PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Service at restaurants can either be really great, really bad, or often in between.

But suppose a restaurant automatically tried to tack on a gratuity without your consent no matter what the service?

That’s exactly what’s happened at some restaurants in Manhattan.

“They want to squeeze that extra little dollar out of everybody,” says attorney Evan Spencer.

Spencer has brought a $5.5 billion class action lawsuit against Applebee’s, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and a number of other restaurants, saying a gratuity should never be automatically included.

“If you want to raise prices, just raise the prices,” he said. “They’ll have an automatic gratuity in the price and then they’ll have a line for an optional tip, but a tip and a gratuity are exactly the same thing.”

KDKA money editor Jon Delano checked out a number of the chains listed in the suit, and while no one would appear on camera they all denied that this was practice in the Pittsburgh region.

While no national restaurant chains locally seem to add a gratuity for small parties, the fact is even if they did, you can just strike it out and pay what you think the service is worth.

But it’s something to watch for.

In New York City, Olive Garden added an automatic gratuity of 18 percent, while Applebee’s added 17 percent, although a small sign said you can tip what you want.

Of course, you can.

“They’re getting every possible dollar out they can out of each consumer that comes in, and to say that it’s optional when it is already included in the tip is insulting,” added Spencer.

More Consumer News
More Reports by Jon Delano