Hand holding glass filling with water from faucet(l), Reddit post(c), Tip jar with money(r)

New Africa/Shutterstock J.J. Gouin/Shutterstock ilikesnark/Reddit (Licensed)

‘We don’t have water’: Customer removes 15% automatic gratuity after restaurant refuses to give him tap water

'Never heard of any place that doesn't offer free water.'


Jack Alban


Posted on Feb 6, 2024   Updated on Feb 14, 2024, 12:57 pm CST

The topic of gratuities being automatically appended to customer orders is one that’s been hotly debated online. Some argue that servers don’t earn enough money and that gratuities should be added to every ticket that comes through the restaurant. Others think that adding a tip is unnecessary and that servers’ incomes should rely on the businesses themselves.

There’s even an entire sub on Reddit, r/EndTipping, that’s dedicated to the demise of gratuities in the service industry in the United States, with advocates pushing for business owners to shoulder the cost.

One user on the platform, @ilikesnark, relayed a strange occurrence where they came across a restaurant that implemented a 15% automatic gratuity rule, which they outright refused to pay when their server wouldn’t serve them tap water.

The user explained that while they were dining out at a restaurant by themselves, they asked for regular old tap water with their meal. However, they were told by the server that they don’t serve free water to their customers and that they can only sell them bottled water.

Puzzled by this business strategy, the Redditor asked if they had a sink in the location and that surely whoever was working in the restaurant could pour them a cup of water from the faucet and call it a day. “I argued with her about—surely there’s a sink she can fill a glass from and she flat out refused saying they only have bottled water,” they wrote in the post. “This place offered many drinks requiring water and there’s no water issues that would prevent tap water from being consumed. I was annoyed but let it go.”

However, when it came time to finally pay their bill, they asked the cashier to remove the 15% surcharge—the employee kindly honored their request and offered a free to-go cup of water, which the customer refused, stating that they had their own reusable water bottle in their car. The worker also apologized to the Redditor, telling them that the business owner intentionally doesn’t serve tap water to customers in the hopes that they will instead purchase bottled water as a means of increasing revenue.

Judging from the poster’s comments about the food quality, however, it doesn’t seem that they necessarily need to worry about getting a few extra bucks from a bottle of water here and there. Their wares were quite tasty, according to OP’s assessment.

What they found especially egregious about the situation was the fact that they had never previously visited a restaurant that required a party of one to leave a gratuity, nor had they ever been to an establishment that didn’t serve water on tap. “I’ve never been forced to leave a gratuity as a party of one and sure as hell never been refused a glass of tap water. The food was great but it was by far the strangest interaction I’ve ever had at a restaurant,” they wrote.

Other users on the app sympathized with the Redditor’s outrage over the situation. “Not having running water would be an osha complaint,” one person wrote.

Someone else echoed the sense of bewilderment that came with a tap water-less restaurant: “For real. Employees there can’t wash their hands!??”

Waitress refused to give me water so I removed the 15% auto gratuity
byu/ilikesnark inEndTipping

And then there was another user who believed that the employee ended up screwing herself out of a tip. “She messed up. She had the opportunity to throw the owner under the bus and say ‘sorry, they don’t allow us to give free water. We can only sell by the bottle.’ Loss of the tip might make her reconsider the response,” they wrote.

Someone else replied wrote: “Nooooo. She had an opportunity to provide basic service and she refused.”

For others, the lack of available tap water was a legal issue. “It’s literally a law to have drinkable tap water available,” they penned.

According to Epos Now, there aren’t any laws in the U.S. that state businesses must provide free tap water to guests, which was a sentiment echoed by Earth 911. They state that while there are some parts of the globe that water must be served to customers in some bars and restaurants, there isn’t any legislation here that says this is the case. However, this hasn’t stopped folks from arguing the opposite, like a Food24 piece that says if a business has a liquor license, gratis H20 needs to be handed out to guests.

The Daily Dot has reached out @ilikesnark via Reddit direct message for further comment.

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*First Published: Feb 6, 2024, 8:00 pm CST