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Do you check your bill? No, no, I mean REALLY check your bill?

Has this ever happened to you?

Lets assume you order the following and your tab looks like this:


Eggs - 5.50
Bread - 1.25
Ham - 2.75
Milk - 2.20
Tax - 1.15

Total: 13.85


Well, unless you really scrutinized the bill you wouldn't realize (at least not easily) that you're being overcharged by $1. The correct total should be 12.85.

It's hard to catch at first glance because it looks "right" and if the server is caught, they just brush it off as a math error and come back, innocently, with the correct bill.

This can happen (quite often from what I'm told) whether the bill is handwritten or machine printed.

Have you ever caught something like this?

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  1. I round up, accounting for some tax. I know how much cash I will need. This is in grocery stores as well as restaurants.

    As soon as something is off (in this case, I would have had $12 plus tax in my brain) (Seeing $13.15 would not have bothered me, $13.85 is wrong), I re- add everything.

    I catch it a lot more lately. Yes, I am an Engineer.

    1. When jfood was in B-School his first accounting professor taught him how people use a tape machine to do EXACTLY what you describe.

      hit total
      roll tape up
      enter $XX
      Roll back to beginning
      start entering numbers
      hit total

      And yes this did happen to jfood

      Took little jfoods to dinner 11 years ago. two grilled cheese, two sodas, one coffee. paid and drove them to ballet. something bothered jfood. so he dropped them off and went back to restaurant and asked for the tab. Yup, exactly $10 too much. "Refund 100% or police are called". Response..."Must have been a mistake." No problem in refund. Lots of smiles.

      Next day jfood speaking with his admin about it who used to be a server at said restaurant. Her comment..."Oh management tells us to do it all the time. Big party lots of booze add $40. noone ever added the bill up."

      1 Reply
      1. re: jfood

        Yeech!! Now another thing to increase my paranoia!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      2. Back in the days of handwritten bills, my father always added and claimed he very often found mistakes, although he thought they were really mistakes. Used to annoy my mother immensely. Now with computers I figure I'm safe, but maybe not. However when I eat out (which is rarer and rarer now) I do just glance quickly at the bill, but never sit and add it up due to socializing or whatever. Hard to notice a $10 or 20 discrepancy and actually it's such an occasion to eat out, it doesn't occur to me. Guess if I did it a few times a week, I'd be looking harder.

        7 Replies
        1. re: coll

          It's interesting how much faith people have in electronic devices. We'll verify the total if the check is handwritten, but assume it must be correct if a cash register or computer was used. Of course, if the server keys in the wrong amount--unintentionally or deliberately--the machine-generated total will be wrong.

          I'll generally do a quick add before paying the bill. Besides having been overcharged, I've been undercharged at least once. (Yes, I did point that out to the server.) And on two occasions, I've been handed another table's check!

          1. re: cheesemaestro

            Usually at restaurants, they just key in the item and the dollar amount is automatic.

            1. re: coll

              Yes, but there is still human intervention. People have to push the keys, so it's possible they'll hit the wrong one and you'll be charged for something you didn't order, which could be more or less expensive than what you did order. That has happened to me, too.

              1. re: cheesemaestro

                But if they pushed the wrong key, then the kitchen would prepare the wrong dish based on the computer ticket. Then somewhere along the line someone would realize the mistake, either the waitress or the diner, before the final bill is presented.

                1. re: coll

                  Ah, I see. You're assuming that the server enters the order into the computer right away and the kitchen gets a computerized ticket. Many places do that now and for them, your objection is justified. However, there are still a few at which the servers inform the kitchen the old way and enter the order later into the system for payment.

                  I don't think that we can ever be 100% confident that a fully computerized approach to ordering and billing eliminates errors. There's always the chance that the price printed on the menu and the price in the computer will differ because of a programming error (until the error is caught and fixed) or that the temporary lower price for a daily special isn't reflected on the bill because somebody forgot to change it in the computer. Reviewing a check is quick and doesn't cost a penny, so, for me, it's a no-brainer, even if a computerized system is in place.

                  1. re: cheesemaestro

                    Oh I don't trust anyone completely, but I guess I'm in the "in the ballpark" group. I usually look it over more carefully the next day, but since I don't eat out too often anymore, I don't usually catch anything, the odds are in their favor. Unlike my local supermarkets, now there's another subject to be discussed. First stop is usually the courtesy desk to get some sort of refund.

          2. re: coll

            Funny, just this past week we had a group dinner (on the tab of a project we are all working on). Very nice restaurant, but "cash only" and the bill was going to be in the range of hundreds of Euro. My colleague paid the bill, got a handwritten receipt (with a "real one" promised by email the next day). We walked out of the restaurant and she was telling us that it was about $1000 Euro. We started adding it up, and it seemed wrong, even given how much wine we'd ordered (and drunk). Turns out it was $100 Euro too high. Of course it was immediately fixed :)

          3. You mean you can't add. I always double check a bill at a restaurant (especially handwritten) since people do make mistakes. I make sure that nothing is on my bill that I didn't order, and let my waitperson know if something isn't on the bill that should be. Yes, it's nice to hear that something has been "comped", but I would never presume (I would figure that it was accidentally left off the bill). BTW, I'm no math person, and I had no trouble figuring out that you were $1 overcharged.

            21 Replies
            1. re: ellenost


              It's not really about being able to do simple arithmetic; rather, it's a question of how closely one tends to scrutinize a bill after the meal.

              I think most people -- regardless of their math skills -- tend not to pay that much attention to the details of the bill and just tend to eyeball it to make sure it's in the right ballpark.

              For example, if I go out to lunch with a friend at, say, Denny's and I generally will have a ballpark idea of what the total will be based on prior experience and what we order that day. I would only get suspicious if the bill turned out to be off by some significant magnitude.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                that's what bothered jfood above. 2 grilled cheese, 2 sodas and a coffee for $31. seemed strange

                  1. re: monku

                    >10 years ago and the grilled cheeses were from the kid's menu.

                    today grilled cheese $5; soda $4; coffee $4.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Well then I guess next time should you return to this restaurant you'll look more closely at your bill. I guess it's me, but for $1, I wouldn't be too upset. For $10, I'd be upset.

                  1. re: ellenost

                    I always check my bills, ALL BILLS, because I've been taken advantage of on several occasions...

                    It may only be $1.00 too much on a bill but it's your dollar; if you don't mind handing out extra dollars, why not just open your window and toss it out?

                    1. re: Cherylptw

                      My attitude is, in 50,000 years when the burned out cinder remains of Planet Earth are hurtling through deep space, will it have made any difference if you tipped a few bucks more, paid a few bucks too much, or scammed the house out of that extra side order you received and it was not on the bill? It tend to think not.

                      1. re: ospreycove

                        Can I borrow $100 from you until payday?

                        1. re: L2k

                          Was that $1.00?...................

                        2. re: ospreycove

                          Nice post ospreycove....and so true.

                          1. re: ospreycove

                            I agree with you, that in the grand scheme of things paying a few extra dollars here and there is no big deal, unless your trying to feed a family on a fixed income, or your unemployed, then it can really hurt over the long term.

                            1. re: chazfitzm1

                              I figure the few dollars is the price I pay not to worry. I notice big differences so it can't add up to that much anyway. My time is more valuable--how much time would it take for me to add up everything I spend and how much would I save in discrepancies? Too much time and too little in savings.

                              1. re: chowser

                                I keep a spread sheet of everything I spend, even a cup of coffee: I just keep all the receipts by the computer and enter them when I'm sitting there and have a minute. I do it so I DON'T worry about where my money is going, I know to the penny. And I'm the complete opposite of a control freak, I started doing this while DH was out of work, but I started liking knowing just how much I spend on different categories every month. It doesn't take much time at all.

                                1. re: chowser

                                  But it's not about the money, it's about the principle! Taking an extra buck from a customer just because you can is stealing! People should be called on that, even if you look like a petty jerk for doing so.

                                  1. re: Isolda

                                    But you have no proof it is not a mistake. To call someone a thief when they may have just screwed up is not worth a dollar to me.

                                    Yes, there are thieves in the world. From my grandmother's day there was the buther who put his finger on the scale when weighing meat.

                                    But if you live with the philosophy everyone is out to get you, it just makes your life miserable.

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      It's not about paranoia (at least not in my case!) Even if someone simply adds the bill up wrong, it's still a good idea not to assume anything. That's why you should point it out. If they're honest, they'll be more careful in the future and if they're not, they'll know that at least one of their customers is onto them. And really, if a restaurant is doing this routinely with the money, it does make one wonder what they're doing with the food. Subbing pork for veal?

                                      1. re: Isolda

                                        Ah, yes. One of my favorite subjects. The old pounded pork cutlets masquerading as Veal scallopine trick. It is much more widespread than one would think. I knew a young CIA graduate who was a line cook for a nice table cloth dinner house, with a good reputation,. In casual conversation he said his prep work includes "Turning pork into veal". Whwn I was in N.J. this was almost a given in the trade, the only veal you would see was for osso buco and veal chop, all the other "Veal Dishes" on the menus were "Magic Pork".
                                        This is similiar to the switch the fish scam that plagues the seafood restaurant business. Are you eating real American Red Snapper, or whitefish, pollack, or Tilapia????

                                        1. re: ospreycove

                                          or "grouper!"

                                          i remember the grouper scam!
                                          quite a while back in an old town alexandria, virginia, "new orleans style" restaurant ("two nineteen"), there was supposed to be a snapper gumbo, but the only protein was in *shreds* (like chicken) . the chef came out and *swore* that it was fish. <sigh> i have never returned.

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            ALK.....Grouper is probably the most switched/scam fish on the market. Fresh U.S.Gulf Grouper can be as high as $20.00/lb retail; so there is an incentive for the not so upstanding restaurateur to make the switcheroo!!!

                                          2. re: ospreycove

                                            Back when top round was cheaper than pork, lots of delis used that too. Pizzerias usually go for the pork.

                                  2. re: chazfitzm1

                                    that's right -- the glory of compound interest (as sorry as that is these days!).

                        3. I have caught incorrect totals many times. I also find that price on the bill is higher than menu price, and the included coffee is listed on the bill as an a la carte addition.

                          I refuse to be taken advantage of by either sloppy, lazy, or dishonest restaurant help.

                          At times, I have asked the server to bring the menu back to the table and have had to show the price as listed and have the bill changed.

                          There is no excuse for jacking up the bill.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: bagelman01

                            I see the included-coffee-really-isnt thing all the time. So far it's always been in diners and that sort of place and really only about a buck fifty so i don't really care enough to bother pestering them (the once or twice I have I just get told, "sorry, we don't do that anymore", and I figure the "false advertising" argument really isn't worth it either).

                            1. re: jgg13

                              I understand, but last night it happened when the family ate out and the charge for 5 included coffees became $12.50 plus $1 tax plus would have been $2.50 tip.
                              I'm not paying $16 extra for what was supposed to be included.

                              1. re: bagelman01

                                I hear ya. Trust me, I think anyone should feel free to argue about any of this stuff, and believe me when I say that I do myself :) It's just that in this particular case, at least as it has happened to me specifically, it didn't cross my fuss threshold :)

                          2. No.

                            I'm not someone who closely scrutinizes bills. At most I casually glance at the bill to see the items are correctly on there ... something I didn't order or something I did and wasn't charged for.

                            More often it is the latter and the server thanks me for calling it to their attention.

                            I have a mental ball-park total, so If the bill falls $10 or more out of that range ... up or down ... then I look at it closely. Sometimes you get someone else's bill.

                            Actually usually I just hand the server my credit card to save them a trip back and forth. Again, if the charge is wildly out of what I expect, then I do a detailed check.

                            I believe people are basically good. Sure errors are made but I'm not going to think it was done maliciously. If someone is going to sell their soul for $1 ... what can I say. I feel sorry for them.

                            I have a friend who would be a detailed checker and is suspicious of everyone and everything. She says it is because she lives in Manhattan and big city life makes you jaded. To me that's a lousy way to live.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: rworange

                              I'm from the Seinfeld "Even Steven" school.
                              If it's more than it's supposed to be I ask for a correction. If it's under I say nothing and chalk it up to all the times I probably didn't notice the overcharge.

                              1. re: monku

                                Mom and first boyfriend were servers. They both worked at places where any short change came out of their paycheck.

                                Although I sometimes take that stance at the supermarket. Often I say something, but there are times when it is just too much to deal with and I do chalk it up to the times that I was overcharged and didn't notice or didn't want to deal with going back.

                                1. re: rworange

                                  I spent some time as a server too and now my turn to get "even".

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    Reminds me of a Japanese market chain in the Los Angeles area. They send out monthly flyers which have weekly specials on items. You go the first day of the special and they're lax on changing the prices. Most of the time you don't notice till you've left the check out stand.

                                  2. re: monku

                                    If only there were an "Even Steven" school. In my experience, 99% of "honest" mistakes inure to the benefit of the perpetrator.

                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      That's the point of the post
                                      "Do you check your bill? No, no, I mean REALLY check your bill?"

                                      So for all the "honest" mistakes you miss you got to make up for the ones you notice that are in your favor.

                                      “What Goes Around Comes Around”

                                2. Looks more like a grocery receipt than a restaurant check to me.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: monku

                                    Sometimes there might be an excuIse for "Jacking up" the bill....... have a friend who says his waitstaff will add ahidden "aggravation fee" to checks for really obnixious patrons. So, rule #2 after Rule#1 that is "Do not piss off the cook before you are served, he/she is God in the kitchen",Rule #2 is "Don't be a "horse's ask" to the waitstaff."

                                    1. re: ospreycove

                                      I would never break rule #1....maybe #2 while I'm on my way out the door.

                                      I've been known to slip the cook a buck or two for a beer after his shift if he did a good job on my meal.

                                      1. re: monku

                                        Momk.....As they say, "It doesen't hurt"!! I will "recognize the cook too ifr he/she seems to really care about what is served.

                                  2. My SO checks the bill, and ALWAYS finds problems, not because he's the type to look for trouble but because cashiers often make mistakes.
                                    Today they didn't charge us for 3-4 items at ALL since she was scanning random things in the self check out area in our cart since these items were clearance, she had no organize pattern and she missed several items but I realized this on the way out. Two items scanned up wrong so we got them free (Store policy) saved probably close to $20 today!

                                    I never used to check the bill, but I've learnt through watching SO that I should be doing this.

                                    1. yes, always. all bills. i'm meticulous. my other half is a walking CPU who double checks everything for me. sometimes we tell them they forget an item on the bill.

                                      1. Mostly bills are computer generated these days - and I dont add them up. I do glance through to see that there's nothing that's been "inadvertently" added - like the other week when a second glass of wine had become a bottle of the same stuff. Reputable place so probably genuine error.

                                        1. Yep, that's me over in the dim corner standing on our table with my hand-held calculator held up to the ceiling light trying to add "Maybelle, you had one iced tea but two desserts, BobbiSue, your chicken salad was the delux for an additional fifty cents but BettyAnn only had the dinner salad and water ......." So there I am, feet planted firmly atop our four-top, adding, subtracting and dividing our tab right down to the exact penny and can announce to the entire restaurant who owes what. God help the staff if there's a penny difference ...............................


                                          Life is much too short for me to sweat pennies. I'll look over the bill when I'm paying (lunch with friends) but this chore usually falls to DH who does mental math with lightening speed so no one is aware of his calculations. If there's any discrepency, he excuses himself quietly and handles it.

                                          1. I rarely double check my bill, but a couple of weeks ago i was paying cash... and something just seemed wrong about the amount that was given back. suddenly we realized i had been charged for a side dish that was never delivered. the waiter apologized, went back... and brought me the same amount of change he had the first time.... but without taking back the money he had originally given me.

                                            I tried to explain it to the waiter, who got increasingly confused. the manager came over, heard the story, and told the waiter to give us all our money back. that was fine, but the manager walked away without taking back the double change either. Good deal huh? twelve dollars change twice on a $38 tab that I was not charged for? (And this was after said waiter dropped one of our bowls of pho, broke the bowl and ruined a chair it landed on half way to the floor)

                                            the three of us sort of stared at each other, probably more confused than waiter at that point. figuring there would be hell to pay at the end of the night, i simply left all the "change" on the table and we left. after all the manager had just comped our meal. poor befuddled guy probably couldn't figure out what he got such a great tip for till someone tried to balance the cash drawer a couple of hours later. I haven't been back to see if he still works there.

                                            1. This happened to us at a Stag/stagette combo, with dinner, before the bar. We were eating at a local restaurant (horrible overpriced food that ironically closed down). The server brought all our bills separated per couple. Our bill mistakenly had someone else's entree on it. No worries, she was cool and the maid of honour too be (just met her too!) We were dividing up the bill when we realize that adding it up, the total did not match. Hubby even pulled out his cell phone and used the calculator. We talked to the server, who explained it was right. Again we added it up and by this point the MOH was getting a worried look on her face. She didn't have much money and wasn't happy that one of us would have to fork over the extra $10. It got to the point where we finally talked to the manager about it. He explained to us the total was correct. Hubby and I persisted. He finally just said, "whatever, we don't have time for this. What is it you think you owe?" And we gave him what we believed was the correct total. (+tax +tip). The groom to be thought we were nuts (well I'm sure he only thought I was, as he's dined with us before and I'm picky about how my food is cooked and not afraid to sent it back...but, that's another story) but, hey it was $10. I had never seen this before. Bizarre..

                                              1. As one of the few automatic tab tabulators left, i know the pretax before the restaurant check comes, unless there is an unpriced special in the mix. Errors are quite rare where i have been, except in foreign tourist areas. All errors favor the house.

                                                The real offender is the local major supermarket that will frequently not update the scanner for a few of the specials. They correct the price for me, a small quantity shopper with the sharp eye, but I sincerely doubt that a wagon full shopper even notices. I sometimes rescan the same item a few days later and find the error has not been fixed. They also weigh the fish paper at $9.99 a pound, except for me since I am known to make a polite fuss when that trick is tried.

                                                I am waiting for an error in my favor there so I can feel like I am evening off their karma. No luck so far.

                                                1. I would bet that 50% of supermarket receipts show errors, and that 95% of those mistakes are in the store's favor. A few things to look out for: Produce that is posted as being priced by the pound, but actually charged by the item or bunch; Sale items that are no longer or not yet on sale, despite a large sign indicating the "sale price"; And expensive deli meats substituted for the lesser priced cold cut that was specifically requested. I won't single out any chains specifically, one store literally overcharges me virtually EVERYTIME I shop there and bother to check, as I believe it's business as usual in the industry. I have no doubt that these "mistakes" are done intentionally to deceive the customer. The amazing thing is that even when I catch the store overcharging me, they often refuse to sell me the item for the posted amount. As far as restaurant's overcharging people. The most common thing I see is the tip added on automatically, but not clearly indicated on the check or mentioned by the server. This actually happened to my Mother Thursday night in NYC, right after she was complaining about it. I believe the waitress did tell her after she filled out the credit card slip with an additional tip.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: chazfitzm1

                                                    1) Stop going there
                                                    2) Notify Attorney General or local TV investigative reporter (if they still have one).

                                                    They won't stop cheating you if you do nothing about it.

                                                    Oh, and 3) check everytime. or if the money isn't that important to you, send me the diff!

                                                    1. re: chazfitzm1

                                                      The store here that is known for this practice is a really big chain, and since everything is entered at their headquarters as far as inventory and price changes (that's always their excuse), you can bet that it's on purpose, unless they have morons working for them. At least they are very nice about refunding the money.

                                                      1. I didn't used to, but I always do it now.

                                                        Once my then Boyfriend and I took my friend to nice french bistrot. When the check came my BF immediately grabbed it. I asked if I could help pay since it was my friend. He said no, but after looking at the bill his eyes went very wide, I again offered to pay. He said "Uhm, yeah maybe I could use a little help on this one." and handed me the check. It was well over $1,000! We had apparently ordered 33 steaks! They immediately fixed it, but asked if we wanted the rest of the steaks to go.

                                                        Ever since then I've always checked the bill!

                                                        1. Never assume that because a cash register is involved that the total is correct...it is too easy to miss an item or charge twice, not to mention the intentional mischarges that do happen.

                                                          btw, the same applies for the grocery store. I drive clerks there nuts because I will NOT let them start adding up my stuff or even touch it until I am done unloading stuff from the cart. I want to be able to give my full attention to the register and what is being charged. Just about every time SOMETHING is mischarged. Usually it is a case of a "special" not being recognized as such by the register. Of course, this only works if you have a very good memory for what the specials were.....

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: janetofreno

                                                            Are people usually waiting behind you in line while you unload the cart ?

                                                            1. re: iluvtennis

                                                              "Hey Mary, Uh OH, here she comes again!!!!"

                                                              1. re: iluvtennis

                                                                lol...the good news is that I tend to shop at odd times of the day (I have a day off during the week, and often go Monday am...a slow time for stores...). So there usually ISN'T anyone waiting behind me. Besides, I don't buy much at the grocery store, so there isn't THAT much to unload...

                                                                1. re: janetofreno

                                                                  I'd rather go home and scrutinize the receipt, especially now that they break up the discounts on sale items into two credits on the bottom, one from them and one from the manufacturer it looks like. You need a calculator to see what everything costs bottom line. Like I said, my store is fine with refunds after the fact. Lots of weeks it will be $5 or $10, so worth the time to go over it.

                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                    Not every store does that.

                                                                    Grocery store-wise I'm more likely to keep track of the sale items and watch what I can being rung up. I hate some of the way the new displays work with too much info so it is difficult to easily figure out exactly which is the price on the display.

                                                                    For me it is just too much of a pain to go back. You have to see a clerk or go to the courtesy desk. Sometimes a manager needs to be involved. I'd rather catch it right then and there.

                                                                    I'll have to consider putting the sale stuff at the end. I tend to unlead so all the cold stuff is togeter, paper products, meat, etc. In a big produce store, like Berkeley Bowl, fragile produce at the end.

                                                              2. re: janetofreno

                                                                my policy is to keep the stuff I don't trust them on (more or less the big specials) at the end so that I can check them. Then it doesn't slow the line down. If it's a minor special (50 cents off or something like that) I don't worry about it. You can do this pretty easily and not be obviously not trusting them, and not bothering anyone.

                                                              3. I do, on every meal. Five times out of six the error is in my favor, usually a forgotten beverage.

                                                                If nothing else it keeps reinforcing the lesson that people are not out to take advantage.

                                                                1. I check pretty closely. I tend to trust the addition when it's computerized but glance to make sure I have the right number of items and the price seems close to what the menu said.

                                                                  I have found that our drinks tend to get left off fairly often, but when it's an addition problem or the price on the bill isn't the price on the menu the error is almost always in the restaurant's favor. I let them know either way (once that "cost" us about 30 bucks for two glasses of wine).

                                                                  There was a place where the bill felt pretty high and I did go the calculator route...brought it to the waiter's attention, he went and had it re-added by the hostess came back with it correct and told us "she gets it wrong a lot". I'm guessing most people don't notice. And if people don't notice, why fix it? The staff knows that overcharges happen on a regular basis!? I didn't love the place anyway, but that was a nail in the coffin for ever returning.

                                                                  1. DH never checks it, but I do. I don't scrutinize it, but will just check that we've received everything on the bill and assume everything was coded and calculated correctly. There will be mistakes from time to time, usually in the restaurant's favor. However, once the restaurant forgot to charge us for a decently priced (around $90) half bottle of wine. We let them know and they were very grateful.