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Why do they look inside?

I am curious to hear from servers who may know the answer. I notice the following scenario. Server brings check in a folder. I pay with credit card. Server rings up charge and brings me slip to sign and place gratuity. I do and place card in my wallet and the charge slip back in the folder.

The server arrives a few minute later and opens the folder in front of me. I am curious as to why?

1 - is the server making sure I signed?
2 - is the server making sure I took my card?
3 - the server is taking a peak at the tip?
4 - Combo?

Can they think of being more discreet?


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  1. It's to make sure that you left the signed copy and that you took your card back. Unsigned slips and forgotten cards are more common than you would think. I always walk away from the table before I look, though. Seems weird to do it right there in front of you.

    1. I agree with Kbee. In my table waiting days, I would take the check presenter from the table and look inside, but only after I was out of the customer's line of sight. For me, it was the combo.

      1. You forgot a reason:

        4. Is the server making sure I didn't take the wrong copy of the charge slip?

        Merchants are required to keep a signed copy of all charge slips on hand, in case of disputes, and in most cases, the Merchant's copy shows the entire CC number, not just the last 4 digits. If a customer walks out without signing or with the Merchant's copy, it makes it difficult for the merchant to reconcile his/her accounts, and next to impossible to dispute any chargebacks.

        So the correct answer is, "5. All of the above."

        1. They should be doing that out of your sight-line. Is this happening in fine dining? I hope not.

          1. As you can see by most post linked below, it's a not too uncommon occurance for people to walk out with both copies even when the waiter makes a point of reminding them to leave one. Technically, the house or the waiter is basically screwed out of the tip money if they do so, thus it's quite fair for them to make sure it was taken care of ASAP. Ideally, this would be done out of sight but that might mean having to chase them down out of the restaurant which is time that waiter could be taking care of his other customers.

            This brings up an interesting thought. What is it about dining out that is so different than every other retail experience? After all, there's nothing romantic about bill paying time. What is so insulting about the server simply confirming the transaction was accurately completed? In essentially every other situation money is transacted in a much less convenient manner than in even a somewhat casual restaurant. If you go into Saks 5th and drop a couple hundred on clothes, you still have to go up the cashier and wait while they ring you up, stand there while they run your credit card, and sign it in front of them. Nobody says boo about that. I mean, who ever thinks, "Jeez, my clerk was so accomodating and helpful the whole time, but I just felt insulted the way he made me go through the whole paying thing. Whatever happened to customer service?"

            Restaurants, however, are painted into a corner where they've got to insulate the consumer from the "indignity" of completing the transaction even if it comes at the expense of sometimes not being fairly compensated for their services.

            FWIW, I don't allow my waiters to look in the folder at the table because that's how I was trained, but I suppose I would prefer if the prevailing attitude shifted a bit and people wouldn't feel insulted about such things.


            1 Reply
            1. re: detlefchef

              Funny, with all the things I am so picky about (admittedly LOL), this is one that I do not even think about... I do not watch the server when they pick up the bill folder (or whatever it may be) AFTER we have paid and signed to see if they looked inside. As you wrote, it is part of the process and though I am from the school of "do not remove any plates from the table until everyone is done eating" and the like, this seems to me a non-issue. I would prefer not be chased onto the street IF we forgot to leave the proper receipt or any receipt and would definitely prefer for the server NOT to be stiffed, unless of course they deserved it...LOL

            2. To make sure you sign the correct merchant's copy.

              1. Yeah, I know they're trying to make sure I did it right, but I'm not happy about servers knowing my tip before I'm, well, "done" with them. I don't undertip, but I always feel uncomfortable when they know my tip before I leave. (don't really know why)

                Solution: Take the folder away. If I say, "Hey, I didn't sign it yet," that question will be answered. Peek at it a few feet away, out of my sight, so you can turn around and catch me if I start to get up and I messed up.

                9 Replies
                1. re: Covert Ops

                  If you're not happy about servers knowing your tip before you're done, don't fill out and sign the slip until you're ready to leave the table.

                  1. re: mclaugh

                    Yeah, but that kinda takes the fun out of dining, as you might be finished eating and whatnot, but say it's approaching closing time and you're sipping cognac and chatting away. You wanna settle the bill and have them pull the car around. Also, some of the party might use the restroom one last time. Getting the money part out of the way means you can leave when YOU'RE done with everything instead of hanging around while THEY work on the bill.


                    1. re: TexasToast

                      > Getting the money part out of the way means you can leave
                      > when YOU'RE done

                      If you're closing the restaurant, as you've described, then it's moot. Leave the tip and signature until you're ready to get up and leave, do a quick bit of math, drop your TexasToast brazenly across the sig-line, and then _leave_. Nothing's covert or causing you to hold up and wait.

                      1. re: The Ranger

                        Ranger, with this post, I came into this thread on the narrow topic of what choice a person has when s/he does NOT want a server to know the tip until after they've left.

                        Mglaugh's suggestion was to not fill out the slip until you're ready to leave the table.

                        I responded that to me, that takes some of the pleasure out of dining. I went back and re-read my post, and while I did write "closing," what I meant (in order for the post to make sense) was "leaving." In any event, the point I was trying to convey, was that, for me, if the money thing is sorted out, then it lets you leave on you're own time. The converse would be you're all ready to leave, but then have to hang around by the exit while they deal with the bill.


                        1. re: TexasToast

                          In that case, write "Cash" on the tip line when you settle the bill, then put the tip in a sealed envelope and leave it the table when you leave. :-)

                          1. re: mclaugh

                            I don't CARE if the server sees the tip!


                          2. re: TexasToast

                            I'm still not seeing any of the issues you are attempting to describe in greater details... Do you see yourself as rushed into signing and completing the credit slip while everyone puts on their jackets at the end of a pleasant evening? Are you concerned that there might be some discrepancy (ies) that will prevent you from leaving with the rest of your party?

                            1. re: The Ranger

                              It's not my topic and I've made my points.


                      2. re: mclaugh

                        Then I have to put up with them checking the folder multiple times. :-P

                    2. speaking from experience, it's only to see if you signed the slip and left it there. I've had people take both copies in which case you will not get your tip and the restaurant cannot prove that you approved the charge (usually they still electronically send the charge in). Some restaurants would make the server pay for the whole check if the patron walks with the credit card slip.