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Sep 17, 2009 10:49 AM

Bill dispute etiquette


I was at a restaurant and I had a price disagreement with the owner. He was trying to charge me $27 but the bill should have only been $25.

I didn’t want to make a scene so I paid the $27, but could I have just paid the $25? Would that have been acceptable? Or would he have called the cops or something?

What should I do in these situations in the future, should they come up.

This was a small restaurant, owned and run by the same guy.

Thank you all

  1. What was the dispute? was the price on the menu $25 and he charged you $27 or was it a special where they just told you the price?

    23 Replies
    1. re: OnDaGo

      It dealt with the discrepancy of a coupon. I won’t bore you with specifics, but they said the coupon was worth $3 where it really was worth $5

      1. re: beaver479

        Well it is the specifics that matter in this case.. If you are right then they cannot do anything but if they are right then you have to pay...

        1. re: OnDaGo

          Ok. I can give specifics if you would like.

          I would like to point out that I rounded my numbers for my post, to make it simpler on you all and not have to type things like $25.63, etc.

          I had a coupon for $3 off if I spent X amount of dollars. When I went to ask for my $3 off, the owner told me that it comes off the grand total. However, it should have come off the pre-tax total. Hence, when factoring the difference out for tax, I paid $2 more than I should have.

          He was 100% wrong but I didn’t want to start up and cause a scene. However, I am curious should this ever happen again how I should handle it. Could I have insisted and just paid the lesser amount?

          1. re: beaver479

            Your tax is 66%? Now that's what I call socialism.

            1. re: DeppityDawg


              No. I just simplified the numbers.

              The actual numbers were:

              Spend 25 or more and get 10 off.

              We spent 26.80 x 13% = 30.28 – 10 = 20.28 (which is what he insisted I pay)

              It should have been 26.80 – 10 = 16.80 x 13% = 18.98

              That means I overpaid by 1.30

              Could I have refused to pay that 1.30?

            2. re: beaver479

              I don't think you need to cause a scene to make your point. You can have a low-volume conversation at your table or the cash register where you point out what the coupon says. If it's unclear and you're going to have an actual dispute, then the owner probably wasn't 100% wrong, and you can agree to disagree. Although I'm sure you could technically leave paying $25, I myself would opt to pay the $27 and then just decide whether I'll go back in the future. Also, it's usually a good idea to bring up the coupon before the bill comes so this kind of misunderstanding doesn't occur.

              1. re: jenhen2

                Thanks Jen.

                The owner flat out lied to me and claimed the coupon included tax. However, after I got home I looked into this and I found on the CRA’s website that for a coupon to include tax, it must state on the coupon that tax is part of the coupon. This coupon did not, hence I am 100% right.

                We did get into an argument but then I just paid the full amount he wanted me to pay, and then left.

                I am just upset over the principle of the matter and was just wondering what other members thought.

                Next time though I think I would only pay the 25 and not 27. Just wanted to know what I am allowed to do vs. what others would do.

                1. re: beaver479

                  I'd explain (politely, quietly) my point and listen to his. Try to reason with him a bit. If he's not going to budge, your choices are either to pay what he is charging or cancel the transaction. You don't have the option of paying what you think is right and demanding the food. In a case like this, the cops aren't going to help you. If anything, they would have told you to pay the guy or leave.

                  1. re: akq

                    Thank you akq. However, this was after I had already eaten the food. So I could not cancel the transaction. And I did attempt to talk polity at first, he refused to budge.

                    1. re: akq

                      If you are this aggravated about $1.30, just don't go back, and let them know why. There must be many other good restaurants in this economy willing to accomodate a customer to keep their business. I recently had a dispute situation, where I authorized a charge of $70.00 for dinner plus tip. When I checked my charge account online, I saw I has been charged $73.15. When I called to complain I was told if THEY forget to add an item to your bill (like a soda refill), they will arbitrarily increase the charge amount you have authorized on your credit card, to pay themselves AFTERWARD for THEIR mistake. AND this is on top of a generous tip, and without notifying me (the cardholder). I was further told that I should have noticed the omission on my bill, and that it was too late (FOUR days later), to get a credit back to my account. What to do in this situation, other than to withhold your business?

                      1. re: Jadelise

                        Thanks for your response Jadelise.

                        First, I have no intention of giving them my business again. What I am pissed about is I just paid the increase instead of making a stand. And I also just wish to know if I could have paid the lesser amount.

                        Second, what happened to you sucks. I would call your credit card company and tell them you never authorized the payment. They are pretty good at then dealing with the restaurant or any company in those situations. Just call your company, say the bill was for 70 and not 73.15, and they will take care of it.

                    2. re: beaver479

                      In a mom and pop place like you described I doubt they review the CRA rules and regulations when printing a coupon... Really for $1.30 you caused that much havoc and I bet you did not tip after? Why bother, why not just tip 1.30 less on the original bill and not get anyones blood pressure up.

                      1. re: OnDaGo

                        Hi OnDaGo.

                        Thanks for your response.

                        I agree with you, I doubt they reviewed the CRA rules. He clearly was lying to me.

                        And despite how upset I was at the owner/manager, I did not stiff the excellent waitress of a tip.

                        1. re: beaver479

                          Good call on your decision to tip. I don't think it would have been right to penalize the waitress when she had nothing to do with the issue.

                        2. re: OnDaGo

                          Why would you stiff the waitress over the owner's mistake?

                          1. re: OnDaGo

                            As others have mentioned, I think of all the options, OnDaGo's is the absolute worst. Beaver was 100% right in not attempting to resolve the discrepancy by taking it out of the tip. And I think the actual amount is beside the point, Beaver doesn't seem like he's causing havoc either now or then. Just coming to chowhound for some venting and advice for the future. Stiffing the waitperson? now that would get the blood pressure up.

                            1. re: OnDaGo

                              Because the tip is outside of this and irrelevant. The owner/manager is the opposite party, not the waitress. Why would you penalize the wait staff for this??

                              1. re: evewitch

                                Um, the OP DID NOT stiff the waitstaff. He/she tipped her accordingly for her good service.

                                1. re: hilltowner

                                  Um, evewich was responding to OnDaGo, who specifically suggested stiffing the waitstaff.

                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                    OK, sorry. Sometimes these threads get a little bit messed up with misinformation. I thought this was one of those threads.

                                  2. re: hilltowner

                                    Indeed I did. Besides, my thinking is why punish her for what her boss/owner did to me.

                          2. re: beaver479

                            He isn't wrong at all...

                            Sales tax is required (at least in California) on ALL taxable sales. Coupon contracts, deep in the fine print, require the purchaser to pay that sales tax.

                    3. The original comment has been removed
                      1. Can I mail you two dollars and allow this nonsense to go away?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Veggo


                          I was just curious about what I can do in the future. This time it was $ time it could be $20

                          1. re: beaver479

                            Life is a sliding scale. Two cents it passes without question.

                            Twenty cents I might mention to the waitress and tell her to keep the difference (have done this with change that was off and simply told the waitress "Hey, there's a little more that you can get on top of the tip I left on the table if you look at the check.")

                            Two dollars, if I am alone or with my wife I'm going to make a stand. If I am on a dinner with friends probably will let it go if mentioning it doesn't get it resolved without much angst.

                            Twenty dollars they had better "man up" because the owner/manager is going to be wishing he wore his kevlar jockstrap to work that night.

                            1. re: beaver479

                              1) For starters, know what you are getting, and know what you are paying for it. That is the basis of an oral contract. Ask questions, get confirmation. No surprises.
                              2) Let the little s**t go.
                              3) Remember the lyrics of Mark Knopfler, "We're a long way from home, let's just pay the man and go".

                              1. re: beaver479

                                WOW! Inflation is the name of this thread! If you won't take Veggo's $2 ($1.87 Canadian, sorry!), can I give you the $20 to go away?
                                It's costing us more in global warming to have this thread...

                            2. After reading through the details, here's my take: He taxed the full amount of your bill (before deducting the coupon) because he is legally obligated to collect (and then pay) taxes on the full amount, regardless of how much he later deducts. If the total bill is $20 before your coupon comes into play, then he has to pay (and collect) on $20, not the $17 that your total would be after the coupon. If he applies the coupon, making your bill $17 and then adding the tax (on $17) he is shorting himself, because he has to pay taxes on $20. You should have been taxed on the full amount, then had your $3 deducted, which is how it's usually done with any kind of coupon. Taxes apply to the full amount.

                              Now, move on. If this is the worst thing that happens to you, beaver, you are one very lucky man/gal.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: purple bot

                                The restaurant would only be obligated to collect taxes on the total of their actual sales (not projected sales based on menu prices). So if the restaurant charged less for an item the tax would be less too (since the state doesn't set the price of the meal, but rather the restaurant does).

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  I agree with yuo 100% Servorg. And after revieing the tax laws, I now have even more proof besides my and your word.

                                2. re: purple bot

                                  This really depends on the particularities of the tax laws in that jurisdiction. Some sales taxes are based on the actual selling price (net of discount). Other taxes (VAT?) are on the fair market value of the goods sold, which is usually the selling price (presumption in favor of selling price = FMV) but not always, and if there's a coupon involved, the fair market value on which the tax is based may be the undiscounted price. There's no particular logic in it and I am not familiar with the particular tax laws in OP's jurisdiction, so who knows.

                                  1. re: akq

                                    I am in Ontario, Canada. Hence I consulted both GST and RST.

                                3. A simple comment to the manager is all I would do:

                                  "You just lost all of my future business over $1.30. Have a good night."

                                  13 Replies
                                  1. LOL!! Absolutely agree. With the added benefit that other diners don't have to listen to the bellyaching at the next table.

                                    Really, it depends on what the coupon said ($10 off or $10 off pre-tax bill) - but for $1.30 who cares. I doubt there could be a $20 dispute - I can't imagine a restaurant giving a $154 discount with a coupon.

                                    1. re: 2roadsdiverge

                                      Ditto, except I'd have said it this way, "If you're willing to lose my business, plus all the business of my friends and family who rely on me for restaurant recommendations, I'll pay the $1.30." And he would have said yes and you would have paid and then not only YOU never go back, but nobody you know goes there either (or that they know, or that their friends know, and so on).

                                      There's nothing else you could have done. He wasn't going to budge and you can't win the argument with him, either between the 2 of you or if it got to the point of him calling the cops. Pay, move on, and don't patronize their business again.

                                      1. re: rockandroller1

                                        So you would have just paid the money and not gone back?

                                        I think next time, I will take a firm stand.

                                        1. re: beaver479

                                          You're going to take a firm stand on $1.30? How much is your time worth to you? Even if this took 5 minutes to resolve it would not be worth it to recoup the $1.30. Pay the extra $1.30 and get on with your life.

                                          1. re: KTinNYC

                                            I'm with you KT. I wouldnt even say I'd never go back. Sheesh, it's $1.30. Sheesh.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              But it's the principle. To borrow from Senator Byrd from WV, I wish the combatants lived in the age when conflict was satisfied with dueling pistols.

                                          2. re: beaver479

                                            seems like you got around 40% off of your restaurant meal, due to the owner's coupon. he's giving out discounts to encourage customers to come in-- what a guy. 40% off a restaurant meal is significant savings. why quibble about whether you get a 40% discount or a 38% discount? you're still coming out quite well in the transaction. you've mentioned that the service was excellent at this place, so the only question left should be: was the food good? because if it was, you got a great deal! if the food wasn't good, it didn't cost you much to find that out. a buck thirty gets you what-- a gas station soda, and you want to "take a firm stand?" i assume make a huge scene? what complete and utter nonsense.

                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                It's not the 1.30. As Veggo has said, its the principle. If I get a coupon for 10 dollars, I expect to get the full value.

                                                40%, or whatever the percent is does not matter. Had I know this restaureant woudl cheat me...I wuold have used another coupon and gone somewhere else.

                                                1. re: beaver479

                                                  IMO, when ever I hear someone say "It's the principle" when it comes to money I always suspect it's about the money.

                                                  This isn't a civil rights or discrimination issue. It's about $1.30 between you and a small business.

                                              2. re: beaver479

                                                Taking a firm stand, reviewing tax law, replying to this thread over and over again... all for $1.30? You've wasted more than $1.30 worth of your life just thinking about this.

                                                1. re: irishnyc

                                                  you make the assumption that i would otherwise be doing something else. I have been pursuing this in my free time.