When Dining Goes Bad: Family Locked In Restaurant When They Refuse To Tip

May 3, 2012  |  

This incident is why black folks can’t get out from under the stereotype of being bad tippers. Jasmine Marks claims that she and her family were locked inside a Houston restaurant when they refused to tip the servers after the bill came. And though that sounds ridiculous and all types of wrong, Marks wasn’t totally innocent in this situation.

The thing is, Marks and her family made up a party of five, which meant that an automatic 17% gratuity would be added to the bill, as clearly stated on La Fisherman’s menu. When the bill came though, Marks felt the waitress didn’t earn that much of a tip due to missed orders and poor customer service and asked how the gratuity could be removed. The manager told her there was nothing they could do and when Marks refused to pay the tip, the restaurant’s doors were locked and the police were called.

“She said, ‘That’s fine. If you don’t want to pay the gratuity we have HPD outside,'” Marks told KPRC. “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.”

Eventually Marks and her family paid the 17% to avoid any further problems—like being arrested—but the situation has attracted the attention of the Better Business Bureau, who is now looking into the incident and insists costumers need to be made aware of a restaurant’s policies before they sit down for a meal. Did someone forget this policy was right on the menu?

I can understand not wanting to pay for bad service, but you don’t handle that situation by attempting to only partially pay. You ask to speak to a manager, get an entrée comped, or something like that. This little incident has me thinking someone didn’t read the fine print.

What do you think about this situation? Who was wrong, the restaurant or the family?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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