Couple arrested over 'theft' for refusing to tip in restaurant

A couple who refused to leave a tip after allegedly receiving bad service in a Pennsylvania restaurant were arrested by police after being accused of theft.

By Paul Thompson
Published: 5:47PM GMT 23 Nov 2009

Leslie Pope and John Wagner were handcuffed and hauled away after they failed to leave a restaurant's mandatory 18 per cent gratuity - totalling $16 (?10) - for their party of eight.

"Nobody wants to be forced to pay a tip or be arrested for terrible service," said Miss Pope, 22.

The couple, students at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, had joined six friends at the town's Lehigh Pub for dinner. They claimed they had to wait almost an hour for their meal to arrive and Miss Pope said the service was so shoddy they had to get their own cutlery and napkins.

The group said they had to repeatedly ask for drink refills while their waitress smoked outside the pub.

At the end of the meal of salad and chicken wings, they were presented with a $73.87 bill. A $16.35 tip had been added as there was eight people in the party.

The group paid for the meal, but did not leave a tip. Mr Wagner, 24, said he explained to the manager why he was not leaving a tip.

The restaurant's owner admitted that the group had waited an unusually long time for their food, but said the pub had been very busy that night. He said managers offered to give the table a discount for some of the food, a claim the couple denied.

The restaurant called the police, and Miss Pope and Mr Wagner were led away in handcuffs.

Police said the pair were charged with theft, as the gratuity was part of the actual bill.

They are due to appear in court next month where they plan to contest the theft charges.

A spokesman for the Lehigh Pub said the restaurant menu makes it clear parties of six or more have a mandatory 18 per cent gratuity.

It is typical in the US to leave a 15- 20 per cent tip, and tables of six or more usually charge a mandatory 15 per cent tip.