The People Vs. Sneaky Menus

By Tim Nelson
July 15, 2019
Mike Egerton - EMPICS/Getty Images

What does a drink really cost? It’s an eternal question that yields some surprising answers, depending on where you are and what you’re looking for. It’s an even more vexing question when the menu itself doesn’t bother to list the price of a beer, soda, or (likely overpriced) cocktail, leaving you bummed out when the bill shows up.

But one hero has decided enough is enough, initiating a lawsuit that could avenge all those who’ve ever been disappointed by the absence of information about drink prices—at least at select New Jersey-area TGI Fridays locations. That hero’s name is Robert Cameron. He’s still steaming over a 2012 trip to TGI Fridays during which he unwittingly ordered a $5 Stella Artois beer and a $3 soda, both of which were more expensive than he realized, because drink prices weren’t listed on the menu. 

WATCH: How to Make a Raspberry Beer Cocktail

In an initial 2014 lawsuit, Cameron argued that he would have skipped the soda and ordered a cheaper beer had he been aware of what those items cost. Now, roughly five years later, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that a New Jersey appeals court recently ruled that the lawsuit can go forward as a class-action lawsuit against South Jersey Pubs Inc, which owns TGI Fridays franchises in Manahawkin and Toms River (the site of the original incident). 

Based on the Inquirer’s description of the legal minutiae, it doesn’t seem like Cameron’s goal is to become a millionaire as a result of litigation, but rather to encourage southern New Jersey’s TGI Fridays to do right by their customers. For South Jersey Pubs’ part, court filings find the ownership group claiming it hasn’t violated any consumer protection laws, and has listed drink prices on its menu as of August 2017. 

Yes, I get that suing a restaurant over $8 of overpriced drinks feels a bit excessive, but it’s a principled stand worth taking. I’m horrible at guessing what generic drinks cost at various restaurants, especially while traveling, and I think it’s only fair that consumers have an opportunity to know what they’re getting into before they place an order. If a restaurant is worried that revealing high prices for soda, beer, and crappy well cocktails would hurt their business, well that’s just the free market at work, baby.

Read more: Lessons from Eating Bacon at a TGI Fridays Co-Working Space

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