What You Should Know About Restaurant Tip Suggestions

NBC 7 Responds looks into the use of tip calculators and suggestions made by restaurants on your receipt.

More and more restaurants are suggesting gratuity amounts. Whether the suggestions appear on an iPad at the counter or on the bottom of a printed receipt, diners can avoid having to do quick math at a moment’s notice.

NBC 7 Responds looked into how these tip amounts are calculated, what they include, and how customers and restaurant owners feel about the trend.

At The Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Fashion Valley, NBC 7 Responds found the suggested tip at the bottom of the receipt was calculated based off of the total after sales tax was included, not before.

“You’re not supposed to tip on tax,” one restaurant customer outside of La Mesa’s Grossmont Center told NBC 7 Responds. “And, that, I don’t like because it shouldn’t be based on tax.”

NBC 7 Responds reached out to The Cheesecake Factory for comment and a spokesperson told us that the amounts are only suggestions, meant solely for convenience.

“All gratuity amounts listed on our guest checks are suggestions only,” wrote Alethea Rowe, senior director of public relations at The Cheesecake Factory. “Guests are free to tip as they please. We believe our guests appreciate service provided by our hardworking staff and tip accordingly.”

NBC 7 Responds found another example at a Dave and Buster’s in Mission Valley. The customer was given two different receipts, each one had different suggested tip amounts.

“On the bill they gave me, the suggested tip for 20 percent of the bill was $4.98 but on the bill they had me sign, the suggested tip for 20 percent went up to $5.23,” the customer wrote to NBC 7 Responds. “I thought both were wrong and ended up giving the guy $6.00 when in reality that was about 25 percent of bill.”

NBC 7 Responds contacted Dave and Buster’s for a comment but did not get a response.

And while some restaurants feel the suggestions are only meant to help their customers, other restaurant owners say the suggestions put unneeded pressure on their customers.

“It just feels awkward, you know? You feel pressured and I don’t like that,” said Damien Devine owner of Devine Pastabilities in Point Loma. “I don’t want to make my guests feel that way.”

Added Devine, "When someone is just putting a muffin in a bag or pouring a coffee, or whatever it may be, to tip a percentage on it just feels strange and forced like they are shoving it down my throat or making me feel guilty."

But Devine does acknowledge there’s a convenience side of it.

“It makes it easy so you don’t have to calculate it yourself,” one restaurant customer told NBC 7 as she was leaving a Rubio’s restaurant in La Mesa.

“I think it prompts you to give more of a tip,” one restaurant customer told NBC 7 Responds outside of a La Mesa restaurant. “It prompts you to tip potentially in situations where you wouldn’t want to give a tip or you wouldn’t normally give a tip.”

But some restaurants have found themselves in hot water for their use of tip calculators; The Cheesecake Factory being among them.

In July 2017 a group of customers filed a potential class-action lawsuit against The Cheesecake Factory. The lawsuit alleges that the chain restaurant failed to adjust tip suggestions when a table was splitting bills. That means that the suggested tips were on the entire bill and not each person’s total. 

A representative for The Cheesecake Factory did not comment on the pending litigation.

According to Julian Hammond, the attorney who filed the case on behalf of customers, a judge has yet to decide whether the case will be certified as a class action lawsuit. That decision is expected by the beginning of the year.

So what do you think? Are tip calculators more of a help or a hindrance? Should those suggested amounts include sale tax?

NBC 7 Responds and Consumer Bob want to hear from you. To leave your comment, go to Consumer Bob’s Facebook page

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