A Manhattan local has filed suit claiming that restaurants in Times Square—five to be precise—have been adding tips to patrons’ bills without informing them. Ted Dimond has recently filed a petition in the Manhattan Supreme Court asking permission to file a multi-million dollar class action lawsuit against the offending restaurants.
“This is a significant consumer rights and antitrust case,” says Evan Spencer, Mr. Dimond’s lawyer. “These restaurants have jointly conspired to raise prices in a deceptive manner ... and the named defendants are only the tip of the iceberg.”
Most of us are used to seeing the standard disclaimers where restaurants tell you that gratuity may be added to parties of eight or more, which is also the case in Manhattan, but the restaurants here have not relied on that 8 patron limit.
The Olive Garden and the Red Lobster in Times Square, the Ruby Tuesday on Seventh Avenue, the Marriott Marquis Hotel on Broadway and the Applebee's on West 50th Street, have all abused this regulation to the fullest extent by tacking on bonuses for its servers without the permission of customers.
Gratuity Secretly Already Included
These deceptive practices have resulted in customers leaving as much as 40 percent in tips, thinking they had only authorized the portion they intentionally filled in. Recently a Daily News reporter visited the Ruby Tuesday restaurant that Dimond listed in his suit. When she went she discovered that in addition to the write in space for a tip, customers were also paying an 18 percent gratuity on the bill.
Dimond is not the only one that has noticed this issue. Craig Allen, a visitor from Detroit noticed the discrepancy in his bill when out to lunch with family. When he questioned his server he was told “In this part of town, this is what we do.”
What’s worse is that the service that Allen and his family received was sub-par at best. “They didn't even get my son’s order right,” Allen said.
Jacques LeSage, a visitor from Montreal, said while out to eat with a friend the waiter at least warned them the tip would be included in the bill. “He told us, ‘Don’t be surprised when you see the bill’,” he said. “You don’t have to add more.”
Ichi Chen, a resident of New Jersey, said she wasn't warned about the added tip as she enjoyed lunch with her daughter. Following paying her bill and adding a tip, she later realized that an 18 percent gratuity had been added. “It’s not right,” Chen said.
Leigh Duthie, an overseas visitor from Australia noticed the built-in tip “after we got the bill.” “I was a little surprised,” he said. “Eighteen-percent. That’s pretty hefty, especially for a place like Ruby Tuesday. We’re not talking high-end cuisine here.”
The main thrust of Dimond’s lawsuit accuses the restaurants of breaking state fraud statutes which would allow him and other class members to collect triple damages if successful.
The present lawsuit included the five named restaurants, with the possibility to include an additional 1,000, all of which will be identified with further investigation.
Not surprisingly the restaurants have made no comment.
I was furious when reading about this. Most of the time my dining experiences have been pleasant enough to warrant at least a 15% tip, if not 20%...but that is a determination I like to make. There have been occasions where I have left a lesser tip due to terrible service. I wonder what happens on those occasions? Is a manager able to override the 18% gratuity? I say bravo to Mr. Dimond and I hope that he is successful in his pursuit of consumer protection.
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