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Messed up on a tip

Looking through my credit card bill recently I realized that I had undertipped at a meal. It was a fairly upscale place and we had a decent bottle of wine; however, I inadvertantly left a 10% tip. If you exclude the bottle it came out to 20%; however, we had a great wine steward and had all the intentions of tipping on the entire meal. What's the etiquette? It was a special occassion meal so we won't be going to the restaurant again soon. And even more embarassing, the restaurant manager was the manager at my favorite watering hole (albeit not a dive watering hole) and he treated us to champagne after dinner! Help!

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  1. There is no shame in making an honest mistake. If you do make a special trip to supplement the original tip, the waiter would be very pleased!

    And congrats for being so thorough in going over your CC statement!

    1 Reply
    1. re: The Engineer

      second this--you didn't mean to short them. You could write a letter.

      Serious props for being so fastidious.

    2. I would write a nice letter to the manager of the restaurant, explain the situation as you have here, and include a check for the full amount of the tip you intended to leave. Include as many details of the evening as you can remember, and mention the people who were especially helpful. This happened to me a few times when I worked as a cocktail waitress in college, and it always made me very happy and relieved to find out that my poor tip was an oversight, not a reflection of bad service.

      1 Reply
      1. re: phofiend

        Yes, a nice note is the best way to handle this. Makes the waiter feel better, lets the management know that you follow through, and is just a generally good way to handle many of life's screwups. I'm on a campaign to ressurect b&b notes (emails just don't cut it).

      2. As a server, I've had people call later upon realizing the mistake, completely apologetic and embarrassed. (Meanwhile, the server is wondering if they did something wrong serving them) If you paid by credit card, they can change the tip. If too much time has gone by, definitely send in a check with a note. I can't tell you how much this kind of thing is appreciated!

        1. We did that once (too much wine I guess) and I went back several days later to drop off additional $ and an apology and was glad I did. It feels good to everyone when you do the right thing.

          1. Yes, I've gone back and left money in an envelope for the server before.

            Besides doing the right thing, it is part of their earnings. Servers get taxed on a percentage of their sales reported by the restaurant - this amount is just assumed by the IRS, whether they actually get a good tip, or stiffed. For anyone who thinks servers don't get audited, it certainly did happen to me!

            1. I suggest the two-step approach. Call immediately and explain to the manager and tell him that you had a great time but mistakenly calculated the tip. Tell him to please apologize to the waiter and steward and let them know you are sending an appropriate correction. Mistakes happen, no biggie.

              I once had an employee who went to one of my favorite restos, left a 40% tip by mistake, called up and told them that if they did not correct he would call AMEX and stop payment. Needless to say the next time I went to the resto the maitre d' was not pleased and let me know.

              So the motto is, if you undertip, call and correct, if you overtip, keep your mouth shut and eat it.

              5 Replies
              1. re: jfood

                Forget eating a mistake like that and what the maitre d' thought. AMEX will always make good for the cardholder if its warranted and that definitely was.
                Many years ago when I ran a restaurant and when they used to have those carbon copy charge slips I'd have dishonest servers who would actually change a customers tip to a higher amount...say the customer wrote maybe a "5" for a tip, they'd change it to an "8" or if it was "2", they'd jam a "0" next to it to make it "20". After serveral charge backs from AMEX and customer complaints we terminated the server(s).

                1. re: monku

                  Yes, this has happened to us. We had the server change a deliberate low tip (her service ruined a special occasion dinner party) to a magnificent one. Caught it on the AMEX, and called AMEX, let them handle it.

                  Do the right thing and call or mail the restaurant, you will be very glad you did. And you will make the day for a few other people as well.

                  1. re: monku

                    whoa, the resto did not make the mistake, my employee did. amex will not cover for stupid or too much wine. and i do think we should care that a maitre d' who squeezed me and clients in often. i told the employee to eat it and not do it again.

                    if server changes tip its illegal and that is something noone should tolerate.

                    1. re: jfood

                      Didn't sound like you had any previous relationship with the maitre d' and sounded like he was treating you like dirt.

                    2. re: monku

                      My husband, a former server, said he'd seen people do this -- so I always draw a line on the tip line, from the left right up to the number, so nothing else can be written there.

                  2. definitely call the restaurant and tell them. if you paid by credit card you could probably take care of it over the phone. they would just have to find your slip, reopen the check and fix the amount.

                    this happened to me once (on the server's end). except in my case the gratuity was already added (it was a large party where tip is included), but they still left 20% on the tip line. assuming they missed it on the check and didn't hear me when i told them, i just disregarded the additional tip when i closed out the check. a few days later they called the restaurant wondering why the amount was lower and the manager explained that the tip was already included. i guess they knew it was included and they intentionally left another 20%. my faith in humanity was restored after that.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rebs

                      Yeah, I love it when that happens, and curiously, it happens alot. It is my policy to make it very clear to large parties that an 18% tip is included in the bill. More than a few times, people have just seemed so grateful that I wasn't trying to cheat them out of their money, that they tipped 15-20% on top of it. Ironic, in a way; but also indicative of how distrustful people can be with servers.

                      On the flip side of that equation, a relatively new server had a large party and didn't tell them about the included gratuity and was tipped 20%. The restaurant recieved a call the next day from the customers who had examined the bill and found the gratuity line and wanted the extra tip taken off. IMO, though the gratuity appeared on the check, they were duped in a way. I don't want to take money that I haven't earned.

                    2. I agree on dropping off an envelope with cash (rather than a check).

                      Regarding how to prevent the few dishonest servers out there from changing a tip amount, you can always write in the number and the amount, like "6 (six) dollars". Makes it harder to change.