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Change from a Gift Cert.

Your opinion, please on this scenario:

$100 gift certificate (written on paper, not a card), bill is $92.xx Cheapest entree in the house is apprx. $23. Would you expect change? What would your thoughts be if you were presented w/ a $7.xx gift certificate? What do most restaurants do? Thanks.

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  1. If you had 100, spent 92, and they only gave you a gift card for 7, then they stole a dollar from you.

    2 Replies
      1. re: fourunder

        ha - yes, you are correct. I took the "xx" to mean zeroes, like one would when writing a check. Or perhaps I'm dating myself?? As for the OP, I supposed varying state laws apply here as to when the business is required to offer change and not just another gift cert/card. I know when Wms-Sonoma recently handed me back my gift card with the whopping amount of $2.09 on it, I cracked up.

    1. With a paper certificate, I have gotten back $$$ before and other times have gotten back another paper certificate for change. Of course cash is better, but I don't mind the paper certificate.

      1. Think in most instances whether it's a restaurant or a store you're going to get a credit and not cash.

        You should have gone over the limit of the gift certificate and shelled out the balance. Otherwise you've got a $7 credit to use or not.

        I've come to hate gift certificates and gift cards because of the BS.
        Cash is King !!!

        1 Reply
        1. re: monku

          I think gift cards/certificates have their place, but I agree that a big problem with them is that a lot of people end up never using the remaining balances on them, especially if it's just a few dollars. Of course, stores and restaurants love this, because it's found money.

        2. As a retailer, my store's policy is to return cash if $10 or less.

          However, these policies vary widely and the resto can certainly return "gift credit" if it chooses.

          There are two catches though: 1) be careful of any expiration dates and 2) if you didn't enjoy the place and would not return you are out of luck.

          Always best to clarify policy before chowing down.

          1 Reply
          1. <rolling eyes>
            I have a couple gift cards with LESS than $1 on them because they "aren't allowed" to give me change. :(
            this is a pet peeve.
            you should have gotten change.

            1. danna, I think you need to check your state's laws on this. In Massachusetts, if 90% of the value of the GC has been used, the merchant *must* give a choice between cash change or maintaining the balance on the GC. In your case, if you were in MA, you can request the cash.


              "If 90% or more of a Gift Certificate has been used or redeemed, a merchant must give the consumer the choice between receiving cash OR maintaining the remaining balance on the Gift Certificate."

              5 Replies
              1. re: LindaWhit

                Linda- thanks for the info. I used a GC to honey baked ham yesterday- it was a $50.00 GC, and the ham was $49.44- they gave me the balance on the GC- which I prompty threw away once I got home. Did not know I had a choice, but will remember this next time!

                1. re: macca

                  It's not clear to me from that page whether or not the same rule applies to a gift card vs. a gift certificate. I'd want to think so, but it wouldn't surprise me if that was a loophole.

                  1. re: Chris VR

                    Lord, I hope there's no difference - to me, Gift Cards are just refillable Gift Certificates (i.e., Starbucks).

                    And macca, I'm sure that's what most establishments are hoping - whatever change there might be will never be used. Either that, or THEY are completely unaware of the law, which I think is the higher probability. Seems rather strange (and stupid) that one should have to print out that portion of the law from the website to show to the establishment, but until it's understood, perhaps that's the only way to go.

                    (I cannot believe that HBH wouldn't just give you the 56 cents change!)

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      yeah- we thought it was odd. They did do a hard sell on their sides- but we were there around 11 am yesterday, and the sides were out, and looked less than appetizing. The ham looks great, though- wil enjoy it later today, and the leftovers will make great ham salad, and- if there are enough leftovers, will make a cheesy potato casserole with brocolli ( we call it our white trash recipe- though I have seen it on these boards called funeral potato casserole)

                2. Basically, it's a way of "forcing" you to return and spend more money. Most people don't want to waste free money.

                  I find a lot of places have taken to this policy so that they keep the money at their establishment.

                  Do they have a lounge? Go in for a drink and use it.

                  1. Unless there are local laws to the contrary, it's up to the establishment. I'd leave it as part of the tip.

                    16 Replies
                    1. re: ricepad

                      Next to not giving you cash back they would never let you use the remainder for a tip.

                      1. re: monku

                        LET ME? They wouldn't be able to STOP ME! Tips are not required (I know, I know...custom and all that...I don't need to hear the arguments). I would ask, of course, if I could have my change in cash, but if the answer is 'no', I'd simply include it as part of the tip. I know that's not fair to the server, but it's not fair to the me, the customer, either, to give me a next-to-worthless gift certificate.

                        1. re: ricepad

                          a GC has no monetary value. Why take it out onthe server.
                          Plus you did not receive "next-to-worthless gift certificate". You receive a GC equal to the value of what you did not spend on GC 1.

                          1. re: jfood

                            It's next to worthless to me because I'm not going to go back. I believe I said I know it's not fair to the server, but I'm making it fair to me. At that point, the server is in a better position to get some relief from his/her employer than I am. The server could rightly say to the MOD, "That cheap SOB only left me a $10 and the gift certificate!" and maybe get the MOD to cough up the $7.xx in cash to make up for my stinginess. If the MOD doesn't, well, I'm sorry.

                            1. re: ricepad

                              That's really one of the worst behaviors I've seen described on this site, and I've been here a long time. I hope you'll reconsider if you're ever in this situation again.

                              1. re: Chris VR

                                Boy, I agree with you Chris VR. Why not just leave a piece of scrap paper for the server? If the owner isn't going to give it to YOU, s/he is certainly not going to give it to the server. I think you may be the type of diner that some of us deal with by surreptiously leaving additional tip to make up for the undertip. Sheesh.

                            2. re: jfood

                              "a GC has no monetary value"
                              maybe in the world you live in... but money was exchanged for that GC so if it's not fully spent, then the restaurant (or store) owes you the difference. Otherwise they are stealing the remaining value! In Calif, under $10, they must give you cash if you ask for it.

                              1. re: janetms383

                                Agreed. The only time a gift certificate may have no value is if it was donated by the restaurant. A gift certificate that someone bought for $100 for is worth $100 at the given restaurant. I

                                1. re: salsailsa

                                  it is worth $100 of food and possibly drinks/wine, but may exclude tax and tip.

                          2. re: monku

                            I don't give the establishment a chance to NOT let me use any aprt of thr GC for a tip. If the check comes to $84 and I have a GC for $100, I simply leave it with the check and I'm on my way.
                            The server will get there tip from the cahier/hostess/manager.

                            This is NO differnt from leaving a tip on your credit card. The house settles with the server from the total.

                            1. re: bagelman01


                              Hopefully you will see that this porcedure is good in theory but in reality the server is probably getting zero from the GC.

                              The fallacy is that people believe that a GC is cash. It is not, it is a GC. It is an agreement between the purchaser and the restaurantto provide up to $X in food, and possibly wine/lquor. You, the GC holder, are the beneficiary of the GC. The server has nothing to do with this tr-party arrangement. Since, unless provided by law or by the sole discretion of the restaurant, they can convert the "change" to money or another GC. A GC is not an ATM, a savings account or a conduit to your friends money and you pocket.

                              Many years ago when jfood was a young pup he thought the same theory as you and others have stated, but as he grew and learned more data he realized how wrong he was and is now firmly in the camp of not stiffing a server as a knee jerk reaction.

                              1. re: bagelman01

                                "The house settles with the server from the total."

                                No, they don't, I can assure you. I've worked in at least 15 restaurants and at every single one, the card is ONLY for food and bev and tax on same. Tips must be left in cash or else you are leaving the server no tip. I have never worked ANYWHERE where you can tip using the GC.

                                If you leave with $ on the GC, you have not only shorted yourself that amount that you could have spent at the restaurant, but you have stiffed the server.

                                1. re: rockandroller1

                                  Never used one of those Visa/American Express gift cards since they're suppposed to be like money, can the gratuity for the server be taken out of them?

                                  The OP said they were given a Gift Certificate and not a gift card, I'm assuming it isn't a chain type restaurant type of gift card.
                                  I've received gift certificate letters and such to be used at restaurants and they say "gratuity not included"...that would mean the letter/certificate can't be used towards to gratuity for the server.

                                  Below a poster "hannone" "donates" such letters/certificates to charities and he gets stuck if there's a balance because of his generosity and no money was put up by anyone.

                                  1. re: monku

                                    I would think if the server just kept the VISA/Amex gift card, as it is not required for them to turn it in to the establisment, they could use it as cash anywhere. It may only be for a few bucks though.

                                    1. re: salsailsa

                                      I would think the rules would vary by the restaurant on those visa/amex GCs depending on how their computer system processed them. Since they would probably print out with a charge slip identical to a credit card (including a line for tip), I think you could leave a tip on those as it would be processed just like a CC. GCs are processed differently, usually as cash or with a special/different key so you don't get the same kind of slip.

                                      If someone didn't fill the tip line in with an amex/visa GC but left a note or verbally told you that the remainder of the balance of the card was to be used as a tip, you would really need to run the balance and find out what it is and add it yourself to the tip line.

                              2. re: monku

                                Most certificates I have seen will state that it is not to be used as tip. Certainly the case in 'scrip' (typically used in barter), but even gift cards (which were bought with cash). In either case I would leave the remainder and tip on top of that. You can bet the waitperson will convert the extra into cash, even if they have to be creative.

                            2. There are so many weird rules and stuff with GCs that jfood never stays under the total. Keeps a running tab in his head to ensure this never comes into play.

                              Take the change and buy a little calculator in your purse so next time you do not have the worry.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: jfood

                                Fortunately, I do not usually have to keep that "running total." After a few bottle so wine, my ability to calculate is definitely impaired. [Note: wife is my designated driver, if we are not doing a Towncar, limo, or cab, so no need to worry.] I usually plan on the GC being for wine, and the rest on me. For my simple mind, that takes all of the heavy-lifting out of the equation.


                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  jfood hears you BH.

                                  Or to the people who think its the server's responsibility to do their dirty work, buy another glass of wine and leave for the server.

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    You know, though I often share with the staff, especially the servers, I have never considered doing that. Nice touch, so long as I can communicate it, before the busser drinks it!



                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      When we buy wine by the bottle, we very often share with our server. It makes their day and is a good investment and it's always good to spread the cheer!

                                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                        I agree, as well. Just never thought of leaving a glass, along with the tip. I'm usually interested in their refleciton of the wine too. On Maui recently, our server had asked a few questions about our white Burg. As we were about the last diners in the restaurant, and as her station was totally empty, we invited her to taste it. She was overwhelmed at both the wine, and the offer. We spent another 15 mins. listening to her discovery this Montrachet.

                                        I do this more often with the servers, than say the wine-steward or sommelier. Many restaurants do not expose their servers to enough of the wines on their lists. At least with one, who works closely with the wine, they are much more likely to have tasted it. If it's a rare one, or the sommelier mentions that he/she only tasted the '95 and not the '97 that I bought, a glass for them is definitely in order.

                                        This hold for me, regardless of whether I have a GC, a special deal, or am footing the entire bill.


                              2. Danna, feel lucky! I had a 100$ certificate, and I only used 73$ They REFUSED to give me change, and another certificate! They said I MUST use all of it at one sitting!! So I got some things to go, and never went back!

                                22 Replies
                                1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                  appalling! I never thought about getting a to-go...my dog would have appreciated it.

                                  jfood, I knew exactly what the bill was going to be (CPA) but there's only so many calories I'm wiling to consume in a mediocre restaurant, and so much alcohol on a Monday night (after having beer at the ballgame.) It just never occured to me they would give me a gc for such a small $ amount. If we had only spent $50 or so, i could certainly see why they would do that.

                                  I hate that hint of attitude you get from a rest. when you present a gc...it's not a twofer coupon, it's a $100 my parents not only paid, but gave them a 6 month interest free loan on. Which brings up another oddity of human nature...my parents KNOW I'm a food snob, they KNOW we have different tastes, and yet they continue giving us gc's to places they like. I wish they'd stick to giving me Grove Park Inn gcs...i can use those for the hotel or the spa! (spoiled brat)

                                  1. re: danna

                                    Jfood hears you. Amazing what the 'rents think are good places and food.


                                    1. re: danna

                                      Ah. A food snob. And also someone who thinks that the receiver should ever be anything other than grateful for whatever gift s/he receives. Maybe they're tired of your posturing and give you these things to deliberately torture you :)

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        OK, I realize the intent of your post was something other than helpfulness, but I'm going to agree with you to an extent.

                                        I think they are mildly frustrated that I don't like any of their favorites (which include Red Lobster and Steak and Ale) and are (perhaps subconsiously) trying to show me the error of my ways. (Just as I am frustrated, that my mother, a superb cook, will eat at restaurants that can't hold a candle to her own table.)

                                        1. re: danna

                                          My 88 yo MIL's favorite restaurants are Applebee's, Red Lobster and she recently added Macaroni Grill. So I can feel your pain. And I'd be grateful - grateful, hear me??? - if we got gift cards for even those places rather than the gifts we DO get. But that's just how it goes. But this is really about the tipping aspect. From your post here, you seem a nicer person than the original --- maybe the catharsis has mellowed you :) It's clear from the other posts here that trying to use the remainder of a gc IS gouging the server. You don't really want to do that, do you? Take something home afterwards, whatever. But don't stiff the server who has no control over this at all. Please?

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            Ah, but I didn't mention tipping, did I? Merely questioned the appropriateness of being handed a $7.xx gc. I'm sorry that I thread I started devolved into yet another tipping conversation.

                                            1. re: danna

                                              You're right. I'm SO sorry. I just reread and realize my error. Mea culpa. I guess the only real solution is to ask up front about their policy and make your purchasing decisions accordingly, i.e., a more expensive bottle or glasses of wine, a dessert to take home. And could you use this as an excuse to have a mother/daughter talk? Along the lines of "this happens every time and it annoys me that you pay the money for this gift and then some of it just goes to waste. Could we figure out a better way in the future? " Toe in the sand, downcast eyes, gentle hand on her forearm :) Maybe you could finagle a $100 bill and go where you want?

                                              1. re: danna

                                                I avoid the tipping threads like the plague, but I think the info here (from actual servers, that restaurants will not apply GC balances towards tips) is useful & important. I don't understand why the restaurant wouldn't want to use the cash they already received for the GC to make sure their servers are tipped, but so be it.
                                                As for your issue, I do understand annoyance with receiving another GC for such an insignificant amount, but I think $7 lost is better than having overspent at a restaurant you didn't like.

                                                1. re: julesrules

                                                  "I don't understand why the restaurant wouldn't want to use the cash they already received for the GC to make sure their servers are tipped, but so be it. "

                                                  Restaurants and managers do not care how much you make. They care how much food and beverage you sell. If you lose $40 during your shift, they aren't going to dip into their pocket or their till and give you the money you lost.

                                                  A gift certifcate is the cash equivalent of the same amount of FOOD and BEV purchased at the restaurant. It has nothing to do with server income, it is the restaurant's sale. If you buy $50 worth of food or $50 worth of GC, it is a $50 profit/sale to the restaurant. If you only use $45 of it, you are missing out on spending the $5 that was given to you, but the restaurant STILL made their $50 and you are the dupe.

                                                  Just because there's $5 left, you are crazy if you think the restaurant would "make sure their servers are tipped" and take profit out of their drawer to give cash to a server. It's a business, it doesn't work that way.

                                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                                    Um yeah I get it. I got it the first time. I just don't AGREE with it.
                                                    In case you didn't get it, I was trying to say that I'm glad the topic came up, because now I know for future (not that I believe I have ever stiffed a server in this manner).

                                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                                      If for some reason I ever ended up with a nominal amount left on a gift card at a restaurant I did not intend to return to, I'd happily leave it for the server *in addition* to the cash tip (calculated without reference to whatever's left on the GC)--at any number of restaurants, servers who want to eat something other than the staff meal pay full freight; other servers I know will congregate at a restaurant's bar after the restaurant is closed to have a few drinks (no customers present), which they pay for. So the couple of bucks of restaurant-specific credit might be something they'd like. I am not, however, under the impression that they can use my gift card to pay for their rent, groceries or electric bill, and therefore I would not ever tip anything other than cash.

                                                      1. re: planetjess

                                                        A very nice idea planetjess but servers would not be allowed to use a GC that belonged to a customer, it would be very hard to prove it was given as a gift. It basically would just go unused and they'd have to turn it in at the end of the night.

                                                        julesrules, sorry if I overreacted, I know a lot of people don't agree as the topic has come up many times about tipping and GCs, I just wanted to make sure everyone was informed as it seemed some weren't.

                                                        1. re: rockandroller1

                                                          That entirely depend on the house rules, rockandroller1. There are restaurants that allow this--I got the idea from servers I know who have had them left and used them later. It's not at all difficult for a waiter to prove that the seven dollars that was left on a $100 gift card that was used to pay for one of her tables that night was left as a gift, unless that server's manager is an a**hole. Nothing I can do about that.

                                                          p.s. Just to be sure, next time this happens (it's not a lot; I don't get GCs more than a couple of times a year, and I often overspend), I'll specifically ask to have my GC change made out to "waitperson".

                                                2. re: c oliver

                                                  c oliver, I can relate all too well. My in-laws are notoriously bad gift givers (as is my older sister-in-law). One year for daughter's birthday they did not know what to give her and I suggested a Starbuck's gift card, thinking that would be a good place to get an inexpensive gift card. They got her a $5 gift certificate to Outback.

                                                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                    Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!!!!! At least she didn't have the change problem :) Unbelievable. I'd like to think she bought it in error thinking it was Starbucks. Please, I really want to believe that.

                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      That's the key that jfood was looking for as the analogy for the people who believe the GC should be turned magicallyinto cash...the gift CARD.

                                                      Let's assume that the restaurant was ahead of its time and instead of a piece of paper with the $100 written on it, it was an electronic gift card (jfood has a VZW one in his briefcase as he types).

                                                      Now OP (just for illustrative purposes Danna) has same facts and circumstances and hands the server the plastic gift card. Server runs the card through the machine, returns to the table with the little paper printout that states, "Your Balance is $7."

                                                      Should that be any different from the low-tech piece of paper that says, "Your Balance is $7."?

                                                      BTW C, Jfood does not think Danna was being ungrateful in her response.

                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                        I hung my head in shame and mea culpa'd. I hope we're pals again, Danna. I was mis-reading. Too busy packing up this house as we have tenants moving in a about ten days!!!

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          c oliver: Oh, Gosh, no worries at all!

                                                          jfood: thanks..although I'm not ungrateful...my parents are SO sweet....but maybe I am teensy bit "entitled"...only children have to work hard at remembering there are other people in the world ;-)

                                                          janet: That is a scream about the $5 Outback card. We get gc's there periodically too...I think it may be a lot of people's favorite place. (maybe they meant to give $50?) Frankly, we discussed the fact the steaks are just as good at Outback as the more pretentious independant local restaurant in question above.

                                                    2. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                      Re Janet from Richmond.

                                                      LOL! Is she old enough to go into the bar for a drink?

                                              2. re: danna

                                                I've only encountered "that attitude" once, that I can recall. That was not a comfortable experience. Now, we receive many of these, and actually bid on many more at charity silent auctions.

                                                We always make it know to the host/hostess and on to the servers, that we have a GC. I usually also mention the amount, and if from a charity auction, extend a thank you for supporting charity X.

                                                As mentioned elsewhere, I have never fallen short of the amount, with my bill. I've never encountered the opportunity to even think about change.

                                                Usually, when I ask the server to also furnish me with the full amount of the bill, they understand that I'm about to tip on that, and not on just the remainder, that I'm actually being charged. Usually, it's an easy amount to work with. Sometimes it's more intricate with a combo of 2 entrees for the price of 1, plus 25% off of alcoholic drinks, etc. That is definitely when I'll ask to see what the total amount would have been.

                                                In the one case, the one with the attitude, we decided to not bid on another one of those. I do not need attitude. I do hear about it all too often with anything but full-fare, and sometimes even then.


                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                  Mr. Hunt,
                                                  Like you, my mother was a true Southern lady She abhorred the word "class." Said if you had any, you never used that word. She referred to it as "good breeding." (BTW, we grew up with no silver spoons in OUR mouths.) You, sir, have good breeding. I appreciate many of your contributions.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    Thank you. I am honored to hear that, especially so from a Southerner.


                                            2. Never thought about it. In my long life, I've had many gift certificates to various restaurants. I've never spent less. Heck, I usually spend the face amount on just the wine.

                                              BTW, I always tip on what the bill *would* have been.


                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                It sounds like you are confusing a gift certificate, with a %off, Buy one Get one, etc deal.

                                                With a GC there is NO what the meal would have been, you are just presenting the restaurant with prepaid money. Someone gave them money and they issued this IOU to be redeemed later for food and drink.

                                                1. re: bagelman01

                                                  "redeemed later for food and drink" and that is the point. It is is not for "tip".

                                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                                    Not all Gift Certificates are pre paid. In my former restaurant I would often issue gift certificates for XX dollars as a Gift (donation) to various groups like the local churches or Asian/Pacific clubs. Quite a few times the eventual recipients of these unpaid certificates would be indignant when I would not give change but would instead issue another certificate for the difference.

                                                    1. re: hannaone

                                                      No good deed goes unpunished H. You are a saint for the donation.

                                                      As Donold Duck said in one of his cartoons, "It's mine! It's mine! It's all mine!"

                                                      1. re: hannaone

                                                        These types of GC often find their way into my hands, through various charity silent auctions. Not only do I always go over the face value, I say thank you to everyone in the restaurant for supporting said charity. Then I tip on the full bill, prior to the use of the GC.

                                                        If I'd ever been in the situation of needing "change," maybe I'd have thought about it. Never has happened with me, so not something that I'll likely ponder.

                                                        You do make a good point though. You contributed to the charity, and now, someone wants cash from your register. I see your point all too clearly. Thanks for making that point, as it is seldom considered.


                                                      2. re: bagelman01

                                                        No, I receive many GC's and the math is usually pretty easy with them. Sometimes more easily calculated, than with others. Normally, I can subtract US$200 from a US$400 tab. The tip is on the total. I used the GC for part of it, so I tip, as though I had used my AMEX card for the total, rather than say, "OK, the bill was $600, and I had a $200 GC. Let's see, 20% on $400 is $80.00. No, 20% on $600 is $120. Even after a few bottles of fine wine, I can figure that one out.

                                                        Even when I've bid on, and won a GC at a charity silent auction, I tip on the full amount of the bill - this also in the cases where I paid more than face value. That was a transaction between me, and the charity, not between me and the servers.

                                                        Sorry, I don't see the confusion, to which you allude. Can you clarify for me?