Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

The story regarding this incident was posted before this column. You will also find it under Inspection/Columnists.

Here’s my tip: if you run a restaurant… having a couple arrested because they refuse to pay a mandatory tip for really bad service is a rotten idea.

One hopes for this restaurateur’s business tanks. One also hopes, for the sake of employees not involved in this fiasco, it doesn’t; they just get a new owner.

If you plan to dine out for dinner Thanksgiving time I would also look at your bill and restaurant policies very carefully: today; perhaps before you go. Stop by: look over the menu for caveats. Call. Ask. If they have policies anything like this place: eat elsewhere or have the more traditional, at home, meal. Don’t be scared to ask…

“Have you ever had anyone arrested for not paying a mandatory tip?”

No, it’s not an “embarrassing question.” The real embarrassment is that any owner would ever do this. Print out the story posted just before this column. Show it to them. And if they make any sympathetic comments directed at the owner and what he did: run like hell out the door.

I worked in the restaurant business for about five years when I was in high school and briefly in college, mostly as a dishwasher but also as an occasional cook. I have had more than one waitress cry in front of me because customers can resemble the south end of a moose headed north. I also had a boss who enjoyed taking us out and humiliating both waiters and waitresses for fun… especially the waitresses.


To flip the argumentative coin: I’ve also waited over an hour in a Friendly’s for the waitress to just make it obvious she knew we were waiting. They had thrown her out on the floor cold: never had even worked in a restaurant before.


One establishment in Kent, OH area turned a request for request into well burnt, and tried to force us to pay for an appetizer they never delivered.

(The plural form applies here too because it took confronting the waitress, the head waitress and finally the owner to get it off the bloody bill. He didn’t want to, but took it off when I pointed out: “Do you see that dish anywhere on this table?”)

I’d tell you the name because they deserve the bad press, but the wife can’t remember, all I remember is it was someone’s name, one of the left talk show hosts used to do his show there occasionally, it was off 43, I think, and this burger was so big it came in three parts. Couldn’t at least one part of the burger have been a bit less burnt? Did they accidentally mix in some of the cement from the post that held the Star Wars replica fighter outside the restaurant into their burger? Google shows nothing: no matter how I’ve tried to pull it up. So hopefully “the force” is no longer with them.

So I’ve been on both sides. My wife will tell you I am overly nice to waitress and waiters. It’s a hard job. The pay stinks. By law they can be paid far less than minimum: and that’s just not fair.

I took a rather unscientific survey of a few waitresses while on the road the past two weeks and even they agreed. As Ginger Thompson who is a waitress at Norridgewock in Beaver River Station… amongst many other hats she wears… said, “Oh, that’s so wrong. I’ve never been a fan of mandatory tips.” Of course, to balance that out, then you have the waitress at Big River in Nashville who got upset at me when I told my fellow homebrew club members that there was a mandatory “tip” of 20% on their bill. That was after I disovered it on my bill and realized a few had already left after paying another 20%: 40% total. Tiny type did refer the policy on the menu where customers were unlikely to look.

When I mentioned it to her the excess tipping, politely, she asked me not to mention it to them because…

“Oh, no, they always do that out of the goodness of their hearts.”

Yeah, right.

I understand that big parties are a lot of work and take waitresses and waiters away from doing several parties: maybe getting even more tips. There’s always the possibility they might get nada after all that work if there’s no mandatory policy. But call it a surcharge only. Put it in an obvious place on the menu. Use nice large letters … and tell the whole party directly before anything is served. Then make it obvious to the patrons they are not expected to pay anything over and above… unless they wish to. Maybe then; and only then, would I have a smidge more sympathy. Not much. But a mandatory tip is no tip at all: it’s padding the bill to prevent loss.

Fine. Call it a surcharge. But where does calling it a “tip” place the argument used to by restaurateurs to defend the tip system: “tips encourage good service?” Well, right down that hole that the dishwasher scrapes food into.

If only I could get the owner of that unrefined establishment to chow down a bit from that vessel after it’s turned quite ripe.

He deserves worse.


Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

Copyright 2009
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved

By Ken Carman

Retired entertainer, provider of educational services, columnist, homebrewer, collie lover, writer of songs, poetry and prose... humorist, mediocre motorcyclist, very bad carpenter, horrid handyman and quirky eccentric deluxe.

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Ana Grarian
14 years ago

First and foremost make the restaurants pay a living wage. A waitress should not have to depend on tips for fair pay. Then we could tip if we wished to, for excellent service. The current policy means that the waitress who works her tail off in a diner slinging hash and slapping away grabby hands earns next to nothing while someone in a more expensive place can make big bucks for the same or less work.
Tipping rather than an up front price also serves to hide part of the cost of the meal.
Whatever the policy it should be clear.
Friendly’s it seems is under staffed all over.

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