Could you legally refuse to serve someone who consistently refused to tip?

While it might not be smart business practice, can a business refuse service to anyone so long as it does not violate state or federal race, creed, color etc. anti-discrimination guidelines?

If a patron refused to tip for even the best service could a restaurant legally show him the door?


You can show a customer the door for being an asshole, and “Being an asshole” is your call. What you CAN’T refuse service for are things like protected areas of discrimination - being of a certain race, gender, disability, etc. “Cheapskate” is not a protected class anywhere I am aware of.

As you say, it may not be good business practice to tell non-tippers to get the fuck out, but you can do it.

Bad Tipper isn’t a protected class, so yes, they could. They could do it for always wearing an ugly tie if they wanted.

ETA: What RickJay said.

The bar I play at had such a customer a couple of years ago. He literally never tipped a dime: if got a dime back as change, he’d pocket it. His finances were obviously tight – he was on disability, and just basically drank all day. But he was defiant about it when customers hinted that it would be nice to leave the barmaid a tip, claiming that he was within his legal rights. He also tried to turn it into a racial issue, which was silly because there were other black customers who did tip. IIRC, the owner ended up asking him not to come back, which an establishment can do, as long as it’s not based on the discriminations noted in the OP.

It’s fairly common that places that do deliveries will post addresses they won’t deliver to, a common reason for this is if that location doesn’t tip. I know some of the bigger chains or even franchises have rules against this, but most of these places only regularly get checked on once a month or so for compliance issues so it’s still fairly easy for them to skirt those regulations.

Then some businesses will still want the business even if their drivers are getting stiffed, it’s probably something you see more with businesses that have a large volume of customers and are desperate to keep staff.

In ancient times when I delivered pizzas for a while, we used the notes field in the POS to indicate consistently non-tipping addresses. We would still deliver to them, and not mess with their food, and still provide quality, and everything that should be expected, except they wouldn’t be our top priority. If we had to take three deliveries, then they’d often be last, such as on the way back to the shop. Someone has to be last in any case.

I make it a point to tip the pizza man very well now. At least, I hope it’s very well – I could very well be out of touch after all these years. However I don’t order enough delivery pizza to have determined whether my tipping practices affect service!

I tip consistently and well (by Irish standards) when I get food delivered and for the most part I get deliveries piping hot and lightning fast. I dunno if the level of service is just particularly good anyway.

Another one of those questions: Is it legal to… The answer is always the same: It depends on what country or, in the United States, what state, county, or municipality you live. Law differ from place to place!

Seems like it might be smarter simply to add a “delivery charge” to such orders.

I don’t think you’re going to find a place where the law says restaurants (or any other service provider/retailer) must provide service to everyone. Businesses have the inherent right to deny service (i.e. choose who to do business with), we have laws against this if the denial is based on the patron’s inclusion in a protected class. I know of no law that says “bad customer” is a protected class.

Well the issues with that are, if you are going to charge a delivery charge it needs to be clearly stated and applied to all customers. If you don’t wish to fix a delivery charge to orders, then it’d be foolish to make that decision punitively.

Furthermore, it’s often (if not always) the case that when a chain charges a delivery charge it is to cover either the insurance or mileage (or both) for their drivers. It’s almost universal that a delivery charge goes to the business to cover costs not the driver.

Yeah, I think more and more companies are moving away from being overly accommodating of bad customers. Herb Kelleher (long-time CEO and IIRC still Chairman of Southwest Airlines) always said that you have to support your people over customers who are jerks. If you support your people, the people that work with you every single day and are the ones driving your profits, then it will create happier employees who are going to provide better customer service overall.

I know Gordon Bethune at Continental had a similar way of thinking, and this help turn around the culture of negativity at Continental that was pervasive when he took over.

If a business basically treats its employees as serfs, and always sides with a customer over a good employee, no matter how unreasonable or assholish the customer is being it fosters the feeling that the employee is worthless. This creates unhappy employees which leads to lower quality customer service for everyone who is a customer. This will hurt business a lot more than just telling the (relatively rare) truly assholish customer to do business elsewhere.

Obviously businesses that are extremely low-volume with each sale being a significant portion of total revenue may have to pander a bit more, but for most businesses that involve direct customer service it’s usually not wise to think “the customer is always right.” You should always strive for good customer service, but if someone is abusive you shouldn’t accommodate them, it leads to a situation where you as a business are basically rewarding badly behaved customers.

But … a disproportionately large number of blacks are bad tippers. It may be legal to ban a diner for bad tipping, but it WILL be perceived as racial discrimination.

If the tip is discretionary, it should be discretionary.
That means if you don’t want to pay it, you don’t have to.

If it’s not discretionary, make it a service charge, or just put the prices up by 10-15% and give the staff the extra money.

If you have to pay, it’s not a tip, it’s a fee.

While you could refuse service on any grounds you like, since the person has paid the requested fee for the services you deliver I’m not sure what would be gained from refusing to serve them in the future.

I’ve had over my fair share of customers “banned” from my store when I was a retail manager just for being loud, beligerant, or assholish.
Funny how many of them didn’t realize I could do it and thought they had some sort of ‘right’ to be there and were surprised when the cops would arrive to escort them from the property just because I didn’t want them to be there.
The list ranges from grabbing me by the shirt to swearing up a storm but employees and other customers were always happy to see them booted.

They don’t have to. The restaurant also doesn’t have to do business with them if they don’t want to.

What is gained from refusing them service is giving your waitstaff a break from serving an additional table for no additional pay. They can do a better job for other customers, and will generally be happier, which is always a good thing for the service industry.

My wife used to be a waitress, so I had damn well better tip well.

But, I can’t see a business that still makes a profit from you, wanting you to go elsewhere because you don’t give them a bribe to stay. Maybe as others say, the restaurants can, but if a customer just quietly doesn’t tip, I’d think their business would still be desired.

Depends on the chain. I worked at a regional chain, like 80 stores, and the delivery fee was the drivers’ paycheck. They did not get paid hourly. If they were scheduled on a slow night, they didn’t make much. If they somehow had a really horrible shift and made less than minimum wage the employer had to compensate I’m sure. Some of the bigger chains do pay hourly but they also make the drivers do dishes and answer phones and stuff too. So you cannot assume where the delivery fee is going. Sometimes it’s the driver’s only guaranteed income, sometimes it’s extra income, sometimes it’s for insurance/gas, sometimes just for the store.

If it leads to disgruntled waitstaff and you care about your waitstaff then their business will not be desired.

Okay, then call it a “delivery surcharge.” Surely if it’s legal to refuse service to addresses with a bad history, it would be legal to offer to serve them at a higher price.