Man Disputes Restaurant's Hidden ‘Entertainment Fee'

A Rancho Cucamonga man says a recent restaurant experience at a Red Robin just isn't sitting well.

It's not the food but the bill, that included an "entertainment fee" that has the man questioning whether other customers are being charged the same fee and they just don't know it.

The entertainment fee comes from the use of one of those tablets you see on tables these days at restaurant chains. The tablets feature menus and a means to order and pay for food. But if you have kids you know the tablets also have games and that's where the "entertainment fees" come in.

Dennis Trigueros says a quick meal at a Red Robin in Rancho Cucamonga has fueled his hunger to uphold a basic economic principle.

"Because if you take money from me and I have not consented to it that's stealing from me," he says.

Trigueros' accusation comes after reviewing his bill and seeing an entertainment fee.

"A dollar 99 makes no difference in my life," he says. "It's truly an irrelevant figure."

Still, Trigueros wanted to know what the charge was for so he asked his waitress who pointed to the tablet on his table.

"She asked me if I had played any games and I responded to her that I hadn't played any games," he says.

But Trigueros' children had. The tablet clearly states there's a fee for playing games but doesn't require the consent of an adult to access them.

It simply allows a child of any age to click on the right sequence of buttons and then there's a fee that appears on someone's receipt.

"I think a lot of people are paying that fee and don't know it," he says.

As it turns out you don't have to.

"For kids when they purchase anything the parent is generally not responsible," says Rigo Reyes, the chief investigator of the Los Angeles Department of Consumer Affairs.

Reyes says with few exceptions California law does not hold parents financially responsible for a minor's purchase if it was unauthorized.

"It's very important to review the bill before you pay and if you see any charge that you didn't authorize, dispute it," he says.

"The second I asked about it, they immediately refunded me my money," Trigueros says.

Trigueros says more transparency, perhaps a verbal warning about entertainment fees from restaurant staff or requiring a password to access games will fix the issue, short of that he says the charge just feels wrong.

"My objection is that there is no parental consent and there's not age verification," he says.

A manager for Red Robin's Rancho Cucamonga location tells the NBC4 I-Team: "The tablet does clearly state there is a charge for playing games but we do remove that charge if a guest complains."

Ziosk, the company that makes the tablet, also says there are three warnings for customers of entertainment fees, before games can be accessed, an acceptance page and the receipt itself all of which a guest has the right to dispute or asked to be waived. Ziosk says many guests choose to pay the fee as the games are a nice diversion for kids while waiting on their meals to arrive.

Ziosk statement:

"We are sorry to hear about the recent complaint you referenced related to our proprietary Ziosk device. We pride ourselves in our track record of consistently providing an exceptional guest experience in connection with accessing our premium content on our device. In fact, more often than not, parents praise the experience enabled by our device. We take seriously the importance of operating in a way that is both fair and transparent to our end users, and as such, specifically designed our system to ensure that the patron is informed about the small applicable $1.99 fee by displaying two separate screens regarding the existence of the fee, and requiring them click the "accept" button in order to proceed with accessing the premium content. Our system is specifically designed to ensure that no charge is made to a cardholder's credit card unless authorized by the cardholder."

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