(WTHV) - A North Carolina woman has started a petition against her favorite Japanese restaurant.
She's upset because the restaurant put a tip on her bill without her consent. The restaurant says they're just trying to deal with a habitually-bad tipper.
Kanpai restaurant on Stratford Road in Winston-Salem serves up some traditional Japanese cuisine.
"I used to enjoy going to Kanpai," Monica Covington says.
But these days, Covington can't get a table inside. That's why she started this petition with more than 300 signatures and growing. It demands fair treatment from Kanpai.
It started back in 2008 while dining out. When the check came she noticed something odd.
"I noticed on our ticket that they added 18 percent gratuity and there was only 2 others with me at the time," Covington said.
The menu clearly states a 15 percent gratuity will be added of parties of six or more. Covington complained but says she paid anyway. But when she returned a month later she said before she could even get seated, she got into the door and they came to and told her if you aren't willing to pay the 18 percent gratuity then they couldn't serve them.
It caused Covington to start this petition. A petition which demands fair practices.
"Well, we're not discriminating against her. We love customers. That's why the restaurant is here," says Manager Michael Lam.
Lam says Covington essentially is a bad tipper and after numerous times of dining and not tipping accordingly, they ran into problems. The restaurant says they can't continue to serve her anymore because the servers and chefs are not willing to serve her. The manager goes on to say this is an isolated incident and when it comes to the boycott petition: "We'll I'm shocked."
So is the restaurant's action legal?
While it may not be the best business practice, one attorney says businesses can refuse service as long they doesn't violate any civil liberties such as race, sex or religion.
As for Covington, she says she always left a good tip at the restaurant, even when she got what she calls "less than honorable" service.
The restaurant has responded:
Response to WXII News Channel 12
We appreciate the community's support of Kanpai in regards to the story aired on February 23rd by WXII12 News. We are working on correcting the critical mistakes that WXII News Channel12, and WXII's reporter Jermont Terry made during their report. We feel that our story was not portrayed accurately and we would like an opportunity to explain our circumstances.
The restaurant's policy regarding parties six or greater are automatically added a 15% gratuity. This policy is clearly stated on our menu. The report by WXII News Channel 12 regarding the situation with Mrs. Monica Covington was not accurately reported and was more complicated than what was portrayed.
At the time, Mrs. Monica Covington was a frequent customer. On many separate occasions, a server of our establishment attended to Mrs. Covington. Each time our server waited on Mrs. Covington no gratuity was left. Shortly after this incident, Mrs. Covington returned with a party that was originally composed of six people, which later turned to five. The same server waited upon this party and added the 15% gratuity to her bill without the manager's knowledge. When this case was pointed out to the manager, the problem was soon remedied and the gratuity removed from the bill. Even after the gratuity was removed, Mrs. Covington and her party left no gratuity. What followed shortly afterwards, on a separate occasion, Mrs. Covington returned with two or three other diners. Our Servers and even Chefs told the manager that they refused to wait on their party. The manager, in hopes of appeasing staff and customers alike, formally asked Mrs. Covington if she would mind a 15% gratuity added to her bill and was explained in detail as to the reasoning why. Our compliance with North Carolina Law, and our stated intentions in protecting our staff members and allowing Mrs. Covington to dine with us, was clearly stated and in an appropriate manner. Absolutely NO discrimination occurred whatsoever.
We feel that WXII News Channel 12 misrepresented our story. Although they spoke with our general manager Michael Lam for 20 minutes, only a very small portion of his comments were aired during their broadcast. We would hope that their journalistic creed would go beyond showing simply one side of the story.
We here at Kanpai Japanese Steakhouse are completely grateful for the warm outpouring of support shown by our loyal patrons. In this letter, our hope is to clear any misconceptions and incongruity portrayed by the reporting. The Winston-Salem community all know that Kanpai has served the community over 13 years, and we are always be committed to one goal: to provide our guests with an unparalleled dining experience.