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Couple busted for not paying tip

The gratuity was mandatory for large parties, but what if the service stinks?

By Karen Datko Nov 20, 2009 2:38PM

Bizarre story of the week: Two restaurant patrons were arrested on a charge of theft when they refused to pay a $16 mandatory tip that was part of their bill.


College student Leslie Pope told a TV reporter that the service was so bad at the Bethlehem, Pa., establishment that she had to get the table’s silverware and napkins and walk to the bar to refill her soda. An hour after the group of eight ordered chicken fingers and other bar grub, the food arrived.

The menu says an 18% tip is included in the bill for parties of six or more. The tip on their bill amounted to $16.35 (inexplicably higher than 18%).


NBC Philadelphia reports:

After the $73 bill came, the group paid for food, drinks, and tax but refused to pay the tip. After explaining the bad service to the bartender in charge, Pope claimed he took their money and called police. The couple was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car. 

“They cuffed the Pope in Bethlehem,” one Fox TV anchor in Philly remarked.


According to the NBC report, the owner said managers offered to comp the food, but the couple said that didn’t happen. The NBC reporter speculated that the charges will probably be dropped.


Readers who posted comments at various online articles about the situation offered a variety of views -- the most thorough discussion can be found at -- including:

  • The couple should have paid the tip -- particularly after police were called.
  • The manager should have apologized for bad service and moved on. No need to call the cops. “Obviously we would have liked for the patron and the establishment to have worked this out without getting the police involved,”  Deputy Police Commissioner Stuart Bedics told NBC. 
  • Mandatory tips are outrageous. A tip is a reward for good service. “I know that many places will add it to the bill on parties over a certain number, but I think that the patrons should also have the right to not pay when there is bad service,” “oldgoat” said in a comment at Newser.

What should have happened here? What do you think?


Related reading:


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