Have you ever gone to a restaurant with a group of friends (or a large family) and had an automatic gratuity (i.e. tip) added to your bill because of the size of your party?
We’re sure it has happened to most of you. Many restaurants do this.
So here’s a question: what happens if the server waiting on your table is lousy? Should you still have to pay the automatic gratuity?
While many people feel you shouldn’t be forced to pay a tip if the service is unacceptable, one group in Texas found out the hard way that some restaurants view the policy as non-negotiable.
Jasmine Marks went to La Fisherman in Houston, TX, with a group of friends and claims the service was not deserving of the automatic 17 percent gratuity the restaurant adds to parties of five or more.
Marks says the staff was rude, the drinks were not refilled, and mistakes were made on their orders, according to the Daily Mail.
“We asked her, could the gratuity be removed? Could we give our own tip? She said it was part of their policy and there was nothing she could do about,” Marks told Click2houston.com.
“If you’re not satisfied with the service, you shouldn’t have to pay gratuity,” she added.
However, it’s important to note that like all restaurants practicing “group gratuity,” the policy was clearly marked on La Fisherman’s menus.
When the unhappy diners challenged the restaurant’s 17 percent tip, Marks says the manager locked the doors and called the police.
“She was like, ‘You have an unsettled bill and ya’ll can’t leave until you pay it,'” Marks said. “We paid our bill for what we ate, we paid the bill.”
Marks told the Click2houston.com news team that she tried to explain to the manager that paying for the food was not the problem — it was the automatic gratuity.
“She said, ‘That’s fine. If you don’t want to pay the gratuity we have HPD outside,'” Marks said.
“I asked the police officer twice, maybe three times, is it against the law if we don’t pay the gratuity and he never gave me a straight answer,” she added.
The on-duty manager at the restaurant told Houston’s local KPRC Local 2 that although they don’t “have a problem with customers not giving a tip,” they have called the police before.
After the Marks episode gained media attention, Houston’s Better Business Bureau announced it would examine the complaint.
“Consumers need to understand the policy going in,” said Dan Parson, president of the BBB.
“I mean every sign walking in the door. What credit cards do you accept, not accept? What are your hours? Seventeen percent gratuity for the six of you? If you don’t like it, leave,” he added.
Marks’ group ended up paying the gratuity to avoid any further trouble.
This story has been updated.