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Dec 19, 2007 05:36 AM

Checking the bill

went out with friends Saturday night for a quick drink at a bar, we ordered one coffee, one beer, one coke, and one salad. Ok it was a bit of an odd order but one friend was hungry so she had the salad and a glass of tap.

The bill came and because she was paying for her own salad rather than just one of us paying for all the drinks we checked the bill to see how much her salad was and amazingly there was a margarita on the check which nobody had ordered.

We all agreed that had one of us just picked up the check we would probably not have noticed this extra charge - late Saturday night, outside bar, darkish. This drink for $9 would probably have snuck through. You know how it is, one person throws down his or her credit card after a quick glance.

Just goes to show it is worth checking the check carefully everywhere. Server was very matter of fact unapologetic and we wondered if it was a deliberate ploy.

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  1. I am bad at checking the bill, I am the guy who typically just throws down the credit card. I am glad my wife looks a little closer at teh bill. This past weekned she spied a $10 Vodka drink on our bill that I would have not noticed, and it would have slipped past me. Our server however handled it professionally removed the drink, apologized, and was seemingly embarassed..

    6 Replies
    1. re: swsidejim

      I think it's always a good idea to check any bill - grocery store, clothing store, restaurant. Its hard being a clerk sometimes, you can accidentally add or delete things without much notice if you've been working all day.

      Now what would you do, however, if something was missing from the bill that you ate/drank? Would you alert the server still?

      1. re: Zucumber84

        When I do take a close look @ the bill, I have never run into an instance where I have not been charged for a food item, but drinks I have. I usually assume the bartender is buying me a round when a drink comes up missing on the tab. I imagine they do not verbalize the round being on them so a manager will not hear that is going on, since they are probably doing it under the table. I do not say anything, and tip as if I had been charged for the drink.

        1. re: swsidejim

          >I imagine they do not verbalize the round being on them so a manager will not hear that is going on, since they are probably doing it under the table. I do not say anything,

          that's stealing.

          1. re: excuse me miss

            Not my problem. I am not my brothers keeper. If the bartender wants to risk their job thats their problem, also I do not know that they are doing it under the table as a fact,just an assumption, since I do not chat up the bartenders to find out. Either way I dont care.

            1. re: swsidejim

              I know that at a place I frequent, the bartenders are allowed to comp a certian number of drinks per hour to foster good relationships with regulars and to help turn non-regulars in to regulars. The comped drinks are entered in to the POS system, but don't show up on the bill.

    2. I *always* Keep a running tab in my head. Restaurant and grocery store. Maybe because I am in a numbers oriented profession, or maybe because I am a Nerd...or maybe because I am older and always had to pay in cash and so always made certain I had enough money in the wallet to pay ... But in general, I would have figured one beer, one soda and a small salad should cost about $10...if the bill was closer to $20 or more, I would automatically KNOW it was wrong.

      I think that so many people either don't use cash and/or do not have a running total in their heads, so they just pay what the machine says...I remember someone telling me that they owed more than they made a year on their taxes, because that was 'what the computer told them'. Some common sense seems to have gone out the window with the advent of all this newfangled computer machinery...

      Maybe if we went back to that funny stuff called "cash" would people pay attention to what they are paying ( I mean maybe not going into debt) and also they would not be so prone to being ripped off (on their bills, anyhow...that whole robbery factor is a different subject...).

      Yes, I do think it was deliberate. All of these noted incidents are not isolated.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Cathy

        I do the same, and am also in a numbers-oriented profession. I have a total in mind (with tax) by the time the check comes. Usually I hit it within a buck or two and don't bother looking at the detail when I do.

        Of the times when my mental math doesn't jibe with the check, it's usually because of an error on the restaurant's part. And believe it or not, more frequently it's an error reflecting an item that's been left off rather than an item that's been improperly added.

        And when my math is off and the bill is higher than expected, the details will usually reveal that the problem isn't with my math, but my short-term memory--I forgot about something early on in the meal.

        "Oh yeah...the spinach and artichoke dip..."

        And one more thing to consider--last month, the check was WAY off, and I painstakingly pointed this out to the server incorrect line item by line item. She had a really confused look, took a closer look at the check, cut off my analysis and rushed away from the table. The check was definitely correct, except that it belonged to another (larger) party that was just getting up to leave after settling on our miniscule check. I wonder what was going through their minds.

        1. the point is that the table was charged for the extra drink because the server put the drink on that check. 2 reasons for this - the drink should have gone on another table's check and now they might have left having not paid for it and the server has a problem and will have to pay back the establishment for the mistake, or

          the server deliberately did this and ups her tips by a couple bucks per table. This could end up being a very nice earner. If a table spots the mistake server goes to manager and says please remove a margarita from table 12 I must have pressed that by mistake. Duh!

          1. re: smartie

            Still don't get how you think this scam works. If I put the drink on your check and not theirs, your check total (and possibly tip) will be higher, but the other table's will be lower, making the waiter's total the same. Most places have POS systems. You can't just add random stuff to checks. If you order it (and it goes on the check) it gets made, and you have to account for where it went.

            Maybe it's just me, but I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt. Mistakes get made in every line of work. Plus, I find this whole "restaurant workers are out to scam every nickle out of us that they can" discussion really tedious. Many of my friends and family have worked in the business, and I have as well and yet, not one of us ever thought of doing this. Frankly it's offensive.

            1. re: Kbee

              if you add an extra drink say to a check then the other table still gets theirs. All a server has to do is run to the bar or kitchen and say dont make that I entered it by mistake. Also some items in restaurants can be entered into the POS but isn't made by the bar or kitchen and the server gets it himself eg desserts, bottles of water, soup so they don't have to say don't make.

              1. re: Kbee

                Without posting critical information, there's quite a bit you can do with a POS machine and a table that pays in cash.

                1. re: invinotheresverde

                  Hm. I guess both you and smartie are right and I am wrong: They really ARE out to get you.

                  Or someone just made a mistake. That's all I'm saying. Everything doesn't have to be a scam. Cathy stated above that she believed it was deliberate, that they all couldn't be isolated incidents. I'm just disagreeing with that.

                  1. re: Kbee

                    I see what you're saying; in fact, there ARE plenty of mistakes made by waiters in restaurants. Whether intentional or not, I always recomend checking your bill.

                    1. re: Kbee

                      I do believe the additional alcoholic beverages were added in deliberately, yes.

                      Usually prepared food is entered in one area (and is taxed/taxable) and alcohol is entered in a different way for inventory purposes (as well as taxability issues, depending on local laws).

                      Remember those old fashioned paper receipts- with food orders on one side and the bar tab on the other? There was a reason.

                      Too often the 'mistakes' seem to be made on the alcohol end of the billing, not food.

                      FWIW, I do correct the waitress when I am undercharged. Usually it is if I ask for coffee at the end of the meal.

              2. I have know someone before admit to doing just that because they get a higher tip. Not saying most of them are done on purpose, just saying there can be a benefit to the waiter. I am sure most waiters would never think to do that but there are some.

              3. One would think that "honest" mistakes would be 50% in your favor, and 50% against. Why is it that 99% of "honest" mistakes inure to the benefit of the perpetrator?

                1. Can't tell you how many times this has happened to us, mostly at one place, but at others too, to a less egregious amount (The Op's example of a drink charged but not ordered). The place in question would invariably add an order or two of calamari with marinara on the check. Then the "did you really not order/receive this?" dance would start. Sheesh. Funniest was when our check (for two pastas and two glasses of wine) ended up with an additional three orders of calamari. Ummm...No. Gads, I guess someone in the house really, really liked the calamari! ;-)

                  To this day, we call our perusal of the tab the "calamari check."

                  Always check your tab. Mistakes happen, and scams happen (usually the former, though), but it's good sense to check before you pony up the card or cash.


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: cayjohan

                    You are very good natured. I think if it kept happening to me at the same restaurant, I would have become a past patron a l-o-n-g time ago...

                    1. re: Tay

                      I would be collecting my receipts and visiting the city attorney or district attorney.