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November 24th, 2009:

European-style service fee lands two students in jail

The Tip

Does “Gratuity included” = Mandatory Service Fee?

America is the land of decent service and discretionary tips. Unless, that is, you’re eating with a group of 6 or more. In that case, you’re increasingly likely to find restaurants including a sizeable tip on the bill, regardless of the service provided.

And as two college students from Pennsylvania found out last week when they were arrested for refusing pay a tip when they received horrible service, “gratuity included for groups of 6 or more” actually means “mandatory European-style service fee.”

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

They were with a half-dozen friends at the Lehigh Pub in Bethlehem last month, so the establishment tacked what it called a mandatory 18 percent gratuity onto the bill of about $73, according to reports.

Pope and Wagner refused to pay.

“You can’t give us terrible, terrible service and expect a tip,” said Pope, a 22-year-old Moravian College senior who’s a Pottsville native, according to the Lehigh Valley Express-Times.

They had to find their own napkins and cutlery while their waitress caught a smoke, had to ask the bar for soda refills, and had to wait over an hour for salad and wings, they told NBC10.

Following the incident, hundreds of readers Yelp!-bombed the restaurant, posting hundreds of negative reviews of the Irish Pub online. If you think the restaurant was out of line, you can post a review here.

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