service. 

Alen, you are right, this is a ripoff.

Comment by
November 23, 2009 at 16:43

I have a feeling that tipping is over done in US. Some points to thing about -

- If I am buying a coffee from Starbucks, why do I tip? Isn't the coffee already overpriced?

- If we tip the waiters and waitresses in a restaurant and cab driver, why not tip the flight attendants and pilots too? Do we really care if the waiter/waitress is wearing a Gucci/Prada and tip less?

- If the restaurant owner serves you or the cab driver owns the cab - do we still tip? Why?

- Why is the tipping norm between 15-20%?

- Why should I tip - expensive hair stylists, expensive coffee shops, at take out places, at buffets (esp when I get my own drinks), my movers, carpet cleaners, etc.

- Why should I tip a bartender when all he/she does is just give me an "over-expensive" beer/wine/cocktail? Some of them make 1000s over  a night and still give you attitude?


There seems to be a problem with these business owners, where they think that it is ok for them to keep "all the profit" and let the consumers pay for the major portions of the salary?

It is like some sort of a kickback or bribe system, which has just become a norm.


Can I call cops if I don't get service for my mandatory gratuity? Can I call it a scam and get the waiter/waitress arrested for conning me?

Disclaimer - I am against the whole tipping system and I do think the the business owners should pay the service providers better, so that the tip becomes really "discretionary" rather than an almost mandatory fee.

Comment by
November 23, 2009 at 18:21

I have a different side to the story - I worked as a bartender and waitress during most of my college years.

The basic pay was a little above minimum wages, so the money I made was mostly dependent on the customer tips.

Some points for Newsfreak -

- You would be surprised to find the number of people who tip really poorly. Since it is something you do at the end of the meal, and we don't collect it till you leave - you can get away with anything. I have had times when the customer left me a nickel or dime for tip. And believe me, I was a really good waitress.

- The tips only add up when you have a busy night. And a busy night means that you are running around a lot - making sure that no one waits and food is served fresh and hot. I would go home and crash every friday and saturday night.

- We take all the crap about the food, despite the fact that we are not involved in cooking it. Once a woman started abusing and cursing me when she found a small hair in her food. Later we found out that the new cook forgot to cover his hair.

- We don't get medical/dental or any benefits. All we get is the minimum wages and the tips, nothing else!

- We are on our feet throughout our shift. We are running most of the times. I remember when I started, my feet used to be sore every night till I found Dr Scholls inserts.


I do agree that at some places, tipping does not make sense. But I will request you all one thing - If you find a nice waiteress who treats you well, then please tip generously!




Comment by
November 25, 2009 at 03:46

I come from a country where tipping is not so widely imposed, like in the US. Here it is mostly discretionary and people tip well only if they like the service. Tipping is done only in restaurants here. Others like the newspaper delivery boys, pump attendants etc are given "bonus" kind of amounts by patrons only during the annual Deevali festival, equivalent to Christmas in the West.

Comment by
November 25, 2009 at 11:12


I think most of the world - Europe and Asia follows the same logic. You just don't tip people for the sake of it, but for the quality of service.


Comment by
November 27, 2009 at 15:26

As a waitress, this story really hits home. People have no problem not leaving a tip and it's so disgraceful because that's how servers make their money. I get paid $2.62 an hour with taxes taken out and that translates to no paychecks. I get $0 paychecks. To top it off we don't even get to keep all the money we make. I have to pay 10 percent of what I earn to the buss boys, 5 percent to the dishwashers, and 3 percent to the bartenders. Half the time the people I have to tip are what slow me down too. On busy nights silverware is very hard to come by and if you have a sucky dishwasher you'll never get any. And I still have to pay these idiots (when they make far more per hour than i do). Gratuity is added for large parties because of the simple fact that they don't tip well. The server has the extra stress and work to serve 8 people, set up for 8, get drinks for eight, take the order for 8, serve meals for 8, clean up after 8, and everything else inbetween. Plus the cooks might not always have all 8 meals done at once and then it makes the server look like an idiot. The bartender may be the hold up as well. It's not always just the servers fault or even at all and that doesn't mean they deserve ZERO tip. They refused to pay any tip to her and that's flat out wrong. If a customer didn't tip me, I still have to tip the staff. Because it doesn't go by how much money you make it goes by how much money you have in sales. Generally you should make 18 percent of the sales you sell because the traditional gratutity amount per table is 18 percent. For example if I sold $500 in food and drink then I should have made $90 in tips according to traditional gratuity standards. If I have a table that's sale was $73.87 and they refused to pay my $16.35 then I really made about $74. However my managers look at how much I have in sales and say "She should have made $90  so she needs to pay $9 to buss boys, $5 to bartenders, and $3 to dishes." (you always round up to the nearest dollar) So in the end I leave with a whopping $57 and for what? Putting up with 8 grumpy bossy customers who did pay for the service AT ALL? Yea that was a great night. Face it people, you should be paying your servers more because we hardly make any money and we have the worst job of all. We have the responsibility of taking shit from people, we are bossed and ordered around and have to make sure everyone is happy. Making sure everyone is happy about everything is the hardest job in the world especially when you have people who are hard to please. It's definitely harder to please a party of 8 than 2 definitely but that's because there's more work involved with a bigger check which translates to a bigger tip. DUH. Mandatory gratutity is put in place to protect us servers. If you have a problem with tipping tell the states and the government to give servers an hourly raise. We're not even close to minimum wage for Christs sake! I would love a raise because you can't count on people.

Comment by
November 27, 2009 at 22:07

Amanda, I am curious, would you feel the same if you were making minimum wage rather than $2.62/hour?  If you had a standard paycheck regardless of what, I think that you would feel differently.  Throughout most of Europe, waiters and waitresses make a standard paycheck and tips are considered bonus.  I am sure if you had a decent salary you would feel differently, and this is kind of the point that some of us are trying to make.  I think it is unfair to the consumer to be required to tip those that don't care about their clients, while those that take good care of their clients should be rewarded.  At least, thats how I feel.

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