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When Your Server Forgets To Charge For Your Meals

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My post “Why I Lied About Money” went live on Get Rich Slowly on Feb 5. It is a very personal and honest post about my past. Writing it took me some courage and a lot of questioning (to write or not to write type questioning), and “to write” argument won. If you’ve missed my post, make sure to stop by and read it. It provides another glimpse into Aloysa. 

I have a control problem. It exhibits itself in an odd way: I have to know what’s going on in our bank account every day. I check our bank account every single morning in order to see what transactions cleared and what is pending. Actually, once this not-so-healthy and somewhat obsessive habit helped me to discover a wrongful charge on the account before it even cleared. But that is a different story.

I am also a receipt hoarder. I stuff receipts for every purchase into my wallet until my wallet looks bulky and feels brick heavy. I also like to check every single receipt for the correctness of charges. I do it in stores buying groceries. I do it in malls buying new clothes or shoes. I do it in restaurants while finishing up dessert.

I think I am starting to sound a bit fixated on the receipts, but it is a part of who I am. Beaker knows this obsession passion of mine and he always lets me approve our receipts. We are an odd couple.

A week ago, Beaker and I went out to eat. We ordered our drinks, our meals and, later, we ordered some more drinks. Somewhere between finishing my first glass of wine and waiting for a second one, I decided that it was a night for me to unwind.

No, it did not mean I was going to get drunk, and let Beaker carry me on his back to the car after dinner. It meant that I was going to not worry about our bill, and most importantly, I was not going to scan our check at the end of the night. You know… I was chilling out.

Beaker paid, handed me the receipt, and I put the receipt in my wallet, forgetting about it for a week.

This is where it gets interesting.

Sunday night I decided to clean out my wallet. It was pretty fat and not from hundred dollar bills. I took all the receipts out and was going to use the shredder when I saw the receipt from the restaurant from a week ago. I scanned through it, realizing that for some reason we paid much less than I thought.

I looked closer and noticed that our server did not put our meals on it!

My first blatant thought was about how cheap we got off. For a few seconds I was totally okay with it, almost to the point of being proud of it. My second and a more self-conscious thought was “Wow! I feel like we stole money from our server.”

For a few minutes I stood and stared at the receipt, feeling lost. I did not know what to do. It was an ethical dilemma after all, and I regard myself as a highly ethical person. Most of the time.

I had to answer two questions:

Should we go back to the restaurant and pay for the meals that we had ten days ago?

OR

Should we forget it ever happened? It was not our fault that our server forgot about the meals.

I have to admit I wanted to forget it and move on. But it did not feel right. The problem had a face and it was the face of our server. I guess if it would be something more abstract and faceless it would be easier to ignore.

So, this week we are going back to the restaurant to pay for the meals.

I also told Beaker that the next time I decide to chill out, he needs to take upon himself the responsibility of checking our receipts for two simple reasons:

People make mistakes.

AND

The day I decide to let everything go, shit happens.

Comments (37)

  • I understand where you are coming from, but I do not think i would have gone back to the restaurant. I might have gone there again to eat and asked for the particular server and made it up to them then. I do know people with obsessive habits, and this will completely eat you up until you rectify it. Paying up your bill will rectify it for you and make you move on. I am all for it, plus a few meals isn’t going to put you underwater with debt.

  • That’s Karma telling you not to stop checking receipts Aloysa haha!
    And for the record I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have gone back to the restaurant even if I noticed the mistake the same night driving home in the car. Does that make me a bad guy?

    • I don’t think it makes you a bad guy. Everyone is different and approach things differently. 🙂 I, actually, understand both views: to go back and pay, and not to.

  • I am happy to see that there are people like you still around. Most people would avoid that restaurant for a while in hopes of not being found out.

  • That’s very noble of you! I don’t think I would have gone back… People make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes cost them money. I’m a pretty generous tipper when I get good service so I think it works out in the end. Maybe that’s just what I tell myself 🙂

  • Either my wife or I always check the receipt prior to giving over the credit card or leaving cash, just to make sure that it is correct (mainly because we’ve received the wrong bill from another table a couple of time at different places). But I in no way obsess, as they get thrown out at home that night. As for making it right with the restaurant, do what you feel you need to. I wouldn’t make a special trip, but I’d mention it next time I’m there. They probably won’t do anything other than say thanks for bringing it up.

    Also, great story over on GRS! That must have been a hard story to write and even more difficult to put out there in the blog-o-world.

    • It was a hard story to write. It took some courage. I actually was freaking out Saturday night, wondering what people will comment. In the end, it all worked out better than I thought. No regrets!

  • Very ethical of you. However, I don’t think I would go back, because you risk the possibility of this server getting in trouble and possibly fired over this mistake.

  • I’ll tip the server extra next time. I usually check the receipt before leaving the restaurant and then Mrs. RB40 takes care of it after that. I don’t think it’s big deal. That kind of mistake happens.

    Great job on GRS!

  • I think you are making the right call. Chances are the server had to pay for those meals out of pocket which could have been quite a chunk of his/her take home pay / tips.

  • Is that what we call us? Receipt horders? I can live with that. Mike and I have the same agreement. After 5 years he agreed to stop rolling his eyes at me every time I ask for a receipt or question him on how to categorize a particular purchase.
    Without judgement go with what you feel you should do. Everyone will have a different take but it comes down to you and that voice inside your head. The voice that as a child I thought was Jesus talking directly to me…

    • My husband is so used to me obsessively checking receipts that he doesn’t look at them any more. LOL oh well… Maybe he should start.

  • I am almost 100% sure I would not have gone back, especially if it were out of my way. Although one time in high school, I was totally given the wrong grade on a test (I was awarded a higher one than I actually earned) and I told the teacher. She was impressed and let me keep the higher grade. maybe the restaurant will let you keep the free meals?

  • i want to reiterate the thoughts from others that your guest post on GRS was outstanding.. posts like that one are the reasons why i enjoy PF blogs so much…

    as for this issue… i have to wonder if it would even be trackable from the restaurant side..
    you may very well find that when you get there, there is no electronic trail back to your meal, and the manager may wave it off regardless..

    you were buying drinks at the restaurant, which means you have paid more than your share. they markup their drinks probably 800%, so they made a nice profit off of you, even without the meals.

  • One night my son and I went to dinner, and I happened to notice that we got the wrong ticket at the end of the meal. (The person whose ticket we got ate MUCH cheaper than the two of us!) I couldn’t stand it – I flagged down the waitress and let her know, and she was so happy I thought she was going to hug me. She had already been written up for the same thing and said she could have been fired if it had happened again. If I was in your shoes, I’d definitely make it right. Things like that keep me awake at night.

    Do you have a smartphone? When I go out somewhere, I use Evernote to take pictures of all my receipts once I get home. That way I don’t have all the paper cluttering up my wallet or purse, but I still have all my receipts (printable if needed) in case something is wrong. It’s a wonderful system.

    • I am going to email you because I am not quite sure how to do. I do use Evernote but I never used it for taking pictures. That would save me from a lot of trouble!

  • Aloysa,
    I would have done the same thing. It would have bothered me until I paid the difference. Good for you Aloysa.

  • You’re a good person… I’m sure the server would appreciate it, especially if the difference is taken out of his/her pay.

  • What a wonderful idea, Andrea.

    I love Everyone, but have never used it to take pictures of receipts.
    Love it!

  • Hah!.. DYAC!
    That was supposed to say Evernote

    • Haha! I was hoping you were admitting to loving everyone. Oh well… LOL I did figure out that you just misspelled.

  • Yea my conscience would have def forced me to go back and take care of the server especially if it was a big meal/check. Although I must admit I prob would try to justify not going back if the service was horrible. But hey people make mistake, and karma does exist!

  • I think it is very honorable that you are going to go back and pay for the meals – maybe the restaurant will even do something nice in return like treat you to a drink or dessert or something. I think it’s easy to feel like a company undercharging isn’t that big a deal and figure that they have plenty of money coming in to make up for it – but as a small business owner I realize that’s not always the case. We have had clients point out billing errors that were in their favor and it was heartwarming and much appreciated.

    Also – I loved your GRS post!

    • I think if I made an error, I would hihgly appreciate if someone would point it out to me. Small things like this do matter, right?

  • So honest!! There is humanity in the world still!! 🙂

  • I love your honesty. Life really is about achieving happiness. And, you can’t find happiness when your soul cries for hurting a poor waiter’s wallet. Great article.

    Thanks,
    Shilpan

  • haha I would go back, but I don’t think they would make you pay 10 days later. Most likely the manager took care of it so the server didn’t have to pay, and they’ve long since forgotten about it. Don’t worry!

  • Love this post! And there is not much wrong with checking your back account everyday and hording receipts – I do it and I bet that most of our blogger friends for as well; technology not withstanding. As to going back to pay the bill – yep! I would have done the same; in fact I have done the same.

  • Great story! You did the right thing. The price of two meals out is not worth the bad Karma. Also you are not alone in your crazy habits – I also hoard receipts and check our bank account every day.

  • I’m really surprised but the number of people who wouldn’t go back and pay. The meal eventually is paid by someone, in this case the server bought you dinner because of their mistake. The last time I checked just because someone makes a mistake doesn’t make it okay or free. The least anyone should do is go back and offer to cover the cost. If the server or manager says don’t worry about it, then you are good. And the “I tip them well enough” excuse or “I’ll tip them extra next time” doesn’t cover the cost and never amounts to much.

    Good for you for going back!

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