Ok, here's how I see this. Gratuity is certainly expected, but (as much as I hate to admit it) it is NOT required. I don't care if it is the restaurant's policy to automatically add on gratuity for large groups. I've been to many restaurants that do this and I think it's fine. However, if the service is really honestly and truly lousy, why should a patron be forced to pay that gratuity? It was this precise reason that my previous employer, Red Lobster, did not add on gratuity for large parties. Sure, it was a pain in the butt when you just worked your butt off waiting on a table of 10 and they only leave a 5% tip. It's a big bummer that is quickly followed by some select curse words in their direction. The question becomes, if you already know you're going to get an 18% tip no matter how well you take care of that table, what motivation is there for you to provide good service? None. So, the argument can be made that the server is more likely to not sweat it if they can't attend to the needs of that table. In the case of this couple from PA, I feel for them. There's no excuse for having to go get your own drink refills, napkins and silverware. Even from the perspective of someone who has waited tables for years, they absolutely should not have been arrested for refusing to pay that tip. Hopefully they will get a judge with a decent head on his shoulders who will throw this right out of court.
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