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The nation's largest TGI Fridays franchisee has been fined $500,000 for serving customers cheap booze when they'd ordered the good stuff.
The Briad Group, which runs 70 TGI Fridays nationwide, agreed to pay the fine after an investigation revealed that eight of its New Jersey restaurants were serving customers lower-quality liquor when they'd ordered premium-quality alcohol, reports The Associated Press.
How did these franchise restaurants allegedly get away with it?
Allegedly Defrauding Customers
In New Jersey, 13 TGI Fridays were raided as part of an investigation called "Operation Swill," which investigated claims that restaurants were serving customers something other than premium liquor when they ordered it, reports the AP.
In restaurants where this liquor-switching was allegedly commonplace, the employees and the managers could be found guilty of fraud. The crime occurs when a person knowingly misrepresents a material fact to a victim, who then suffers some sort of injury or loss because of that misrepresentation.
A server who knowingly lies about serving a customer premium liquor, and then pockets the extra cash, could be charged with theft by deception as well.
Not only is lying about the kind of liquor you're serving considered fraud, but in New Jersey, businesses can be charged under the Consumer Fraud Act. The Act makes it unlawful to deceive or misrepresent merchandise to a customer.
Class Action Suit
Customers who feel cheated have already filed a class action lawsuit against the Briad Group, alleging the group instituted a multi-restaurant policy of substituting cheap liquor to increase profits, reports The Star-Ledger.
A class action lawsuit often benefits the participants by allowing litigation to go forward without each plaintiff needing to be directly involved in the case, thus cutting down on legal fees and general hassle to the average working adult.
The suit filed against the Garden State TGI Fridays seeks "refunds for customers" plus "three times" the price of each fraudulent drink in punitive damages, reports The Star-Ledger.