restaurant billA family in Houston was allegedly locked inside a restaurant by the angry staff when they refused to pay a gratuity. Sounds outrageous, right? Well, it depends on how you look at it.

La Fisherman Seafood Restaurant, like many restaurants, charges a 17 percent gratuity to parties of five or more. It's printed right there on the menus. But the family (of over five) was so disappointed with the service, they just refused. Drinks weren't refilled. They didn't get everything they ordered. The servers were rude! Why should they have to tip such lousy service?

Because! When you sit down with a large group of people and order from a menu that clearly states "Parties of five or more will be automatically charged a 17 percent gratuity," THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE SIGNING UP FOR. There's no note adding, "If you don't mind, and if you think the service was good." Them's the rules. Period.

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When I see that line on a menu, I tend to think, Abandon all hope of excellent service. I mean, it's pretty much a warning that your table is going to be a huge pain in the ass, so no promises. You might have a rough night. So you take a gamble -- it could be fine, it could be awful.

On the other hand, CLEARLY the family didn't deserve to be locked inside the building. I mean ... that's ridiculous. The family did complain to the manager -- and to be fair, I think the manager should have apologized and made an exception for the gratuity. That's what you're supposed to do in the hospitality business. Not lock the family in and call the police. So I think both parties are in the wrong here.

Do you think the restaurant overreacted? What do you think about mandatory gratuity?

 

Image via Steve Snodgrass/Flickr