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Aug 11, 2006 11:03 PM

Moral Quandry: I got undercharged (long)

You often read/hear of people getting overcharged, but this time I got undercharged, and my conscience is bugging me.

Today I went to a restaurant that's locally owned, mom & pop kind of place (actually maybe just mom, no pop). I've been here twice before, the first time alone, 2nd time with 2 others, and this time with 6 others. The owner clearly recognized me. Our group got comped dessert on the house (sticky rice in coconut milk, yum!) which was a nice touch. I got the bill: $79.78. I collected $14 from each person since service was really nice (though sparse) and $13 each would have left a tip less than 15%. I added another $2 to make the bill an even $100.

When I got back to work I took out the bill so I could write down a list of what we ate & the prices (I took home the sheets our server used to write down our order, with prices added next to each dish).

Then I noticed there were no prices next to the softdrinks. And then I noticed there was no line for tax. Then I added up all the prices and it came to $90.65, not $79.78. Includng the softdrinks, and including tax it should've been ~$102. So we paid LESS than the total should've been before any tip.

I'm returning next week with a different group and I'm not sure what I should do. I can't inflate the tip next week since I can't expect that group to subsidize today's lunch! Do I slip a $20 to the owner discreetly? Will she be offended? Do I return to the restaurant on Monday, order a drink and pay $20 extra?

How do I know if she made a mistake (I was kind of rushing her to tally our bill), or if she wanted to partially comp us so that we'd return/spread the word etc? (She knew I'm returning next week since I made a reservation when I went up to ask for the bill)

Or do I just shrug it off, feel happy that someone was nice to us, and spread the karma some other way like dropping a $20 into the donation box next time I'm at my local State Park?

I guess I've never had this experience so I'm not sure what to do.

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  1. Call them and tell them of the discrepancy; let them decide how to handle it. They will appreciate your honesty.

    3 Replies
    1. re: OCAnn

      Absolutely the right thing to do.

      1. re: pikawicca

        To make it easier for the Owner to assess what happened, I would send her a copy of the bill with a note. (Restaurant owners cannot always deal with a situation at the time you find it convenient to call--may feel like more of an annoyance than a help.)

      2. re: OCAnn

        I'm "stupidly honest" as one BIL puts it. I would go back in or write A Letter, with a copy of the receipt. Then let them decide. Most of the time, the owner/unit manager laughs and gives it to me. The one time the owner didn't, we got comped big time the next visit. ;) Karmic value.

      3. You may want to also consider that when and if this was noticed, the server may have had to make up the difference. Sadly, lots of places penalize the server for any mistakes. So do give them a call please.

        1. They comped your dessert, you should be at least fair, maybe even generous in making the discrepancy up to them. Do it next time (before you order) and instead of being just "regulars" you'll practically be family.

          1. I don't understand the issue here. If the owner figured up the bill, assume that she knew what she was doing. You are a good repeat customer bringing in new customers. She was saying THANK YOU.

            In my mind, calling attention to it would be embarrassing for all concerned. It would question her competence or force her to verbally explain her non-verbal thanks. If it helps your conscience, give the bucks to the park - god knows, parks need the help.

            And next time, be an even more generous tipper to thank her back.


            2 Replies
            1. re: Phoo D

              Interesting. My impression was that the OP was uncertain whether the total tally was an oversight or intentional. As one who doesn't care to make assumptions, I think a quick call would clarify the situation.

              Would this cause embarrassment to either party? Maybe, maybe's a minor inconvenience for a clear conscience.

              1. re: Phoo D

                We have two asian restaurants that we frequent. Many times, our drinks were comped, or a dish or two. I think this is a little thank you for the business, bringing in customers or a larger group.

              2. Is it possible the number 9 was misread as a 7 and your bill was in fact $99?