[Editors note: I posted a column earlier today on the subject of tipping. I wrote it in a rush, without giving it as much thought or care as I usually do. Consequently the wording came out much differently than I intended, so I removed it. I think the topic is important so I decided rewrite today's column.]
When I go to a restaurant I usually don’t even look at the bill. I just hand over a credit card and sign the bill when it comes. I had a conversation with several restaurant owners recently that made me realize that my habit is not the best one. Usually everything turns out fine. Odds are, however, that eventually I will encounter an unscrupulous server that wants to take advantage of me. Here are two things you need to look out for:
The double-tip trick: When a restaurant party, usually 6 or more, accidentally pays a tip for a bill that already had a gratuity factored in, the server is supposed to let you know of your mistake, or in the case where you already have left the restaurant – remove the second tip from your bill. Unfortunately some unscrupulous servers intentionally give the customer only a charge slip to sign. The original itemized receipt, that mentions the already-factored-in tip, is missing. This increases the odds the customer will accidentally leave a double tip.
The fill-in-the-tip-after-the-customer-signs-the-receipt trick: This problem is pretty self-explanatory and here are ways to avoid it:
- Always fill in either “zero”, “cash”, or a line thru the tip space so that it cannot be changed.
- Always take the extra copy of the cc receipt with you or have it destroyed. A lot of times customers fill in one receipt and give it to the restaurant and then leave the blank one there. If an unscrupulous server traces the signature even remotely closely and fills in the tip they want, no one is going to notice unless it is the customer themselves.
- Fill in a tip amount on your own copy of the receipt so that when the amount posts to the account, you have a record of how much you tipped. Always check your CC or debit card transactions online and save your receipts for at least a week to make sure they post and clear accurately. It is unlikely you will remember the exact amount of the bill, especially when tip was added, and you will need to reference your receipt.