Family Locked Inside Restaurant Because They Refused to Tip

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.

More from The Stir: 7 Ways to Make Every Restaurant Hate Your Family

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

eating out, in the news


To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

mande... manderspanders

I back the family.  I'd never tip for shitty service.  In this day and age of entitlement, an automatic gratuity means employees don't have to pull their weight and do their jobs....

If you are that bad of a server, then you should find another job. McDonald's pays just as well and you can actually get away with being rude there.

For anyone that wants to flame me for not tipping bad servers, I happen to leave otherwise excellent tips and will gladly give even more than 25% for truly great service (a rarity, but it does happen).

Todd Vrancic

If a gratuity is mandatory, it ceases to be a gratuity.  If I saw that on the menu, I would get up and walk out without ordering.  Seventeen percent of zero is zero.

bucke... bucketsue

I tend to avoid places that have required gratuity for just the reason of the above story.  If I have a large party where I know they are going to include a gratuity I go somewhere I have been before and know what the service is like, but then I live in a small town atmosphere so even if I had bad service I usually know the owner.

chigi... chigirl1228

I understand the added gratuity for large parties of 20 or more, but 5?? That's it?? 5 is the size of an average family. I think the owner(s) are bad at business period. Having such a low number for gratuity included and poor service just screams incompetence. The only time I expect gratuity to be included is when I go to high profile restaurants or with a large party. Not expecting it at a seafood grill out to eat with my family. But I suppose you are right it's printed on the menus so they can't exactly refuse but they shouldn't be held against their will.

Felly... FellyScarlett

Sometimes, when it's busy, shit happens. If they didn't like the rule they should have left. I doubt anyone would have minded.

MomoLS MomoLS

What the restaurant did was illegal, plain and simple.  It is called false imprisonment because they do not have the authority to detain anyone.  What the restaurant did was so outrageous that it does not eevn matter anymore whether the family should or should not have tipped.

nonmember avatar kat

Seriously??? My sister, my cousin and myself have all been servers at one point or another. And i have friends who are servers currently. That being said, i have certain expectations when i eat out. Especially when a gratuity is automatically included. If i am going to be required to tip i want my expectations exceeded. If i ever go in a restaurant and my server is rude, a smart ass, or my drinks are never refilled and they (not the kitchen) screw my order up i will not tip. Nobody should ever be forced to tip if they recieve horrible service.

PonyC... PonyChaser

I'm behind the family as well. Restaurants are in the *service* business. If you can't provide decent service, close your doors.

And before we hear from everyone whining that waitstaff only makes $2/hr, tough titties. If you want more money, talk to your bosses and get them to pay more. Don't expect your customers to make up your pay when you provide bad service.

Alma45 Alma45

I work in a restaurant where there is an added gratuity for a party of 6 or more. That being said, if the server was shitty, they absolutely should NOT have to pay. If the service was exemplary, it is customary to tip a little on top of the gratuity, and I do. This family was right. Shitty service gets NOTHING.

nonmember avatar Cynthia

Bad service is bad service, a tip is a tip, and a tip is no longer a tip when it's required. The restaurant needs to make the choice to charge more for their dishes to accommodate what they feel people should be paying or forget it! You can not charge a family of 5 a 17% mandatory tip! This is absolutely ridiculous! It's supposed to be a tip that's given by happy, gracious customers and it's at their discretion if they give and how much. I do not tip often, but I am also a great customer. And these days, when I go out for a meal I do it with pretty low expectations of my service anyways because the respect for customers in many industries has really been lost!

1-10 of 211 comments 12345 Last