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Lehigh Pub Bethlehem news item

Wow talk about some bad publicity? Did anyone see how the couple were arrested for not paying the tip?

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  1. Wow, there's no way that's going to end well for the pub. Technically, the gratuity is part of the bill, so legally the customers were in the wrong, but it is an epic failure of hospitality on the restaurant's part, and the negative press is going to cost them a hell of a lot more than 18% of $72.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JohnnyKBar

      My thoughts exactly. What were the staff thinking?

      1. re: JohnnyKBar

        Just putting something on the bill doesn't obligate anyone to pay for something. There's an implied contact in retail transactions that says the merchant has to provide the goods or services being charged for.

        A restaurant can't legally force you to pay for food they failed to deliver to the table and they can't force you to pay for horrible service. If they're going to charge 18% for service, they have to provide an acceptable level of service. Not bringing the food for over an hour, not delivering the beverages with the patrons having to traipse to the bar to get their own, and not providing silverware and napkins clearly demonstrate the service was horrible. They can't collect a gratuity just because the patrons sat at a table.

      2. What I don't understand is why the police arrested them. They paid the bill for the food, which the manager claims he offered to comp. If the meal was comped, ergo they actually paid a $73 tip for what could arguably be described as the worst service experience you can have in a restaurant. Seriously, you don't even give them silverware and napkins and you expect them to tip you? Please. If I was the owner, I'd go ahead and close and move far, far away from this hot mess the staff created.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Dewgrl

          I was thinking that too Dewgrl. Links to news articles have a way of disappearing fast, yet it is against chowhound policy to cut them and paste them in full. Here is what the police said about the situation though: “Obviously we would have liked for the patron and the establishment to have worked this out without getting the police involved,” said Deputy Police Commissioner Stuart Bedics.

        2. What is interesting in all this is that the tip the Lehigh Pub was trying to charge appears to be 22%, not 18%. Maybe the waitress should have been arrested, too, for attempted theft of monies. Possibly the waitress was trying to have her tip calculated on the total for the meals plus the tax.

          2 Replies
          1. re: jfr

            Very good point & math skills JFR!!! You are 100% correct. Tip amount should be food and drinks only. There is no tip for tax. And if you watch Rachael Ray, she tips food only when at an eating establishment. No tip for drinks.

            1. re: fsguy78

              Rachael Ray is simply wrong. You tip for drinks (including wine) AND for food (would you stiff your bartender? Of course not.). Tipping pre or post-tax is up to the guest but, believe it or not, more people seem to tip post-tax than pre-tax. Most restaurants calculate service charges on pre-tax.

          2. This is in the news all over the USA! I worked once for a jerk who would confront customers over small issues. He's tried to open other restaurants and all have flopped. An arrest record is no small issue. I hope they sue and get a big settlement. The manager needs to get a job in a non-service industry.

            1. I whole heartedly agree with the manager having this couple arrested ! It's high time people realize the customer isn't always right ! They agreed to the party charge by choosing that restaurant and ordering within a party of 8 people. They were required to pay NOT only for the waiters supposed bad service, but the kitchen that served they're food. The bartender who served they're drinks, why should they be jipped out of their tip share? The busboy that set up, maintained and cleaned up after 8 people? Why should his tip share be without? They STOLE from those people essentially by NOT tipping the "supposed" bad server and subsequently were arrested for thus!

              4 Replies
              1. re: brownbabygyrl

                brownbabygyrl, I don't think anyone is disputing the fact that the party entered into a contract of sorts by sitting down and ordering food. The issue is that the response of the manager to have them arrested, whether it has a legal basis or not (I am not a lawyer), is very poor customer service, tarnishes the name of the restaurant, and was all around a foolish move over a small amount of money. If the manager had handled the issue professionally there would be no news story, no bad press, and the customers may have even come back to the restaurant in the future.

                1. re: brownbabygyrl

                  Did you read the story? "The busboy that set up, maintained.." - they had no silverware or napkins, and had to go get them on their own. The manager admitted they had received bad service, so there's no "supposed" about it. "The kitchen that served they're (sic) food" - 1) the kitchen staff doesn't serve it, they cook it, and 2) they did a lousy job of that as well.

                  This couple was failed all around by every part of the establishment - servers, busboys, kitchen staff, and management - and I think they were wholly justified in not paying the tip. I don't have an objection to mandatory service charges per se, but I think it should be on an "all or nothing" basis, and the wait staff should know this. I've seen too many cases, working in the industry, where a "mandatory gratuity" is a license to give the table the worst possible service, knowing the tip is guaranteed.

                  Oh, and do try to learn the difference between "their", "they're", and "there", will you?

                  1. re: brownbabygyrl

                    Couldn't you also say the the restaurant was steeling from the customers by charging them for services that they did not receive?

                    1. re: brownbabygyrl

                      There is definitely an implied contract when ordering food in a restaurant as when transacting any business with a merchant. However, no merchant can legally collect money for goods or services that were not provided. The implied contract here is that for an 18% gratuity, a reasonably acceptable level of service would be provided. That did not happen here.

                      Stealing? Absolutely not. They paid for their food and their beverages and the applicable taxes. Had the service been decent, the restaurant would have a right to collect the 18% gratuity, but they failed to provide acceptable service.

                      If you ordered a $10 hamburger and the restaurant never brought you the hamburger but still charged for it on the bill, not paying for the hamburger would not be stealing.

                      As to "gypping" the bartender, busboy and ktichen staff, no patron is obligated to tip for awful service and the service was awful in this case. I agree that customers are not always right, but in this case they definitely were and the restaurant was beyond wrong.

                      No court of law will side with the restaurant when it comes to charging for service when the service was way below the minimum acceptable level in the mind of a judge or jury.

                    2. Most smart restaurants that do have this automatic gratutity for large parties will lift it
                      if the customer feels that it is unjust ...(like in this case)

                      I saw it on the news tonight...
                      the food server was outside SMOKING, but apparently had no replacement during their absence.... very uncalled for!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: ellen4441

                        @Ellen by law you have to take a break of 30 min, so in a resaurant it's usually split up into multiple 5 min.smoke breaks. Obviously you can't be gone for 30 min. from your tables.

                        1. re: brownbabygyrl

                          I do not believe the law allows the rquired 30 minute unpaid break to be taken in six five-minute intervals. Most restaurants have the staff take this break on an off-hour, not peak meal periods. And, the waitress/waiter makes arrangements for coverage. Maybe the Lehigh Pub has legal problems, too. I mention this as brownbabygyrl appears to be part of the ownership or management of this place.

                          1. re: jfr

                            I can't speak to the laws in Pennsylvania, but in every restaurant I worked at in Ontario, wait staff grabbed their breaks when they could. Busboys, hostesses, dish washers, etc., all had their designated breaks, but not the waiters and waitresses.

                      2. Steve Dublanica's (the infamous "WAITER" of the "Water Rant" blog and book):


                        1. Just a heads up (heads-up? heads' up?) that there is another, slightly longer, thread on this subject at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/668535 (although both threads are interesting).

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: blackoak

                            Sorry about the two threads thing. This one was originally posted on the Penna boards by me to get the local take on things. We PAers are an independent lot it seems. No one tells us what to do. Also on the Penna boards is a very civil discussion about whether to tip or not at this new pub that has a no tipping policy. The pub is inside the new Collegeville Wegman's, not terribly far from Bethlehem, and it seems that most people are tipping despite the policy. I haven't been to the Wegman's pub yet but I think that we long suffering PAers are feeling blissed out by finally being able to get us some beer in a supermarket.

                            1. re: givemecarbs

                              Philadelphia is consistently recognized as the best tipping city in the US by Zagat (FTR, Bethlehem is not the Phila metro area).

                          2. A lot of people seem to have missed the point is that there are two sides in an implied contract with a merchant. When a merchant charges for goods or services, he or she has to provide those goods or services. Otherwise, the purchaser cannot be made to pay for them.

                            If a restaurant wants to disclose on its menu that 18% will charged as a gratuity for all parties of six or more, fine, but that doesn't allow the restaurant to fail to provide at least average service to the patrons.

                            In this case, the service was egregiously bad and the restaurant failed to provide a reasonably adequate level of service to the customers. They really needed to take that charge of the bill given the lack of service, but refused to do it. Further, the patrons paid for the food, beverages and taxes on the bill, so they simply refuse to pay for something they didn't get.

                            It's really no different than if they'd ordered a food item that never was brought to the table, yet appeared on the bill when presented.

                            The police were totally out of line here. They would never have arrested the couple if they refused to pay for a food item on the bill that they never received.

                            Assuming the defendants' attorney files a motion for summary judgment, I predict the charges will be dismissed at the first court appearance.

                            At that point, I can only hope the defendants will sue both the restaurants and the police for the injustice they experienced. Being arrested, booked and jailed is a horrible thing to experience when you've done nothing wrong. They should be compensated for that experience and I think punitive or exemplary damages would be appropriate, too.

                            You don't give people horrendously bad restaurant service and then have them jailed because they object to paying for atrocious service. If the food and beverages and taxes were paid, the restaurant wouldn't have been out any money. The waiter or waitress would have been out the money, but he or she didn't deserve a tip in this case.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: toddabearsf

                              Were they actually booked and jailed? The report I read just said they were cuffed and placed in the squad car, but nothing more. Bad enough at that, but did they really suffer the indignity of spending time behind bars?

                              1. re: FrankD

                                Looks like the charges are expected to be dropped. Here is the latest on this story:
                                A lot more facts have come to light in this news article. Apparently the couple was taken to the police station in separate police cars. Doesn't say anything about jail time. It does say "Then, without issuing any warning about getting the police, the manager walked out and got an officer at a nearby intersection, Pope said."

                            2. Also, no offense small towners... You all split bills. I was sitting next to a bunch of tourist chicks from Philly, one f*&#ing broke out a calculator... There is also something called "social skills" get some. Pub you are right! You don't need all broke customers.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Chickarecheap

                                What does splitting the bill have to do with poor service? My understanding is that this group was composed of eight individuals. No one was going to pick up the check for the party of eight. People go out for lunch from work or just get together as friends all the time and split the bill. Some restaurants are even accommodating and provide separate checks, though most do not.

                                More relevant is that the waitress was taking a five-minute smoke break as several posters have pointed out. The problem is -- where was she the rest of the hour+?