No Tip = Handcuffs!

After getting hundreds of emails from readers about a couple in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania who got arrested for not leaving a tip I decided I had better say something about it.

The first thing everyone should realize is there’s a difference between a “service charge” and a “tip.”

Even though I’ve always advocated leaving a gratuity for your waiter, you do not have to leave a tip in a restaurant. A tip is something freely given and customers are under no legal obligation to leave one. If you receive terrible service you don’t have to leave a tip. If you have great service you don’t have to leave a tip. Of course if you decide to go on some kind of anti-tipping jihad you’ll probably find yourself unwelcome at all the restaurants you patronize, receive truly awful service, get seated next to the toilets and be victimized by the various ways waiters have of punishing parsimonious customers. But as much as we’d like to, we can’t have you hauled away in handcuffs if you want to act like an obnoxious, cheap bastard. Why? Because the tip is voluntary and you don’t have to pay it.

A service charge, however, is a totally different thing. A service charge is considered part of the bill and not paying it is like not paying the bill. Refusing to pay a restaurant bill is considered theft of service. If you try pulling that shit you won’t be doing dishes with Pedro in the back. You’ll to jail.

Many restaurants automatically tack a 15-20% service charge onto bills for parties of six or more. Why? Well there’s something I like to call the “Kitty Genovese Theory of Tipping.” You remember Kitty Genovese don’t you? In 1964 Ms. Genovese was attacked by a man with a knife as she was walking though Kew Gardens, Queens on her way home from work. Despite the fact the attack lasted half an hour and numerous people witnessed the assault, no one did anything to save her. While some onlookers knew she had been stabbed, others thought they were just witnessing a lover’s quarrel and still others ignored it because they simply didn’t want to get involved. By the time the police were finally summoned Ms. Genovese’s assailant had stolen $49 dollars out of her purse, raped her and fatally stabbed her.

In the aftermath of this terrible tragedy psychologists began to explore what’s called the “bystander effect.” What’s the bystander effect? It’s a phenomenon that occurs when “larger numbers of bystanders present during an incident decrease the likelihood that someone will step forward and help a victim. The reasons include the fact that onlookers see that others are not helping either, that onlookers believe others will know better how to help, and that onlookers feel uncertain about helping while others are watching.” Psychologists call this “diffusion of responsibility.” So if you’re in a large group and you see something bad going down there’s a good chance you’ll assume the other people in group will take care of the problem and you won’t do anything.

Now I’m not making light of Ms. Genovese’s murder. But if you’ve ever watched a large party in a restaurant divvy up a bill you’ll see the “diffusion of responsibility” thing at work. In many cases patrons think the host or the “other guy” is going to leave the tip so they don’t throw in. The result? The waiter often gets a bad tip or no tip at all. It happened to me a thousand times. And since a large party usually takes longer to eat than a couple or a foursome, a server can spend three for four hours working a table and receive little or no renumeration via tipping. That sucks. As a result of this phenomenon restaurant owners began tacking service charges onto checks to prevent large parties from inadvertently or purposefully stiffing their waiter. I agree with this procedure 100%.

Most establishments will make customers aware of this policy by posting it on the front door or printing it on the menu. And if it’s a posted policy the service charge is part of the bill and you have to pay it. Several years ago a restaurant patron got bad service and refused to pay a tip on a large party and was arrested. The judge let the man go because the restaurant didn’t call the automatic gratuity a “service charge.” And since tips are freely given, the judge contended, the man was under no legal obligation to pay it. If that restaurant posted the tip as a service charge, however, the judge said the man would’ve done time in the pokey.

So let me be clear. You don’t have to leave a tip. But you must pay a service charge. And while most restaurants will only add this charge to parties of six or more, some restaurants have taken customer choice out of the equation all together and tack on a service charge regardless of the number of patrons. And yes, you have to pay that too. I don’t agree with that practice by the way.

So that brings me to the couple in Pennsylvania. I don’t know them from Adam. They could be the be the nicest people in the world or cheap pricks. According to the news report the police said the gratuity was part of the actual bill, a service charge. So by not paying it the couple technically broke the law. But if what the couple said about the slow service they received is true then I think the restaurant’s owners are real dopes for pursuing this. If you’re forced to pay a service charge then “service” must be provided. I’m not a lawyer but this sounds like a “breach of contract” thing.

According to the news report, “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.” That tidbit me two things. One, the restaurant was aware the couple received subpar service. Why offer to comp the meal if it wasn’t? And I’m willing to bet that if you look into that number of staff working in the restaurant that night it was woefully unprepared for the level of customers it was serving. This is quite common in the restaurant industry. Sometimes ownership, in an effort to cut payroll costs, will keep the minimum amount of people on the floor and in the kitchen. Then, when they get hit by a mad rush, BOOM, the whole place goes into the weeds. To be fair however, sometimes servers are the cause of the problem. Waiters can be a lazy bunch and sometimes restaurants find themselves understaffed because the servers call out sick. Usually the reason’s they’re “sick” is because they’re hungover, can’t find a babysitter, are getting laid or their consciousness has been altered by various chemicals.

If I was the manager on duty in the restaurant in question I would have given that entire table free desserts, drinks, a gift certificate as an apology and not expected them them to pay the service charge. (And if it was my place I’d have given the server the tip out of my pocket – unless he or she was high as a kite.) Of course I wasn’t there but it sounds like the managers on duty were inexperienced, afraid of the owner’s reaction to any decisive thinking on their part (That’s probably why there’s a disagreement over whether a comp was offered) or they had a bitter axe to grind. One thing’s for sure, they brought a load of bad publicity down on their restaurant and the ire of the local cops. The police have more important things to take care of than this shit.

So yes, the couple in question broke the law. But due to the circumstances I can see in the report they should be given a pass. But this is a rare dispensation from “The Waiter.” I’m sure some yuppie pricks will twist my words around and start refusing to pay service charges because they got a bad table or didn’t get enough butter for their bread. Don’t try it. In most cases, unless there’s an egregious lack of service, and I mean egregious, people must pay the service charges posted on the menu. And if you feel service charges are unfair then you’re free to patronize restaurants that don’t have them.

So let it be written, so let it be done.

54 thoughts on “No Tip = Handcuffs!”

  1. R. says:

    I just read a post on the same subject at

    That’s a really damn important distinction. I work at a chain restaurant that does not do a service charge/auto-grat, apparently it’s been a big argument among the GMs for years. It is what it is, I wish we had one on large parties but let’s face facts: in this biz you’re going to get good tippers and you’re going to get bad tippers (and I live in a backwards kind of town soooooo…). If you can’t handle that you should get out.

    That said, you know, my stance on auto-grat has always been that servers shouldn’t just give whatever service because the tip is already tacked on. To me that comes down to “this is your job.” But if I went to a restaurant, had an AG applied, and received horrible service, I would definitely talk to the manager and argue to have the AG taken off (which unfortunately seems to be the issue in this case… bad mgmt). I can’t NOT tip, being in the industry, but i refuse to give a good tip if the service wasn’t provided.

    Good post to think about…

  2. Mike says:

    Awesome end quote. A friend of mine was just putting together a list of top 10 quotes from the movie.

  3. Rich says:

    I have seen menus and meal checks that refer to an “18% gratuity added to the check on parties of 6 or more”, or similar language. I wonder if the obligations of the customer are different if “service charge” is used instead of “gratuity”? Are restaurants aware of the potential difference, if what Waiter says is correct?

  4. Dacatus says:

    @ #2 Rich

    Here in Brazil a 10% service charge is added to restaurant and bar checks, and it is ‘service charge’ by force of legal lingo.

    Patrons are encouraged to leave a tip for extra good service, but unless the service was really shitty, the 10% service charge is part of the bill and not paying it is theft of service.

  5. Derek says:

    A gratuity is always, by definition, “Freely given” (that’s the literal textbook definition of a gratuity). So while the “Gratuity” might be automatically added to the check for a large party, if they call it a gratuity, it remains voluntary (otherwise, it’s not a gratuity, it’s a service charge).

    Now, if it’s a service charge, then the textbook answer is that it’s a charge for some service provided. And if it WASN’T provided, and they won’t let you leave without paying it, then pay it, leave, and then immediately call your credit card company and dispute the charge as being invalid and made under duress.

  6. admin says:

    In that case the restaurant needs to list the automatic tip as a “service charge” and not a gratuity.

  7. Jill says:

    If the restaurant calls it a service charge and not a gratuity, can you be sure the server actually gets this $$$? I’ll bet there are some unscrupulous establishments out there that pocket at least a portion of this charge. How can a person be sure that their server is actually getting this $?

  8. purplemicrodot says:

    Service charges don’t do anything but go to the owners pocket. The help does not receive it. I would imagine the restaurant does not keep good help because many diners misinterpret service charge with tip. The restaurant needs a little visit from the IRS. The fact is, diners should not have to know these subtle differences.

  9. DuggleBogey says:

    And that folks is what we call a pile of horseshit. You can change the name to “service charge” if you want, but if it’s extra money than the price of the food and it goes to the wait staff, it’s a fucking tip and it should be voluntary.

    Including a tip on the bill for large parties is fine, as long as you always have the right to refuse it. Making it mandatory under ANY circumstances is just plain wrong. If more money is required for the services, raise the prices. Don’t play this “adding on extra fees” crap. Be up front.

  10. frymaster says:

    “You don’t have to leave a tip. But you must pay a service charge”

    not in the UK – you can refuse to pay a service charge

  11. KR says:

    I usually tip 20%+ post-tax. If you add an 18% pre-tax “service charge”, well, I guess you missed out on about 4-5% (20% post-tax being about 22% pre-tax).

    (You know, I say that, but actually last time I was in a large group I did add quite a bit more on top of the service charge, since the waitress was pretty great. So while “service charges” still piss me off, I don’t actually take it out on the servers if they’re good.)

  12. Keeks says:

    I realize that you didn’t mean to make light of Kitty Genovese, but the linking of rape and murder with people not giving a tip is pretty offensive. In addition, research has shown that the actions of the bystanders were not as popular media reported. Here’s a link if you’d like to read up on it:

  13. PMK says:

    The amount of damage that this restaurant did to it self is insane. in pursuit of a $16.35 TIP they will cost themselves thousands in business not to mention the lawsuit that is sure to come

  14. JJ says:

    So if a “service charge” is different than a “tip,” are patrons supposed to tip on top of the service charge?

  15. calbear says:

    So yes, the couple in question broke the law. But due to the circumstances I can see in the report they should be given a pass.

    Indeed. Calling the police was the wrong thing to do. That business’s Yelp rating is in the toilet. And this couple is going through the hell that is the legal system, which of course is what businesses count on when they freely expend thousands of our taxpayer dollars (on not one cent off their balance sheet) on matters amounting to a handful of dollars.

    I suppose in the future, places might be more eager to comp the service charge rather than the food. If they’d done that here, there would be no problem. Hopefully the business would give the waiters their fair share an not quibble over what was comped. Hopefully….

    By the way, the Genovese case was misreported by the media of the time. No one witnessed enough of the assault to realize its gravity, which explains the actions more than the diffusion of responsibility that the case came to represent. So the theory is more based on this perception rather than the reality of that particular circumstance.

  16. Stephan says:

    To answer Jill’s question: I’m not 100% sure about restaurant, but there are definitely instances in which a service charge does NOT go to the server. For instance, the hotel chain I work for (and it’s a large, well-respected one) generally charges a 20 – 25% “service charge” for all banquet functions. But you better believe the servers/bartenders never see a cent of it. It all goes straight to the hotel’s bottom line and is regarded as a “set up” fee. Of course, in all fairness, our company pays servers and bartenders a living wage–not the sub-minimum that most restaurants do–but it doesn’t hurt their feelings if you tip them a little, as well. Just so ya know…

  17. Leslie says:

    While the Genovese case was misreported, we can liken her curcumstances to a young girl at her homecoming dance recently. I’ve seen the “pass the buck” attitude towards tipping in large groups several times. i’ve also seen gratuities refused. I always suspect a service charge on a restaurant bill and have been known to call over the manager to make sure all of the service charge goes to the server. It’s better to ask than to leave a deserving server without a tip.

  18. Persephone says:

    Here’s the original article:

    1. College students are notoriously poor tippers.
    2. They were part of a party of eight.
    3. Anyone who has worked in a service job knows that when a customer says they had to wait for an hour, it was, in reality, about twenty minutes.
    4. If the restaurant was that busy, the problem probably started in the kitchen, and was not the waitstaff’s fault.

    Miss Manners says tip the staff, and if you can’t afford to tip, don’t eat out.

  19. Hannah-Moon says:

    My thing is, if they were offering to comp the meal, why is not paying the service charge such a big deal? I mean, if they were willing to give them the meal for free, but the couple paid for the meal and not the service charge, the restaurant is still on top in that situation, until they called the police, of course.

  20. me_diner says:

    If the restaurant had posted “18% service charge”, I’d say the diners were wrong. The diners claim it was a gratuity. I couldn’t find a new article that definitively stated whether the restaurant did indeed have a posted service charge.

    But first there’s bad service, and then when Ms. Pope complained to the bartender, the police were brought in. That’s REALLY bad service — at least talk to the customer to remedy this…

  21. Gizmo42 says:

    While I have no problem with restaurants charging the “service charge” I do have a problem with the way some handle it. We were at an annual meeting with a club I belong to earlier this year. Several of us went to a restaurant for dinner and since there were a bunch of us the bill all went on one ticket. They had the ability to break it down into individual tickets though which was nice for figuring out who pays how much. The problem is the system divided the service charge equally among the tickets, regardless of what the actual cost on it was. Mine came out to a little over 20% (which I’m fine with) but the guy next to me only had a $5 hamburger and his part of the service charge was $8! Guess which restaurant we are not going back to again.

  22. amber says:

    Not for nothing, but restaurants don’t “OFFER” to COMP food. They either do it or they don’t do it. And moreover, customers don’t say, don’t worry we WANT TO PAY FOR THE FOOD YOU ARE WILLING TO GIVE US FOR FREE!!!

    What a joke!

  23. Relsqui says:

    I don’t remember whether it was labeled as a service charge or an automatic gratuity, but I have declined to pay one before, and I’m not sorry.

    I was dining with two friends at a place in the Hotel Zone in Cancun. The food was okay, although I traded my delicious tacos away to someone who got an entree too hot for him, but the service was abysmal. The waiter was slow or invisible, got things wrong, etc. I’m about as forgiving as they come about things like that but even I was getting irritated.

    Finally, when we got the check, it included a 25% gratuity for our party of three. Um … no. We’re not assholes–we didn’t stiff the guy. But we sure didn’t tip him over 20%, either. We left the money and walked away.

    The waiter actually ran after us a ways down the strip. He held up the bill and said we hadn’t paid the full amount (since of course we’d left less than the bill said we owed them). We explained politely that yes, we had; we had paid the entire amount for our food, and a 15% tip or so, which we felt was fair.

    He was clearly annoyed, but didn’t argue about it. That charge, or gratuity, wasn’t for the protection of the waiter–it was a trap for unwary tourists, and we didn’t fall for it.

  24. Anonymous says:

    You really need an editor. At the very least, run a spell check before posting.

  25. fmrbartender says:

    To answer someone’s question, there are absolutely establishments that do not send all, if any, of the service charge towards the staff. In fact, a country club I used to work for would put an 18% service charge at the bottom of each and every bill, no matter the size, and it went straight back to the bottom line of the club. Every once in awhile, a rich baby-boomer paying the bill would notice the charge and slur “thizizzgointomyserrverr, right?” (and sometimes, the asker wasn’t drunk), and the club manager would tell him/her yes. Even more enraging, sometimes a “pet” patron would go for the wallet to leave a tip and the manager would say “ohh noo, that’s what the service charge is for!”. For some reason, this man did not like to see us get tips.

    Anyway, there are plenty of establishments out there that do not send the service charge to the staff that actually waited on you. Beware…

  26. Marsha says:

    “And while most restaurants will only add this charge to parties of six or more, some restaurants have taken customer choice out of the equation all together and tack on a service charge regardless of the number of patrons. And yes, you have to pay that too. I don’t agree with that practice by the way.”

    Boy, I do. I’d just love to get out of the job performance review business when I go to a restaurant. I would LOVE to just pay the price of my meal and the service without having to fiddle around with a tip.

    And I’d LOVE to pay the real price (and yes, of course, a meal or whatever would cost more than it does now, unless you consider the tip; who hasn’t heard that old wheeze before?). The real price would include fair and appropriate recompense for the servers as well as the others employed at the restaurant. Just like at the department store, where the price you pay for a pair of shoes includes payment for the person who sells them to you. Somehow, they manage this and I can still afford shoes. And Europe somehow manages as well, quite effectively in my experience; I can afford to dine out there, and I find the service to be generally equal or superior to that in my own country. The servers I know there don’t consider themselves to be downtrodden.

    The thrill of not knowing what you’re going to get paid would disappear for the server (and whoever gets tipped out), but there are casinos for those who like the gamble.

  27. Andrew Ferguson says:

    That ‘Kitty Genovese Theory of Tipping’ is basically my argument in favour of individual bills.

    Restaurants that refuse to divide up the bill drive me crazy. The server gets boned on the tip and sometimes I’ll guiltily wind up throwing more at the tip to make up for my mathematically challenged dining companions.

    Hate it. Individual bills.

  28. Kelli says:

    Andrew @25, that’s a great idea, but it does require the staff to keep track of a lot more checks. For a wait staff that may already be stretched to the breaking point by stingy owners or managers looking to save costs by minimizing payroll, that may be going a bit too far. In fact, I believe there have been a few places in this blog where Steve has declared his distaste for customers who ask for separate checks when he was already in the weeds.

  29. dane says:

    being that it is friday, i WAS thinking about going out to eat…but after reading this, i have decided against it. i’ll just stay home. at least i KNOW i’m getting shitty service here! and no service charge attached.

  30. willow says:

    As a a server myself, you have to use a little common sense when applying the auto grat. My restaurant also includes an 18% grat for 7 or more adults. Fair enough, bc sometimes you do get really screwed by a large party. However, if I am waiting on a table, and they are getting crap service bc the kitchen and bar is taking forever, I’m slammed and can’t spend tons of time with them, etc., then I don’t add the grat. Same if, despite their being 7 or more, they manage to have a small bill by having just apps and salads…why bother? As in, I never would have added a grat to an 87 dollar bill, esp. when they got crap service…just bc restaurant policy says I can. If I am adding the grat, I am making sure you get great service. If I can’t give you that, I am honest enough to let you tip me what you want. Figure you’ll be ( a little) less pissed that way .And ya know what? that policy has worked out just fine for me 🙂

  31. dee says:

    just finished waiter rant, the book, I wish i would have thought of this over the past 25 or so years as a server myself. I started my food service career in Arthur treachers fish and chips and have worked in all types of establishments, from greek diners, coffee shops,& pubs to the upscale steakhouses. Your book certainly resonated with me on many levels. I think I am in awe of you Mr.Waiter

  32. astounded says:

    I cannot believe that only ONE (!!!) person in this entire thread has called out how messed up it is to equate what happened to that poor woman to you not getting tipped. How ridiculously self-absorved. I hope none of you know any victims. I doubt it.

    And to the Jackass, dude if that’s your attitude, sounds to me like your ex is the lucky one. Stay classy.

  33. Sara A. says:

    I’m with #s 11 and 31– call it a mob mentality if you want, but comparing a server’s lousy tip to the Kitty Genovese rape murder is self-aggrandizement and total lack of empathy on Waiter’s part.

    On the other hand, a couple years ago they went back and checked the “numerous witnesses” theory, and de-bunked it. (So is Waiter off the hook for this if his analogy is inaccurate in fact, as well as in scale? Hardly.)

    If this were an example of a crime against an ethnic group, would you be co-opting the victim’s pain to prove your point? Or do you consider her pain to be the equivalent of a man losing $30?

    I’ve been reading this blog from the get-go, through thick and thin. And Steve, I’m disappointed. It’s not just you, but it’s just sad. In an every-day example, most chat-room profanity-filters will filter out religious and ethnic hate-speech, but not misogynistic ones.

  34. Mr. Pedant says:

    I’m really terribly sorry to be That Guy, but it’s remuneration, not renumeration, when speaking of payments.

  35. admin says:

    I used the Kitty Genovese analogy to bring up the whole “diffusion of responsibility’ thing. Was it my finest piece of writing? Probably not. In no way do I consider a young woman’s rape and murder a laughing matter. Nor do I equate it with being the same thing as not leaving a tip,

  36. Hunterwali says:

    Waiter, you may not equate the violence against Kitty Genovese with not leaving a tip (or allowing others not to leave a tip), but your decision to use it as an analogy made it analogous in the piece. It’s not a fine bit of writing, to be sure, but the impulse to even bring her in and use her body and story to express your sentiments about tipping remain shocking to say the least. This is more than a style or structure issue. This is a demonstration of staggering callousness.

  37. Moshizzle says:

    People, it was not an analogy. An ANALOGY, according to is “a similarity between like features of two things, on which a comparison may be based: the analogy between the heart and a pump.”

    This was an EXAMPLE or an ILLUSTRATION, the definition of an illustration being
    “2. a comparison or an example intended for explanation or corroboration.
    3. the act or process of illuminating.
    4. the act of clarifying or explaining; elucidation.”

    Waiter, how come so many of your readers have suddenly become so stupid as not to realize that you were explaining this phenomenon of diffusion of responsibility? When did your readers start to hate you so much? I wish I had not read any of these comments. In fact, I urge you to seriously consider closing comments now that you have achieved this lofty pinnacle of fame and fortune (you know, the one where people no longer support you because they’re jealous and petty).

  38. Jake says:

    I rarely disagree with the Waiter, but this is gonna be one of those times.

    First: a gratuity, by definition, is optional. If the restaurant owner means “service charge” he should say “service charge.” Otherwise, it’s like charging for “complimentary” drinks.

    Secondly: if it’s a legitimate service charge, doesn’t the restaurant need to charge sales tax on it? If they didn’t compute it as part of the tax, it ain’t no “service charge”; it’s a mere pre-computed tip that the customer can adjust as desired.

    Of course, I don’t expect the average cop to get this one right. They’re not trained to conduct impromptu legal arguments; they’re trained to maintain absolute control at any cost, and haul people off to jail. Don’t get me started about cops …

  39. Gretal says:

    How many legs does a donkey have if you call the tail a leg?

    It has four legs because even if you call it a leg, the tail is still a tail.

  40. litkid says:

    @#38, Moshizzle

  41. litkid says:

    (Sorry for the earlier messed up post)

    @38, Moshizzle

    I can only speak for myself here, but I understand that the “Kitty Genovese Thoery of Tipping” was an example of diffusion of responsibility. I get what the Waiter was trying to illustrate with this example.

    I GET IT.

    But the fact is, it is offensive. To compare (even in the slightest, and even with a half-assed disclaimer/apology) not getting a tip with murder and rape is horrible, reprehensible, and it is rape culture:

    Being denied a tip is nothing like rape. The “diffusion of responsibility” that the Waiter argues would come into effect in both of these cases is not the same type of diffusion of responsibility, because the two events are NOTHING ALIKE, and should never be compared. One event is people interacting in a restaurant. The other is an event loaded with thousands of years of gendered oppresion, racism, classism, structural sexism, and misogyny.

  42. Annie says:

    I’m a waitress and it really chaps my hide when large parties *somehow* forget how to tip, but this is ridiculous.

    “Now I’m not making light of Ms. Genovese’s murder.”

    Except that you are. By using it as an analogy for an irritating, though not particularly life threatening habit of restaurant patrons, you are indeed making light of Kitty Genovese’s murder. And that shit ain’t cool.

  43. Unknown says:

    It is well documented that gratuities are approached differently on “the continent.” We all know tipping is totally optional in the UK, and that a 10% tip is stellar there. Like it or not, there is a fundamental difference in the way service staff are paid on this side of the pond. Service staff in Europe are paid an hourly “living” or minimum wage, as far as I can discern. The overwhelming majority of service and bar staff in the US are paid around $2.25/hr. I understand that visitors to our country don’t feel the need to “subsidize” US server’s wages by leaving hefty gratuities. I actually agree with you on this point. Wholeheartedly. What I do not understand is your willingness to pay 25-30% more for food and drink as long as you don’t have to reward or acknowledge the person who brought it to you.

  44. Jay says:

    This is one of the few blogs I’ve read where I have actually learned something. Well done, Mr. Waiter Man. Thank you for generating light rather than heat – something most bloggers seem incapable of.

  45. Finisterre says:

    I don’t hate the Waiter at all, but I do think the explanation was offensive, and trivialised the Genovese rape and murder. People were right to point that out, and he was right to implicitly accept it. There’s no need for hysteria about readers ‘hating’ him or being ‘jealous’, Moshizzle.

  46. Scott says:

    Jake wrote: “if it’s a legitimate service charge, doesn’t the restaurant need to charge sales tax on it? If they didn’t compute it as part of the tax, it ain’t no “service charge”; it’s a mere pre-computed tip that the customer can adjust as desired.”

    Charging tax on a service charge depends on (at least in the U.S.) which state you are working in. Here in N.C., at least years ago when I was working, there were no taxes on service charges, although with the economic downturn some state governments may have changed that to make up for revenue losses.

  47. Rokey says:

    I want to know where 8 people can eat and drink for 70 bucks! I don’t think you can do that at McDonald’s.

  48. Delighted says:

    I do not agree. At least in this case. If I ordered the duck and you do not deliver the duck to my table, I am under no obligation to pay for the duck. This is the case with the mad tippers in Bethlehem.

    First note that it is a college pub and these were college students. Not the best of situations to begin with. There was no alcohol involved, as the woman stated she had to refill her own soda several times. The contract is severed when no actual service was provided. By their own admission, the manager stated that the servoice sucked and offered a comp. Now this I do not believe, or there would not have been a beef with the lack of a gratuity.

    I see this playing out by the local DA refusing to prosecute, and the establishment in question going under rather quickly.

    Check out the Bethlehem Yelp site. These people are ranting and are furious. College pub and the students will boycot it. I would like to know why they insist on an auto-grat for 6 people, this isd not heard of. I can see 8 or more, possibly.

  49. Am says:

    The issue is an interesting one to discuss. This particular instance, though, is highly suspect. Some details do not add up – I didn’t follow your link, but the article I read said the bill was $73, the gratuity was 18%, and the charge they refused to pay was $16. Plus, without knowing more about the people involved, I can’t be sure that both sides didn’t exagerate or outright lie to gain sympathy for being forced to accept consequences of acting like an self-important asshole.

  50. Wes says:

    Hmm, when I go out its usually separate checks for all of us. Though I have never run into this service charge unless the party is insanely large, only happened once when it was around, 20 or so.

  51. pmk says:

    one huge thing that is in the original artical that waiter did not mention is “surcharge that was nearly 5 percent higher than the 18 percent listed on the menu.” So not only did they get poor service, the waitperson tried
    to get extra money.

  52. DW says:

    As the survivor of a sexual assault I assure you that you not getting a tip is NOTHING like anything having to do with Kitty Genovese, rape, and people looking the other way. You’re a better writer than resorting to a rape culture analogy to prove a point. Wow.

  53. admin says:

    I apologize if my using the Kitty Genovese incident to illustrate the “diffusion of responsibility” syndrome offended people. In no way do I think the tragedy that befell Ms. Genovese is akin to not leaving a tip.

    As I writer I use examples to drive home a point. In some cases however, and this has happened to me before, the example I used overrode what I was trying to talk about in the first place and point of the story was lost. That’s an example of bad writing. Not the first time I’ve done it and it probably won’t be the last.

    I’m not going to take the post down because that’d be dishonest. If I fuck up when I write something I leave it up for people to see and let them make their own judgements about me. I can’t control what people think. But I am closing the comments on this post. There’s enough stuff castigating me in the comments section already – and I’m not removing them either. But enough’s enough. The story was supposed to be about tipping but my bad example has derailed the discussion from it’s original intent. Mea culpa.

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