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Why do waiters wait behind you while you're paying the bill?

Having been to Hong Kong a few times now, the custom of having a waiter stand right behind you after presenting the bill no longer seems odd (I've even seen it happen a few times in the Bay Area). Even the more old-fashioned practice of the waiting holding out your change and not letting go is no longer a shock.

But my question is this - how did this custom originate?

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  1. Actually, I prefer the waiters to wait after presenting the bill (at least to see if I am going to pay immediately).... since a lot of times when I am finished I am ready to leave immediately.

    I suspect the "custom" though has more to do speeding up turnover of tables.....

    1. Why would they not let go of your change?

      2 Replies
      1. re: KSlink

        Maybe to suggest to the diner that *they* should let go and leave it in the waiter's clutches - and maybe even add more from his (the diner's) wallet? :-D

        1. re: KSlink

          I guess it's a guilt trip maneuver - you've already paid the 10% service charge, but you feel bad if you take away change that's yours. You feel even worse if you're not familiar with the coins and are "pressured" to act quickly so you don't accidentally leave them the 10's.

        2. #1 To Make sure you pay and don't skip out---waiters often are responsible for those whi skip
          #2 To turn the table faster
          #3 To increase the tip by being attentive to the end of your visit
          If they follow you to the cash register if you pay there and not to the server
          #4 To make sure the cashier/hostess/manager doesn't take a cut of the tip you leave
          #5 Same as #1

          1 Reply
          1. re: bagelman01

            Since we're talking about HK, #3 probably doesn't apply since all places either charge the mandatory 10% or nothing at all.

          2. To catch you in case you're appalled by the bill?

            1. Have to say, I've never really noticed that it's happened. We usually want to glance over the bill to check that it's right and I'm sure I would have notcied if a server was hovering around

              1. I've personally never had a waiter stand by the table while I pay the bill. They've always dropped the bill folder and then walked away to give me time to look at it and pay.

                1. Most responders here probably are referring to their experiences in the West/Europe when they say they have never had a waiter hover when presenting the bill, I think? The OP refers to the practice in Hong Kong...and occasionally in San Francisco & environs...

                  I seem to remember this phenomenon occurring on occasion in SE Asia, as another place, although I also seem to have the recollection that it would be at more of the moderate to lower end places where this might occur.

                  1. Ah yes. Something that I hate about restaurant culture over there.
                    I too have wondered how this custom originated.

                    What I would love would be something in-between having to wait forever for the bill once you've finished and requested the bill (encountered way too often in the West) and having the server hovering while waiting for you to pay.

                    I've gotten to the point now that when I'm dining alone I usually ask for the bill just when they bring out the food.

                    1. I have never encountered this, on any continent.

                      Maybe they do not trust you?


                      1. Well this thread clarifies why I had waiters lurking while I was in Thailand. I just assumed they thought I couldn't read the bill.