restaurant billThe trend of restaurants adding gratuity for bigger parties is nothing new. But whoever heard of dining establishments adding it to any size party -- without even bothering to inform the patron beforehand? Crazy, right? Unfortunately, some restaurants -- especially in Times Square, NYC -- have been accused of doing just that by a citizen filing a class action lawsuit.  

Ted Diamond, a 47-year-old tennis pro, says he found out that a handful of restaurants have added the automatic tip, and between the ones he identified and the ones lawyers have added to the suit, there are almost 20! Legally, they can add 15 percent only for parties of 8+. But Diamond says these offending restaurants added an extra 18 percent tip for parties of all sizes. You might not even know the tip will be added until you get the bill. And this is happening all over the country.

I understand the case for doing it, especially in touristy areas like Times Square, Miami Beach, and even St. Louis where an Applebee's waitress recently had a run-in with a pastor angry about the built-in gratuity. The thing is ... all too often, tourists aren't aware of U.S. tipping customs or are cheap or forgetful or just plain rude, and what these restaurants seem to be doing is attempting to cover themselves (or their servers, preferably) in any of those instances. (Seems to me they'd just be better off going with a no tipping-salaried staff policy like one NYC restaurant has decided to employ! But yeah, good luck with that ...)

Ultimately, the worst part is not giving diners a heads-up that the built-in tip is coming. What's more, if the law says gratuity can only be added for parties of eight or more, well, I can totally see where Diamond is coming from. What these restaurants are doing isn't legit, and they should be forced to quit -- or at least be upfront about it.

How do you feel about automatically added gratuity?