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Oct 24, 2009 04:04 PM

Rounding down to the Dollar ?


A friend writes:
I recently had an experience at a yuppie neighborhood restaurant that seriously took me aback. I stopped in for a quick sandwich and juice at lunchtime. I'd like to stress that the two people I dealt with were both pleasant, friendly, eager to please. When I got the check, which was $10.89, I decided to be nice and pay in cash, and I put a $20 bill on the table. The change brought back to me was $9 even. I looked under the plate, around the table for the 11 cents that I expected as a matter of course to be there -- to no avail. I asked the waitress nicely where the change was. She replied something like "When it's close to the dollar amount we just round up or down." I was kind of shocked -- I'd never heard this before in a restaurant -- and said, "That's all very well when it's in the customer's favor, but you don't do that when it's in the restaurant's favor." She looked totally surprised and offered to bring the change, saying something further about their not having any change on hand. Are others out there finding that this is becoming common practice? I find it totally outrageous and tantamount to stealing or adding on some gratuity without asking the customer.

  1. Whew, wew. But wouldn't you have left $2.11 as a tip anyway?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      Well, yes, that's exactly what I intended to leave, and I actually said that to the friendly waitress. But the thing is, I found it outrageous that the decision about change not being returned to me was made by the waitress (or whoever instructed her) and not by me.

    2. I have not encountered this, but I agree that it is wrong. Give me all my change, and I will tip appropriately. In this case, I might have spoken to the manager - if it is a resto rule, he or she should hear from the customer that it is a bad idea, instead of the server (who is following the rule). 11 cents is tiny, but if enough people complained, it might change.

      1. This over eleven cents? I always pay cash and often the rounding is in my favor. It averages out, it's expedient, and lets busy people do what they do best, which is not scrounging small change. I want to go postal when a cashier needs a nickel to provide me with exact change, doesn't have one, and sends someone to the safe somewhere in the back to get a roll of nickels. Let me out of here!

        1. Not a big deal, IMO. I get a med. cup of coffee every morning in the cafe at the bottom of my apartment building. Cost is $1.67. Most days I give $1.70 and they keep the three cents, so every once and awhile when I pay $1.65 they don't mind. This has been an unspoken agreement for about a year now, never discussed. It all evens out in the end, even if it's just karma. Totally not worth the blood pressure points.

          1. I agree, it's weird, and not anything i've ever heard of. It's not about how small it was, or whether it would have made it into the tip otherwise. Who's to say you planning on tipping $3 even so you could have a quarter to make a phone call or use a vending machine or something.

            How do they decide what's "close to the dollar" ? And counting change is no different than counting bills. If someone has to fuss over change and I decide to tell them "keep it" that's one thing. Skipping that step seems a bit off to me .

            1 Reply
            1. re: im_nomad

              Indeed, what governs the rounding – in 5, 10, 25 or 50 cent increments? How would the consumer know?

              Eleven cents is a relative pittance to argue about, but would the server have rounded down if the tab was 10.81, rounded down to 10.80 or 10.75 or 10.50? If she did, wouldn’t her till be short at the end of the shift and then be docked the difference?

              I’m squarely on the side of “give me back my change.” I can decide for myself how to spend my money.