The Case of the Missing Credit Card Voucher

Thursday, 9:58 PM

I’m closing the place down and waiting for my last two tables to pack it up and move on out. It’s a dark and rainy night outside and the warmth of the restaurant is no doubt keeping the customers here longer than normal. I can’t blame them for not wanting to go out into the elements, but as Sherril Holland, manager at Houlihan’s, used to say: “You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.”

Finally, one of the tables begins to put on their coats and it signals to the other table that it might be a good idea to ask for their check. I remind them that I placed it on the table twenty minutes earlier. The woman laughs at her own absent-mindedness and she digs into her purse to hand me her Visa card.

“Good night, folks,” I say to the exiting customers as I walk to the credit card machine. “Stay dry. Thanks for coming in.”

I swipe the card and am annoyed to learn that the magnetic strip is not working. I swipe it again in the hopes of avoiding having to punch in all the numbers manually. It still doesn’t work so I dig my reading glasses out of my apron to read the card. The total is $72.63. The machine prints out two vouchers; one that says Merchant Copy and the other that says Customer Copy. As per the norm, I take the Customer Copy and fold it up along with the original receipt and then wrap it around the credit card. On the other copy, I circle the words Merchant Copy and place it in a folder.

“Here you are folks. Thanks for coming in and have a good night,” I tell them.

I move over to the other table and begin to clear it, placing the empty water glasses and napkins onto a tray and head to the dish room. When I return to the dining room with a towel and cleaning solution I see my last customers walking away from their table ensuring that my night is nearing an end. I say good night again and they are gone.

I head to my last table to clear it and pick up the credit card folder. There is no voucher. I run to the door of the restaurant to see if I can catch them, but they have disappeared into the darkness and all I see are people walking their dogs in the rain.

They took the fucking voucher.

I know that I gave them two vouchers. I know one was very clearly marked Merchant Copy. I know I will not be getting a tip.

Where did that voucher go? Could it have been stuffed into her purse with the other one? Did she eat it? Did she shove it up her ass to avoid tipping me? I will never know. All I know for certain is that when people walk out of the restaurant with the signed copy of a credit card voucher, I will not be getting a tip. I know that I served them for absolutely no reason other than for the sheer joy of serving and we know how much that is worth.

Don’t take the signed copy. I can’t just assume that you left 20% and add it because the second I do that, a call will be made to Visa and my ass is in trouble for credit card fraud. Yet I can’t make a call to Visa and charge your ass with stiffing me.

Maybe it was taken by accident, but maybe it wasn’t. Is it that hard to believe that people would willingly walk out with the signed copy just to avoid that $14.00 tip? It is feasible and very very likely.

I close the card with no tip. I don’t risk getting fired by adding a tip that I didn’t see. It’s a shitty ending to night. What do you do when someone walks out with the signed copy?

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40 thoughts on “The Case of the Missing Credit Card Voucher

  1. BeccaDee

    That's awful, I hate when that happens. My restaurant recently upgraded the systems so all tips, even AMEX, are inputted and printed, and they just have to sign.On an unrelated note, I'm in the opening night of my first ever performance tonight. I took the liberty of pulling a Bitchy and having a glass of wine to soothe the pre-show nerves. Hope today is better good sir!

  2. Anonymous

    Here's a more ethically challenging question: customer takes credit card but doesn't take any slips. No signature, nothing on the tip line and all the copies are there. What then?

    1. Anonymous

      I used to write a zero in the tip line so I wouldnt get busted for fraud and I signed it for them without the tip but in stead of a name I wrote what I wanted to call them for stiffing me… “Douchenozzle”, “fuckwit”, “cunty mcbitch”, etc. but I would write it really really messy so no one else could tell what it said. So no one ever knew but it made me feel just a tiny bit better about having just paid the busboys for the privilege of serving.

  3. Anonymous

    Last week I showed up for my shift and the manager handed me an envelope that had $10 in it. Turns out a guest had realized that they had taken both copies and came back in to leave me a tip. Made my day, not so much because of the ten bucks, but because this guest took the time to fix the mistake.

  4. Rogue Wino

    I always check the papers underneath that they did leave, usually there's an indentation where they wrote. You have to dash around to find the right lighting and angle to see it, but it's there. Nine times out of 10 I can recoup my tip this way. Unless you're in a super stuffy place that demands to have the original copy. I can't see people complaining though if you put in the right tip.Now as for completely forgetting to sign, or taking all the papers, then you are just screwed.

  5. Annabehl

    I have both copies one on top of the other, if they happen to leave with the merchant copy, there is usually an imprint on the bottom and you can tell what they left. If they take both, then, it's no tip. I would never assume to I put a tip when it's not there. It really doesn't matter what you do, there is always some numbskull who leaves with both!

  6. Sarah

    Can't say I have never held up the unsigned copy and looked for any sign of imprint as to guess what they tipped then went with that…although in your case that wouldn't work. Also when & if they do leave the blank copy there is often no imprint which leads me to the conclusion that they totally did it on purpose. I've hunted them down and they've coughed it up with nothing written on it, thus proving they were trying to get out of the tip part. I've even suggested they fill it out & sign it & had them huffily do so without filling out the tip. MORE PROOF. People sometimes suck.

  7. Anonymous

    Some classless people like to take both copies so they can call and dispute the restaurant charges, leaving not only no tip, but stealing from the restaurant too. Happened at an applebees I used to work at.

  8. Anonymous

    Thats why I like tip trays and not those books. I keep an eagle eye out for the slip AND my pen! I laugh but I'm serious when I tell my customers I will lock the doors and shake everyone down if my pens comes up missing. If a tip is not entered on the slip and no cash is present, I will ask if they "want the total to stay the same?" Its a 'prompt'…. if they forgot, they can put the tip in and if not, I am 'looking out for them' by writing the sale total on the bottom line (so it couldn't be 'adjusted' later). I know someone who got fired because a customer said the server wrote a tip on the restaurant's copy of the slip. The customer admitted to not having THEIR copy as proof but the server got fired anyway.~The Damn Yankee

    1. Kenny Ray

      right? I BUY those pens and i want them back. I put my name on them in marker and scotch tape and everybody thinks i’m crazy. Managers borrow my pens to sign other waiter’s credit slips. What, am i supposed to go around to each server and find the pens? who am I Kojak? (Google Him) Anyway, The pens are walked back to me by fellow servers who want No part of my whining, or sometimes i’ll see one on a counter next to a server is doing his checkout. “Busted, Bitch!” i’ll say as i scoop up my property…”No. Wait, I-” “Tough Titties, Fucktard, use your own…”

  9. Kimberly Perron

    Don't wrap the other copy around the card! A signed copy is a signed copy, regardless of if it is the guest or merchant copy. Also, if a guest just takes the top copy, you can often still see the imprint of their tip, total, and signature. Many restaurants will let you keep the tip! I stopped folding the dup copy years ago. Good luck!

  10. Cherie

    I've gone a few pages deep, and I'm on my phone so I apologize if this has been asked. I was wondering what you and other waiters consider an acceptable tip. Not so much what you hope for, but when you don't feel like you've been shortchanged. And then what you consider generous, what would make you feel a moment of gratitude. Just for a table of two or three. I only go to one restaurant, not really a nice place, but I love it. I rarely see the same people which must mean it's not a great place to work. But I keep hoping maybe they'll remember me. I usually tip about the same regardless of my bill. Sometimes I only want coffee, but I feel I should tip as if I did get a meal because they still have to wait on me. I'm not trying to toot my own horn. I really wish that it was common practice. But I just want to know that I made the server happier. I want to make sure I meet the threshold of the waiter being glad that they served me. I live in Utah, the conservative area with big families. My guess is that people around here are horrifically bad tippers. So the threshold is probably lower, but I could be wrong and I want to make sure. .

    1. Rhia

      10% or below gets them called many names in our imaginations because they are cheap assholes. 15% is mediocre to average service (for instance, if I forgot to get a side or something or was stuck at the to go station and barely saw them, I wouldn’t feel too bad with 12 to 15%). 20% is average to good, 25% or over is for excellent service and 30% or more means every server who can memorize your face before you leave will give you amazing service anytime you go there in the future in hopes that you will bless them too (like this man and his two kids who come to my restaurant every Sunday morning, are very polite, always run up a $60 bill, and never ever tips below 22%, and usually more like 30%. My coworkers will literally fight for this table).

      1. Robert

        LOL! I used to live across the street from a Denny’s and I would go in there once every week or two. I think my then GF now wife first learned the fringe benefits of tipping well when two servers got into a friendly argument over whose station we would be sat in.

  11. Anonymous

    Pick up the check presenter before they leave and say thanks again. I have worked with some people that feel uncomfortable doing this but my restaurant wants us all to do this. You are just finishing a business transaction. Then if they didn't leave the correct slip or forgot to sign you can catch it before they leave. Also prevents people from leaving their credit card behind, you know that happens occasionally.

  12. JoeinVegas

    Yes, she is probably the one to call the credit card company and ask the whole charge to be removed, asking for proof that she was there. Don't do it . .

  13. maxi

    We have chip and pin in the UK so this doesn't happen. We are not allowed to take the card from the table either, it is all done in front of the guest. I get a bit ansty now whenever I'm in the US and the server takes my card away!

    1. wendi

      I live in the US and I still get antsy when they leave with the card! I know too many people that have had their numbers swiped that way. I’d always rather pay at the register if possible.

  14. Julie

    Well, I wait until my manager is 2 Stoli Razz and Sevens in (usually around 10:00 – and no he isn't a 17 year old girl, that is what he drinks…every night) and tell him. He will say to put 18%, so I do and then I am covered. I also wait until this sweet spot in the evening to ask for time off.

  15. Rebecca Cowan-Thompson

    Despite its rudeness i reached a point where i would hover. Hey asshole remember me, yeah the one who just made thirty soda suicides each to your cup to cup specifications, then spent thirty minutes explaining to your drunk friend i am a server not a lap dancer? Yeah i expect a tip, im not your qife and she wouldn't put up with you so thats why your in my station

  16. Rebecca Cowan-Thompson

    Dear pope bitchy,Forgive me father for i have sinned. Being an incurable believer in peoples ability to change (and not having seen your 9-14-2012 post) i committed the ultimate sin…. i fed the troll. Having a weak moment both as restaurant owner and ex-entry level server i thought, maybe springs1 just got a bad rap… maybe she's misunderstood… so i popped onto her blog. It was immediately apparent i made a mistake after reading a twenty minute rant about how servers should act as slaves blah blah, so i furthered my sin, i spoke to it… it was rude and unpleasant. It kept blowing up my email with idiocy, scattered rantings of a truly unwell over entitled god complex suffering mind. I am ashamed in the hour of my life i will never get back. Will you absolve me as i apologize to all servers and bloggers who have heard the foul grunts of the blog troll or smelled the ranch on its breath? As an owner i have always prided myself on my ability with stupid belligerent people as my restaurant has a no drink minimum, due to being in nv we also offer gambling 24hrs a day. I also pride myself on how i treat my employees. They are given the right to 86 customers that regularly come in demanding shit but leave no tip, or who refuse to control their parties themselves. Server warns you twice, your done. If they provide excellent service while im on shift and then get shafted in their tip, i try to cover it out the days house take.. so i promise to ne`er again question the word of pope bitchy or feed a troll….ever

    1. colleen

      Damn! I want to work for you!
      thanks for being understanding and having your severs’ backs! At the end of the day, it’s really all we want from an owner/manager/food-emperor/lordFOH.

  17. Rhia

    I had a table one time who took the signed slip and left the unsigned one. The imprint from writing the tip on the line was there and I could see that they had in fact tipped me but were dumbasses and took the wrong slip, so I traced over the imprint (which was only like 12% anyway) and gave it to the manager. And another time I had a table where the one bitch was the most rude, abrasive, horrible customer you could imagine. The lady at the table next to her was sweet and had promised me a large tip when she told me how she heard the harpy and as a fellow server knew what I was going through. After cashing out the bitch (bill was $69.80, handed me $70 and told me to “keep the change”), I went to collect the credit card slip from the nice customer. It wasn’t there. The receipt, the unsigned guest copy, and my purple pen were still there. A server would not have made this mistake. That blister of a person stole my credit slip. Just to be a fucking bitch. And the sweet customer had unfortunately already left. Might I add that this was on a night where in a 50 table capacity restaurant, there was a grand total of three servers on due to already being understaffed and having to send someone home sick.

  18. Ben

    This has happened to me a few times at the same restaurant. First time it happened there was an imprint and it was easily visible, however, being a small family restaurant, the owners did not allow me to fill it in when I asked to do so. The next times I just did it without asking, if/when the empty but imprinted copy was left being that they intended to tip anyway.

    My most dramatic happened almost exactly as yours. It was drizzling, end of a relatively quiet night, last table and me eagerly awaiting their departure along with all the other employees. I finally closed them out, ran their credit card and presented it to them with a gratuitous farewell. As they walked out I was no doubt in the middle of some closing side work and didn’t immediately run to see if/what they tipped. By the time I had done so and realized they left with both copies, they were driving away in their Luxury SUV from the restaurant. It was at that point I experienced the feeling similar to fight or flight. It was either run after them driving away in hopes of a tip or be stiffed indefinitely. Well, I decided to run after them. They were merely driving at a slow pace through the parking lot so I figured I had a shot. I ran through the rain, flailing my arms in hopes of catching their attention in the rear view mirrors. Alas, they kept driving and I gave up chase. After that I would make sure I picked up the signed copy as soon as they stepped away from the table to avoid being rude.

    Just from reading the comments I can’t believe this hasn’t happened to absolutely every server at least once. Great post!

  19. Alan Olson

    This happens about four times a year and yes, it’s best to get the tray/receipt book BEFORE the customer leaves. Just smile and say ‘Thanks Again’ and ‘See you Soon’ or some such BS and check to see if all’s well.

  20. Ari

    I think a real worry is if the srip wasn’t working maybe they were the ones committing fraud. I’ve had some high tech crooks use cards that have all the right looks but the strip isn’t magnetized because it’s a number they stole. My work has a policy of not allowing cards that don’t swipe because of this level of dishonesty.
    As a server who has this happen to her on a nightly basis, I can empathize. I too wonder how they managed to take all the papers and never notice. I’ve never had the luck of a customer realizing their mistake and coming back to rectify it. I just hope that karma will even everything out in the long run.

  21. xyz

    My restaurant doesn’t accept cards that don’t swipe either. If the table has no other form of payment, and insists on paying with the defective card, we make a copy of their driver’s license and keep a copy of the receipt and an imprint of the card. It’s a pain in the ass, but at least we have a paper trail in case the card is fraudulent.

  22. brian machewsky

    the bar where I tend/manage has a sign posted near the register that all unpaid tabs are charged a 20% tip. we reprint the receipt, write the 20% tip and “walk out” on the signature line and then initial at the top. no one has complained yet.

  23. Guy Malone

    Nowdays, I do what others have said and go back to the table before they leave almost always to pick it up, or at least while they’re still in the building as soon as they get up. All hospitality aside, this is a business transaction and our business isn’t finished until I turn a signed voucher in. I’ll usually take a water or coffee pitcher with me to make it not seem like I’m rushing them or kicking them out, but it’s also an excuse to be reaching into the table anyways, if I’m re-filling something. I might also say “Did you get your copy out already? Okay then, again have a blah blah blah….” as I pick it up. The one time I failed to do this and they took both copies recently (I was smoking, I admit it) my manager immediately called their phone number we had from their reservation. When told what they’d done, they said $30, which wasn’t even 10%, and proof to us all they probably did it on purpose.
    NOW, if the guests left the table AND something behind (To-Go box, jacket, their credit card) I always look at the tip before deciding whether I’m going to run after them or not, haha. It’s about the only passive-aggressive thing I do on purpose anymore, but I have fun with it. Let that be a lesson to guests reading this, cos Damn, you might really need that credit card when you go to check out from your hotel, or at the airport tomorrow morning. Leave a crap tip, and your server might knowingly let you forget it.

  24. Charity

    My boyfriend works at a bar at a privately owned, popular, luxury hotel. Many people will charge their drinks to their rooms and not tip, despite how much they spend or how busy it is at the bar. The managers allow him to charge a 15% auto grat to the room of anyone who does this, because most people decide that since it is a bar at a hotel, and it’s being charged to their room, they don’t have to tip. Or they just happen to forget cash or credit cards to tip with.

  25. K.L

    I live in Canada, we have the chip/4 digit code system here, we’re I work also has direct e-pay, it doesn’t even matter if I lose the slip. It must be so frustrating in the u.s to constantly have to worry about keeping track.

  26. Patsy

    I stand close by and wait for them to sign I have follow guest down the whole way to our main entrance including going up stairs to valet, I have bills to pay and the bank doesn’t take oh you were “Great” or I took the sign slip form. I will get my copy and payment


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