Frank Abreu was ready to settle his bill at The Cheesecake Factory when he noticed a problem with the math on his receipt.

As CBS 2 reported, Abreu was at a restaurant in Valencia, California on Saturday. He was getting ready to leave a tip when he saw the suggested tip amounts on his $33.76 meal weren’t even close to accurate. Instead, they were wildly inflated.

Screenshot/CBS 2

The 15 percent “suggested gratuity” for Abreu’s meal was listed as $11.03, which is actually approximately a 33 percent tip. A real 15 percent tip would have been less than half as much at $5.06.

The inflation continued down the line: $13.24 for the 18 percent tip (actually about 39 percent; should be $6.08), $14.71 as the 20 percent tip (really about 44 percent; should be $6.75), and — most outrageously — a suggestion he tip $16.18 and leave a “22 percent” gratuity. In the video below, Abreu told CBS 2:

“Twenty-two percent of $33 is not $16.18 as suggested. That’s almost 50 percent.”

Abreu complained to both the restaurant management and the corporate office. But to his surprise, both seemed to shrug off the error, suggesting that accurate tipping was the customer’s problem, not theirs. He told CBS 2 that corporate headquarters even seemed to be aware of the problem, but it wasn’t concerned about misleading customers:

“He kind of led on like we knew about this, and I said you know about it? I said: ‘What are you doing about it? Are you putting anything out to the patrons that they have to be vigilant and look at this because it’s not accurate?’ The manager told me the same thing that night. She said it was up to the customer to figure out the tip.”

A statement from the Cheesecake Factory to CBS 2 also disclaimed responsibility for inaccurate tip recommendations, putting the onus on the customer to do their own math:

We provide every table with a check that shows the total of all charges and a suggested gratuity range for that total. All gratuity amounts listed on our guest checks are suggestions only. Guests are free to tip as they please.

However, Abreu feels that putting highly inflated and inaccurate suggestions on the receipt is dishonest. He told CBS 2:

“I just wish they used the correct numbers there. It’s like price gouging.”

After his experience, Abreu is warning others to check the receipts carefully — and not to trust the “suggested gratuity” printed by the restaurant. While it may be tempting to skip the math and just sign the receipt, if you want to avoid being taken advantage of, it pays to take a moment and calculate the tip yourself.

As Abreu told CBS 2, he’s happy to leave a good tip behind, but not if it’s part of an effort to fool people out of their money: “To me, it felt like a borderline theft. I just felt that wasn’t right. They were trying to rip me off and other people, and I wanted them to fix that.”

Leave a comment

We are excited to announce Dearly has joined forces with Mama’s Uncut. Helping Mom’s across the United States answer questions on life’s big challenges.