HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Is it okay to ask for refund on a tip?

  • x

I dined at a restaurant a week ago, and the bill came to $250 before tax.
I intended to tip $60 but accidentally punched in $600. I realized this after a week when I was sorting out my credit card receipts.

Question 1. Is it OK to ask for a partial refund ($540) on the tip I gave?
Question 2. If the restaurant refuses to refund, I suppose there is no way to fight it?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Bummer for you, but your server was probably thrilled.

    I would try disputing the charge with your credit card company.

    4 Replies
    1. re: autumm

      Assuming the server got the money and kept it even though this is an obvious error, s/he is an unethical jerk and thief and deserves to be fired.

      1. re: josephnl

        You obviously havnt read the OPs latest post on the subject. Otherwise you wouldnt have made such remarks

        1. re: Harters

          You are correct...sorry, I did not see the OP's latest post. The server deserves much credit for his honesty (but would have been an unethical creep had he kept the tip).

          1. re: josephnl

            Whether the server, or others who do similar honest things, deserve an additional "reward" is an interesting question. It reminds me of an experience when a reporter complimented Bobby Jones for calling a penalty stroke on himself for a golf rule infraction no one else saw. Jones replied: "You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank."

    2. Just think, if you had offered a 10% tip you would only be out a couple hundred dollars.
      I always tip in cash, never by credit card. What the server decides to claim is not my business.

      1. I'd absolutely call the restaurant and explain what happened and ask for them to adjust the bill accordingly. At $60 you already tipped over 20% so it's not like you're trying to be cheap. The problem I see is that you wrote in $600 and signed your name to it. It appears to be an obvious mistake so hopefully you'll speak to someone that is rational and reasonable. If the restaurant won't refund the difference I'd call your credit card company. I'm sure you're not the first person to have ever done this and a $60 tip is obviously correct on a $250 bill.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Rick

          The OP said "punched in" so it doesn't sound like he/she wrote anything. I can't imagine that the restaurant would have a problem recognizing this as a typo, basically, and re-crediting the difference. Unless this is the kind of place where 2000+% tips are customary.

        2. When you say "punched in", do you mean you wrote it on the receipt or was there some sort of machine involved? You could call the restaurant and ask but the server probably has his/her tips by now. I wouldn't dispute it with my credit card company- the restaurant did nothing wrong and you don't have a gripe about the product. Good luck, though. That's an expensive mistake.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Hobbert

            I assume the OP is referring to the credit card machine, where you'd punch in your tip and enter your PIN to confirm the transaction. I've accidentally entered an extra "0" on occasions but, thankfully, have always spotted my mistake at the time. Presumably you do not have such machines where you are?

            1. re: Harters

              They may exist but I've never seen them. If that's the case, I'm a bit more on the OP's side. Still, it's been a week or more at this point. I doubt they're getting any money back.

              How does that work? Does the server bring a machine to your table?

              1. re: Hobbert

                Yep. Machine comes to your table. Server puts your credit/debit card in and enters the amount on the bill, then hands it to you. Depending on the restaurant's policy towards tipping, the machine may or may not be programmed to ask "do you want to add a tip?"

                If it is programmed like that, you press the "yes" or "no" button. And, if "yes", you're then asked how much you want to add. At that point, you enter your PIN and hand the machine back to the server, who then prints out your receipt on the machine.

                That's how it works in the UK and in all the European countries I've visited (although I can't recall ever seeing the "do you want to tip" question in continental Europe). Tipping question only really occurs in the UK at lower end palces as most mid-range and up now add a service charge instead of having old-fashioned tipping. I had forgotten that America is still back in the Dark Ages with bits of paper for you to sign :-0

                We were once chased down a street in Washington by the server as we hadnt actually paid. We had both gone to the toilet and assumed that the other had paid by card, so we just picked up what we assumed was the receipt and left.

                1. re: Harters

                  I have only seen these machines once. I think it was at Red Robin.

                  1. re: melpy

                    Legal C bar in Hingham Ma just opened and had them. It appeared very awkward for the servers but I think they didn't have the spiel down. Way too much talk about security, nervous giggles/throat clearings at the tip page, etc

                  2. re: Harters

                    Cool system. And, yes, we are definitely in the dark ages about credit card and point of sale issues. We're still hoping for chip and pin cards. One day...

                    1. re: Harters

                      Yes, very dark ages, in addition no chips, almost, available on cards and as many of the newer machines do not have a strip available, many times we from the USA cannot use the machine at all.

              2. Unless you're willing to directly ask that server for the money back, then no. To do otherwise is cowardice.

                Call your CC company, and pay better attention next time.

                1. My question is why the restaurant did not call you to verify that you really meant to leave a 240% tip. Or do they habitually receive tips of this magnitude?

                  18 Replies
                  1. re: RocketJSquirrel

                    Should a restaurant also call every customer that leaves 0% tip? It works both ways.

                    1. re: plaidbowtie

                      No, it doesn't. That's preposterous. If you want to argue that straw man then yes, the restaurant should investigate the 0% tip. You know darn well they would do it too, but oh well, a ridiculously high tip? Shhhh... don't say a word, that way, we're not in the wrong, right?
                      The server should have told the manager and had the establishment contact the customer to verify this astronomical tip. To not do so is deceitful theft.
                      I don't care why it happened. Was he drunk? Don't know. You still follow up, verify and err on the side of caution and the basic humanity that dictates we as humans do not profit from the honest mistakes of others.
                      Guess what? If the government refunds you 240% more on your tax return, you owe them the money back when they figure out they made a mistake.
                      I'd like to think we live in a civilized society, not a Dicken's novel.
                      That (as far as we know), the restaurant hasn't tried to clarify this matter with the OP is disgraceful.

                      1. re: monavano

                        People give varying amounts of money for all kinds of reasons, some preposterous, some accidental. What's the line that's drawn, then? 100% tip? 150%? 40%?

                        When did management even become aware of it, if they even did? At the end of the night? The next day? I worked in restaurants for years in the past- and have seen all kinds of cash out systems, some that didn't involve management at all. They might not even be aware of the issue.

                        1. re: plaidbowtie

                          Yes, the mistake or at least, very obvious over tipping, might not be noted yet by the restaurant, but certainly, the server has noticed it.
                          At any rate, the OP should have his credit card company pursue the matter and not dither around here with our speculations.
                          It's like getting into an auto accident and trying to hash it out with the other driver when your insurance company should be handling it.
                          It's what they're there for.

                          1. re: monavano

                            I agree with you 100%.

                            However, that money is almost certainly in the bank account of someone else (or multiple people depends on tip outs).

                            To have that there for up to a week, and then have it just disappear for something that was absolutely not their fault could be devastating. That money have have already been spent, we don't know.

                            We're not talking the next day, or a few hours later. Does it really suck that it happened? Absolutely. Sometimes we need to put our grown up pants on, though, and realize that our mistakes affect other people significantly.

                            1. re: plaidbowtie

                              Government refunds and bad checks are monies that get spent, yet are still expected to be repaid.
                              The whole "it sucks" thing doesn't wash.
                              Sucks for the server too. Grown up pants and all.

                              1. re: monavano

                                you can't equate a server to the government, that's like apples and oranges.

                                Also, let's say that you demand your money back, and the manager tells the server to give it back. What if it's gone already? What's the recourse? Do they get fired? That exact situation has happened to a friend of mine, for far less money ( I think it was $50)

                                Grown up pants. Realize that what you do affects other people and that demanding that your mistake be taken care of 100% is childish.

                                1. re: plaidbowtie

                                  The server has culpability here and the OP paid via his credit card. That's pretty good odds that the server should reach deep down and grab onto his big boy pants and yank them way up high when he's called upon to pay back what was never meant to be his in the first place.
                                  Too bad, so sad works both ways.

                                    1. re: plaidbowtie

                                      Hopefully, the OP will pursue this smartly and let us know how it turns out.

                                      1. re: monavano

                                        and hopefully no one is too negatively affected in the process.

                                        1. re: plaidbowtie

                                          Yes. It's a sticky wicket, for sure.

                              2. re: plaidbowtie

                                <That money may have already been spent, we don't know>

                                What does that have to do with anything?
                                The OP obviously made a mistake, the bank or credit card company will intervene, and the person who received it pays it back.

                          2. re: monavano

                            Absolutely unconscionable for the restaurant and server to not have corrected this obvious error. I would think that both would have recognized the error, but certainly the server did. For sure I would do whatever necessary to get my money back...and would likely never return to the restaurant (if I had any reason to believe they were aware of the error).

                            Not long ago I inadvertantly left a $100 tip at a restaurant not realizing that the restaurant already had added an 18% tip to the bill (their policy for groups of 6 or more). Upon arriving home there was a message from the restaurant manager telling me that the server had pointed out the error to him, and that he had already credited the $100 back to my credit card. I was so impressed with this that I called the manager back and had him give the server an extra $40 (on my card) as a reward for honesty.

                            1. re: josephnl

                              Wow. That's very refreshing behavior on both sides (yours and the restaurant). Thanks for sharing.

                              1. re: josephnl

                                A while back, DH and I were at an independently owned restaurant that was rather new. There were some pretty long pregnant pauses between courses as the kitchen wasn't running smoothly just yet.
                                Our server comped us a total of 3 glasses of wine (2 refills with our entree and 1 dessert wine to share), so we tipped based on that total cost, and then a little more for the generosity.
                                As we were walking out the door, he came running after us, asking if we meant to leave that much. He was so appreciative and wanted to make sure it wasn't a mistake (being plied with wine and all!!).

                                1. re: josephnl

                                  Great story.

                                  I'm not sure if I would have tipped the $40 for 'honesty' when it's something that's already expected.

                            2. re: RocketJSquirrel

                              PO states that restaurant did not have the OP's phone number.

                            3. I wanted to respond directly to the OP. My goodness, why are you posting this here instead of calling your credit card company and asking them to hold the payment?
                              That's what they are getting paid for!!!
                              Of course you have recourse. You made an honest mistake that should have been picked up on, for goodness sakes!
                              It would be dastardly for the restaurant to refuse the refund, but don't go to them.
                              Let your card company handle it.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: monavano

                                Why not post here? What's your problem with that..

                                1. re: miss_belle

                                  Wasted time. What we think and our pure conjecture is a total non starter for someone who wants to get a couple hundred bucks back. That was his clear intent and hope.
                                  The OP needs to get the ball rolling if there's any chance of reversing his mistake and this is not the place to do it.
                                  After taking the logical steps to get the process in motion, sure, write a post about it, but hand wringing, equivocating and asking for CH'ers opinions is in no way going to affect the outcome.
                                  Only his CREDIT CARD COMPANY can help him or her here.

                                  1. re: miss_belle

                                    I too am of the "why post here" school? I guess for some of us it is such a no brainer: call the CC company and dispute the charge. To me, this is like someone falling on the street, severely hurting their head and then going home to post on a board asking what they should do. Go to the ER!

                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                      My first thought was to call the CC company too but it didn't appear to me that the OP knew that was an option. I see no problem with starting a thread asking for advice on something you're not sure about. That's all.

                                2. 1. Call the restaurant, ask to speak to a manager. Inform the manager of the mistake. Ask the restaurant to voluntarily issue a credit to your credit card account and send you a copy of the credit record. 2. If the restaurant is unwilling to cooperate, then contact your credit card company and advise that the charge was in error. You will not be held liable for your honest mistake under these circumstances; whether the mistake was unilateral or mutual. To hold otherwise is unconscionable. Neither the restaurant nor the server is entitled to reap a windfall due to your error.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: MrsPatmore

                                    Contacting the credit card company is the first order of business. It's their business-- what they do for a living.
                                    Please, let the company do its job for YOU. It's what they get paid to do.
                                    It's not punitive, petty or cowardly. It's the correct avenue through which the OP should take.

                                    1. re: monavano

                                      Merchants get dinged for chargebacks (too many of them can raise their processing fee rates or get their account pulled) in a way that they aren't dinged for processing a refund. Since it was the OP's mistake, going back to the restaurant to allow them to correct it was courteous.

                                    2. re: MrsPatmore

                                      I have to disagree. The Op was handed the credit card reader, the OP entered $600.00 and signed off on the charge.
                                      Now common sense would say it was a mistake but how do you prove that as the OP?
                                      You waited a week or maybe until you got your credit card statement and then asked Chowhounds what to do.
                                      Was it a mistake or is it like buyers remorse? Who is to say?
                                      It is not clear cut and not the fault of anyone but the person who signed off on the receipt.

                                      1. re: genoO

                                        Once paid cable company 13,000. Realized immediately and was able to cancel. A week? Definitely involve the credit card company.

                                        1. re: genoO

                                          I think you have to add, "was it fat finger" syndrome? Not uncommon and something taken advantage of when dialing cell phones.

                                        2. re: MrsPatmore

                                          Why call the restaurant? It appears their intention is well documented with little room for question.
                                          I'd bypass the restaurant and go directly to the credit card company.

                                        3. bad form on the server's part. At what point should the restraunt check on a tip? Well, a server should know what a "normal tip is". this sort of falls under the it wasn't stealing but it was wrong. It brakes trust. An employee who would do this would steal from his/her employer too. I would call your credit card company and the restraunt.

                                          1. Just think: If you *don't* ask for a refund on the tip, next time you go to the same restaurant, you're gonna get the best service you ever had!

                                            1. I can't believe anyone would think that a 600 dollar tip isn't a mistake on a 250 dollar charge. And I used to be a server. I'd have questioned it the second it I saw it.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. Adding an extra zero is a very common transaction error.

                                                Happens a lot. Call the credit card company immediately, and also call the manager.

                                                Should be easy to fix. You have 60 days in the US to dispute a transaction -- and that might be worldwide with a major credit card company.

                                                An extra zero error is actually a very easy thing to dispute, and you can often begin the dispute process online.

                                                Log in to your account online and look at the list of transactions. Click on the transaction with the error and it will expand, and show details. Usually there's a link in the details that says "Dispute this transaction." Click on that.

                                                I always like to follow-up with a phone call anyway. But get on this quickly, and give us a report on how things turn out.

                                                1. Thank you all for your suggestions.

                                                  With regard to the question "why waste time posting here? Just call the card company/restaurant", all I wanted to do was to find out if there was a de facto standard protocol for this type of situation.

                                                  I admit I was feeling a bit awkward about calling the restaurant after 1 week.

                                                  Anyway I figured there isn't a standard protocol, after reading a few replies here (didn't expect this many replies), and decided to call the restaurant first, rather than the credit card company.

                                                  Lo and behold the manager said that they were waiting for me to get back to them.
                                                  The server had actually spotted the mistake that night, and ran out the restaurant door to try to get us but couldn't. He then reported it to the manager - I had not left my phone number so there was no way for them to reach me - so when I called they immediately knew what I was talking about, and assured that I get my money back.
                                                  They also thanked me for $60 tip and said I didn't have to give this much so I emphasized that we were very happy with the food and the service that night, and that the server deserved it.

                                                  So all worked out well, and I will definitely be back to that restaurant.

                                                  I suppose it's okay to ask the restaurant for the server's shift, so that we can return when he is in to give another tip to thank him for being honest?

                                                  13 Replies
                                                  1. re: Xixia

                                                    That's a great end to the story. I'd be inclined to give the server something extra for reporting the error. It's like someone returning money found. And, also make sure to compliment the service.

                                                    1. re: Xixia

                                                      Hooray for a happy ending. I would certianly reward him for his honesty. I have been following this thread to see the outcome. Now I can stop thinking that the server is an ultimate jerk and know that there are good people out there.

                                                      1. re: suzigirl

                                                        Same here!
                                                        OP, so glad things worked out. Sometimes, in this crazy world, stories like this restore one's faith.
                                                        Gimme an Amen!
                                                        (just pondering (husband has working knowledge of credit card companies so used him as sounding board...) if the restaurant could call to ask the credit card company to mediate this mistake with the contact card holder, assuming that it is a mistake?)

                                                      2. re: Xixia

                                                        So all worked out well and the restaurant did right by you. That's good to hear.
                                                        I do disagree that there was no way for them to get in touch with you. In this day and age, the credit card company could have easily contacted you had the restaurant contacted them. Believe me, if the shoe were on the other foot and the restaurant were out money somehow, they would have found a way for the credit card comany to contact you.

                                                        1. re: Xixia

                                                          The server definitely deserves credit for his honesty. With regard the restaurant...did they rectify the obvious error (which they clearly recognized) before you called them? They could and should have done so, even if they did not have your phone number or any way to contact you.

                                                          1. re: josephnl

                                                            But they couldn't be sure what the tip was meant to be. Obviously not $600, maybe $60? But they apparently thought that $60 still seemed like too much, so they were waiting for the OP to get in touch.

                                                            1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                              After a week, I think it would be reasonable and honorable to assume a 20% tip and credit the difference. What if the OP never recognized the mistake and never called?

                                                              1. re: josephnl

                                                                A week isn't that long, and none of us can say what the restaurant would have done after another week, or after a month. Maybe someone should call and ask them.

                                                                I get the feeling that some here are really eager to find fault with the restaurant, but I just don't see it. The OP seems relieved and satisfied with the way things turned out, and if it were me, I would be, too.

                                                                1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                  "I get the feeling that some here are really eager to find fault with the restaurant,"

                                                                  Not eager, but just pointing out that in 2013 if the restaurant really wanted to get in touch with the customer, they could have done it by the next day.

                                                          2. re: Xixia

                                                            Glad it all worked out. With a mistake of that magnitude the best thing to do would be to call the restaurant as soon as you realised, and then if they try to be (BLEEP)s about it, THEN you go to the credit card company and dispute the charge.

                                                            1. re: Kajikit

                                                              I would call the credit card company first, just to get it on the record.
                                                              What if you were playing phone tag with the manager for a while, or it came down to he said/she said with regards to registering the complaint with the restaurant?
                                                              Anyways, that's what I'd do.

                                                              1. re: monavano

                                                                I would call the cc company because who knows where the error was made? The OP thinks it was her mistake but maybe there was a glitch somewhere down the line. I've been mistakenly charged the wrong amount because of a computer error.

                                                            2. re: Xixia

                                                              Given that set of details, I think that I would have added a little something extra to the server's tip, for spotting the error, and having the ethics to report it.

                                                              Just like someone finding your lost wallet with your credit cards and $600 in cash, and returning it, untouched.

                                                              Happened to me on a golf course, and I "tipped" the young man, plus contributed to their Junior Golf program. Then, I wrote to the editor of the local paper, to express my feelings of gratitude.

                                                              Nice to see, when people step up and do the "right thing."

                                                              I have made mistakes on the tip, but never at that level. In my case, I let it slide, and chalked it up to too much great wine, and my not paying adequate attention to details.

                                                              Thanks for reporting,


                                                            3. I'm with the people who say bring it up w/ the credit card company. This might not have even been your mistake--errors happen. I'm guessing this is not the first time it has happened and the cc have a procedure in place to handle it.

                                                              1. Glad this all worked out for you, but I don't understand what you mean by " punched in" $600.

                                                                Except for the small number of restaurants that now use something like an iPad at your table (where you fill in the tip on a screen and sign, then confirm), the RESTAURANT has to add in the tip you WRITE in after they get your signed check back. Was this a place like that??? If not, I'm really interested in how this all happened.

                                                                6 Replies
                                                                1. re: Midlife

                                                                  From what the OP wrote, I assumed it was either an iPad or a mobile credit card reader, like a lot of European restaurants have.

                                                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                    You're right that handheld terminals are common in Europe, but it must be very rare for the customer to be prompted to enter a tip. I'm sure it's possible to program them like that, but I've never come across it myself. I assume that after you enter the tip amount, the terminal displays the grand total and asks for confirmation. So if you mess up, you still have a chance to catch it and correct it before you punch in your PIN and actually pay.

                                                                    1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                      It's common in the UK for the machines to be programmed to ask if you want to leave a tip, particularly at the lower end of the restaurant scale.

                                                                      Service charges added to the bill, instead of old-fashioned tipping, are also commonplace here but a few deceitful restaurants will still programme their machine to ask if you want to add a tip, as well. It's a scam to catch the unwary, who may not have spotted the service charge mention on the menu.

                                                                      The downside comes when you've eaten at a place that doesnt have service charges and they don't programme their machine to ask if you want to tip. Leaves you scrabbling round seeing if you have cash for a tip. There's been several occasions when we havnt had cash and have simply not been able to tip.

                                                                      Of course, card machines in countries where tipping is not a cultural norm (like Belgium, France and Spain) will not have their machines programmed to ask if you want to tip.

                                                                      1. re: Harters


                                                                        I have seen it both ways.

                                                                        While I often will tip, above the SC, I do always want to know the exact amount that is included, and then make up my mind, if there is more, that needs (IMHO) to be added.

                                                                        Some restaurants make that easy, but some do not. I prefer the former, and with the latter, the server usually gets what was already included.

                                                                        It appears that many restaurants in the US are going to the SC model. Not sure that I am a fan of that, but time will tell. When the gratuities ARE added in, in the form of a SC, the server probably gets less, than if I had just done all the math, but such is life.


                                                                      2. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                        Pretty much every restaurant in Canada has the handheld machines now, and they all prompt for tips.

                                                                        I very occasionally get asked to sign a credit card bill at a restaurant here and I'm always temporarily confused since pin based machines (first at the bar, and then at the table) have been dominant in Canada for probably 10 years now.

                                                                        I suspect I end up looking like one of the people in the black and white part of an infomercial. What? I have to calculate my own tip? How do I get the cap off this pen anyway?

                                                                        It's much like what I imagine the look on my face is like when I end up in a jurisdiction that still allows smoking in restaurants. "Smoking or non?" doesn't really even register with me as a question and I end up needing a few seconds to parse it and answer.