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Deceptive / Stealing by the Server?


First Post

I went for a take-out sandwich today and the cost was $5.50 plus tax, about $5.80. Gave the server a $20. He returns with a ten and five singles spread like a poker hand so I could clearly see it was $15. I left $1 of the five singles. Seemed deceptive but not my problem. Seemed like the server was stealing a $1 from the owner. The place is a bar-diner type with tables. I ordered at the cashier and a server brought the paper bag with the sandwich inside, plus some free chips.

  1. I would have assumed that he made a mistake counting. Why would a cashier risk having their drawer short, in hopes of making an extra 20 cents if you left a dollar behind?

    1. sorry, if he doesn't even attempt to make correct change...or even offer a lame excuse like they're out of nickels and dimes, then he's made one more assumption than I'm willing to overlook.

      His 20 cents would have been his tip.

      3 Replies
      1. re: sunshine842

        I'm not sure what you're getting at. The OP was due $14.20 in change and received $15. What assumption has the server made?

        1. re: small h

          sorry, I was posting without my required daily allotment of caffeine, and went the wrong direction on the change.

          Maybe THAT's what happened! The waiter was still half asleep....

          1. re: small h

            yah. someone's math is off - i was afraid it was mine for a second

        2. its 80 cents......I think you are over analyzing.

          3 Replies
          1. re: joe777cool

            That 80 comes out of the profit for that store. Repeat it a hundred times a day every day and you've got problems.

            Something's up, probably the server being lazy and not wanting to count change.

            1. re: chileheadmike

              How do you know it comes out of the till and not out of the servers kitty/bank? A lazy server not wanting to make change is a more logical explanation than someone skimming $80 dollars a day in change. All restaurants do periodical cash-outs, someone doesnt get away with skimming very long.

              1. re: joe777cool

                I've read here of places where servers are required to make their own change and don't bother with coin at all so they don't have to carry it on them. It seems unlikely a server would short-change themselves that large a % on every check, but this could be the explanation.

          2. You don't know how the server is squaring up with the owner at the end of the day.

            I'd like to think s/he is being shrewd in hoping that you would hand $2 as a tip ($1.20 profit to the server, rather than 20ยข) because a lot of people would.

            1. First, welcome to chowhoud, its a great place to talk about all aspects of eating! (can be addiciting, especially during work, ha)

              I've notice that a lot of "take out" mom and pop type places, often will not give me exact change or have some wiggle room with pricing. It could of been chashier mistake, or common practice at that place. I don't think the cashier really would care about taking $1 off the owner...

              Maybe I am wrong but I never tip when picking up take out food.

              18 Replies
              1. re: Augie6

                Quizno's and Subway, I give exact.
                Chinese and Thai that we do a couple times a month, or any place where there is sit down and take out? Definitely. I don' think enough people do this. Many times the same people who are waiting tables and getting tipped are also busy helping you with your take out. And they get nothing? Not fair, really.
                I don't tip normal, maybe 30-50%.

                1. re: Augie6

                  Thank you for the welcome Augie. So far so good.

                  I do not tip on take-out either but by bill was close to $6 and I felt bad taking the $15 and only paying $5. If the internal delivery person was pulling a scam, that is up to him and the owner, if the delivery person was hoping for $2, then I am smarter then that scam, and if he was careless, I gave the money to make up for his carelessness. In all events I paid as I would have and he and the owner can figure out the rest.

                  1. re: nobadfoodplz

                    Well, actually, you didn't pay as you would have--you made out because you were given 80 cents extra. The waiter would have made the $1 tip regardless so he didn't get more; that is, unless you were only planning on tipping 20 cents(if the waiter had given you $14.20, you would have given him $1, I assume, not 20 cents). You were incorrectly given too much back and you kept the difference. You paid a total of $6.

                    1. re: chowser


                      I do not tip on take out unless it is a restaurant where the person doing the work and is taking from his other duties. If the person would have handed me $14 , I would have just left, if $14.20 probably no tip as well. So yes I did pay whatt I would have paid.

                      1. re: nobadfoodplz

                        At this point, then, you don't know if the server put the $1 you gave him back in the till which is likely. I can't imagine someone risking a job for 80 cents.

                  2. re: Augie6

                    >>>>Maybe I am wrong but I never tip when picking up take out food.

                    I *always* tip if I'm picking up food to go in a regular, waiter service, sit down restaurant. Taking the waiter away from his tables is tipworthy.

                    I don't do this at less formal places, or at carryouts.

                    1. re: Jay F

                      I do, too, which is why I assumed the $1 was the tip.

                    2. re: Augie6

                      People who prepare your take out deserve a tip! I used to work at a restaurant where the hostess were the ones who answered the phone,ordered, packed, and cashed out all of the take away orders, they do all the work of a server for those orders,plus seating, answering the phone, and cashing out everyone else in the restaurant. My take away customers always tipped me even if it was only $2-3.

                      1. re: BelovedofIsis


                        You were very lucky that the restaurant's customers "always." tipped you. But I very much disagree with the comment that all people that prepare take-out "deserve" a tip. The functions (other than the seating) nicely descibe those activities of the cashier at Starbucks and there is no way I am tipping the person taking my order at Starbucks.

                        1. re: nobadfoodplz

                          I guess I'm just a generous person then because I do tip the barista's at the coffee joints either my loose change from the purchase or a $1. Maybe I'm weird like that.

                          1. re: BelovedofIsis

                            Beloved (I like the handle)

                            I am also a genrous person and donate my money to causes I think are important. A $1 at the barist every day converts into a couple of hundred dollars a year that I would rather donate to cancer research, buying and donating food to the homeless shelters and stuff like that. Everyone has priorities on their cash. Neither is correct or better, just different choices.

                            1. re: nobadfoodplz

                              Well I don't frequent the coffee shops more than once a week, so the perspective of going every day, I can see your point. However I use the same philosophy when I give to charities as well whether they are on the street with flyers, connected to checkout lanes, or my online checkouts I always give that extra dollar or two. Maybe its just my outlook and current financial status but a buck or two here or there whether for a tip or a charity doesn't hurt me much, even if in the long run it adds up to a couple hundred dollars at year end. Plus we do regularly give to a couple of charities every pay period that is automatically debited. I don't know, I've been that hard working person on the other side and receiving a tip made my day and I felt appreciated and accepted by my customers when the back of house work environment was negative. Experience and perspective, but its fun to banter about it no? ;) Thanks on the name btw, ancient Egypt holds a special place in my imagination.

                              1. re: BelovedofIsis

                                I visit a coffee shop maybe once a week, and I usually use my debit card but when I have cash I always round up or throw them a buck. People depend on those tips as part of their income and work hard for it! If you can afford the coffee you can afford the 25 cent tip to go along with it.

                              2. re: nobadfoodplz

                                "A $1 at the barist every day converts into a couple of hundred dollars a year that I would rather donate to cancer research, buying and donating food to the homeless shelters and stuff like that."

                                So why dont you make your own coffee at home and quadruple your annual donation? The takeout person is providing you a service, a dollar or two isnt going to drain you in the long run.

                                1. re: joe777cool

                                  Mr Joe

                                  Actually my wife makes a great cup of coffee for me every morning at home. When I buy a medium or large cup of coffee at Starbucks I pay the price that is posted. I do not think by any stretch of the imagination that the coffee pourer, you want to call him/her a barista go ahead, deserves a tip. I am not singling out the kids at Starbucks, but here are examples of other people who provide service that do not deserve a tip, the guy filling my tank of gas, the cashier at the supermarket, the butcher at the supermarket, the produce guy who helps me pick a good melon, the delivery person for room service if a service charge and a gatuity is included on the bill, the person behind the cheese counter who helps me choose my cheese, the guy at the liquor store who helps me pair my wines, the ticket seller at the theater, the seater at the ballpark. Servers deserve tips, these others do not.

                                  And you are correct, I am extremely fortunate that the dollar or two is not going to drain me. As far as your math on $200 qadrupling my annual donations, not even close.

                                  1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                    alot of the people you mention I tip or make alot more than minimum wage. As far as my math goes a coffee at starbucks goes for about $3-4 to make the math easy. You are presuming a $1 daily tip. Skipping that daily coffee triples to quadruples your donation.

                                    And no, I am not a 3rd grade math teacher. ; )

                                    1. re: joe777cool

                                      Mr Joe

                                      I think your definition of "triples to quadruples your donation" differs from mine.

                                      The $1 a day equal $365 per year. If I were to increase my charitable donations by $365 and that addition were to triple my donations, then the equation is (x+365) = 3x where x = my current donation. If I were to currently contribute <=$182.50 then you would be right, but I contribute many multiples of that amount.

                                      In another vein, if your definition is that the $1 to the coffee pourer is a donation (I disagree) then the math is a 33% "donation" on a $3 cup of coffee and a 25% "donation" on a $4 cup of coffee. Neither is close to triple which would equal about an extra $10 on either cup. I think that is not happening by anyone.

                                      I hope that helps

                                    2. re: nobadfoodplz

                                      The guy filling your tank deserves a tip, but doesnt have time or a nice, clean, warm (or cool) surface to put his tip jar on.
                                      The whole tipping issue is getting out of hand. I realize that people deserve a fair wage for fair service; enjoy the one you have chosen or get another job. If you want to pour coffee for your life, that is your choice.

                        2. I'd rather err on the side of honest mistake. There are so many variables, who knows the reason why? And why jump to a negative conclusion first? It seems like that's the default for most people, which is pretty saddening.

                          1. You should have gotten exact change.
                            You should have told the person waiting on you that you expect exact change and perhaps he made a mistake.
                            Third, and this would be somewhat affected by the dubious giving of the inexact change, in take out situations like this, I give a tip. It is their time, resources ie: bags, napkins, utensils, chips. That deserves a tip. 10% +/-, but I'd be a bit unsure given the motivation of the wrong change given back to me. But, like I say, calling out the mistake or whatever it was immediately would have given perspective and insight.

                            1. You're saying the waiter gave you an extra 80 cents change so as to increase his tip size? That's the implication, right? Doesn't seem like an especially good scam to me.

                              Was the bill rung up on a cash register, with a receipt printed out? If so, the register would show any discrepancies from repeated over-changing the customers, and chances are either that it was store policy to round change up to the nearest dollar or else that the waiter was making up the difference out of his tip money. Or maybe even that the restaurant was temporarily out of or low in change. At any rate, there are too many legitimate possibilities for me to work up any moral outrage here. I would have just tipped normally, left, and not given it a second thought.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                It's a good scam, really. Back in the day (cough cough!) when I would have a couplefew drinks at bars, many time the bartender would give me back change in dollars that rounded up. The notion is that the customer will tip in kind. So, that dollar goes right back to the bartender, and then some.

                                1. re: monavano

                                  I'm familiar with bartenders giving free drinks to increase their tips. That has the dual advantages that
                                  a) it's much harder for the restaurant owner to keep exact track of their alcohol on tap or in open bottles than it is of their cash
                                  b) a free drink is more likely to make a customer generous than a few cents

                                  That is a good scam. Giving away a few the owner's money in a way that is likely to be caught to increase your tip by maybe a dollar... not so much. At any rate, it would seem to work much better for a bartender in a busy place (many many small orders so that these little tip bonuses might add up to something worthwhile, some built-in allowance for discrepancy, more opportunity to 'fix' the register) than a server handling a takeout order.

                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                    Agree! which is why it surprised me. Don't know if it was a scam. Just careless or care free?

                              2. This has happened to me before but it's usually done by someone who seems like a manager or owner, it's like they are "waiving" the extra 80 cents because it seems silly to nickel and dime people with change, so they acted like your bill was $5 instead of $5.80, and threw in free chips as well. I usually respond to generosity with generosity and would have tipped $2 instead of the $1. Now, whether or not this was some game the waiter was playing or not, I don't know, you can only tell by going back and seeing if this happens on subsequent occasions with other servers, or only when you get that one person fulfilling your order. If it's just that one server, I would be suspect. I don't think you can guess from just 1 interaction.

                                1. Sounds like a simple arithmetic error to me. The server can't count and was in a hurry! Did you say anything about it?

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Kajikit


                                    I would agree with you if the person would have handed the money back to me in a stack (like thousands of other times) versus like a poker hand, and if it was a math error he would have handed me a ten and a five. And the place had one table with 4 people. Did I say anything? Not my job, I paid for my sandwich and went back to work. I was a customer, not his 3rd grade math teacher or 11th grade ethics teacher.

                                    1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                      No, he would not have handed you a five -- servers NEVER give fives in change, because if they give singles, then they KNOW the customer has a single for a tip.

                                      Server 101.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        Ms Sunshine (feels like remember the titans)

                                        I will take that one to the side, the others still remain.

                                        Thank you

                                        1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                          That was the very first thing that the older servers taught me when I started waiting tables (as in I'd been there less than an hour), and I'm pretty sure that others will back me up on.

                                          And I've seen it taught by older servers to the n00bs at plenty of other restaurants, whether I was working there or eating there.

                                          I wasn't being cheeky or snarky -- watch and see how many times you get a five from a server...it will be pretty rare, and even then it will be when your change is close to a multiple of ten, because you'll still be getting 3 or 4 singles along with the five.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            Yeah, I'm guessing the server didn't want to deal w/ change at that time and it's always better to give back more than less. The ones makes sense.

                                            1. re: sunshine842


                                              I did not think you were anything other than honest and I thank you. I completely understand the singles as a means to "remind" the customer to leave a tip as well as make it easier. Pretty simple form of "advertising."

                                    2. there are a few things that are trigger points with me.
                                      some things just get my ire up.
                                      one of them is the server being presumptuous with the tip.
                                      I have tracked down a manager about exactly this.
                                      it ensures they get a tip of some sort and after all,who really checks out how much is in that little plastic thingie they put the bill and change in?
                                      I think it's wrong.
                                      there is always a problem with having proper cash to take care of the tip also.
                                      my husband hates to put the tip on a charge card, and I either have no cash to help out or have big bills, like C notes so that doesn't help either. whatever, I think the tip situation or question is one that is subjecttive.

                                      13 Replies
                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                        At the end of the day the servers do account for their earnings or whats in their "plastic thingie" because they have to record their tips for tax purposes. I cashed out my servers everyday at the end of their shift and if there were any discrepancies they were resolved, usually a math error in favor of the customer so the server would pay the missing amount to the register. Servers do occasional take change hits in exchange for quickness, 20cent-$1 in average over the shift. Giving someone change in ones is not "presumptuous" it is a service. I dislike it when the server brings me only whole bills such as fives, tens, and 20s, because then I have to what even longer for them to run back and make smaller change for me so I can tip them. Also if you are having problems with not wanting to tip on the credit card plan ahead and throw a handful of ones in your purse/wallet before going out to eat so you can tip your server. There is no excuse not to tip for good+ service, remember in the US most servers only make $2-3 and hour and are expected to make the rest of their "pay-check" in tips, and even if they don't get the tips they still have to pay full income tax on their earnings.

                                        1. re: BelovedofIsis


                                          Nicely phrased on being prepared if you pay in cash.

                                          This is another reason I always (other than my stupiditity in the sandwich shop above) pay with plastic.

                                          1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                            I find myself constantly paying with plastic now a days, cash whats that?! LOL but really I have no problems leaving a tip on the card, its the days when I get hit with the one machine that doesn't allow you to add tip, those are the days I am rummaging in my purse for those forgotten bills I shoved in there. Or here in Europe not everyone even takes card yet, so one of us sometimes has to play hostage while the other one runs to the local cash point/atm. Thankfully this doesn't happen often any more since we wised up and always ask the establishment if they take visa before sitting down ;)

                                            1. re: BelovedofIsis

                                              And European machines very rarely give the option of leaving a tip...so a handful of coins is always good to have.

                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                So true, those pesky pound/euro coins weigh my purse down so much, but when you need them, you got them. I found a dollar in my jeans the other day and instead of being excited like I usually am I thought "man, that's only 59pp!" and gave it to my husband for his snack fund.

                                          2. re: BelovedofIsis

                                            Whatever, I disagree with you, no big deal

                                          3. re: iL Divo

                                            Il Divo: "some things just get my ire up.
                                            one of them is the server being presumptuous with the tip."

                                            If you eat a meal the total for which is $14.75, you'd rather the server bring you a five dollar bill and a quarter as your change?

                                            1. re: Jay F

                                              Absurd, NO, bcuz I'd have left $3 xtra

                                              1. re: iL Divo

                                                But if the waiter brings you five ones, isn't he being "presumptuous"?

                                                  1. re: Jay F

                                                    I think he's being efficient. It's a waste of time for him to bring me bigger bills and then I have to wait for change to be made. Expecting a tip isn't presumptuous, imo. Making it easier for the customer is a good thing.

                                                    1. re: Jay F

                                                      An argument doesn't need to follow every comment

                                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                                        Who's arguing? I thought we were having a lively discussion!! The thing is il Divo is that we are trying to follow and understand your logic and so far the only thing we have understood from you is that if the server brings you all of your change but instead of bringing say a $5 bill and a quarter, they bring you five $1s and a quarter, is that they are being presumptuous with the tip. Is this not the stance you are taking? If not there has been a miscommunication somewhere.
                                                        I totally agree under all circumstances that you should receive all change from paying your bill, if you don't it is stealing.
                                                        Does this help clear this up?

                                              2. I'm guessing many replying on here are servers.
                                                Our DD has been in the business for years.
                                                I know how the tax structure works. I know she has to tip out expeditors/bar tenders etc.
                                                This really isn't my issue.
                                                It's made my issue when my bill is $23.12 I set out $40 and I am given $15 in change, that is presumptuous.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: iL Divo

                                                  Read the OP again. The server gave the customer MORE change than he/she was owed. Not less. The customer is up 80 cents.

                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                    cowboyardee is correct on what the actual situation was that the OP posted. Either the poor kid made a mistake or he was trying to expedite the process either way he would have had to pay the 20cents out of his own pocket at the end of the day.

                                                    The fact that some of us may or may have been servers does not discredit/skew our views, if anything it makes them more valid and unbiased since we are both a customer and a worker in the business. I have never cheated a customer and I have never shorted a server that deserved a tip. Since I frequent the same establishments often even if I don't have the cash, the next time I dine there and have the same server I double their tip since I had shorted them previously. (We eat out, a lot, no shame)

                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                      I read it cowboy along with others posts on this thread.

                                                  2. Why didn't you say to him, "that's too much change"? Instead of making all kinds of assumptions, that's what I would've done.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: PeterL

                                                      Mr L

                                                      I apologize for the late reply, I was having a great Mother's Day with three generations. As I posted above in case you missed it.

                                                      "Not my job, I paid for my sandwich and went back to work. I was a customer, not his 3rd grade math teacher or 11th grade ethics teacher."

                                                      Hope that answers the question.

                                                      1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                        It has nothing to do with math. He may have just made a mistake, as we humans often do. Instead of speculating here on chowhound, a simple question would've been much more efficient.

                                                    2. The other day at lunch the bill was $15.05 and my husband put down four five dollar bills. I teased him saying I could probably scrounge up a nickel. He said he wanted the singles. The waitress brought back five singles. I think a slight rounding down is done fairly regularly. Rounding down 80 cents is extreme (I did read the correction you made.)

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Windsor

                                                        they may also have an over/under jar that they use for correcting tip amounts, too...at the first place I waited tables, we had a bowl for the take-a-penny/leave-a-penny thing at the register, but we had a small Mason jar under the counter for the waitresses (there weren't any waiters) that we used to correct amounts -- and the 20 cents might well have come out of something like this.

                                                      2. As a server, I will often give back too much change (never not enough) in order to be expedient. If you don't have enough small change in your float (because you had already made more change than expected for a day), it would take far longer than it would be worth to go find a manager to unlock the safe, make change and make your way back to the customer all for a few cents.

                                                        The two to five minutes it would take you to get change can be enough to put you in the weeds and piss off customers. Sometimes it's just easier to eat the difference.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: upsidedownorchid

                                                          this is why i don't get the op's pov at all. s/he seems convinced that the server must be either an idiot, or ethically corrupt, when it's just a normal hospitality gesture that's followed by many folks who don't carry six pounds of loose change in their apron pockets. during a lunch shift at a place where most folks are likely 1) to pay by credit, 2) to be in a hurry, particularly when getting takeout, it makes perfect sense. if the server had rounded down 20c rather than rounding down 80c i doubt there would be any comment about the server's education level or morality.

                                                        2. In most places, the server is just going to print up a long receipt at the end of his shift and there is going to be a number on that sheet saying what he owes the restaurant in cash. he will open his book, pay the restaurant what he owes and then keep the rest. The owner isnt getting shorted anything, if you dont tip extra the server is actually the one who is going to eat that 80 cents. Working all night with a bunch of coins in your pocket is extremely annoying, so most servers will round to the nearest dollar, or at the very least the nearest quarter.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: twyst

                                                            Both soupkitten and twyst are absolutely right! Again I do wonder about the stereotype that all servers are of questionable morals like they are the mafia or something out to steal your money and the establishments money. Then there is the stereotype that they are less than intelligent because they are a server instead of a doctor or a lawyer. Were our great grandparents not intelligent because they were farmers, factory workers, or servers instead of doctors and lawyers? No it was their life circumstances. Don't judge until you walked in their shoes for a time. I am guilty of the intel thing until I too had to work food services to get through college, and you know what? I learned that a lot of them where just like me and others truly enjoyed their chosen profession and would have been unhappy in an office job. Sure there were a select few that had made mistakes in their lives and this is where their not so good choices had left them but they were still d!@# good servers and good people. Every bunch has a bad apple but don't judge the rest of them by that!

                                                          2. Folks, this thread is getting personal and attacky, as threads like this often do, so we're going to lock it now.