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would you expect to be comped


would you expect to be comped in this situation?

you have received the items you ordered. you provide a credit card for payment. At that moment, the credit card machine goes down due to a power fluntuation. You are offered a discount and asked to pay with cash. You don't have cash though.

What do you think is the appropriate action by the merchant?

if it matters, This is a quick foodservice place, not a sit down restaurant.

  1. Maybe the amount of the bill would make a difference if you were to be comped. Experienced a similar situation in a sit down restaurant and they hand wrote a credit card slip I signed and put it through later, but the bill was around $25. I wouldn't expect to get comped.
    Maybe if I were the owner and the tab was $5 I might comp you. But, it would depend on the amount. What was the amount?

    1 Reply
    1. re: monku

      the amount was just under $12

    2. "At that moment, the credit card machine goes down due to a power fluntuation. "

      (my very rare paranoid side surfaces up) Me think they faked the machine issue and just want the hard cash to tax-evade.

      Just wait 2, 3 minutes and try again with the machine (and look at the machine!!) and it should work, if not then they should let you go to get some cash and come back to pay.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Maximilien

        the situation was real and the car was swiped multiple times, waiting for a response, and the machines did not come online (until 15 minutes later)

        the customer was told there is a bank across the street. the customer offered to pay with debit card (instead of credit) and was apologized to, and told that debit cards use the same system. the customer did not offer to go across the street and come back.

      2. i never expect to be comped.

        and certainly not in that situation.

        tell them they need to take the card, or you will return when you can w/ the cash

        1 Reply
        1. No comp....and quite frankly, I'm surprised the thought or question is even considered. The merchant records your information, including the security code on the back of the card and enters the information at a later time when the machine is up and running. He can have you sign the check and record signature on file on the printed receipt after he enters the information and a new receipt is printed. You can ask the business to forward you a copy or not.

          This would be similar to ordering something over the telephone or online.

          3 Replies
            1. re: fourunder

              +2. why would you even consider the restaurant not get paid because of a technical issue outside their control.

              1. re: jfood


                That's the way telephone orders are handled by all kinds of merchants. The merchant pays more for a transaction done without the card, but it's done all the time.

                I have no idea why the merchant didn't offer to just take your card info down for use later. Maybe an employee who didn't know what else to do?

            2. This happened to me about 2 months ago, the power went out during a storm. It was daylight and I was in a small pizza place with large plate glass windows letting in the daylight. I finished my meal, and when I went to pay, the credit card terminal was down. My bill was less than $10, but I hadn't brought much cash with me, I just grabbed my credit card when I left my office.
              The proprietor handed me his business card and wrote the amountg of my bill on the card, and said "please mail me a check" I left a cash tip for the waitress.

              When I got back to the office I oput a check in the mail. It turns out, the power wasn't restored for three days. About two weeks later I was back for another lunch, and the proprietor came oyver to the table to thank me for sending my check so promptly. He told me that every single patron who was asked to send a check did so within 48 hours.

              I think this was an appropriate action by the merchant, suggesting a trip to a nearby atm, would have been fruitless in a power outage.

              Now, I have a spare $20 tucked in my credit card case along with my license.

              3 Replies
              1. re: bagelman01

                i'm the Merchant in this case and the location of the (franchise) store is in the mall.. the power flickers are infrequent, but often times when it does happen, it does not affect the whole mall. I can see stores directly across the hallway which are not experiencing any problems. I don't believe power outside the mall is affected.

                Trying to think from the customer's point of view, I'd be frustrated because of the wait, which is why I offered a discount.

                I did not think of recording the numbers to ring later and would do that next time.

                this customer has complained (via corporate hotline) about the "worst service they ever received" and stated that they would like to receive free certificates

                1. re: chops888

                  It's one of those occurences that people aren't prepared for in today's electronics age. You'll be more prepared in the future.
                  There's always someone out there looking for a freebie no matter what you do...it's the law of averages.
                  You were generous offering a cash discount.

                2. re: bagelman01

                  I'll bet this proprietor's common sense shows up in other aspects of his operation, too.

                3. I am surprised that places don't have one of those old school card imprint makers for just these occasions!!
                  But no, I would not expect a comp. A discount for the inconvenience would be nice, but not expected either. It's kinda a rock and a hard spot though as yes, I think it would be unreasonable to be asked to go to an ATM across the street that may charge who knows what fees to compensate for the restaurant's unfortunate situation. They should have a card imprinter from this day on. I'd be happy to mail a check though!

                  1. I agree, you need a hard/old school card imprinter. We had one at one of my retail jobs because we occasionally had problems putting credit cards through as it was on an old, dial-up type system and sometimes didn't work. You should always have a backup.

                    Writing down the customer's card number is not necessarily an option that's going to work; people don't want their card number sitting around on a slip of paper. Having it on an imprinted, more official card machine is better. I also agree that they shouldn't have been expected to pay a fee to use an ATM across the way.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: rockandroller1

                      You don't really need a manual imprinter, if you have the forms, you can use a pencil to transfer the embossed numbers from the CC.

                      1. re: saeyedoc

                        True, but you can have them sign the copy with the imprint so they don't call their bank and dispute the charge.

                        When I was a server (large, upscale restaurant) we had the old school swiper machine. You'd write out the total, imprint the card, and they'd sign it. A copy for each of us.

                        As a customer, I'd prefer this method, too. No disputes over the amount.

                    2. No, I wouldn't expect to be comped. I would expect that they would be reasonable enough to let me have time to get to an ATM. IMO being able to use credit cards/debit cards is a convenience, not an absolute right. I always try to have enough cash on me to cover my tab in case of a problem.

                      1. I can't fathom starting a day anywhere on this planet without enough cash to provide for the unexpected. To expect electronic money transfer systems to operate perfectly, seamlessly, around the clock, is unwise. And to even think that a restaurant should shoulder a customer's expense because of a lapse of a system on which so many have become frightfully dependent, calls for a new rulebook for how to be a responsible citizen.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Veggo

                          And it was $12!

                          And ditto what others have said. There are plenty of options and comping isn't on this list.

                          1. re: Veggo

                            I remember when I was working as a server. I had a table come in, young couple on a first date. About 25 years old each. They ordered their food ($30 ish entrees) and he went to the bathroom. Never came back. She sat there for a good 25 minutes with their cold food, waiting for him. Basically, she had no money. Couldn't pay for any part of the check at all. She called her credit card company at the table, had no room on it. No cash. The girl was in tears before the money issue even came up. We just comped the entire thing and she left.

                            I couldn't imagine going on a date with a stranger and not only assuming they'd pay for you, but leaving the house with nothing.

                            1. re: Azizeh

                              <I couldn't imagine going on a date with a stranger and not only assuming they'd pay for you, but leaving the house with nothing.>

                              It sounds like she had nothing in the house, either. Quick hypothetical: what if the guy had bailed & she'd offered to pay for her food, but not his? Did you ever run into that scenario?

                              1. re: small h

                                If I was in this situation I think I'd embarassingly offer to pay for my companions. Granted I am a male who can be a bit traditional at times- not sure if that plays into it.

                                If she had offered to only pay for hers (regardless of her ability to cover the companion's), I think the restaurant would be fine with it.

                                On a side note: It's rarely if ever a black and white issue with these things on CH. Polarization=bad.

                          2. Along the same line... a few years ago I was visiting New York City with my parents. We got a seat at a restaurant and ordered drinks. It was only when the waiter came for our meal order that they informed us that their credit card machines were down and that we would have to pay cash. We didn't have the money (and didn't want to pay high atm fees), so we left. I don't think that I "deserved" to get the drinks comped, but it does feel pretty crappy walking out of a restaurant without eating anything (and on the hunt for another place) and paying > $10 for a few sodas.

                            1. no. i could see if you had cash - but were missing a dollar or two, they would just let you take a discount. but - you ordered, and are required to pay. [i am assuming an atm is w/in a 2-3 block radius.] my so keeps a check in his wallet for these kinds of events.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: nachosaurus

                                I wonder if they would accept out of state checks in that case...

                                I am not saying I was entitled to the free drinks or anything, but for the sake or argument... I ordered a coke to drink with dinner, typically that comes with free refills. I get the coke, then we are told that they only accept cash. When we decide to go to another restaurant, what do we do? Do we sit there for 20 minutes to finish the drinks (waisting the time of the server- at least, that was the impression he gave us when we decided to leave)? Chug the drinks and go (I am too old for that)? Leave while only taking a few sips, and paying $10 for the pleasure? I understand, it is just $10, but the little things can make a big difference in the overall impression of the restaurant. Yes, there are ATMS within a few blocks, but there are also convenience stores selling cans of coke at 1/2 the price.

                                What bothered me most was the attitude of the servers. The credit card machine had been out for hours, nobody told us when we entered or sat down. It was only after being in the restaurant for 30+ minutes (it was not crowded and it took forever just to get the drinks). I wouldn't expect comped drinks, but if it were my restaurant I wouldn't charge for them.

                              2. I think this is a closer call than a lot of other posters do. I don't really want to leave all my credit card details with some random server at the restaurant with a promise that they'd charge my card appropriately later on. It's possible that someone wouldn't want to go and get cash to pay either - there's a big service charge to get the money adding a $5 cost to the meal, or they don't have the funds in the bank, or maybe they don't have or carry an ATM card and don't know how to get a cash advance on their credit card.

                                The problem for me is that the deal got changed on the diner after he'd already eaten at the establishment...there are a ton of threads on CH about cash-only restos and lots of people choose not to eat at them for whatever reason (logistics of not carrying cash, wanting to earn miles by using their credit card, some kind of principle, etc.). The diner chose a place that accepted credit cards and ate there expecting to use his credit card. After the meal, the diner tendered the credit card, which was not accepted by the resto. The diner is obligated to pay for the food consumed, and most people would figure out how to pay the tab...but the merchant surely isn't privileged to make whatever demand for payment he or she wants, right? If I eat in a restaurant that says they accept US currency and after my meal I hand the server a $20...the server says, oh, actually we only accept canadian dollars and there is a Thomas Cook across the street...please go across the street and exchange your money (and pay the fee). That's unfair and pretty unreasonable, imo. The restaurant makes an offer to sell its food to a customer on certain terms (price, payment terms, etc.) and the customer accepts by ordering and consuming the food. Once that's done, neither the restaurant NOR the customer get to renegotiate the deal - the restaurant can't change its prices or payment terms retroactively.

                                In this situation, offering the cash discount was a nice gesture, but when the customer says that solution doesn't work for him, the onous is on the restaurant to figure out some other way to accept payment from the customer. Some customers will be ok writing a check, or leaving his or her credit card information with the restaurant (you might want to check the laws in your state, I believe WA and some other states have specific statutes prohibiting merchants from printing full credit card numbers on charge slips).
                                If it can't, then it should comp the food.

                                12 Replies
                                1. re: akq

                                  Wow, that's frightening as a response. A technological issue occurs and you want a full comp.

                                  Do you also believe in the following?

                                  - the flight schedule states you arrive at 1:51 and the plane has a mechanical and you land at 2:23, OK give me my money back
                                  - you go to an ATM and enter all the numbers. All of a sudden the ATM states "we apologize but the system is currently having a problem, please try again later." - You get the money for free or the fee is waived
                                  - You arrive at a hotel and check in. Upon leaving the next day the computer is down. Do you get the room for free?
                                  - You go to a department store to buy a shirt. The system is down. do you think you can walk out with the shirt without paying?

                                  Why is a restaurant in a category where a thrid party, technogoly issue becomes a gotcha for the consumer and a free meal?

                                  Repeat - frightening

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    You're frighteningly good, j. Oh right, to remain on topic,+1

                                    1. re: jfood

                                      it's frightening to you because you can make other payment arrangements, what if you can't? The OP wanted the diner to run across the street and use the ATM. If it were me, I'd probably do that (actually, I'd probably have the cash to pay, and my checkbook). But what if the diner didn't have the funds in his account and was relying on using his credit card for the meal? The OP's "reasonable" request is then maybe not so reasonable to the diner.

                                      Your examples miss the point:
                                      - your flight example is within the contract between me and the airline. If they cancel my flight and can't get me to my destination on the same day, then yes, I want my money back.
                                      - There's no contract in your ATM example. If, on the other hand, I open a checking account and the bank guarantees me that they will waive ATM fees, but then later tries to charge me $5 for using an ATM - I don't think I should have to pay (except the account agreements always say the bank can change the terms...totally unfair but you agree to it when you sign up).
                                      - Your hotel should have the credit card info it got from you when you checked in. If you are trying to check out to make your plane or your daughter's wedding and the hotel says, nope, you have to drive around town to find an ATM or bank branch open right now to pay me in cash...then what? Are they being unreasonable?
                                      - You haven't "used" the shirt so you or the store can back out of the unfinished transaction. Same as if you take the item up to the counter and they tell you, oops, it was mislabeled with the wrong price. You haven't paid for it yet, so it's legit. The cannot, however, call you the day after you bought the shirt and tell you they changed their mind and now want an extra $50 for the shirt you already bought.

                                      In a normal business setting, in a purchase and sale transaction the payment terms are usually a specific part of the contract. If the seller shows up at closing and says, oops, even though our purchase and sale agreement states that I will accept a personal check from you, I actually want cash right now so go to the bank and get it...that's probably a breach...the purchaser can say, sure no problem I'll do it, ask for a discount and agree to alter the terms (as OP offered to the diner), negotiate some other resolution *OR the purchaser can insist that the seller performs as agreed otherwise call off the transaction and refuse to perform*. In this case the seller (OP) set the payment terms by agreeing to accept the credit card and the diner relied on that. In most cases the decent and right thing for the diner to do is to figure out how to accomodate the OP and get the cash or whatever. Usually it's not a big deal to pull out your emergency cash or checkbook or leave a credit card number or go to the ATM. But in some situations those options won't work and I would place the burden of figuring out an acceptable substitute on the party who can't perform as contracted (OP) and if he can't, then he can't force the diner to perform (pay).

                                      1. re: akq

                                        jfood absolutely understands the point and you make very good arguments in response to the examples, although you and jfood could probably go through another few rounds of socratic dialogue for some fun but let's change gears and go to the word you have used a couple of times, "contract."

                                        The diner has entered into the "contract" to pay $12 for a cheeseburger. One of the many ways the diner can live up to it's obligation is the use of the credit card, which the restaurant will accept as one form of payment. The restaurant also can accept cash, check, or any other form of consideration that both sides agree satisfies the cost of the meal. The restaurant has delivered the food and expects payment. just because one avenue for liquidation of the diner's obligations is not available at the time the diner wants to pay does not relieve the diner of the obligation to pay. In one example the owner offered a discount that would probably more than cover the cost of the ATM fee. And if the diner insists on paying ONLY with his credit card then s/he can leave it with the restaurant (highly unlikely) since that is the chosen form of payment. Since you are splitting hairs on the "i pay by CC or it's free" motif, then the restaurant has the right to say, "OK leave it and I'll return it, since the contract is not completed until the consideration is received and that may take a few hours." The the burden fall on the diner to find a form of payment that will allow for immediate payment and s/he can get on his/her way.

                                        So the reasonable man theory comes into play. The CC problem is not the fault of the restaurant and the diner plays the first dirtbag card, the resatuarant has the option of raising it to dirtbag plus 1. But the idea that the diner eats for free is extremely far removed from reasonable man theory.

                                        Don't you love hese theoretical discussion waiting for someone to get booted from Idol? :-))

                                        1. re: jfood

                                          :) I think the disagreement comes down to the terms of the "contract" and whether the form of payment term is an essential term of the deal. If it is, as I argue, then the restaurant is unable to perform its obligation to accept payment by credit card as at the time of the transaction as offered and agreed to by the diner, and cannot thus force the diner to perform (pay).

                                          If it isn't an essential term, then the diner is on the hook to figure out payment and it's not a breach by the restaurant to change the payment terms after the diner has already eaten the cheeseburger...but that can't be right, can it?

                                          (I guess, technically a second issue is whether time is of the essence - when must payment occur? Can the diner say I'll pay you next week? Must the restaurant be able to accept payment at the time of the transaction, or can it insist on taking the credit card number and charging it later? I'd bet the restaurant would say the agreement is that the diner must pay at the time of the transaction and is not allowed to pay later...so why should the restaurant have to be able to accept payment at the time of the transaction?)

                                          I agree that most reasonable people, assuming they had the time and ability, would probably just go and get the money out of the ATM. That seems reasonable to me if the ATM fairly easily accessed and especially if the restaurant gives a discount to cover the ATM fee...however, it seems reasonable due to my own bias - that there is money in my checking account that I can access to pay my tab.

                                          What if there isn't? Then how reasonable is the request? What if the ATM across the street doesn't work? Or my ATM card doesn't work? How far must I go to find cash to pay the restaurant owner? Does the restaurant have to let me leave to actually get the cash? Or could it tell me to call a friend or spouse and have them bring the cash to pay the bill because I am not allowed to leave the premises until I pay? What if I can't get the cash? Do I have to give the restaurant owner my watch? Does he have to take my watch as payment?

                                          And why wouldn't this go both ways? What if the diner had only $10 and offered that to the restaurant - is the restaurant required to accept that amount? Or can the restaurant insist on the full $12? What if the restaurant didn't offer the cash discount and it was going to cost you $5 in ATM fees to get that $2 to pay the tab? The $12 cheeseburger you agreed to now costs you $17 which you didn't agree to...does anyone care? What if taking out the $20 from your checking account means that you overdraft on the check you wrote and your bank then charges you an additional $40 overdraft fee? Now that's one expensive cheeseburger! Can the diner decide after the meal that oops he doesn't have cash and the visa won't work so he'll mail a check next week? None of that would happen to me, and probably none of that would happen to you...but it could happen to lots of people out there and don't they get factored into the reasonable person theory, too?

                                          1. re: jfood

                                            If you walked into a store that accepted 50 forms of payment, should you be prepared to pay in each form just in case? I get what you are saying, but what if it is impossible for the diner to pay in cash? While I question the wisdom, I don't question the idea that there are many diners every night who do not have the cash available in their bank account to cover their expenses.

                                            I don't think that the diner should eat free, but I don't think that any solution to the problem would feel satisfying.

                                            1. re: jao204

                                              I felt the OP (the owner) was only asking if the customer should have been comped. I didn't get the sense that he was going to have the patron arrested if some other solution was suggested.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                Yes, and in one of his later posts, he indicates that the customer contacted the corporation *later,* looking for a comp. So all of discussion of the ways the customer could conceivably been unable to pay are interesting from a strange cases perspective, but the customer here clearly found some way to pay the (discounted) bill. He/she just came back later and wanted something for free because of the inconvenience caused by a technical glitch that wasn't the restaurant's fault.

                                              2. re: jao204

                                                maybe not 50 but the diner has a responsibility to pay. Either at the point of time of the service or at a time when convenient to both.

                                                Back to the original question.

                                                jfood has no wiggle room on whether the diner deserves the food comped. If they draw a line in the sand on you cannot accept the form of payment then the diner has to work with the restaurant at the time or commit to return and pay at a later time. the comp is totally unreasonable

                                                1. re: jfood

                                                  I agree completely. What happens if the computer goes down on a packed night and only 1/2 the people brought enough cash to pay the bill? Is the restaurant expected to comp the other half? It just doesn't make sense. I live in an area that gets powerful storms in the evening during the summer and it's not unlikely for power and other services to get knocked out during these storms. Hopefully the stores have imprint machines in anticipation of these types of emergencies, but if not I still don't think they should be force to comp everyone who is in the restaurant at the time.

                                                  1. re: queencru

                                                    the only 'similar' situation is if you go to get gas and realise you have forgotten your wallet. You would have to ask the cashier if you can come back and pay later - either by leaving your name and address, a piece of jewelry or ............. well I don't know.

                                                    Stuff happens - both buyer and seller need to come up with a solution that suits everyone.

                                                    1. re: smartie

                                                      And many gas stations now require customers to swipe cards or pay cash before they pump gas...

                                                      I'm of the always be prepared mindset - I generally pay for everything with plastic, but I always have at least $20 cash, plus my check book. I also probably would have asked if the restaurant could take the CC info and run it later, having run many CC charges over the phone myself. The customer doesn't have to be prepared to pay with all accepted methods, but it's generally a good idea to be have more than one option.

                                      2. This thread seems to be going around in circles, so we're going to lock it.