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Aug 12, 2006 05:04 PM

Overcharging deliberate or inadvertent?

I have frequented a relatively new (6 months) restaurant a few times for lunch. The food is very good. It is in a touristy area but geared to locals/regulars.

Last week my check for my lunch entree was $2 more than the menu stated. I brought this to the server's attention and (although it took a while) I was brought a new check w/ corrected total. (This check noted the entree as "open item" rather than specific.)

I had assumed this was inadvertent and that the computer would be input with correct price.

Yesterday the same thing happened on the same item. The server brought a new, corrected check promptly. The new check had the specific item noted with the corrected price.

I, of course, wonder now if this is being done deliberately with the assumption that most people won't notice.

At what point should I talk to the manager about my concern? Is it my responsibility to monitor this? If yes, that certainly will diminish the pleasure of eating their food.

What say you all? Thanks.

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  1. It seems fair to say "I'd like to recommend this place to friends, but not if you pull this &@#!"

    1. Is it just that one item or did it happen with other things too? Even if it's happened with a number of menu items, I think it's more likely to be "intentional ignorance" than "intent to deceive." They're waiting for new menus or putting off ordering them or something like that and not worrying about it a whole lot in the meantime. But either way it's both unacceptable and I'm sure illegal, strictly speaking, under some or another consumer protection statute or reg.

      If it were me, I'd talk to the manager before I sat down a third time. You should always check your check because mistakes do happen, but this has obviously become something more than that.

      1. i doubt it is deliberate, but talk to the manager. someone has to reprogram the computer, and the waitstaff are less likely to take that extra step of mentioning it.

        I'm price-conscious [okay cheap], and i generally remember the prices of things I'm buying. Often the computer hasn't been updated to reflect sale prices.

        Just a few weeks ago at a trustworthy liquor store, I was buying a bottle of champagne priced $9.99. Well the register rang it up as $32.99! They weren't trying to rip me off; the error was corrected.

        You just do have to keep your eyes open. And now that people have been raised with calculators doing the math for them, many service people don't even give a thought to gee, that total doesn't look right.

        1. I also doubt that it's deliberate. It's really not in the server's best interest to purposefully overcharge you. At one of the restaurants I work in there are several items with multiple 'buttons' in the computer. Sometimes neither/none of the prices match the one stated on the menu, but it's only because I've been working there for a long time that I've even noticed this (they are often in different submenus on the computer and you get used to going to the same one every time).

          If it took a while to get your corrected check it was probably because the server had to go to their manager to have the item voided and get authorization for an open item (although not all places require the latter). If the second check came with the specific item listed at the correct price that would seem to indicate that they corrected the price by adding another 'button' instead of modifying the existing one.

          I'm not try to make excuses for anyone, but experience working with disorganized/downright bad management has taught me a lot about this kind of thing. That said, I would suggest mentioning to the manager that s/he makes sure that each item is listed only once in the computer and at the correct price, of course.

          All that said, they may have reprogrammed in advance of a new menu (still a 'no no') or they might just be shady.

          1. Why is it that about 95% of the time there is an error in the bill, be it a restaurant or many other business', it is in favor of the business. If it were truly random the error would be 50% in your favor, 50% in theirs.

            4 Replies
            1. re: malibumike

              I don't think it's going to be 'truly' random as if a manager finds out there is a computer error (as I suggested above) he or she may be less likely to fix it immediately if it is in favor of the restaurant. I'm not saying that this is a calculated move, but that the manager may feel less urgency if the restaurant isn't *under*charging. So maybe they get wrapped up in something else and forget ('forget') to fix it. Or, maybe they just don't care (a la previously mentioned bad management).

              I'm not saying that this is precisely (or even remotely) what happens, but that it can't be totally random when only one party is responsible for making and correcting all the errors. There's an inherent bias.

              1. re: asiege2

                That was my point exactly, that it is not random as it should be. I believe that when there is an inequity we are usually being cheated on purpose.

                1. re: malibumike

                  To be fair, I think people are less likely to "notice" (translation: complain) when they've been charged less than they owe. I've definitely been given a freebie here and there at restaurants, but it's never inspired me to start a Chowhound post.

                  1. re: Pei

                    I know that few people would complain if the bill was in their favor, but I think my experiences are probably standard in that whenever there has been an inequity it has been in the business' favor at least 90% of the time.