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May 19, 2011 01:46 PM

Any polite way to ask, "How much did you leave on your credit card" at a restaurant?

While, when I'm taken out to eat, I'd love to know how much tip is left, it's one thing I have no control over. But, I went out w/ some friends yesterday and all but one person left cash. She took the cash and put the whole bill on her credit card which is fine. All of us at the table have done that at some point. The rest of us eat out occasionally and we're all big tippers. She never counted how much money she collected, just assumed we'd all put in the right amount. She's not the type to intentionally cheat anyone but after she signed her tab, I wondered if she tipped enough, including what we all ("over") tipped. I'm wondering, for the future, if there's any way to ask how much she left?

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  1. No, there's no socially acceptable way to ask. It's not your credit card, so it's none-a-yer-bizwax. And the very question implies that you think she's a) not capable of the mental gymnastics to figure an appropriate tip, b) lacking in the social graces to attempt a), or c) all of the above. None of which you really want to imply with someone with whom you want to continue a civil relationship.

    If you're worried about it, then offer to leave the tip separately. If she refuses, let it drop.

    8 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842

      Yes and no. If we leave, say an extra $10 in tips and she ends up with the money and not the server, then it is our business. But, as I said she wouldn't do it intentionally. I think leaving the tip in cash is the way to go. I like to do that anyway.

      1. re: chowser

        then pull out the cash for the tip and set that aside, then hand her the rest, making some comment about it being easier for the server if it's not on the credit card slip.

        If she wouldn't intentionally short the server, then you have to trust that she didn't.

        But the fact that you're raising the question indicates that you pretty seriously doubt that she tipped the appropriate amount.

        1. re: sunshine842

          Geez. I really hafta start finishing the thread before replying.

          1. re: sunshine842

            Sorry I didn't see this reply. I trust her and don't think she'd intentionally cheat anyone. What I'm wondering is if she left what we did, since it might not be her norm (or the norm). In my case, my meal came to just over $10 and I left $15 because it's what I had in cash and didn't want to have to deal w/ getting change. I know another friend of mine did the same. So, that's far more than someone might assume would be left and she didn't count what she was given. I'm not questioning her integrity. I just want to make sure the server received what was left for her.

            1. re: sunshine842

              "then pull out the cash for the tip and set that aside, then hand her the rest"

              now that's brill.......................bravo!

            2. re: chowser

              agree with chowser, my husband always likes to leave the tip in cash and not put it on a card, don't know why but that's his thing and I respect it.
              how about when you and another couple go out and they say, you get the tip, we'll pay the bill.
              then you gotta ask how much was the bill so you know how much to tip, embarrassing............there's gotta be a better way

              1. re: iL Divo

                As far as tipping in cash and not on the credit card . . . some establishments do not pay out the emplyees on the credit pay except every two weeks or even a month. With the low pay (like $2 and change per hour) some places, then the nightly cash can be critical for paying bills. Paying in cash means the person gets money earned on the spot. I don't work in the business, but I do have family and students who honestly need the cash for gas and food and not two weeks later.

                1. re: iL Divo

                  Your husband does that because by doing so the server receives the full intended tip at the time of the transaction instead of being taxed on it and then re-taxed by having the tip amount added to their total sales amount, which is where tax is figured.

            3. If she "never counted how much money she collected" and "just assumed" you'd all put in the right amount AND paid the bill with her credit card, she sounds very generous and trusting. A person like that deserves your trust, too.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Isolda

                Yes, she's very trusting and a wonderful person. The thing is, we tip close to 30% since it's just a cheap lunch, and she's not from this country. So, she might think a 10% tip is generous, and even if not, the tip we left is higher than the standard 15%. I definitely do not want to hurt her feelings which is why I asked if there was a way around it.

                1. re: chowser

                  30% tip? sheesh, was that for show, or were you really "serviced" over, above and beyond?!!!

                  1. re: BiscuitBoy

                    Lunch is cheap. The difference between 20% and 30% is minimal and rather than dealing with change, we round up,usually to whatever bills we might have so if I was going to leave just under $14, including tip, I'll leave $15. It's never for show; it's more about a great server getting what she should. It's not like we waive the tip in the air to show off.

                    1. re: chowser

                      Sunshine842's suggestion is a good one - pull cash out for the tip and let her charge the check.

                  2. re: chowser

                    Now I get it. It's definitely true that in countries where servers are salaried and paid a decent wage, people don't tip much. And it's a hard habit to break. I remember being mortified when a British friend who had been in the US for at least a decade left $2 on a $100 tab. She seriously couldn't get her mind around the idea that tipping at least 15% is de rigueur here.

                  3. re: Isolda

                    I think chowser is wondering if that person tipped also, no? < the person who collected the cash and put it on her credit card.

                    I BTW hate to do that because I always have the money spent that I collected for said meal, way before the bill comes, not like I put it away for when it's time to pay the bill right?

                  4. Definitely not something you can ask her about, but you can still try to find out in other ways. 1) You could sneak back in after everyone else has left the table under the guise of forgetting something. Take a quick look at the check and add more if needed. If the server already has the slip, you could ask to see it, to make sure the tip is ok. A professional server might simply say she is sure it is fine, but it kind of IS your business. You all helped pay the bill, so the amount of tip should reflect that. It's not as if she was treating you all to dinner.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: hilltowner

                      Thanks--that's an idea. The thing I don't want is the server not to get what we left her.

                      I'm wondering if next time, I take the money, say we'll leave the tip in cash and then have her, if she's using a credit card, just put the amount of the check on it. I wasn't thinking that much when it happened. It was something that occurred to me after the fact.

                    2. Chowser I really feel your pain... There is no way you can ask with out it causing awkwardness .. I go out with a group of friends about once a month , and I often feel the same way.. I pitch in a generous amount for my food and a tip... However I am starting to realize I am just donating to the pocket or belly of the card holder... ..

                      Seperate checks if possible really to work well, I use to be against them for years...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Augie6

                        Thanks. This group of us have gone out for a few years and over the years, I've nudged their tips upwards w/out saying anything. They've kind of followed my lead. But, this person is new. And, she's a very nice person and would never intentionally pocket the difference which makes all the difference to me. I do like separate checks--once a server brought us (another group of friends) them w/out asking. It was great.

                      2. This happens to me with a couple of groups pretty regularly. The easiest way is to act as second pair of eyes for the credit card person. Collect the cash, add it up, then announce, bill is $200, We've got $250 after you put in the $XX+X for tip you said for your part. Looks like we're good with the bill and leaving a $50 tip.

                        This works out with minimal hassle all the way around as we're all usually pretty conscious of not stiffing each other or the server. Sometimes when we end up with an overly large final amount, we just redistribute a couple of dollars back to each other until the overall amount is more in line for desired tip left.

                        Of course this only works if everyone is honest, which they are in our groups. If you can't trust the person with the cc, then no way around it regardless. People in my circles, the math challenged ones are more than happy to receive the help if they're using their credit card for the whole bill. It really helps that no one in my circles wants to stiff each other or the server.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Jase

                          Smart. Yes, everyone, luckily, in this group is honest and we usually end up w/ a lot of extra money. She's a nice person and I completely trust her not to do anything that would cheat anyone. I just wasn't sure she had the same standards of tipping the rest of us do--not to say that she has to tip the way we do, just that if we leave extra, it should go to the server,

                          1. re: chowser

                            Lucky for you then. Honest and nice people won't take offense at this approach. They've got nothing to hide and if the tone is one of assistance, people are usually happy to accept. It sets a nicer tone for the whole group too since everyone leaves the table without the nagging worry that the server got stiffed.

                            1. re: chowser

                              Many years ago I sat next to the credit card payer. He was a young friend of a friend I had never met before. I watched him leave next to no tip in my favorite restaurant after I had tipped generously in cash. I called him on it, he argued, i told him he didn't have to tip for himself but he was damn well leaving what the rest of the group had already paid in cash. He grudgingly did, and ihe never rode w/ our group again. There were some big eyes around the table while this transpired ;-)

                              I'm not shy, so that was easy for me since that restaurant meant a lot more to me than some kid I didn't know, but if it were a friend...oooh....I think you'd just have to suck it up up and cross your fingers.

                              1. re: danna

                                I'll sometimes say in this situation: "Oh, I really liked this server, so I put in a bit extra for the tip... just want to make sure it gets accounted for on the credit card slip."

                                That usually opens up the floor to discussion of what the credit card payer is putting down for the tip, and gives a chance for everyone to adjust their expectations (or contributions) accordingly. If I don't think the tip I'm intending to go to the server actually is, I'd then suggest my cash tip come back out of the payer's pocket and be left on the table. But I also don't mind rocking the boat a bit.

                                1. re: danna

                                  I was actually in a similar situation as yours a few years ago -- except that this guy took the bill and proclaimed that everybody owed him $20 more than it should have been. Sixteen people at the table -- excluding him and his wife, he would have probably pocketed an extra $280 -- probably more as I'd bet he would have left hardly any tip). I told him that I thought the bill was too high for what we had ordered. A couple of other guys took the bill from him and made their calculations. We all ended up paying $20 less than his initial estimate, which still ended up with the servers getting close to a 30% tip. Trying to keep it simple (didn't want to deal with small bills), we just told him to give it all to the servers. I have a feeling that he pocketed the extra money himself and gave the servers a lousy tip. I wish I could have seen the bill! So glad that I never saw his face again!