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Customers say they were locked in restaurant over tip dispute

HOUSTON (KPRC) – A group of friends in Texas said they were locked inside a restaurant after they refused to pay a 17-percent gratuity included on their bill.

Jasmine Marks said she asked the West Houston restaurant if it would remove the automatic 17-percent gratuity on her party’s bill because she considered the service less than stellar. The gratuity was automatically added because she had more than five people in her party.

“We asked her could the gratuity be removed, could we give our own tip,” Marks said. “She [a restaurant worker] stated it was part of their policy and there wasn’t nothing she could do about it.”

Marks said things got ugly at that point. Marks said they were told they could not leave the restaurant until their bill was paid in full. She said restaurant workers locked the doors and called police.

“I asked the officer two, maybe three times ‘Is it against the law if we don’t pay the gratuity he never gave me a straight answer,” Mark said.

Dan Parsons, with the Houston Better Business Bureau, said customers need to know a restaurant’s rules before walking into the front door.

“Consumers need to understand the policy going in…and I mean every sign, walking in the door,” he said. “What credit cards do they accept…what are their hours?”

Parsons said the BBB is investigating the customer’s complaint.

Marks and her friends ended up paying the gratuity.