A Borough Park lawmaker wants to strike a blow against gratuitous gratuities.
Councilman David Greenfield has introduced a bill to the Council aimed at clarifying the bills handed out at restaurants that automatically add a gratuity to the check — because unless the additional charge is clearly marked, diners can easily double tip.
And it happens more often than people think, according to Greenfield.
“Just about anyone who eats out on a regular basis has left a gratuity without realizing that the tip had already been included in the check,” said Greenfield.
His Gratuity Bill would give the city’s consumer affairs commissioner, currently Jonathan Mintz, the authority to standardize how restaurants and bars must label their gratuity charges on receipts. Restaurants would have to display gratuity charges on bills and credit card receipts in a “size and style,” determined by the commissioner — or face a fine of up to $250.
“This is a matter of fairness for everyone who dines at the many great restaurants in New York City,” said Greenfield.
The bill comes in the wake of a lawsuit filed by attorney Evan Spencer on behalf of professional tennis player Ted Dimond earlier this year, which accused several restaurants, including Olive Garden and Red Lobster, of flouting consumer protection laws that allow restaurants to automatically charge gratuities, but only for parties of eight or more diners.
The suit alleges that those restaurants charged gratuities for all meals as a matter of course and, because the charges were hidden in the bill, duped thousands of New Yorkers and tourists into forking over an additional tip as well.
Greenfield’s new bill may have an affect on smaller mom and pop restaurants, Spencer said, but he doubts large national restaurant chains will find much to fear in the paltry $250 fine.
“Your local business, they might change,” said Spencer. “But Darden, which owns Red Lobster and Olive Garden, lists their market cap as more than $7 billion. They really have no respect for these low-level administrative rules.”
©2013 Community News Group
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