HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Technical issue on tipping

  • k

We went out to dinner last night and as I'm prone to do I forgot my glasses. My wife left the table about the time the check arrived and I squinted and peered and did my best. I thought the check was for $118, left a $25 dollar tip and totaled it to $143. I noticed my copy this morning and the total was actually $110.

So, will they correct my error and take a $25 tip or take my total amount?

I'm not in the least sweating the $8, just curious if there is some kind of "rule" regarding what is done when customer's inevitably make an error on the tab.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I'll bet they'll take the final amount at the bottom you signed on, which is why I usually put the final in and let them do the math for the middle line. of course in this way after a long dinner with lots of wine I did end up leaving a 50% tip once... oh they liked me lots on subsequent visits. ehh my mistake.

    1. Good question. Please let us know when you receive your cc statement!

      What do they do if you scribble something illegible for the tip and/or the total? And who reports the final amount to charge? I guess the restaurant, but that seems to open things up to all kinds of temptation/fiddling. Always seems like a strange system to outsiders…

      1. Yeah, I've gotta agree with hill food. I think the bottom line is the amount you will be charged for and the tip will be revised to reflect the total to which you agreed to pay by signing it.

        1. Way back when I managed a restaurant, this happened a few times a week. Over 95% of the time (not a scientifically proven percentage) it's inherently obvious what was intended, as people tend to do one of two things. Either they tip a round number dollar like you did- $25, OR they tip an amount that creates a round dollar on the final total, so if your bill was 110.45, the write "32.25" as the tip, and "143.00" as the total.

          In the first instance, I would give the servers the amount written as the tip. In the second, I would give them the amount that equaled the total authorized. At a certain point you realize that a healthy chunk of the general population really, really sucks at math.

          3 Replies
          1. re: plaidbowtie

            "a healthy chunk of the general population really, really sucks at math" [...] "if your bill was 110.45, the write "32.25" as the tip, and "143.00" as the total" LOL!!!!!!

            Unrelated to how bad peoples math skills are:
            If the bottom line is lower than that the total plus tip line sum to, is the waiter/restaurant allowed to change the bottom line so the waiter receives the intended tip?

            1. re: kpaxonite

              The amount that was determined to be intended was the amount charged, regardless of if it increase or decreased the actual tip.

              1. re: plaidbowtie

                It seems that in my case it would be clear that I meant to leave a $25 tip.

                They might assume that I couldn't do simple arithmetic and they would have no reason to know that I'm a retired accountant.

                I do feel like if the waiter was consulted he might point out that I was having trouble seeing (he offered to go find me a pair of glasses or hold the menu another foot or two away for me) and that I also drank a full bottle of wine less the tablespoon my wife had.

                I can see how if you were running a restaurant this kind of thing would be a pita and I really need to do better about my glasses.

                For the record, had discovered that I shorted the waiter, I would have called and made it right.

          2. Probably they went by the tip. The way it works in every restaurant I've worked at is that servers put the tips into the credit card machine at the end of the night. This might seem strange, but we very mostly ARE honest people. I don't generally even look to see if the math is right. The credit card machine does all the work and all it asks for is the tip. If a tip is really inconsistent with the check total AND the math is incorrect, I generally try to figure out the intent of the payer. For instance, as in the OP's case, it would become clear that he/she thought the check total was 118, when it was really 110. I would then determine what that tip percentage is, as adjust the tip downwards. I'm not sure I would be comfortable adjusting it higher, though, and would probably just take the hit. It's not a big deal in the long run.

            1. It doesn't matter what you wrote in the 'tip' line. They have to use the 'total' amount. If your check is $10, you write $85 in the tip line and in the total line write '$12', they will charge your card $12.

              17 Replies
              1. re: deputygeorgie

                This is at odds with the practice that plaidbowtie described above, which suggested that the restaurant can adjust both the tip and the total at their discretion (when there is clearly an error on the customer's part).

                1. re: deputygeorgie

                  I don't see how thus can be true. Each tip is physically added in check by check in almost every system I've ever seen. The system already had in it the amount BEFORE the tip and the system asks for the tip amount, then adds it to the before tip total. At that point the system adds the two and asks for the user to confirm the total. The only way to get to a larger grand total is to increase the amount entered as 'tip'.

                  1. re: Midlife

                    That makes sense (I would totally program the system in exactly the way you describe), but the question is what happens when the system asks the data enterer to confirm the total, _and_ the total is not the same as the one calculated by the customer. At that point it seems like maybe all options should be open to try to determine what the customer actually meant.

                    1. re: DeppityDawg

                      My point is simple. If the tipper wrote $10 next to the word tip.........how could the server assume anything else in good conscience. At last that's how I see it. I get that it also took a conscious effort for the tipped to add to a different total, but I think the former is more likely.

                      1. re: Midlife

                        "If the tipper wrote $10 next to the word tip.........how could the server assume anything else in good conscience."

                        Um, exactly in the OP's type of situation: the customer misreads the pre-total, they tip on the wrong amount and calculate the wrong total. Let's say the food/drink bill is $30. The customer writes in a tip of $10 and a total of $60. What would you do? It's obvious that they mistakenly thought the food bill was $50, right? How could the the server, in good conscience, take their $10 tip (or, going by the total, their $30, 100% tip)?

                        1. re: DeppityDawg

                          I don't agree that's right. A $10 tip on a $30 bill is not far enough out of line for me to assume that. I work in a fine bar and have been tipped between 5% and 75%. I've been completely stuffed too, but that's another story. Last week I got a $70 tip on a $150 bill. Math was correct. Should I have questioned it?

                          1. re: Midlife

                            The situation is that the customer writes in a $10 tip _and_ a $60 total. In other words, _two_ data points that tell you that the customer thought the pre-total was $50, although in reality it was $30. What do you do?

                            If the system just asks you for the tip amount, you can take the $10. Whatever, a 33% tip, you've seen it all before. There are also systems that just ask you to enter the reported total. In that case, would you really enter $60, and give yourself a $30 tip? Ideally, the system will ask you for one number, and then ask you to confirm the other number, based on the pre-total ($30, in this example). In this case, you will get an error message. What do you do?

                            1. re: DeppityDawg

                              I'm just not agreeing that the $60 total really tells you that much. YMMV. From my experience the system asks you to confirm a total that is the sum if the check amount and the tip(which you enter). So ..... the total is NOT what the customer wrote in UNLESS you change he tip amount.

                              1. re: Midlife

                                OK, I'm just saying that if you want to figure out what the customer meant, it might be useful to take into account everything that the customer wrote. Yes, they could mess up at any point, but looking at the tip _and_ the total will give you a better idea of what was in their mind than just looking at the tip and ignoring their total.

                                However, from the server's point of view, I can totally understand that you have 50 stupid cc slips to enter at the end of the night and you really don't have the time to get into the heads of all these customers who for whatever reason misread the check or screwed up their math.

                                1. re: Midlife

                                  I'm pretty certain this is why something called a manager exists.

                                  1. re: plaidbowtie

                                    I've left out that part. I would hope "management's" take would be to use what rhe customer wrote in for a tip rather than evef increasing that number. But who knows.

                                    1. re: Midlife

                                      my experience both as a tipped employee and a manager is that when there is a math error whatever amount is in the customer's favor will be used.

                                        1. re: Midlife

                                          lol. you assume everybody working in a restaurant is ethical?

                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                            YOU'RE the one who said math errors are decided in the CUSTOMER'S favor. I don't get your continued negativism then.

                                            1. re: Midlife

                                              i have also fired servers who wrote in bigger tips than what the guest left, servers who have stolen cc numbers (back before they were more secure) and servers who chose to NOT involve a manager and adjusted the tip in their own favor.

                                              i'm not being negative, just a realist.

                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                Yup. Just reality of course. I thought we were talking about what should be or is normally, not what CAN be.

                  2. In an example as yours (the OP) it's obvious your intention was to leave a $25.00 tip, there is no question about that. So in this case they SHOULD adjust the balance down to $135. and run it that way.

                    Anyone who posts that they will take the bottom line balance and run it that way are completely off base. In the OP's example there is $8.00 over "charge" to his bottom line addition. Any restaurant would be crazy to charge his bottom line amount of $143. just because he wrote that in his total. Who would keep the additional $8.00? There is a word for a practice like this and it's theft by deception. If the OP clearly wrote $ 25. in the tip column and the total was $110. then they can only run that card for $135. not the $148 he wrote in the total.

                    As someone else pointed out, our collective math skills as a society are rather woeful, so you can correct obvious mathematical mistakes, however you cannot just charge extra money without it being justified by the actual cost of food, plus indicated tip. No way, no how. The credit card processing company would reverse that additional charge in no time flat.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: jrvedivici

                      What I was hoping for is an explanation of how the receipts are processed at the end of the night.

                      I assume that when they run your cc that you are then going to be charged for the price of the meal whether you leave a tip or sign the slip or not.

                      It seems like it would be a huge time sink to check every bill for mathematical accuracy. I can certainly see going through a stack of them and either inputing the total line or the tip line.

                      1. re: kengk

                        Generally throughout the course of a night each individual server is in "charge" of their cc receipts. Then at the end of the night the POS (Point of Sale) system is closed out. The draw / cash is counted making sure it matches the cash sale receipts, and the servers turn in their cc' receipts with some sort of an accounting of their sales and tips. If there are conflicts it should be brought up at this time.

                        I should indicate this is the format for stores that do same night tip outs. If they do weekly tip outs then the reports and receipts are just gathered at end of shift for review by a book keeper/payroll person.

                        In either case, a server might not be allowed or capable of closing out a check if it has an error and may require a manager to act on the spot of closing out the check. Thus, making the corrections required to the math.

                        But in either case, receipts are generally reviewed for accuracy vs. the internal reports.

                        1. re: kengk

                          From what I gather — many people have asked this question on the Internet — servers are responsible for the data entry, and restaurants have wildly variable policies (or no policy at all) for dealing with errors. The most general guideline seems to be to do whatever is least likely to be successfully disputed by the customer.

                          The current system of write-in tips is in itself a huge time sink with enormous potential for error, fraud, misunderstanding, bad handwriting, etc. A lot of which could be avoided if people paying by card could indicate how much tip they wanted to leave _when giving the card to the server_ (i.e., after getting the bill and seeing the total). Then the server could input the tip and run the card once and for all with the final amount. Return to the table with a slip where everything is clearly printed for the customer to sign. And a copy for them to keep. Why doesn't it work like that?

                          1. re: DeppityDawg

                            This is going to become the method with the use of tablet's and smart phones which act as POS systems. You will have a digital print out of your check total, be prompted to add the tip, then you will be brought a paper receipt. (or email/electronic receipt)

                            One other thing to keep in mind, although you give a server your credit card, and it is "approved", then you sign it and leave. That charge is NOT being put through at that time. That is a pre-authorization by your credit card company, however the actual transaction isn't sent to your credit card company till the end of the night or next day. Restaurants send "batch" charges at the end of the night or following morning.

                            So if you go out to eat, then rush home and check your online account you most likely won't see the charge pending yet. The restaurant sends one "batch" of the total Mastercard, Visa, Amex sales at once for each day's sales. It will include an individual break down of charges, but they are all sent in together.

                            1. re: jrvedivici

                              That was true a few years ago... now when I pay for anything it is posted online within 5 minutes (it depends on your bank..some of my friends had it 5 years ago and some still dont).

                              1. re: kpaxonite

                                I guess I should have prefaced my answer with the fact it's been 5+ years since I was directly involved in credit card transactions.

                            2. re: DeppityDawg

                              even though the servers are inputting the tips and cashing out at end of shift there is still an accounting person going over the cc receipts and checking all the math within a day or two.

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                But the question is really about what rule is applied when the math is wrong. I'm wondering if the credit card processors/banks have a policy on that? Wouldn't be surprised if they did.

                                1. re: Midlife

                                  over the years have had a few guests call back about incorrect charge tips, but never once have gotten a call from a bank or cc processing company. they only want their cut and don't give a rat's ass about the customer.

                                  more importantly, the math has been adjusted before it gets to that next level.

                            3. re: kengk

                              See my post above for how most systems do this.

                          2. Here's an earlier thread about the same issue:

                            "Tipping with a credit card"

                            1. I once made the mistake of adding a 20% tip to a bill without noticing that they automatically added 18%. I called them the next day and explained what happened. They gladly refunded my extra 20%.