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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 anything....you'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.

                                      1. Let me throw this out there just for discussion purposes.

                                        Let's say your tab was $14.95
                                        And let's say you leave a $10 and two $5 bills.

                                        Same question ... "need to tell a server [sic] to bring change?"

                                        27 Replies
                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          If the bill is $14.95....the net w/o sales tax might be around $13.
                                          $13 + 15% tip is aroundt $2.
                                          You want to tip 15%, then you need to tell the server you want change.

                                          1. re: monku

                                            Not to be argumentative, but I truly don't get that. Why would anyone assume anything other than I'm asking for singles for a tip? I don't think I've ever had this happen so don't know why I'm even participating in this discussion :)

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              "Why would anyone assume anything other than I'm asking for singles for a tip?"

                                              A server could also assume:

                                              1. The extra $5 was the tip
                                              2. The customer simpy provided an extra $5 by mistake

                                              Both of which I think are just as reasonable as assuming the diner wanted five singles back.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                Clearly I undercommunicated. What I should have written is that it's darn cheeky for the server to make any assumption that would benefit him/her rather than the customer.

                                            2. re: monku

                                              "You want to tip 15%, then you need to tell the server you want change.

                                              So are you saying that in that situation, it is reasonable for the server not to bring change back?

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                33.3% tip isn't out of the question sometimes especially for a guy like you.
                                                Some servers think they deserve that and more.

                                                My point is don't assume anything and ask....you won't be disappointed.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  "So are you saying that in that situation, it is reasonable for the server not to bring change back?"
                                                  Yep. Just as it would be reasonable for a server to keep the change if you paid $18 in that situation. At that point, it would be an easy assumption to make honestly, and if a diner wants change, it's on them to speak up. If you want change made in that situation, what's wrong with speaking up? I've had servers ask me if I want change even in situations like that, but if they didn't, I wouldn't hold it against them.

                                                  But in situations were extra bills were not provided by the diner, it's never come up anywhere that's I've eaten for a server to assume that any change is theirs.

                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                    cowboyardee: Surely you are putting us on. The server should never assume that ANY amount over the amount of the check is for them. I can't believe this is even an issue.

                                                    1. re: bhoward

                                                      IT would be nice and professional if the server asks. But if the check is for $15 and you give him $18, are you kidding me that you think he's completely unjustified in figuring the extra $3 is for him?

                                                      My point wasn't really about what the server should do. Ideally he should ask or just bring change back, but I think there are circumstances where it's understandable not to. My real point was about what the customer should do. And if the customer wants a five broken, he should ask -make it clear - not be all passive aggressive about it. Since when is that unbelievable?

                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                        cowboyardee: Disagree totally--it is NEVER on the customer to "make it clear" that he wants change back. If the customer wants to leave any amount that is up to him or her and the server does not need to ask. Let's review: The diner leaves a $100 bill with the check--if the bill is $12 the server doesn't ask if the diner wants change; if the bill is $50 the server doesn't ask; if the bill is $82 the server doesn't ask; if the bill is $99.99 the server doesn't ask. Next, the diner leaves 5 $20 bills--if the bill is $12 the server doesn't ask; if the bill is $50 the server doesn't ask; if the bill is $82 the server doesn't ask; if the bill is $99.99 the server doesn't ask. The server leaves the change. Period.

                                                        1. re: bhoward

                                                          um, no. there are many pragmatic reasons to open up a conversational question about cash payment. cash is frequently the default when friends are going dutch. so let's say two folks pay a $22 tab with two $20s. if they are partners/spouses, then change of a $10, a $5 and three $1s for the table would be in most cases *correct.* but it would actually be very rude for the server to make any assumptions about other folks' intimate relationships, now wouldn't it? by asking a simple, verbal question re: cash payment, the server saves her/himself from making a much bigger faux pas, and enables the folks at the table to give simple-to-follow, but not necessarily intuitive, instructions to the server, so they can split the tab and tip evenly: "we need change, and we'd like it all back in $1s, please."

                                                          the server opens the bill envelope and sees green and asks re: change for the customers' convenience-- it opens the floor for the customer to ask for a buck back in quarters for the parking meter, and similar. as has been done to death on other threads, there are very real potential delays and backups at the establishment's *one* or maybe two cash tills, which the server is trying to avoid for everyone's sake.

                                                          times and payment options have changed since the 1950s, when, i'm told, the servers wore roller skates and had cool little aprons that dispensed coins. i'd imagine there would be little excuse for one of those servers to not immediately give exact cash change--upon cash payment-- but for goodness sake, today, cut the server a break and just verbally tell her/him what you want re: cash. it's a simple business question, and people in business talk about money all the time.

                                                          i'm asked this "taboo" question (which i don't find offensive) frequently because i frequently pay in cash, and i often respond "yes i need change, but there is no rush." --the server is often palpably grateful for the last five words. try it.

                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                            hey S

                                                            it's amazing how a little mature conversation can keep a great evening on track. jfood can come up with a long list of taboo questions and "would yoiu like chage" is not even in the same state.

                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                              there are formal and informal, "rude" and "polite" ways to ask essentially the same business question: "may i bring you change"-- i agree, Jfood. i do not find any variation of the question offensive in the least, but some folks are looking for an excuse to ding the server who is just trying to give good service to everyone, not just the person who's transaction could delay service to others.

                                                              it's like the very common question the server asks a customer when the customer orders coffee: "cream or sugar?" if the customer drinks coffee black, s/he responds in the negative, and then the server saves time and a trip (during which s/he could have been attending to other customers), the restaurant saves waste, and the customer doesn't get unwanted clutter on the table. by asking the simple question, the server opens the floor for the customer to make a special request-- even though 95% of coffee drinkers will reply either "yes" or "no" wrt to cream/sugar, the other 5% may now ask: "is skim milk or soy available?" asking the initial question enables the server to give better service and the customer has a better chance of getting what s/he actually wants. only a very entitled person would say "the server should just bring the coffee service out whether i need it or not, with light cream, skim, *and* lemon peel, and if i don't want it, they can just dump it in the trash when i'm done!" ;-P in fact, i'm just waiting to see a variation of that as the op of a new NAF thread!

                                                            2. re: soupkitten

                                                              And you have seen "two folks pay a $22 tab with two $20s" and not say a word about "going dutch" ? If nothing is said, how does the server know? If nothing is said, the server should return $18. If something is said about a division for "going dutch" that is totally different. This is not rocket science--if the patron says nothing the server brings the change.

                                                              1. re: bhoward

                                                                yes, i have. the folks at the table are not required to disclose their personal relationship, or who will be paying, or the method of payment (assuming multiple payment options are available) to the server at the outset of service. i've seen folks meet for lunch, and then at the end someone spontaneously treats their friend by buying. it does happen. sometimes the person the server may erroneously assume is paying, is not. sometimes the relationships are different than they appear. ive been out with my younger brother (i am female) and had servers make incorrect assumptions, and we've chosen to think it's all very hilarious, rather than choosing to be horribly offended. humanity is diverse, and by opening a dialogue and asking hospitality questions, people in service try to engage customers in the effort to get them the most positive experience possible. by being standoffish, aloof, or classist, many customers seem to try to have the most negative experience possible. this i've seen many times: an individual who refuses to dialogue with another person because a simple question is seen as "beneath" themselves-- and they cut themselves off from having positive experiences, and they are baffled and exasperated when they experience delays which could have been easily avoided with a few simple words. there is always someone who is determined to have a bad time, but they seem to be content that everyone else is wrong but them.

                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                  very well written soupy. it is amazing how many people think the server is a servant. and how dare they think they are on the same level as the customer. can't imagine how that would play in some your restaurants in MSP. could you imagine sitting at the bar at BLG and getting offended by the bartender asking "how did you like that and can I recommend the egg and lobster."

                                                                  When customers forget that the server is there to help and guide and allow the customer to enjoy their down time versus this persistent us v them mentality, everyone suffers. As jfood has stated numerous times. eating in a restaurant is a partnership, each has a role and responsibilites and when that is forgotten, everyone suffers.

                                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                                  nope. until such time as you tell the server s/he can keep the change then you need NOT tell the server. S/he MUST bring it back.

                                                  BTW - if, in your case, jfood were to see the server working other tables assuming the ti were his, then bad news for server, probably lost a fair part of that tip.

                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    "nope. until such time as you tell the server s/he can keep the change then you need NOT tell the server. S/he MUST bring it back."

                                                    Whoa! Really?

                                                    Again, just for discussion purposes, what if the server brought back your original $5 bill (plus a nickel).

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      jfood would reach into his wallet take out and leave $3 or if he did not have, he would have asked the server to change the $5 into singles.

                                                      what is jfood missing? please do not spring a bear trap on his foot. he has been up since 4

                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                        And I've had that similar kind of thing happen....they don't know what the extra money is for unless you tell them you want change.

                                                        1. re: monku

                                                          let's see:

                                                          1 - the customer wants change of a $5 to leave the appropriate tip
                                                          2 - the customer misread the bill and thought it was $15.95 and not $14.95
                                                          3 - the two $5s stuck together
                                                          4 - the $5, representing a 33% tip is what the customer wanted.

                                                          yeah you're correct, glad the server chose the one that benefits him and screws the customer.

                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                            No, server thinks jfood is a generous tipper.

                                                            1. re: monku


                                                              flattery will get you that lincoln

                                                        2. re: ipsedixit

                                                          Now THAT I have experienced and it annoys me. It has felt like the server is manipulating me into leaving that five-er rather than something closer to an appropriate %. And like jfood, I just ask for it to be broken.

                                                      2. re: ipsedixit

                                                        ipsedixit: the server should bring change unless the patron says "the rest is yours" or something similar.

                                                        1. re: bhoward

                                                          So if the bill was $29.95 and you provided an extra $5, would the situation be different? Or say the bill was $49.95? Can the waiter not even assume if he's being shorted?

                                                          If you want the server to break the $5 into singles, you are asking him to provide a service. So ask. Don't put a busy server in a situation where it would be easy to make an honest misunderstanding and then hold it against them. Is it beneath people to open their mouths in situations like this?

                                                        2. re: ipsedixit

                                                          For your example, unless you stated explicitly you didn't need change, the server should automatically bring you change.

                                                          A smart and honest server would break the $5 into singles. A sleazy server will bring the 5 back with the hopes you'll be stuck leaving the $5.

                                                        3. this topic has been discussed to death on these boards.

                                                          servers are trying to save time, not rip you off.

                                                          23 Replies
                                                          1. re: thew

                                                            that is opinion, not fact

                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                              its an opinion based on experience

                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                likewise - its an opinion based on experience

                                                              2. re: jfood

                                                                It's pretty much fact.

                                                                Average servers aren't trained to automatically bring you change, as it's a pain in the ass at most places and time consuming. I always made a point to say, "I'll be right back with your change", but I rarely see that myself. Do I really think the server is out to screw me? Of course not- the majority of time they don't have any idea how much cash you've left (or if you've left cash at all!), as they haven't even really glanced at it, or it's inside the booklet. They just see that it's cash, not a credit card.

                                                                Please believe me that no one is trying to take advantage of you; they're simply trying to negate a lengthy step that keeps them from the next item on the laundry list of things they have to do at an extremely fast pace. The verbiage could be better, but it's an innocent "mistake".

                                                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                  I don't think this issue is really all about whether or not a server is trying to get away with anything .............while some servers may certainly employ a strategy that tries to take advantage of the circumstance. I've never felt the server is obligated to ask if you want change (I agree that they don't know how much you've left until after they've left your table). What I DO think is that, in the absence of specific direction from the guest, it's completely inappropriate and presumptuous for them to assume ANYTHING. Like it or not they are obligated to bring back your change.

                                                                  It may well be that the time it takes to do that is then taken from the service of other guests, but I have to conclude that the obligation to get it straight earlier falls on the server much more than on the guest. While it's considerate to try to help the server navigate the question, on balance I think the 'burden' here is with the server and I'm honestly having a lot of trouble comprehending the thought process that concludes otherwise.

                                                                  1. re: Midlife

                                                                    I was more commenting on jfood's line of thought that the server is trying to rip guests off.

                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                      no jfood is stating that 1 + 1 = 2 is a fact. the idea that 100% of the times the server is trying to be efficient is not a fact but an opinion. it has happened to jfood and it has happened to others, ergo not a fact but an opinion.

                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                        jfood, are you finding this one as mind-boggling as I am? I usually have more than average understanding of differing positions, but this one is really an eye-opener. I don't get the idea that the server has some right to assume any change is theirs unless you say otherwise...... and I'd love to believe that all servers keep the change automatically to be efficient, but that makes absolutely no sense to me. It's often more 'efficient' to run a red light too.

                                                                        1. re: Midlife

                                                                          no not any more midboggling than many other threads.

                                                                          and there are both goad and bad servers and good and bad customers.

                                                                          if the bill is $14.95 and the customer leaves three 5s and 3 ones it is probably the tip
                                                                          if the bill is $14.95 and the customer leaves a $50 it is probably not the tip
                                                                          if the bill is $14.95 and the customer leaves four 5s it is probably the customer asking for singles but can go either way
                                                                          if the bill is $14.95 and the customer leaves a 20, there are lots of reasons

                                                                          if the customer does not want change just say "it's yours"
                                                                          if the customer does not say something, the server can ask if the customer would like change (if the customer thinks it's rude then customer falls into get a life category),
                                                                          if the customer says nothing and the server does not ask, just bring the change. if the server does not bring the change then server needs to accept the fact that the customer may ding the tip significantly if the customer sits there and waits and then needs to flag the server down. in fact it could be a zippo

                                                                          but in the end the day it is the customer's money to do with as s/he sees fit.

                                                                          1. re: Midlife

                                                                            What's mindboggling is that this discussion continues.

                                                                          2. re: jfood

                                                                            Okay, rephrase. The server trying to scam you is an EXTREME rarity. It's really done to save time.

                                                                      2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                        Sounding a bit harsh here, but the restaurant's failure to properly organize itself for easy movement of money is not my problem, and it's not my responsibility to make solving the problem easier on the server. And I find asking if you want change to be tacky even at the typical chain/beach dive.

                                                                        I've got no problems with "I'll be right back with your change" because it offers a logical point where the diner can specify what he wants done with the money rather than the server assuming that the total amount is for them.

                                                                        1. re: beachmouse

                                                                          "but the restaurant's failure to properly organize itself for easy movement of money is not my problem"

                                                                          jfood could not figure the words for this without sounding snarky but you did nicely, ty and totally agree.

                                                                          "and it's not my responsibility to make solving the problem easier on the server'

                                                                          Actually you did find a solution by your second paragraph. That logical point is perfect and can only occur if people would get off their high horses about that question or comment being rude.

                                                                          1. re: beachmouse

                                                                            honestly how is saying "i'll be right back w/ your change" and "do you want change back?" any different if it indeed really means the same thing?????

                                                                            this is a serious question.

                                                                            i'm pretty sure i have so many other issues that actually deserve my attention, that i can't imagine getting riled up over this.

                                                                            1. re: thew

                                                                              but there are only 102 posts on this thread. surely, not every (fascinating) facet of this conundrum has been appropriately discussed.

                                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                                jfood has no problem with either so long as the server did not take a look in the case see a hundie on a $30 tab and state the latter.

                                                                                but to answer your question and since you stated you were a writer jfood is sure you understand the nuances of each.

                                                                                - the first is an acknowledement that the change is indeed the customers and the server will bring back the change.
                                                                                - the second is not such an acknowledgement but brings into play the gray area. So mr customer, whose meney is this I am holding. it puts the onus on the customer in a face to face manner.

                                                                                the last touchpoint of the evening has so many chances of going well or badly, causing some ill effects and has the potential for taking defeat from the joys of victory for both the restaurant and the customer.

                                                                                1. re: thew

                                                                                  Not riled up at all......... just have too much time for issues like this.

                                                                                  Actually I started to go into distinction between the two but got half-way through and realized I wouldn't really care as the customer. While the second statement may be viewed as a bit presumptuous, it's fine with me. If I don't want change I will always tell the server anyway, so if he/she says it first...... OK. The thing that would frost me is if the server just kept the change without asking.............. something that seems to be defended by other posters here.

                                                                                2. re: beachmouse

                                                                                  It is difficult to get change at virtually every restaurant, since most better establishment don't have a cashier and a register, a la supermarket.

                                                                                  I agree with thew below, that this is all semantics. If someone asks you if you want change, you say yes and receive said change. Why overanalyze something so simple?

                                                                                  Some people aren't happy unless they aren't happy. Geez.

                                                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                    Because that phrasing works for Askers, but does not work for Guessers, who would be mortified to ask it that way were the shoes reversed, so it acts as a signal of presumption (however unintended) to them. And America is a blend of Asking/Guessing cultures, each feeling manipulated by the other. But since there is a way to phrase it that satisfies Guessers without ticking off Askers, go that way....


                                                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                                                      Yeah, that's just flat out ridiculous. Some people just need to grow a pair and not let the miniscule stuff make them cry. There are real problems in the world.

                                                                            2. re: thew

                                                                              The server is trying to save time for themselves at the inconvenience of the customer?

                                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                                +1 on both counts. It is to save time and help OTHER customers. Sometimes it can take a long time to make change - you don't have the right change, you have to wait in line for the register, you have to wait for a manager to get you change out of the office, all at the expense of the service of other tables. Your server is servicing all tables at once and everything they do is to be expedient and save steps. That's why they bring your drink and other table's drinks, your app and another table's app.

                                                                                1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                  If it were really all about time and efficiency, no one would eat out. They'd stay home and open a can of soup. Almost everything you do in a restaurant is a waste of time from someone's point of view. Sure, anything that makes your job easier is potentially going to benefit other customers for whom you now have more time, but when you dispose of all the niceties of eating out, at a certain point people are not going to bother.

                                                                              2. The server should automatically bring back the change or at least ask the customer if they want the change back, even if it's a bunch of coins. The tip and the change from the bill are two separate things. It's up to the customer to decide the tip, not for the wait staff to automatically assume.

                                                                                DH and I had 2 glasses of wine in NYC, bill came out to $15 and we paid with a $100 bill, the only cash we had. Waiter took the $100 without saying a word and we waited... 15 minutes and still no server and no change. DH finally went to get the waiter whose response was "oh you wanted change?" Uh yeah! Do you REALLY think we wanted to leave you a $85 tip for 2 glasses of house wine?!?

                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: monku

                                                                                    I've dined numerous times in NYC over the years, and have never encountered behavior that is tantamount to theft. If I did, I would raise cain and strongly suggest that the offending waiter be fired.

                                                                                    1. re: monku

                                                                                      actually i find that behavior in any place that survives primarily on tourist dollars, and rarely ever in nyc

                                                                                    2. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                                      just trying to save time...yeah right.

                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                        not in that case. and i think the server needs to ask if you want the change, and not assume.

                                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                                          i know.. just trying to save time my arse... he just lost his tip instead (giving attitude is sooo not the way to get good tips)

                                                                                        2. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                                          "The server should automatically bring back the change."

                                                                                          That is the right answer. There is nothing further to add. It is tacky to ask the customer if they want change. If the customer doesn't need change, they can tell the server.

                                                                                        3. That is a real pet peeve of mine, when servers don't bring you change and just assume that they were being given the tip. People seem to forget that tipping is theoretically a *gratuity* not a surcharge.

                                                                                          14 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: observor

                                                                                            I am a server and would NEVER assume that the change is mine, that is a great way to ensure that the customer will not return. Also if the server is in a rushed situation one way to see politely if the customer needs change is to grab that book and say, thank you I will be right back with your change. If the customer does not desire change they will usually say, that is for you.

                                                                                            1. re: foodsnob14

                                                                                              I think foodsnob's solution is ideal -- without looking at the amount, the server should say "Thank you, I'll be right back with your change" (or, maybe I'm in the minority here, but I don't mind if the server says, "Would you like me to bring back your change?"). That way they're not assuming anything and still potentially saving time. Personally, when I pay with cash I usually just round up and don't ask for change, unless there's a huge discrepancy between the amount of cash I have on hand and the amount of tip I plan to leave, so I like it when the server asks -- that way, I can get up and leave as soon as s/he takes the money. If the server does not ask and I don't say anything, I would expect to be brought change, like everyone else here.

                                                                                              1. re: Pia

                                                                                                I also feel that asking if they would like change is rude. You can kill 2 birds with one stone by grabbing it and saying thank you I will be righ back with your change.

                                                                                                1. re: foodsnob14

                                                                                                  What is wrong with asking if you need change? It's a 2 second conversation that might save the server some better spent time. Anybody who finds that question rude is way too easily offended.

                                                                                                  1. re: foodsnob14

                                                                                                    That's totally sematics, though. I mean, it's like you're desperately looking for something to get pissed about. Isn't life too short?

                                                                                                    Breathe in, breathe out.

                                                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde


                                                                                                      would you like a menu
                                                                                                      would you like more wine
                                                                                                      would you like change or any other words that convey the thought.

                                                                                                      then a simple yes or no


                                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                                        As always, well said jfood!!

                                                                                                      2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                        An awful lot of what gives society its veneer of civilization is semantics. Probably about half of etiquette is semantics. When you present someone with a bill in a restaurant you don't stand there and say, "I need x amount of money" with your hand out. Or I hope you don't. Of course in reality, you do a lot of things to make your job easier; everyone does. But a customer doesn't want to feel like too many things are streamlined for the waiter's convenience; otherwise it's not a dining experience. Hey, stacking plates is quicker for you too; go ahead and do that.

                                                                                                        Flipping it around so the customer's being judged for having a reaction to any work-saving measure is getting it backwards. The question is, is this something you want to be doing? If so, great, and let the customers who don't like it go somewhere else. Some will, and you'll have the kinds of customers you want. Everyone wins.

                                                                                                        1. re: bibi rose

                                                                                                          I don't gather from this post that guests are feeling like things are too streamlined via the, "Would you like change?" question. It seems to hurt their feeeeeeeelings. Waaaaah.

                                                                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                            they seem ashamed to say yes or no. i need to start hitting them up for money

                                                                                                    2. re: Pia

                                                                                                      As has been said already, this has been discussed to death on previous boards, but let me tell you, when it's a busy saturday and you have tables waiting for your attention and you say "I'll be right back with your change" and the customer says "ok" and then you wait in line for 10 minutes for the register, or for the manager to change your 20, or go around asking people if they have change for a $50, or for the manager to go to the office and get it, and then you come back and give them the change, and then they leave you the whole amount of the change, you just wasted your time, and made others wait when the table didn't want the change after all. It's not a magic fix to simply say "I'll be right back with your change" unless the other party only says "ok" if they WANT the change. I've made change countless times and taken away from other tables' service only to come back and find the table vacated that you get to saying, "Would you like change back?" Because you really can't afford to take the time if they don't want the change in the first place.

                                                                                                      1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                        Aren't you a mind reader?
                                                                                                        I find it unbelievable the customer can't vocalize their intentions to the server when the bill is picked up. It's almost like it's beneath them. Change-No Change?...be the sophisticated diners you make yourselves out to be.

                                                                                                        1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                          I haven't read the other boards, this topic is something new to me.

                                                                                                          Since it's difficult to make change and the customer's lack of comment makes it okay for a server to automatically keep the change?

                                                                                                          1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                            Pardon me, but if making change is such an ordeal then the problem is with your restaurant and manager, not the customer. It's a business where some percentage of your customers will pay with cash and require change. It's incumbent on the owners/managers to be prepared for that. Don't get angry at the customers because you work at a poorly managed restaurant.

                                                                                                    3. I read the other articles in this series, and it's clear that they were written by either an overgrown spoiled child or someone trying to make restaurant employees look bad in general. The common thread on his advice is that the duty of a customer at a restaurant is to make the server's job as easy as possible (by, for example, never, ever getting confused or mishearing something), ask as little of him as possible, and leave at least a 20% tip no matter what. We really ought just to ignore these sorts of people.

                                                                                                      1. Having read all 92 replies, it's time I chime in................
                                                                                                        If I put down money and don't want change. I get up and leave. If I see the waiter/waitress I say: thanks, the change is for you.
                                                                                                        If I want change, I sit and when the waiter/waitress picks up the folder or bills, I say, sorry I need change for the tip.
                                                                                                        I'm not offended if the server asks if I want change, if I didn't I would have already left the table.

                                                                                                        1. This summer I was in Istanbul and I took a Bosporus boat trip. At the end of the strait I had lunch at one of the (touristy) seaside restaurants. When I got the bill it included a service charge. I paid... and the waiter kept all my small change (though he brought back the larger bills). When I asked for ALL of my change back, he refused and said it was a tip. When I pointed out that my bill included a service charge, he implied that it did not cover HIS services, but rather those of the restaurant (changing table linens was the example he cited). My natural instinct would have been to flip out over the principle of the matter, but because I was on holidays I decided to just drop it and not fight over the equivalent of a dollar or something. But it was still pretty bad customer service!

                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: Jetgirly

                                                                                                            Wow. I've never had that happen when traveling domestically or internationally. Like you, I'd have been inclined to pitch a hissy fit. But, hopefully, I too would have resisted the temptation.

                                                                                                            1. re: Jetgirly

                                                                                                              there were some retaurants in italy last year that had a fee to sit and that service charge was definitely for the restaurant. so you need to understand local customs when travelling.

                                                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                But it's not a local custom... it is a restaurant rip-off in an area with a lot of tourists who might not even notice they hadn't received all of their change back. In three weeks in Turkey, I would say AT MOST 10% of restaurants even charged a service charge... and all of those restaurants returned ALL of my post-service-charge change, for me to leave or take as I saw fit. NO other restaurants EVER kept part of my change, regardless of whether or not they also charged a service charge. I then continued on the road for four more weeks (including some pretty poor areas, like Trans-Dniester), and didn't have any similar experiences. It was one bad apple, not a local custom.

                                                                                                            2. There is a superb grocery store near my home, Publix, where the checkout person routinely asks if I want to donate some money or buy a pre-packaged grocery bag for a charity. (The charity changes almost weekly.) I routinely tell them "No." It always irritates me because it makes me look like some cheap creep who doesn't care about the poor. My real, unspoken answer is: "I don't know anything about the charity to which you are asking me--on the spot--to donate. If I had that information, I might prefer to donate my money to another charitable organization which I find more deserving. At any rate, I generally donate by check so that I can keep track of my donations and then deduct them from my taxes at the end of the year--better for me and better for the charitable organization because I can donate more, due to the tax break I get. So stop trying to embarrass me into donating in front of a line of other customers. It won't work, okay?" (And I acknowledge that embarrassment may not be the purpose of the question, but it certainly is the result and Publix management certainly ought to consider this.) This brings us to the topic at hand.

                                                                                                              The server at a restaurant is sometimes pulling a similar gambit when the, "Do you want change?" question is asked. Yeah, I want change, always, unless I choose to say to you, "Keep the change," or something to that effect.

                                                                                                              Is the question asked innocently often? Certainly. But that does not prevent it from being inappropriate for a server to ask.

                                                                                                              J Food wrote upthread, "It is amazing how many people think the server is a servant." While I generally agree with you, J Food, and I find your comments on these boards very insightful, I don't in this instance. The server is a servant. I'm a lawyer. When I take someone on as a client, I'm a servant for the duration of our relationship. No big deal.

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: gfr1111

                                                                                                                maybe jfood should clarify. Yes you are a lawyer and are you are there to serve during the duration, totally agree, maybe the adjective subservient should be added to the post. Many think that the server is there to do whatever asked, is subservient and of a lower caste. That is the nuance to jfood's comment, "do what I tell you, do not speak with me, ask me questions or look me in the eye. I am the mighty customer."

                                                                                                              2. Folks, like most tipping threads, this one has gone rapidly downhill. We're going to lock it now.