Lehigh Students Arrested for Failing to Leave Tip

Lehigh students Leslie Pope and John Wagner believe that they now know why tipping is mandatory at the Lehigh Pub in Bethlehem. After they received what they called horrendous service, they paid the bill with no tip. They ended up in jail for the $16.35 tip.

The students were with six friends at the pub, which charges an automatic 18 percent gratuity for parties of six or more.

They claim that they had to get their own utensils and napkins for a waitress that left to take a smoke, beg for refills on sodas, and wait an hour for salad and wings.

The restaurant took the $73 for the meals and drinks and then called the police.

Lehigh Pub thereby succeeded in pursuing $16 in exchange for publicizing to the nation what customers think of its service. So much for a rational actor theory.

For the story, click here.

54 thoughts on “Lehigh Students Arrested for Failing to Leave Tip”

  1. Many of us are missing the point of just because it is on the menu does not make it a legal document.

    Would it be different if on the menu it had a place for you to sign to the agreement of a gratuity? I think then it may become legally binding. Just because it is on the menu means nothing. Let us replace the words “18 percent gratuity added to check of parties of 6 of more,” with “mandatory purchase of Micheal Jackson CD added to check of parties of 6 of more”.

    Who here would still feel they are bound by the menu to purchase that CD?

    If this is how it worked every politician in the US would own a restaurant.

  2. Mandatory tips can lead to poor service. Better for the business just to pay the wait staff 18% more, and fire them for poor service. Plenty of eager people looking for work these days.

  3. Personally, I define “reasonable” (and “good taste”, while we’re at it ;^) ) and when I read that “gratuity added to check” line on menus, I take it to mean, “We’re going to add this gratuity item to the check, but there’s nothing we can do to enforce it other than make a stink. It’s voluntary, but we’re going to twist your arm because we think we can get away with it.” If they wanted to say “mandatory additional service charge” that would be different, but they choose not to say that, so too bad for them. (Additionally, I wonder if those “added to check” tips actually get disbursed to the restaurant staff properly at most places…)

  4. Henry:

    I believe that a reasonable person would think a gratuity is still a gratuity even if it’s added to the check. A reasonable person would think that the 18% calculation was performed as a courtesy for the mathematically challenged.

  5. Nal: The menu states: “18 percent gratuity added to check of parties of 6 of more,” There is no indication that the gratuity is mandatory. I think the students have a libel suit against the restaurant for claiming theft of services. But then, IANAL.

    jonathanturley: Nal: When you start proofing the menus referenced in stories on the blog, I have to throw down the flag. Don’t I give you enough business?

    ———

    LOL 🙂 Srsly, a match made in heaven. Keep up the good work, both of you.

  6. Henry,

    Emphasis added but if you don’t like the definition you can take it up with Webster’s.
    _____

    gra·tu·ity\grə-ˈtü-ə-tē, -ˈtyü-\, n.
    : something given VOLUNTARILY OR BEYOND OBLIGATION usually for some service; especially : tip
    ____

    Pay attention to the fact that “voluntarily” and “obligation” are words with specific legal definition and use.

    Given that is the definition of gratuity, a reasonable person most certainly could consider any gratuity optional contingent upon satisfaction.

  7. Nal:

    You’re right that the menu apparently did not include the word “mandatory”; I got that word from the article’s summary. But I believe that a reasonable person would construe the phrase, “18 percent gratuity added to check of parties of 6 of more,” to mean that it is mandatory. You couldn’t read it to mean “18 percent gratuity added to check of parties of 6 of more, unless you are dissatified with the service.”

  8. Business has been lean lately and I have to stay sharp. There’s a lot of competition. AY and Byron are quick.

  9. The menu states: “18 percent gratuity added to check of parties of 6 of more,” There is no indication that the gratuity is mandatory. I think the students have a libel suit against the restaurant for claiming theft of services. But then, IANAL.

    1. Nal:

      When you start proofing the menus referenced in stories on the blog, I have to throw down the flag. Don’t I give you enough business?

  10. The relevant question is what the patrons had agreed to. The restaurant used inconsistent words — “mandatory” and “gratuity” — but this does not necessarily create ambiguity. If I had been a patron, I would have understood “mandatory” as the operative word, and “gratuity” to be inaccurate. I think, pace Alan, that the students did agree in advance to pay the 18 percent.

    This is not necessarily to condone the restaurant’s calling the police. The article does not make clear whether it was before or after they left the restaurant that the students told the restaurant that they were withholding the “gratuity” because of poor service. This makes no difference legally, but, if the students did so before they left, then the restaurant was stupid for not apologizing and forgiving them the “gratuity.”

  11. Well I have never seen such disgruntled people in all of my born days. Cheap skate children they are depriving me of my hard earned money.

  12. According to the article: “The menu clearly states, ’18 percent gratuity added to check of parties of 6 of more’

    It seems to me that paying something labeled “gratuity” or “tip” is optional, not required. The restaurant can add it in if they want, but no patron contractually agrees in advance to pay it simply because the restaurant will be adding it to the bill. If the restaurant had stated they would be adding a “service charge”, I think it would present a different question, but when labeled “gratuity”, I fail to see how this can be considered a theft of services.

  13. I presume that they deducted if off of the bill and paid the amount plus tax. Wow something wrong here. The steal mill is at work here. Not that Andrew Carnaige would have objected to skipping a tip either.

  14. Word of mouth travels fast and as long as one isn’t required by law, to visit Lehigh Pub when passing through Bethlehem ……

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