Restaurants Sued for Automatically Adding Tips to the Bill

Say What!? 15

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?


eating out, tipping


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LeeshaE LeeshaE

As a former waitress I support it for larger parties because some people are horrible tippers and a server gets taxed on a percentage of their sales for tips that are assumed. Example I served a party of about eight once that only had one English speaking patron, as I do not speak Spanish it took me 20 minutes alone to take their order, everything came out perfect and since I didn't add gratuityI got a $1 tip, only made that mistake once. And because of the time spent on that table I lost out on other possible tables/ tips that's why gratuity is needed. For those that argue that restaurants should pay its servers better how bout you tell your State Representative that instead because they are the ones regulating minimum wage.

Nelli... NellieAthome

Yes, eating establishments should pay their wait staff at least minimum wage. A tip is an *extra*  reward for excellent service. it should not be up to the patron to make up lack of salary from management. The attitude of entitlement from some wait staff is very off-putting to those of us who do tip and tip well - when the service deserves it.

We will tip 20-25% for good service but I had no problem leaving the waitress $0.95 on a $32.05 bill  (rounded up the bill to the nearest dollar) for the abysmal service Monday as well as calling the corporate office when the manager kept trying to add a larger tip when we paid. (Didn't you mean $6.95? Do you want to change it before I run iit?  Are you sure you don't want to ncrease it? How about $5.95?")  Manager asked "Are you really that cheap?" and got annoyed when a second waitress spoke up noting the previous Monday we tipped her $10 on the same meal bill......

Until the US stops viewing people in service positions as somehow less "professional" then wait staff will suffer, along with others, but there is still no ethical right to demand patrons pay tips.

LeeshaE - I'd imagine the reason you got a small tip from the Spanish speaking party is that in Spain being a waiter/ress is a profession with a good salary and tips are not expected.

Jespren Jespren

"Gratuity" as in something I *graceously* add if I feel it is called for. It's not salary, it's not obligatory, it's not something that should be expected or relied upon. It's a *gift* to a wait staff that did an excellent job. Where I grew up waitstaff got, by law, at least min. wage. Most made over that before tips. It's not a gratuity if it's obligatory, it's just a higher priced meal.

Stephanie Paolinelli

I think you should inform the guest, and only parties of 6 or more, yes 6! I was a server for many years and the bigger parties should have an 18% to 20% gratuity because they are always alot of extra work and they expect better service. I also think after midnight there should be an automatic gratuity to everyone's check, people come in late night, drunk, rude, and out of order. Often times they have spent too much money that evening and want to stiff the last person to wait on them. I know all this from experience. If you don't want to pay for service eat at McDonald's actually if you don't tip server's would prefer you do just that.

Stephanie Paolinelli

Except for LeeshaE, I am glad I never waited on you people. Server's don't make minimum wage, in NC for example the wage is 2.32 and hr plus tips. You have to claim enough tips to equal minimum wage. In that way the restaurants get out of paying a decent wage. If you don't like to tip, don't expect to go to a restaurant and be waited upon, I suggest McDonalds since you are so damn cheap. You try working that hard (serving) and not getting tipped while being taxed for tips you didn't receive. You people are ignorant and obviously have never been in the business.

Nelli... NellieAthome

I am hardly cheap Stephanie - I tip what a wait person deserves based on their service - I have tipped $.095 on a $32.05 bill and I have tipped $10 on a $32.05 bill - based on the quality of the  service. Heck, I have even tipped $8.00 on a $2 drink bill because the service was outstanding. Places where we hold meetings have had the wait staff refuse to have tips added to the bill because overall they got much much less with the mandatory tip than they did by letting us (a group of 30) tip as individuals

What I object to is the wait staff that feels they deserve a tip just because they do not get paid eough by management. A tip is EXTRA, it is not salary. A tip is RECOGNITION of good or extraordinary service. No one is OWED a tip

Wait staff should be paid minimum wage at the very least but if they are not it it is still not the customer's responsibility to make up the difference if the service does not warrant it.

MissF... MissFrenchie

Servers in California where I manage a restaurant make minimum wage. Even at 40 hours per week minimum wage is not enough to survive on. Those of you claiming we should pay more should consider a couple things.

#1: the prices on the menu directly reflect our operating expenses...the steak you pay $30 for might only cost $6 in a grocery store but we have to pay rent, electric, wages to servers, bussers, bartenders, hostess, dishwasher, cook, and a host of other expenses. If we paid the severs enough to eliminate the dependence on "tips" then we would need to charge you $40 or more for that steak. When all is said and done the bill + tip would be the same as the bill if we paid our servers more.

#2: if you have never managed a restaurant please don't comment on how you think it should be done. I don't tell my dentist how to clean my teeth or my mechanic how to fix my car...don't tell me how to run a restaurant if you've never done it. 

Nelli... NellieAthome

For the record (and for Stephanie) the girl who got $0.95 on a $32.05 bill -

In a restaurant with only 4 other customers when we arrived and three wait staff ( we were her only table) she  took 20 minutes to bring menus, took an additional 15 minutes to bring our drinks, Got the order wrong twice - not even a complicated order 1 bacon cheeseburger, 1 Denver Omelette. - first time brought Eggs Benedict and a Club sandwich, second go around was a Reuben and  Waffles - told us she would have to charge us for all the meals if we kept "changing your minds".  It took getting up and going to the front to get her attention about the wrong orders since she never came by to ask if things were OK. 25 minutes after she took the second wrong order away the third time the order was right but stone cold. She never refilled the drinks ( coffee and ice tea) and we had to go to the front to ask for the bill since she never came back after delivering the  third go around of food. Overall lunch took over 2 hours.

I don't care if that girl was working for tips alone, there was nothing in her service that deserved  even the $0.95 we left her much less 20%

FWIW - We went back for dinner today - apparently corporate and the franchise owner agreed with our assessment as the shift manager and the waitress both were fired since we were the 5th complaint in 3 days and we were given a free dinner.

Nelli... NellieAthome

MissFrenchie said "When all is said and done the bill + tip would be the same as the bill if we paid our servers more."

Wow - and how much nicer would that be for the servers to get the wage without depending on tips. How much nicer for the customer not to be coerced into rewarding poor service because otherwise the server cannot pay their bills. 

I certainly would prefer to pay a bit more knowing the server got a reasonable wage.

And for good servers how much better to get a good wage and earn tips as well based on their actual level of service......

Oh and #2 is the argument used by people who really have no leg to stand on in terms of facts and on this isuue is a pathetic attempt to justify not paying employees a legitimate wage.  

Shandi80 Shandi80

Wow, people actually pay $30 for a steak? No wonder people are broke.

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