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I Forgot My Wallet, Have You Forgotten Yours?

So, an Italian tourist ate a meal at Smith & Wollensky's in New York and discovered, when he was presented with the bill, that he had left his wallet at his hotel room. He spoke with the manager and explained the situation and offered to leave his iphone with the manager while he went to retrieve his wallet. The tourist also suggested that he'd take a restaurant employee with him as additional security that he would return. Smith & Wollensky's manager did not agree and instead had the tourist arrested. At the hearing the next day, the judge dropped the charges with the understanding that the tourist would return to court the following week with the moneys due the restaurant.

I have been in this tourist's shoes. One evening, after enjoying my first meal at a recently-opened Longhorn Steakhouse, I reached into my purse only to find that my wallet was not there. I was mortified. I had changed over purses the previous night and had forgotten to put my wallet into this purse. I called over the manager and explained my situation. I had my checkbook and offered to write a check. He said that company policy did not allow him to accept a check. I offered to give him my watch and checkbook as collateral and that I'd return the next day to settle my bill. The manager declined to take the checkbook and watch; instead, he said not to worry about it and to just bring in the money the next day. Well, I was there before the restaurant opened and was happy to see the manager from the previous night. I went up to him and settled my bill (along with a healthy tip) and thanked him profusely for trusting me. As I turned around to leave, the manager touched my shoulder and stopped me. When I turned back around, the manager showed me to a table and told me that, because of my honesty, lunch would be on him. You better believe I told everyone I came into contact with who was wondering where to eat about how wonderful and understand Longhorn Steakhouse is. And, yes, I became a regular.

So, have you ever forgotten your wallet and, if you have, what happened?

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  1. The dude and I were shoveling snow, I think, and agreed when it was over that we should go out and get a bite -- and warm up. Jumped in the car and neither one thought to take cell phone, wallet etc.; we were that hungry.

    4-star relatively expensive restaurant and it's 5:00. We hunker down to cocktails with our favorite bartender and await a great steak and seafood repast.

    We're there until 9 p.m. Everyone's bonding 'cause of the inclement weather etc. but it's time to go home.

    We discover that we have neither money nor identification. Our server understands but his manager (probably the only one at this restaurant who doesn't know us on a first-name basis) is ticked off and considers this a big problem (yes, it's his job so I understand.)

    I offer to drive home and get $ etc. and leave the dude as collateral. Mgr. actually said "no dice you gotta have someone come here with $" -- not having cell phone I don't know numbers of friends nearby who can help.

    Another diner; a business-owner we've spoken to infrequently but we see him all the time when we eat at this restaurant, offers to help. He's a little ticked that the mgr. doesn't know we're regulars, so he gives me $300 and his biz card and says "catch up with me when you can."

    Of course I was at his office the next morning at 10 am with the $300; and a very nice bottle of wine for his having gone thru the trouble. He tells me that after we left, two of our friends at the bar thought to get out their smart-phones and showed the manager who I am (I've appeared on television and in newspapers 'cause of my job). Apparently the manager was aghast and now worried that the owner will find out he strong-armed me etc. etc.

    We go back and, as usual, have a great meal and a fun time. The manager makes a big deal about apologizing. I asked him "what happened to the old days when you could just go to your car and get a business card in case you forgot your $ and come back the next day -- or write a check?"

    Now, I thought I'd seen it all (but then, my places have never been 'fine-dining' like this one). The manager's stories about the lengths to which dine-and-dashers go to commit fraud nearly curled my hair, so I certainly understood why he had to be a bit firm with us.

    We didn't get the meal comped that day, but he did buy us coffee, dessert and drinks -- and a bottle of bubbly which we were asked to share with the guy who ponied up the $.

    11 Replies
    1. re: shaogo

      So who are you, or what are you, that gets you in the newspapers and on tv?

      1. re: carolinadawg

        I'm a restaurateur. I've done food segments for tv, radio and in print.

      2. re: shaogo

        just curious....what's your policy as restaurant owner when a patron forgets his wallet?

        1. re: Vidute

          My policy about patrons with no cash has changed according to the location/demographic.

          First restaurant: in a shoreline/summer cottage area so we had to be very careful about the 1% of people who take advantage of the busy Summertime confusion and either dine-and-dash or have a problem. Called the police for theft of services only once 'cause customer was *extremely* difficult. Else 4-5 times in 5 years customers would promise to pay -- and did the following day/week. (One woman felt so bad she brought us a basket of home-baked sticky buns; even after that she actually asked if I would allow her and her SO back in the restaurant [of course])

          There were several dine-n-dashes over the years at our upscale place. Very crafty people who'd obviously gotten it down to a science. We don't call the police 'cause with a Liquor Permit, each and every police call goes with a report to the Liquor Board, even if it's not our fault at all, So maybe we lost $1,000-$2,000 during the entire 12-year lifetime of the restaurant.

          Our current place is in a city. Some of our customers are in genuine hard times; we'll give lots of stuff away if only for our perceived karmic benefit. There was one slick guy who played me (and staff) like a fiddle after his C-card had been declined. Then he had the gall to come back, order (incurring a steeper bill), and try to pay with a personal check. His karma got him; I had his name, and every roughneck in that neighborhood knows everyone else so some of my peeps heard the story and said "oh, he's got a coke problem. He works at ___." Well, we went there on a Friday and accompanied him to the bank with his payroll check, to cash it.

          On the other side of the coin, I have about a dozen customers who have house charges, and they'll come and go (tipping in cash on each visit) and we don't even ask them to sign the check. When they're ready they pay the whole bill and usually buy a drink for the mopes at the bar 'cause they're grateful we offer the flexibility.

          If someone, in this new place, were to actually "dine-and-dash," a) they'd be captured on our video surveillance system doing so in brilliant color/HD, but worse, b) the "boys" from the neighborhood who hang out at the bar all the time would probably jump at the opportunity to chase 'em down (a little excitement) and upon catching them, well, I'd rather not say what would happen...

          I try to be a gentleman about it if someone's got a problem.

          1. re: shaogo

            i have no compassion for "dine-and-dashers", they're thieves. i'm just glad that there are understanding people that some of us have honestly forgotten our wallets and that we want to clear up our embarrassment and our name as quickly as possible.

            1. re: shaogo

              Laughs~ We too had a built in restaurant guard at our place.

              I love that you tracked him down and went to the bank with him. Every once in a while we would have a problem getting someone to pay, but they wanted to come back and new I meant it when I barred them. Older and tougher me might have accompanied them to the bank!

              Once we had four very large men come in and when the designated payer's card got declined and it said on the verify machine "Hold Card". So I called and they said it was stolen and wanted to talk to him. OK. Gulp. I am not a large person mind you. So he came to the phone, talked, hung up and got very mad at me when I did not give him the card back. I had to call the police. I had forgotten about that incident. So maybe a few people some free dinners on us after all! Ah well, that is the cost of doing biz. Not quite as fun as your stories. restauranteurs have good stories. You see all kinds if you have a bar and restaurant. It both toughens you and softens your heart.

              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                I've had to do that about five times (confiscate a card because of fraud/stolen) and I agree it's good for a nice lump in the throat -- and stomach! These days the card company security dept. representatives are so well trained they keep the merchant and the customer on the phone, and will call back if the customer hangs up the phone, while meanwhile someone in their own call center is calling the local police...

                1. re: shaogo

                  I wonder if that is what happened in our case. I had to ask my husband his recollection. He knew the police came, but he was cooking that night so... we rely on my memory. Yuck. I bet the card co. called. It would take something for me to call the cops.

          2. re: shaogo

            <The dude and I were shoveling snow>

            :). You jumped in the car, after shoveling snow, without all your necessities and proceeded to dine at a "4 star relatively expensive restaurant"? You didn't change your wet, most likely dirty, clothes?
            Sorry, love your story, but it's the only thing I don't get.

            1. re: latindancer

              Oh, no. It was the quick-change from soaked stuff to something at least dry that fouled us up. We weren't gonna go there soaking wet; but it's not a "jacket-and-tie" kinda place. Wallet was not thought of, nor was cell phone. Keys were still in the car we'd just cleared-off. Left it running in the driveway necessitating a quick-change of jeans, shirt and socks and off we went, without thinking.

          3. Actually, if you have a chance to read the update - Smith and Wollensky responded and stated that the customer did in fact have his wallet - he just didn't want to pay - and he went to graduate school in the US, so definitely spoke fluent English -

            On the other hand - this just happened to me last week - I was traveling - and after dinner looked in my purse and realized that I didn't have my wallet - thought I might have been pick pocketed - usually I'm thoughtful about that, but had my purse on the back of my stool unzipped! Fortunately, I had cash in a separate little bag in my purse - then found my wallet under a pile of clothes in the hotel room! But I certainly did wonder what I would do in a strange city where no one knows me!

            2 Replies
              1. re: harryharry

                Then the updated facts in the Smith and Eollensky instance does change things.

              2. There's an update to the original story, where the tourist is not exactly portrayed as a victim. Even if he had forgotten his wallet, why not simply leave the friend there to order a drink or desert and go get the wallet? That's certainly what I would have done in this scenario.

                When travelling alone, I always keep a "spare" credit card in a separate purse compartment just in case.

                1 Reply
                1. re: LeoLioness

                  My husband carried a body wallet when traveling overseas. I used to think it was silly paranoia, but now think it might be a bit of brilliance!

                2. So it's seems to me including the OP all responses to this post beside shaogo seems to be women. So based on the limited responses so far 3 out of 4 or 75% of people who forget their wallets are female!

                  27 Replies
                  1. re: jrvedivici

                    Female and have never forgotten my wallet at a restaurant tho my spouse (male) has, many times.

                    Just to keep things in balance here.

                    1. re: tcamp

                      I'm just crunching the numbers! Don't shoot the bean counter!!! Lol

                      1. re: tcamp

                        No harm done. As I was reading your post, I thought, "well, most responders will be ones who HAVE forgotten their wallet and have a tale to tell." So I chimed in.

                        And I *always* blame the bean counters!

                        1. re: jrvedivici

                          I hate to jinx myself, but I've never forgotten my wallet. My extra credit card is more a safety guard against theft.

                          My (male) partner, on the other hand...

                          1. re: jrvedivici

                            There's a reason I prefer to have a (small) bag with the wallet-part permanently attached. It makes it much more difficult to misplace anything! But women who have lots of different handbags could easily lose track... especially if there are family distractions while they're in the middle of changing purses.

                            I've never actually forgotten my wallet, but DH and I sat down in a small restaurant once and never noticed that they didn't take credit cards until we were ready to pay! Fortunately there was an ATM outside, otherwise we would have been in trouble because our checkbooks and debit cards were useless.

                            1. re: Kajikit

                              I have had that happen. In this day and age I don't understand restaurants that do not take credit cards.

                              1. re: Bigjim68

                                If you take into consideration cc fee's combined with the "tax advantages" it's kind of easy to understand it.

                                1. re: jrvedivici

                                  No more "tax advantages" to cash. First of all understating taxable income is just wrong and to do so is not to pay our fair portion. Second, the IRS gets more sophisticated every year. They know how much a business is making (it's easier when you sell booze 'cause the vendors must give them a record of purchases if they ask) so they know at least the cost of goods sold and approximately how much profit one can make on that.

                                  And credit card processing vendors are so competitive what once was a 5% "discount rate" (processing charge or "vigorish") for American Express is now at a very competitive 1.8% for us -- less for higher-volume restaurants...

                                  There really is no reason at all not to accept credit cards in a restaurant these days. (Unless you've defrauded credit card companies in the past, as a business-person.)

                                  1. re: jrvedivici

                                    Most studies show that people tend to order more -- and more expensive -- food when paying with a credit card. So while accepting credit cards means a 2-4% loss in fees, it is usually more than made up for by increased spending.

                                    Obviously this doesn't work with buffets or prix fixe restaurants.

                              2. re: jrvedivici

                                Either that, or they are just more willing to admit their error...!

                                1. re: jrvedivici

                                  I can see that. I don't think that women are inherently more forgetful, but more of them carry their wallets in their purse than in their pocket, and they may change purses and even wallets frequently. There's simply more opportunity for error.

                                  1. re: JonParker

                                    Women don't change their purses any more often than men change their pants. I hope.

                                    1. re: Cachetes

                                      there's the "work" purse, the "weekend" purse, the "date" purse, the "event" purse, the "change of season" purse, the "rainy day" purse, the "vacation" purse, etc. and please be advised that there can be multiple purses under each category.

                                        1. re: Vidute

                                          BTW I'm a woman and I've been carrying the same purse since 2007. It cost an arm and a leg, so I'm carrying it til it's dead, which will be soon. The only time I don't carry it is if I'm going to a fancier soiree, in which I carry a small clutch and no wallet at all, just a small card holder with my debit card and my license, and cash if I have it.

                                              1. re: Vidute

                                                i suffer from a serious bag addiction myself - but more towards the tote bag/luggage end of the spectrum. :)

                                                1. re: jujuthomas

                                                  hmmmmmmm.....maybe i should switch over my addiction. my purses seem to be running out of room! :D

                                          1. re: Cachetes

                                            I am a women, and I change purses more often than you might change your undies. I have not counted them, but I have many, many handbags. Just like I have many necklaces and earrings.

                                            1. re: Cachetes

                                              LOL! But when I change pants, I have to transfer four pockets of stuff--I would certainly notice if I were wearing pants with empty pockets. Do women transfer the entire contents from one purse to another, or is it selective? The bigger point is that men are in physical contact with their wallets, so it is more noticable if it is missing. Compared to a wallet 'once removed' in a purse.

                                              1. re: mwhitmore

                                                depends on the reason for changing purses. so, it can be select items or the entire contents.

                                          2. re: jrvedivici

                                            Men have the lopsided rump to remind them, women have an always filled handbag for crying out loudzy!

                                            I always assume hubs has his wallet and always walk around town wallet and IDless like a little princess. One day it will catch up to me!

                                            1. re: jrvedivici

                                              face it most men sit on their wallet, its a lot harder to forget or miss that lump on your posterior than notice that your handbag seems a bit light.

                                              I do have a friend who habitually forgot his wallet. It became a running joke when the gang went out . . . so who's picking up chester's tab tonight . . . (not his real name.) I occasionally got calls when he had gone out alone . . . LOL. He's married now, his wife never forgets her wallet, she says she doesn't dare.

                                              (didn't realize we had the same comment SV)

                                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                I too could have written about a Chester. We laugh about him still.

                                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                  my DH stopped carrying his wallet in his back pocket, on the chiropractor's recommendation, and now carries it in a jacket pocket, so he has ended up w/o his wallet from time to time!

                                              2. My wallet fell out of my pocket at my mom's house. I went to a bar I frequented and had one beer when I realized I didn't have my wallet. I explained to the bar maid and told her I did have my check book. She said they didn't accept checks. I also had my drivers license and offered to leave it w/ her while I retrieved my wallet. She tells me to pay w/ the check and to leave afterward. I do and she's complains because I didn't tip here (I'd planned to return). So I retrieve my wallet and return and show her. All was well.

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                  You returned to the place after the bar maid told you to leave and complained because you didn't tip her?

                                                  1. re: AmyH

                                                    I read it as Chinon00 left the check as collateral and returned to pay the bill and collect the check, and leave a tip with cash/card.

                                                    1. re: AmyH

                                                      Yes but I did retrieve the check and pay the whole bill w/ my debit card. At the time it was like one of two bars in the city serving Belgian beer. I like beer.

                                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                                        Chinon I admire your allegiance to Belgian beer. That barmaid had some sizables.

                                                    2. re: Chinon00

                                                      Chinon, your response was far classier than mine would have been in the case of the bar maid who told you to leave. I mean it when I say good for you for not letting one person's attitude ruin your future with a place that you frequent.

                                                      1. re: pinehurst

                                                        If the barmaid knew he couldn't pay, what was wrong with her telling him he had to leave?

                                                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                          I hadn't planned on staying w/o a means to pay. It was understood that there was a problem and I was trying to resolve it.

                                                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                            If the barmaid was willing to accept a check (and expected a tip to be added on to it - er - trusted that a tip could be cleared from the check) then the matter is generally accepted as settled. It is rude to require the person to leave. The audacity of getting pissy about the tip made me laugh. If the owner heard her, she probably would have been fired.

                                                            1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                              It was center city wannabe tough girl barmaid attitude. No biggie. Read right through it. I returned to the exact same seat.