Cops drop charges against non-tipping college students
John P. Wagner, 24 and Leslie A. Pope, 22, were charged with theft of services after they wouldn't pay the more than $16 tip they were charged by Lehigh Pub, a restaurant near Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. Both had refused to pay the gratuity for what they claimed was awful service, including having to get their own silverware and drink refills. Their waitress also reportedly took a cigarette break instead of attending to them.
"I had recommended that the case be withdrawn, but that ultimately was a decision of the Bethlehem Police Department," Northampton County Prosecutor John Morganelli told The Morning Call. "It would not be the kind of case that should be processed criminally. It was one of those matters that should be processed civilly."
It looks like local officials -- who declined to comment to DailyFinance -- are trying to put a matter behind them which has brought them well-deserved national ridicule. The arrest of Wagner and Pope was an idiotic overreaction by the Bethlehem Police. Officials from local and national restaurant associations told DailyFinance that they had never heard of anything like it happening before. Just to be clear, the cops locked up two people who paid $73.87 of a $90.22 bill. I am not kidding.
This also illustrates a lesson in the pitfalls of poor customer service in a recession. People -- even college students -- are not going to tolerate being treated like crap. Money is tight and there are plenty of restaurants who would be glad to have their business. The Lehigh Pub, which must have lost business because of the horrendous publicity, disagrees with the media reports about what happened to Wagner and Pope.
Too bad. Even if they were the most obnoxious jerks the restaurant had ever seen, surely there was a way this dispute could have been resolved without the police. Now, instead of properly addressing a minor annoyance, the Lehigh Pub has become a symbol of the decline of customer service. Nice going.
What Wagner and Pope deserve more than anything -- besides the thanks of consumers -- is an apology from both the city of Bethlehem and the Lehigh Pub for putting them through this Kafkaesque ordeal. They also deserve compensation from both parties who wronged them.
For now, Wagner and Pope will heal their wounds by hitting the talk-show circuit.