Councilman David Greenfield

Councilman David Greenfield

Councilman David Greenfield wants to stop a dirty practice that is costing New Yorkers millions of dollars a year at restaurants across the city. The New York Post is reporting that Greenfield wants to enact heavy fines for eateries that deal in the tricky ‘double tipping’ practice.

Restaurants that con people into tipping twice do so by including the “suggested” gratuity in the bill and also add a tip line at the bottom of the credit card slip. Unassuming patrons then add on an extra tip, unaware that they have already been charged one. The Post described how the practice first saw the light of day:

Earlier this year, Manhattan tennis pro Ted Dimond sued a half-dozen restaurant chains – including Red Lobster and The Olive Garden – for regularly adding tips of 15 percent or more to the tabs of small dining parties.

His class-action suit cited a 2009 Post investigation that found that dozens of businesses had been caught engaging in illegal tipping practices.

Greenfield, who has proposed fining restaurants $250 who partake in the scam, spoke to the economic impact of the practice and the need for action:

“By our account, this is literally an in issue that is costing restaurant-eating New Yorkers millions of dollars every single year,” Greenfield told The Post.

“We’re not looking to hurt the hard-working waitstaff at restaurants,” he added. “But at the same time, we don’t want you to trick people into tipping you twice.”

The law would be enforced by the Department of Consumer Affairs, and require a disclosure on both the bill and the credit card receipt, in a font-size to be determined by the agency.

The bill has been referred to committee for hearings.

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  • Boris

    This practice is a serious pet peeve of mine. And unfortunately, one of our local establishments is guilty of this: Tête-à-Tête Café. I had the stuffed cheeseburger there based on the endorsement from this site. It was good (not spectacular), but I ended up waiting several minutes after finishing while our waitress puffed on the hookah pipe at the bar. So I was already annoyed when I saw that the bill had both a slot for a tip AND a gratuity charge. I haven’t been back since.

    • http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/ Ned Berke

      I don’t know how long ago this was, since we did that review quite a while ago. But I’d give it a try again – I’ve had many conversations with Tete a Tete’s owners about service (and they’re not the only ones), and they’ve made great strides over the past two years or so.

  • Tuth

    I hate when restaurants do that and make it practice not to frequent establishments that add gratuity charge and then expect a tip.

  • brooklynq

    I don’t understand what the problem is. If I see a gratuity charge on the bill –
    the tip has already been covered.

    it’s a pity really and costs the staff money. I usually tip more than the gratuity charge – but if that’s all they want, so be it.

  • bruce b

    Lately I know of two restaurants in the CI/S bay area that have made clear on the bill, in no uncertain terms, that a tip is included. Previously, it was a bit ambiguous. I won’t mention the restaurant names, because I don’t see why I should give negative publicity to the very restaurants that have corrected this practice. Just wanted to point out that apparently steps are already being taken in this area.

    • BrooklynBus

      There is a restaurant in Brighton Beach that I like that calls its included tip of 10% a “service charge”. Then there is another line added for “gratuity”, so I add another 5 to 8% there, but I feel guilty because I don’t know if the “service charge” is given to the waiter (ress) personnel, or kept by management and don’t know if I am shortchanging the personnel who waits. What the hell is meant by a “service charge” if it’s not a tip? There shouldn’t be any confusion.

      • Bruce b

        One of the places I had in mind was this exact situation, but they changed”service charge” to gratuity…. I am similarly confused at the term “service charge”.

      • nyckat

        I actually called over the manager at a Brighton Beach establishment that charged me the “service charge”. I had asked my waitress if she got any portion of that and she said, no, we also are expected to tip out our bartender and bus boys after our shift as well! I was a single diner- and refused to pay this “service charge”- we bantered back and forth about the legalities of it- I finally took my phone out and said I am calling the police- the owner or manager not sure took the charge off- I handed my waitress her $25 tip (way above this service charge) and said next time I come in if I get hit with a service charge I will pay it and NOT tip! Never had another service charge at said restaurant!

  • ag

    Yes. Patrons can’t read their bill and we must pass a law to protect them. Makes perfect sense here…

    • common_sense

      how about just not billing patrons for anything other than what they HAVE to pay? items purchased and tax?

  • jim

    Tete a Tite is an overpriced Russian Sh*t hole! Very average food and drinks.

    When I tried to pay my bill with a credit card, the waiter asked me for my ID. I showed them my license, which they then proceeded to swipe out of my hand, and scan it through some machine. Who the F*ck gave them permission to do that?!?

    I’ve never been treated like a criminal like that at any other restaurant or bar.

    Yes, and the thing with the double tipping is a nice scam. That have that sort of scam going at all the Chinese Buffets. Tip is automatically added to the bill, and I’m 90% sure the Asian immigrant waiters don’t see a dime of it. For Shame!

  • ishkabibble

    As a regular, and non-Russian, client at Tête-à-Tête Café, I can honestly say that:
    a. There is a service charge. Add more, or not, up to you… but not a rip-off. KeBeer in Brighton Beach does the same thing. Not sure why this is an issue?

    b. Service is good, and extremely friendly, though they don’t “rush” their patrons so if YOU are in a hurry you do need to be more aggressive about getting and paying the bill.
    c. Drinks and wings are great, other things just “okay,” but the vibe of the place is way cool.

  • Barbara

    Guys – this is very common outside of the US. Everywhere but here wait staff actually gets paid real wages so restaurants charge separately for service. Here wait staff is paid something like $2.50 an hour because they basically work for tips. This has become a problem for wait staff in the US because nowadays so many customers are foreign-born and are used to either not leaving a tip or leaving only that little bit extra that really good service warrants.

    What really is a problem here is if those restaurants are charging a service charge AND not paying their staff real wages (which I bet is what most of them are doing).

    • Ex-server

      This is true. And you’d be suprised to learn that those who bellyache the loudest about gratuity and say they “would have left more” but are “so insulted” are the cheap jerks who wouldn’t have tipped 5% no matter what the level of service given was.

  • LM

    Doesn’t DCA have a law on the books that makes “service charges” illegal on parties of less than 8 and the most it can be is 15%. I guess this gives the law teeth. I’ve filed DCA complaints against Anyway cafe for adding a service charge to bills for less than 8 and last time I was there they didn’t include it – although their menu says that a service charge will be added is illegal but by a different RCNY law.