Servers (managers?) padding the bill
I freely admit that I rarely scrutinize the bill when I am dining out or even having a few drinks at the bar. I usually glance at the total and then hand over my card or cash.
My husband on the other hand goes over the bill in detail. Drive me crazy but you pick your battles, right?
We have been out to eat probably about 20-25 times since school started in early Sept. Usually they are pretty casual/local places before or after our sons hockey game but at least a handful of times were in "better", more upscale places-again all pretty local thought a few local chains (for Boston folks think Rustic Kitchen or Burtons).
Back in October my husband noticed that we were charged for two additional cocktails we didn't have. The server blamed the bar service for putting someones else bar bill on our dinner check. Sounded suspicious but he took it off and we went on our way. Before thanksgiving we found our bill charged us for a much higher priced steak entree than what we had ordered. The server (different place) said it was a computer error, was very nice about it and removed the higher charge. In both these cases I don't think I would have caught it as the dollar amounts were minor compared to the grand total.
So last night I was out with girlfriend to place we have been a few times before. We each had a cosmo ($12 ea) a glass of wine ($10/glass) we spit an appetizer ($12) and then split a (really great!) pizza ($15). When the bill came it was just under $100 so even I gave pause. When we asked our server she said that unless specified they use their top shelf vodka so the cosmos were $15 each not $12 as listed on the menu and there was a $15 splitting charge (not listed on the menu and we have been there before with no splitting charge). When we questioned the charges, she became very flustered, left and then came back with a manager who made a big deal about removing the charges, how he was making an exception "just this once", blah blah blah.
Granted these are just 3 meals across many but my husband swears that this is a regular occurrence. He said when they see parents with kids (who most likely will rush), people having a few drinks, big business lunches or basically any party that appears they wont be paying too much attention they server has an opportunity to take advantage and many of them will since they can easily place the blame elsewhere if caught.
I don't know, I guess I like to believe most people are honest and that on the rare times it happens it is just error. Am I being naive?
I agree with your ire about "upcharges" that are not stated on the menu. However, I don't get the steak thing. If the wrong order was placed in the computer, how did he get the right dish? A conspiracy between waiter and kitchen seems unlikely - he would have to enter the wrong item on purpose then go back to the kitchen and tell them which one to switch. Hard to imagine that is feasible in a busy kitchen. But maybe it is. Who knows?
re: Just Visiting
It was the petite filet vs the full size so the sides were all the same. Maybe I actually got the bigger one but all I know is that I ate it all, yummy! I don't remember it being much large than expected either. The server was very nice, like I said and didn't question and said she remembered me ordering the petite.
Both my husband and I have analytical minds and scrutinize bills. Always. Not just restaurants but those for clothing, groceries, everything. We have found many errors that were worth drawing attention to. I have been charged too much for grocery items many times. At some stores if they charge too much and you point it out you get that product free. That just happend to me recently again. This has happened to us in restaurants as well, mostly in foreign countries where they add service charges more than once on a bill.
I scan the bill and have never noted an error on MY bill but I have gotten the wrong bill a time or two. Two times recently, one was for a large party and would have been noticed by anybody just for the (huge) dollar amount. Another one would have been in my favor.
Errors and up charges are two very different things. In a restaurant, mistakes happen regularly and I've had it go the other way where I have to point out they didn't charge us for something. But upcharges, those are done on purpose and should be challenged unless in writing that is readable.
It happens often enough that I always check the bill.
At one of the "finer" restaurants on the North Fork someone elses "pre dinner" bar tab was added to our bill. This was one of many errors at this "classy" place and we barely got an apology so we don't go back.
Overestimating the tax is another common error.
Being charged for items that were ordered but the restaurant had "run out" of is another boo boo.
I don't take out a calculator but do skim the check and add it in my head. Most errors are blatant.
I've never had the feeling that the overcharging was intentional.