Is Tipping the Waiter a Policy or Law?

May 18, 2012

By Darrin Clouse:

By now, the workers at the La Fisherman restaurant in Houston, Texas are probably wishing they would have just let the whole thing go.  But they didn’t, and now the story has been splattered all across the internet.

In case you missed it, a family went into the establishment for dinner and decided that the service they received was not worthy of the required 17% tip for parties over five. When Jasmine Marks informed the waiter that she wasn’t going to pay the gratuity, the staff responded by locking the doors and calling the police.

Is it Illegal Not to Tip?

Marks wanted to know if it was against the law not to tip, but when the HPD arrived, even they didn’t know what to do.

In the end, Marks took the high road and paid the bill, gratuity included, just to end the stand-off.

Obviously, the folks of La Fisherman forgot that we’re living in a world of immediate and widespread news…thank you very much internet !

Regardless of who’s in the wrong, this couldn’t have been a positive PR move for the headstrong restaurant.

Rewarding Bad Service is a Bad Idea

Personally, it’s hard not to side with the consumer here.  If you’re going to assume that a mandatory, predetermined tip amount is necessary, then you better make sure your service is up to that expectation.

Marks claims the wait staff messed up their orders and were rude in the process. So fine, losing track of what someone ordered is one thing , but the rudeness needs to be addressed, and most certainly shouldn’t be rewarded.

The opposition will claim that a business has the right to enforce it’s own policies, and if you don’t like it , eat somewhere else, but is that really the point ?

What’s the Point of Tipping?

Tipping used to be defined as a social custom, and voluntary, depending on how you felt about the service provided to you.

I understand that in the present economy, those working in the customer service business are feeling the same strains that we all are feeling, and most likely, many waiters and waitresses are working for far less than they should.                                                                                                                                      

The flip side is , consumers are more careful with spending, and less likely to pay for something they don’t feel is deserving of their hard earned money.

So what about the cops ? Well, although the law was unclear in Houston, the Bethlehem Township police department in Pennsylvania had a different interpretation of the law in 2006 when they arrested a couple for denying a mandatory tip due to their dissatisfaction in service.

What was the charge ? Theft.

Eventually, the case would be dropped by the police department, but the young couple still got to experience being handcuffed and booked for their trouble.

Should there be a price to pay in the form of a tip, even for bad service ? Feel free to let us know what you think at The Consumer Warning Network.

Reader Comments:

Walter in FL:
any tipping should always be related to the quality of service provided. I will never accept a \”pre-imposed %\”by anybody. I rather walk away. Which I have done before. Both restaurants that i did it, are no longer in business. .what incentive does a waiter have to serve you properly when he knows that no matter how bad or good he serves you he still going to get the same tipping. Also I will not cruise in any line that charges you up front for tips, unless I have a choice.

Douglas in CA :

I personally hate seeing local, state or federal government sticking their noses in where they are neither wanted nor needed. But some sensible rules may be needed here, on the subject of mandatory tipping. Restaurant workers WORK at their craft FOR A WAGE. They are paid to be there and to serve the patrons the food they have ordered. Anything else is a gratuity for a job well done – NOT something to be expected as a RIGHT in the food service industry. And most certainly, NOT an item to be included in ANY law.
IMHO – Just my 18%, or 15%, 0r 10% 0r 5% or 20% – MY CHOICE.

Garrett in NH :
A tip is a gratuity. Although understood usually customary and expected… never was mandatory or solicited
The very meaning of gratuity means a gift.
A gift can not be forced or mandatory otherwise it must be called a specified and required service fee.
I will not eat in a restaurant which has such a policy (except for a banquet perhaps).
I will accept a suggested gratuity of 17% with the establishment\’s promise to offer excellent service (which if it is excellent & pleasant i often give more than that… also if we take up the table for a longer that reasonable time).

Elly in FL :

Tipping is something you earn, period! The way I so it, though, is the following: 20% any time you (the waiter/waitress) have been courteous and nice and pleasant, possibly even fantastic. (If I can afford 25%, I do it for utmost service, regardless of the tab). This is my common tip.
If you have been barely acceptable, and I am not too happy with the way you acted, I will give you the customary bare bones 15% or thereabout.
If you have been ugly or rude, be happy to receive 10%. This has happened a couple of times.
The only reason why I tip anyway, regardless of the service is because, in Florida, waiters live off of their tips. they do not receive minimum wage bit a meager pay for their time. Therefore it is my way to compensate them for it. However, in states where I know they are paid for their work, even if it is minimum wage, I only tip really well for correct and excellent service and I don’t or leave a few coins for despicable service.
This being said, a waiter is allowed a bad hair-day.They are people just like us. When that happens I try to be extra nice with them and do my best to make them smile and relax…. Most of the time, it does the trick so, no bad feelings from either party by the end of the meal.

Remember, it\’s a 2-way street and we are to treat them with respect and kindness as well.

Hope this helps.