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how do you handle this??? [Moved from New Jersey]

I took Mom and 10 (6 adults and 4 children under 10) other people to breakfast for Mother's Day. At the end of our meal I was presented a bill for $252.54 by the owner. Since the average breakfast was $8-10 I couldn't figure out why it was so high. The bill was a hand written piece of paper with the food ordered on it, but no itemization, just the total. She asked if i had a problem. I told her I thought it was a bit high.She first said that we had a lot of drinks (meaning coffees, milk and juic,e the amount for the drinks came to $27) then asked if I wanted a menu to go over the bill. I had to pay in cash as they don't accept any other type of payment. I asked for a receipt and was given a copy of the watresses order notes. Nothing with the prices or total. I fear that I made a mistake by taking that and leaving. (we had four young children in our party of 11, who wanted to go to the lake,
so I acquiesced)
I called the owner the next morning and told her that I went over the paper handed to me with her online menu and even with rounding all items up it came to $159.00 and that I was overcharged. She said she had a hard time believing that, but would call me at day's end. After no call I tried calling back three times and left messages and my number. I received a call from one of her employees at 9am this morning saying that she wasn't in and would call me back when she arrived. It is now 10pm and still no call. I left another message.
What would you do in my situation? I have no proof that I handed her that amount of money other than the guests that waited with me to get this resolved.
PS
I was embarrassed with this treatment and had to go to an ATM to get an additional $100.

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  1. Don't think there is anything you can do at this point. I wouldn't have paid before seeing an itemized check.

    1. I would of took the menu and made her go over & add up every single item you ordered and add it up in front of me....

      1. You could start by revealing the establishment and letting them rebut your account. The fact that it was cash only should have been your first clue. (Although there are some very reputable places that are cash only.)

        1 Reply
        1. re: cantkick

          Sorry, but as we explain in our Etiquette at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3676..., in keeping with our consumer-to-consumer focus, we don't allow owners to respond in that manner. We also won't generally allow new posters to post specific restaurant names in a situation like this, because we're not the right place to for disgruntled customers to get revenge on a business.

          However, a general discussion on what to do when there's a dispute over a check or pricing is a topic of general interest and use, which is why we've moved this topic here to the Not About Food board. Please feel free to continue to discuss the issue but please avoid specific restaurant names.

        2. Take the business to Small Claims Court.....and bring your ATM receipt, waitress notes and a witness. It should be enough to make your story believable before the presiding judge.

          In the State of New Jersey, any business being sued in Small Claims Court must bring an attorney to represent them as dictated by stature. Use that simple fact to seek your refund. If the business does not see the benefit of resolving the matter with you, then it would probably cost them $1500-2000 to defend your claim......(three separate visits, two to see if you can resolve the issues between parties...if not, then the third visit is before a judge.)

          2 Replies
          1. re: fourunder

            4...
            are you sure that in NJ "ANY" business being sued must me represented by an attorney in small claims court?
            I know that in most states including those in which I am admitted to the Bar, it is Corporations that must be represented by an attorney in Small Claims Court. A sole proprietorship (as many small restaurants are) is not a separate legal entity than then owner and needs no attorney by law.

            1. re: bagelman01

              I've only sued one business in the past, about 10 years ago......a registered corporation, and they did not come to the court with an attorney. The owner and President represented the action.

              I currently have plans to sue 4 businesses in three different Counties. In contacting all three specific County Small Claims Division Clerks Offices.....all three provided the same information and said the Commercial Businesses had to bring an attorney to court. They mad no distinctions for exceptions to Sole Proprietorships. Should I file actual claims, I will ask specifically if that includes Sole Proprietorships as well and post the response and correct information.

          2. At this point there is probably very little you can do to recoup your loss, unless the owner has a change of heart.

            I know at least one person has recommended that you take your matter to small claims court. I'd really think twice about that. Yes, there is a small chance you might prove victorious or the owner might acquiesce and pay up rather than incur the cost of a lawyer, but since there is very little evidence supporting either position, and you'd need to drag a witness (or two) with you to support your claims; combined with the stress and time wasted; you really need to ask yourself if it's really worth it for the $93?

            I know it sucks, but try and look at it as a learning experience; and demand an itemized check before paying from now on. Remember, life itself is a series of learning lessons. It sounds like you handled yourself gracefully and with quite dignity. You may have lost $93, but you gained twice that in karma points.

            ...of course, if you see the owner on the street, you should run up and kick her in the shin. Karma only goes so far.

            6 Replies
            1. re: creamfinger

              I can tell you from personal experience, winning in small claims does not mean you get the money. There's just nothing compelling them to pay. It's not like if they don't pay, they're picked up and sent to jail. The judge bangs the gavel, bang, you win. Then you dont' get your money.

              There's nothing you can do at this point. I would probably encourage others not to patronize the place if I heard of someone who was thinking of going there.

              1. re: rockandroller1

                I can tell you from personal experience, winning in small claims does not mean you get the money. There's just nothing compelling them to pay. It's not like if they don't pay, they're picked up and sent to jail. The judge bangs the gavel, bang, you win. Then you dont' get your money.
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                1. It's a strategy or tactic...the owner can refund the difference or spend thousands to defend

                2. It's also about a Dun and Bradstreet rating. If you win a judgement, it goes against their credit rating and ability to borrow. Is that worth a hundred dollars?

                3. In my county of Bergen, if you do not pay, the Sheriff can enter your business or take your personal effects off your person to collect and settle and satisfy the debt., i.e., watch, jewelry and cash.

                1. re: fourunder

                  Two little words...
                  Judge
                  Judy
                  LOL

                2. re: rockandroller1

                  In Canada if they don't pay you can definitely have the court gain access to their bank account and get you the money, or they can enter the business and take equipment worth the amount they owe and you get that, plus the longer they don't pay the more the interest increases

                  1. re: rockandroller1

                    Get a judgment in small claims, get a sherriff, constable or marshal (depending on your juristdiction to go into the restaurant and that official can seize the amount of the judgment and collection fee directly from the cash register.

                  2. re: creamfinger

                    At this point....I'm pretty sure it's not just about the money.