Suit accuses popular restaurant chain of tricking customers to over tip

Popular restaurant chain named in overtipping lawsuit

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Cheesecake Factory is one of the busiest restaurants on Oahu, with a popular outlet in Waikiki, and a new one in Kapolei that drew long lines when it opened on Monday.

But a lawsuit filed on the mainland alleges the chain is overcharging when it comes to suggested tips -- especially when you split the bill.

"Any time a bill is split, the recommended 20 percent (tip) is the 20 percent of the whole tab, not just the 20 percent of your split portion," said attorney Brandee Faria.

"The check is essentially the contract between you and the restaurant. And they're making this representation to you that if you tip 'x' dollars, that's going to be equal to 20 percent, then you believe them."

Faria has handled similar cases against other restaurants in Hawaii, with most cases settling out of court. While she's not involved in the Cheesecake Factory lawsuit, she believes that the allegations amount to an unfair and deceptive trade practice.

"In the State of Hawaii, restaurants, corporations, whoever might be found guilty of committing an unfair and deceptive trade practice, they have to pay triple damages, plus attorneys fees and costs," said Faria.

Faria noted that to her knowledge, there have been no complaints in Hawaii against the restaurant.

Former Hawaii resident Mike Abreu got a shock last Saturday when he looked on his check after dining at a Cheesecake Factory in Valencia, California.

"Twenty-two percent of 33 dollars, you know, is not 16 dollars and 18 cents as suggested," he said. "You know, that's almost 50 percent."

He told us that his check was just for him and his wife.

"In my case, it wasn't split," he said. "There were no comps, there were no discounts. It was just my wife and I, and that's all it was."

Abreu said he took his complaint to the corporate level, but was told that what's on the check is just a suggestion, and customers can tip what they please. The company had the same response to the lawsuit.

"They're cheating people," Abreu said. "If they're not paying attention, they could be giving a lot of money away."

"Basically you have two options," said Faria. "One is to take your phone out and double check the math, because most of us know that mental math is becoming obsolete nowdays. Or you do what most people do and take it at face value."

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