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Apr 15, 2007 04:58 PM

tipping/billing issue...hard to explain in title

So, my wife and I went to a very well-regarded restaurant (though controversial on the Boston board -- it's a certain bistro named after its Cambridge street...) and had a very good meal. Pricey, so the tip was $40. The meal isn't the issue, though.

Though the meal was two months ago, we got a call three days ago saying that when processing their billing, they accidentally added our $40 tip to another customer's credit card. That customer had recently notified the restaurant about the overcharge, and they refunded him $40. They then notified us that they needed to bill our credit card for the $40, or else the server wouldn't get her tip. To be sure, they were gracious and have comped us a $30 gift certificate towards a future meal.

On the one hand, I know that profit margins are slim in restaurants, and tips are very important to servers, and so the management's actions are understandable. On the other hand, this seems like the kind of mistake a restaurant should just absorb, especially given the two month lapse.

What do you think, hounds?

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  1. I am not sure what the question is? Are you saying you should not pay?

    You want the resto to absorb, heh they are offering a $30 comp. If they have a signed credit card receipt from you and they did not charge the tip after you signed and left they probably could have just put it through and then when you called all hot and bothered they could have offered you the $30 comp. They did it is the reverse order, they called first.

    Bravo for the resto. Please do not take this to a "no good deed goes unpunished. Be as gracious as they were, thank them accept the certificate and enjoy your next meal there.

    7 Replies
    1. re: jfood

      I appreciate your thoughts on this; you're right-- they have the signed slip, and of course they have the right to do so--

      Actually, I feel a bit sheepish about even accepting the $30 gift certificate, since the whole thing was a clerical error.

      I guess my only hesitation came from the fact that if'd I'd been the manager, I would have not bothered a customer two months later.

      1. re: newhound

        Before you feel too sheepish, please check your bank records to see that, indeed, your card was billed $40.00 less that you expected. You didn't mention if you researched this in your post. If your signed charge receipt (which included the tip amount, I assume) and bank records match, then you are quite possibly (probably) being scammed.

        I agree with the fact that we pay what we owe, and graciously do so if there's been an honest error, but do your homework first. You found out two months after the fact; the restaurant can wait a few days while you check your card records.

        1. re: cayjohan

          Interesting. Why assume a scam? Or maybe I just assumed the OP would have checked his CC records. I mean, common sense and all, right? And anyway why would the restaurant send him $30 in g.c.'s if they were trying to scam him?

      2. re: jfood

        Actually, jfood, if they put through the charge and had the signed cc receipt showing the tip, what ground would OP have for being all hot and bothered?

        The bigger problem, IMO, is that OP didn't notice the $40 discrepancy when he received the CC bill. Kind of begs the question of whether or not he'd have noticed if the resto had accidentally billed someone else's tip to his CC.

        1. re: mclaugh

          1 - did not feel OP was hot and bothered at all, seemed very calm to me
          2 - if his amex is anything like mine he probably would not notice

          bottom line is the facts we have, resto called before placing a charge two months later and only thing OP mentions is, heh it;s a little late.

          I do not think anyone is trying to scam anyone. where did that data come from

          It's your charge and the resto did the right thing. now it's OP time to do likewise which it sounds like he is doing.

          1. re: mclaugh

            OK - count me stupid - what is an OP?

            1. re: swarttav

              OP = Opening Poster or Original Poster - the person that started the thread

        2. I'm also not sure what you're expecting--? But certainly if you signed the credit card slip then you should pay--regardless of the time line. The restaurant did you the favor of calling to inform you (and they tossed in $30 in gift certificates to boot), so you can certainly afford to be gracious and pay them what you agreed to pay them.

          1. I think that what they did was ok. Eating it would have been better, perhaps, but they came up with a creative solution: you owe the $40, they gave you a $30 gift, so you're out only $10 for the $40 tip, so that is a nice, creative solution. And, it will bring you back to the restaurant with a good feeling about the place. No one likes to be hit a few months I understand the aggravation ... but it really was a nice, creative solution.

            1. I know what you're trying to say, newhound, and it's not a bad point. If I were a manager, and found out 2 months later that a tip had gone awry I would be cautious to call and ask for it from them again, especially if the meal they had warranted a $40 tip. However, servers really work for tips because they ceartainly aren't getting paid much otherwise so I can understand why they called you about it. At least they didn't recharge you without telling you. Plus you're getting $30 to eat there again. Seems like a reasonable deal to me but it's still a pain to have to deal with clerical issues sometimes.

              10 Replies
              1. re: morgblorg

                Thanks for all the thoughts. To clarify, 1) I was never hot and bothered (thanks for seeing that, jfood; 2) the reason I didn't notice the charge is that I paid that night but my wife tends to manage the billpaying and $40 didn't spike up our monthly; 3) there's definitely no scam here. Our CC records check out, and it's a very small resto with a national reputation-- and $40 this wasn't exactly an internaitonal bank heist.

                We will definitely enjoy the gift certificate next time, graciously.

                1. re: newhound

                  I think it is cheeky of the restaurant to ask for it 2 months later. I think they should have swallowed the cost and paid the server themselves and chalk it up to experience.

                  I check my servers tickets each night before paying out their tips and that is the time to notice double tipping or no tip on the check. At that point I can reopen the check and make the adjustment and the customer is no wiser. I am assuming that this came to light when the other customer checked his credit card statement and realised he had paid an extra tip or that his stub didn't match what was drawn from his credit card.

                  Servers regularly add the wrong item to the wrong table number including tips in error.

                  1. re: smartie

                    i know the owner of the place being referenced, and he is not about to eat anything.

                    slip-ups happen. i check cc slips at cash-out too, but sometimes things get by me. it was extremely gracious of the manager to offer a gift certificate.

                    it took 2 months because of the other patron's billing cycle. it was nice of them to give the op the heads-up.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      I don't think it was that gracious. From the sounds of it $30 won't go very far in this place so really he is just making sure they come back and spend more money.

                      1. re: julesrules

                        Let's look at this from an another angle and as I stated above I think the resto did a nice job on the $30 (could have been more but different discussion). Likewise hiding behind the waitress tip? Gutless.

                        Scenario 1 - If the resto just went ahead and put the $40 charge in and then the OP sees it on the bill 2 months later, he calls amex and complains. Amex puts a hold on the charge and investigates. They find it is legitimate and the resto gets the money. Custo upset
                        Scenario 2 - Resto eats it. May be a nice gesture, but its the choice of the resto. Might be a win, but called the OP. Maybe if the OP wasn't a good guy/gal he/she may have put up a fuss and the resto may have eaten it after the argument. The OP probably would not have gone back in any case because of the call.

                        I think the one thing that I would criticize the resto for is their hiding behind the waitress' tip and because of a clerical error, the waitress would have to eat the mistake, not the resto. That's gutless and childish, but it did play on the guilt of the OP.

                        But it's the OP's charge, and he liked the meal, so what's the big deal. If the OP did not like the meal, told the resto to pound sand, it would have put the charge through anyways because the OP did not have a leg to stand on it he challenged the charge with AMEX.

                        1. re: julesrules

                          $30 in this particular restaurant will give them a free entree. That's not nothing.

                          The manager didn't have to do anything, but graciously offered the GC for the OP's troubles. Does he want the OP to come back and spend more money? Of course! It's a business.

                          1. re: julesrules

                            the manager could have just put the charge through and done nothing else. they have a signed slip. they didn't have to call the op, they didn't have to give him a gift certificate.

                            i know the owner, and the offer of the g/c surprises me because he is super frugal.

                            *so really he is just making sure they come back and spend more money.*

                            lol, and that's bad because... ? sounds like win/win to me.

                            1. re: julesrules

                              It was gracious in the sense that the restaurant wasn't under any sort of obligation to offer the OP anything. He had agreed to pay a certain amount, and then been undercharged. If that happens in say, a doctor's office, you'll simply get a bill in the mail later. Instead of just billing for the missing $40, they offered him a token for the trouble.

                              1. re: nc213

                                Now that you have all helped me see this from a near-Talmudic variety of angles, I agree wholeheartedly with hotoynoodle-- it's a win/win situation. The restaurant got what they are entitled to, and I got more than I'm entitled to...

                                1. re: newhound

                                  what a wonderful response! lol.

                                  "hanoe hobn!" which means "have fun!" according to the on-line english-to-yiddish-translator. ;)