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Sep 16, 2010 12:30 PM

Need to tell a servers to bring change?


I read an article entitled "Restaurant Manners 3.0 - Reminiscent and Refined"

On thing that caught my eye was "Request #4: If you pay with cash and desire change, say something..."

As a customer, do we reeeeally need to tell a server to bring the change?
Is this a Seattle thing or nationwide?

  1. What a boob. I live in Seattle and have never encountered the assumption that change is expected to be kept by the server unless I say otherwise. This article provides a good example of why Seattle isn't known for great restaurant service.

    1. I've never had this experience of keeping any change in Oregon. My only gripe is when they put a tip on the bill automatically. This happened to us in Lincoln City. The menu stated automatically adding for 6 or more people and there were only 4 of us, but the tip was added anyway. We'll never go back and will never recommend the restaurant to anyone. Besides, the food was not that great anyway.

      3 Replies
      1. re: boyzoma

        Why didn't you fight it? Legally, they didn't have a leg to stand on.

        1. re: pdxgastro

          By the time we realized it, and since it was only a couple of dollars, it was more trouble than it was worth. But, since we know a lot of people who frequent that area, we are quick to tell them about the charge, service and food (oh yeah, did I mention the service was bad as well?). So now I know for a fact that they have lost business.

          1. re: boyzoma

            and that is what bad servers are hoping for, it's too much trouble, or too embarassing to ask.

      2. People in the restaurant business aren't mind readers.
        If there's "anything" you want ask for it it.
        Don't assume'll be disappointed.

        35 Replies
        1. re: monku

          Do you have to be a mind reader to know you should give change back when the amount tendered is more than the bill???????

          I've occasionally had a server ask if I "want" my change back, which I think is a bit presumptuous but OK, I guess. Usually, if I want to have the server keep the change I'll say either just that or "we're even". Unless you indicate otherwise, getting back the change is not something "you want" it's something you should expect.

          1. re: Midlife

            The point of the post is:
            "As a customer, do we reeeeally need to tell a server to bring the change?"

            YES !!!!

            1. re: monku


              you do NOT have to tell the server to bring the change, it is expected, just like the return of the credit card, the little slip to sign it and the receipt.

              1. re: jfood

                It's "expected", but doesn't happen otherwise there wouldn't be this post.

                You get your credit card back, but you didn't ask the server to "skim" your card an extra time so they could sell it later either.

                1. re: jfood

                  +1 to jfood's -1. And ++1 to pikawicca. I don't really know how else to say it than the way I did. You shouldn't have to ask! The fact that it may happen doesn't change that. The attitude of the guy who wrote the article is very presumptuous. Unless he's told it's 'even' he has absolutely no right to assume so.

                2. re: monku

                  Not in my world. I find the idea that a server feels entitled to my change extremely offensive. If you were buying a shirt in a department store, would you expect the person waiting on you to keep the change? Get real.

                3. re: Midlife

                  A server should NEVER ask if you want change back. You have change coming, the waiter should bring it. It is the same as asking, when you present a credit card, "do you want to add a tip?" I am a very good tipper and I do not need to be prodded.

                  1. re: bhoward

                    jfood took a cab recently in Vegas, fare was $40. he slid his CC through the swipe in the back seat and asked to accept the $3 service fee, no biggie. Next screen was "What tip would you like to leave?" The choices were 30%, 40% 50%. OMG are you kidding?. so jfood hit he continue key. the cabbie looked at the printed recipt and said, "you did not leave a tip?" jfood responded, "I did not like any of your choices, don't try to screw the customer next time."

                    we all need to stand up to this sort of bad behavior on tipping, ehether cab driver or server.

                    1. re: jfood

                      Now THAT'S nervy. Good for you, jfood.

                      1. re: jfood

                        YES!!! If there were more people like jfood, then the cab company would have reprogrammed those insane tip figures to something realistic like 10% / 20% / 30%.
                        30/40/50 is just plain robbery.

                        1. re: Tripeler

                          The ATM fees at the casinos are outrageous too, but people use them all the time.

                          1. re: monku

                            translated into English, "Las Vegas" must mean "Lost Wages".
                            (That one is from the Old Joke's Home.)

                            1. re: Tripeler

                              There's an angle on everything in LV to separate you from your money.
                              You want to play golf in 100+ degree temperatures there's no break there either...$100+ to play.

                            2. re: monku

                              I was in a place that had a $10 atm fee.

                        2. re: bhoward

                          a server, to get you your change, may have to ignore other customers, leave the floor, go to the bartender, wait for the transaction to be entered, wait for the change, all the while ignoring other tables, and then bring the change to you. If you plan on not taking that change the waiter can instead take care of whatever other customers need help, and deal with the bill in a lull moment, or drop the bill off, and come back for the check/tip later.

                          they are not necessarily prodding you for a tip, they may very well be trying to save themselves some circuits of the restaurant, give better service to other customers (rarely are you a waiters only obligation) and generally streamline your and their experience.

                          1. re: thew

                            I am sorry but all of those are part of being a server, including making change for the bill. Your reasoning fails.

                            1. re: thew

                              How is that so much more time-consuming than running a credit card, which must also be returned to the customer after processing?

                              1. re: lavaca

                                @ peterL - yes it part of the job. so what? that doesn't mean one doesn't want their job to run as smoothly as possible. There are many things i do when i work that i wish the customer or others i work with had taken the second to help make run more smoothly.

                                @lavaca: it isn't. but if you don't need the change back and just are going to leave it anyway, in that case (and it is often that case) it saves the server some steps and might make other's dining experiences in the place run more smoothly

                                again - i am not saying the server should just assume the change is theirs - that would piss me off, but i have zero problem with them asking if want my change back or not. i can deal with the issue with either a simple 2 or 3 letter word as an answer (usually followed by a please or thank you) not such a hardship for me, and it makes someone else's life easier. why wouldn't i want to do that when it does not hurt me to do so in any way shape or form?

                                1. re: thew

                                  I am not persuaded. As a practical matter, the better response is for the server to say "I'll be right back with your change". Yes, there will be a few people who will leave the change anyway (in other words, needless work), but this approach will obviate the widespread negative impression "Do you need change?" creates (these boards, which I believe tend to be more server-sympathetic than the populace at large, show evidence of how widespread this is).

                                  Were I in charge of training servers, the better approach would be made clear; it's easier to re-train servers than it is to re-train customers, who for some odd reason don't imagine they are the ones who need to be trained.

                                  1. re: Karl S

                                    thew: You are just plain wrong. That time running cards, etc is part of the job. I guarantee you that most diners will let their wishes be known without you asking. I also guarantee you that at all of the best establishments such questions are not allowed--100%. Even if the change is one cent.

                                    1. re: Karl S

                                      It's interesting to me, Karl, that training, retraining, supervisor feedback, etc. don't seem to get mentioned alot when discussing servers. And I don't know why. This is a critically important job for the restaurant. Some of these are mom and pop and some are corporations but, IMO, it doesn't matter. The owners are missing the boat if they aren't active participants in this function.

                                2. re: thew

                                  Or they could be counting on your being embarrassed enough to give them all your change.

                                  1. re: thew

                                    "I'll be right back with your change"

                                    To which the answer will be either "OK, thanks" OR "We're all set"

                                    It's just a less aggressive way of establishing whether or not change is needed.

                                    We had lunch out a couple of weeks ago, bill was about $28 and my husband gave the waitress $40. She asked if we needed change! I realize that she probably didn't think much about what she was asking, but FFS, a 40% tip??? On OK but not overwhelmingly wonderful service at a bar? Be real.

                                    1. re: coney with everything

                                      i've never felt the question "do you need change back?" was aggressive nor manipulative in any way shape or form. ANd the question would not change my mind about how much i was tipping anyway

                                      9 times out of ten the waiter has not looked at the bill and the amount given before they ask. so they do not know if your hubby has handed them a 40% tip or a 4% tip. in your specific case, did you see her check the bill and the money handed her, or did she just automatically ask when it was all handed to her? i'm guessing the latter.

                                      1. re: thew

                                        I was thinking the same thing when I read most of these replies. Do your servers actually count your money before asking if you need change?

                                        1. re: donovt

                                          Server may have 4-6 tables, everyone of them might have the check down ready to pay. What if you were the server? Go to each table open the book, look at the cash, do the tip calculation in your head? What's the easiest non-invasive thing to say? "do you need change?"

                                          The whole point of the post is
                                          " If you pay with cash and desire change, say something..."

                                          1. re: monku

                                            Actually, as the OP, the whole point of the question was...
                                            Servers should automatically bring change, unless told otherwise. It shouldn't be on the customer to state whether or not they want change.

                                            Personally, I'm not offended by a server asking or commenting that they'll be back with change and I've never had a problem with a server "accidentally" keeping the change. I just found the attitude to be interesting and wondered if "keeping the change" was common experience.

                                            1. re: dave_c

                                              what kind of change, though, should the server bring, "automatically?"

                                              if amount left in the envelope equals bill total plus 20%, shall the server assume that the customer is a 10% or 15% tipper, and take the time (away from other customers, and delaying co-workers' service to the establishments' customers at large) to get the change, through a bartender or manager with cash till access?

                                              if the server has 6 tables, all paying simultaneously because they are all trying to get to the same ball game/opera/conference schedule, three paying their bill with cc and three with cash, may the server ask in plain language whether & how the cash paying tables would like their change, or is the server still obligated to "automatically" stand and wait for change, while her/his co-workers are all trying to get same, through the services of one bartender, who is also trying to close out tabs of folks going to same event? what if only one table needs change, yet all 6 tables are delayed-- is the server not obligated to give good service to the 5 tables that have nothing to do with the cash transaction requiring change? and what if in the same scenario, no cash tables need change? should the server "automatically" run around getting change, rather than getting the credit card slips to the tables so that everyone can leave?

                                              if a table is ready to leave, pays their tab in cash, and also asks for the food to be boxed, should the server "automatically" get the change, at the delay of boxing the food, or is it permissible for the server to box the food and ask about change, to expedite the party's desired exit?

                                              why can't servers be human beings, able to ask a simple question, and worthy of a simple answer? why must they be seen only as only inefficient automatons and inadequate mind readers, and their livelihood gets dinged each time they don't perform an "automatic" task quickly enough, or in correct denomination, or in the correct order, or woe to the server who doesn't read minds well, as s/he gets stiffed when s/he guesses wrong, or when s/he is so rude as to presume to ask a question with regard to a few dollars. . .

                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                We can make up all types of scenarios to illustrate our point.

                                                I've never said a server can't ask questions. In fact, I stated that I would not be offended if the server asked.

                                                My scenario, based upon the experience of other's on this post... If a server picks up the cash and walks away without asking the question, the customer's expectation is to receive change. That seems like common sense.

                                                1. re: dave_c

                                                  This whole thread is about common sense.
                                                  The perspective differs from the customer and server.

                                                  1. re: monku

                                                    Yes, that is so true.

                                                    As the old saying goes, "The customer is always right." :-D

                                                    1. re: dave_c

                                                      I'm continually amazed at how people see the same thing so differently. To me the server has absolutely no 'right' to assume no change is required. I DO think it would be helpful for the guest to say so, but I just don't see the guest's obligation in this on an equal plane with the server's.

                                                  2. re: dave_c

                                                    uh, right. . . i am sure that my far fetched "made up" scenarios where many patrons of an establishment are simultaneously trying to get to the same event, or are paying cash and asking for food to be boxed, or several servers must wait for the change-out services of one bartender or manager with till access. . . are entirely fiction. these scenarios would, of course, never ever occur in real life. in fact i've also never seen a thread on chowhound with a title like: "where to grab lunch before the ballgame" or "dinner close to the opera" or "good eats near conference center in city x." ;-P

                                                    i would agree with your scenario above, with a major caveat. this would work out only if the customer was the only person in the world, and the server had nothing to do but serve that person-- but in reality it will only delay service to everyone else, because the server must deal with the cash emergency to enable the customer to leave, while everyone else waits for beverage, food, and other service.

                                                    the server, however feels under obligation to serve *all* of her/his customers, and would not want to privilege one party over all others. if you are saying that the average restaurant customer thinks they are the only person in the world, that's interesting, and it would explain a lot-- but i think the server is in a minefield no matter what. if s/he walks away with the cash and no convo w customer, s/he is now obligated to bring change, quite as you say-- and unlike other scenarios in the restaurant, the server just can't leave a significant amt of cash sitting around unattended at the service station while s/he attends to other tasks for other customers-- s/he now has to see it through, attending the cash, until the time the change is returned, in full, to the customer, who may or may not decide that the denominations of the bills is wrong (ding tip)-- or more likely, the customer did not actually need the change at all, and yet two tables waited for beverage service and one table's food sat under the heat lamp while the server fetched the unneeded change. to try to avoid this frustration and delay for other customers they serve, many servers will ask a simple and direct question about the change. and as so many people in the thread have stated that this is so horrific to ask, so unbecoming to one in this servant station-- again, the server gets dinged. the server is also dinged if s/he does not magically know the amount contained in the envelope, without touching it tableside, and be able to do the split-second percentage calculation of the overage, again without checking against the printed bill, with tax, since this total is under the money. . . again, as stated by others in the thread, if the overage amounts to 25% of total bill rather than 20% and server haplessly asks if the table needs change or not, s/he is being terribly and horribly cheeky and rude. dinged, i'm sure, and i would assume the customers would be offended for weeks or months, wouldn't return to that, or any establishment who would hire such a morally deficient person, and they would be quite right to diss the service at the restaurant to anyone who will listen. or am i reading all of these "common sense" comments in the thread wrong? do you see how the server literally cannot win, nor be treated like a human being, except if s/he were able to ask wrt bill payment/change, and then have the customer give a simple direct, non-personal, professional answer? that's the real fictional scenario, though-- isn't it? it isn't rational or just, but it's so much more entertaining for the customer for them to be able to power trip on another person with arbitrary personal "rules" wrt tips, and if the server attempts to level the playing field with a simple question, you have folks yelling "no fair."

                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                      Simple question...
                                                      How does a server decide who to make change for? especially if the server and the customer do not say anything to one another?

                              2. you receive a tab for x, you give x+y. until such time as you tell the server that y belongs to the server, the y belongs to the customer.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: jfood

                                  +1. I never understand why some people use a different set of standards in a restaurant than they do other places.

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    Exactly. I will tell you if I don't need change, otherwise I expect for the server to bring me my y for me to do with as I wish.

                                    1. re: Lixer

                                      Our policy: Question asked = $1.00 off the tip.

                                      1. re: buttertart

                                        You take a dollar off the tip just because they ask you if you need change? Wow.

                                        I agree with people...a server should never just assume the money left is theirs. You should most definitely not have to ask for your change back, but why in the world do people get mad if a server simply asks if you need change. Is it the most professional service? No. Is it a question that makes my blood pressure rise and causes me to start docking tips? No.

                                        1. re: iluvtennis

                                          I have posted on this thread 3 or 4 times and never said I got mad if a server asked. If that is the worst thing that happens to me in a day I have had a great day. It is unprofessional and I don't like it but I don't get mad and I do not dock the tip.

                                          1. re: iluvtennis

                                            I was being flip, although I do find the question somewhat irritating. I would never have presumed to ask such a question when I was waiting tables.

                                    2. It's very passive aggressive of me, but I almost always pay with a credit card so I don't have to deal with that sort of awkwardness.

                                      I've noticed sometimes when my husband pays with cash, that black holder thingy will sit on the table long enough that he'll decide he didn't want change anyway, so we leave. Even when I know we've paid and tipped, I feel like we're skulking out when we do that, like we didn't get our final "permission" to leave. So, again, I just avoid all that and pay with cash.