What is it with restaurants thinking that we servers are responsible for covering a check when the customer decides to skip out on the bill? It’s happened to too many of us too many times and it’s not right. A reader sent me the above photo of a new restaurant rule and the memo reeks of unfairness, illegality, bad grammar and misspellings:
Due to an increase of people walking without paying, starting today, 2-9-16 Tuesday wait staff and Bartenders are fully responsible for their checks. That means, you will pay for the full amount of the check and hope that the Customers will came back and pay you. It is your job to keep checking on your costumers by making sure that they are getting the service and attention that they deserved. Thank you.
No, no, no! It is illegal for a restaurant to require a server to pay for a walk out, yet it happens over and over again. Restaurants always seem to think that the only reason a customer is skipping out on the bill is because the server, somehow, wasn’t doing his job. But here’s the thing: if a customer is planning on skipping out on their bill, no amount of “checking up on them” is going to change their mind. That customer is going to sit at the table until the perfect opportunity arises for them to get up without being seen. What are we supposed to do, stay on the floor and keep our eyeballs glued to them at every second? As soon as we do that, we’re gonna hear our manager squawking about how she needs runners in the kitchen and that is just the opportunity Shitty McShitShit at Table 209 is waiting for. As soon as you set foot in the kitchen, they are bolting out of the restaurant quicker than a Quesalupa from Taco Bell makes it through your digestive tract. And when you tell your manager that Table 209 walked, she’ll be all, “Well, I guess you weren’t paying enough attention to them, were you?”
Here is what the Department of Labor has to say about it:
Where deductions for walk-outs, breakage, or cash register shortages reduce the employee’s wages below the minimum wage, such deductions are illegal. Where a tipped employee is paid $2.13 per hour in direct (or cash) wages and the employer claims the maximum tip credit of $5.12 per hour, no such deductions can be made without reducing the employee below the minimum wage (even where the employee receives more than $5.12 per hour in tips).
But there’s a catch. In most places of employment, they have a right to terminate an employee at any time just like employees have a right to leave at any time. So they can still fire you, but they’ll find another reason.
Waiter: Excuse me, Ms. Manager? Table 209 walked out on their check for $45.
Manager: Oh, well, you’ll just have to take that out of your tips tonight. Sucks for you.
Waiter: You can’t do that. According to the Department of Labor, it’s illegal to make me pay.
Manager: Oh, you’re right. Nevermind. By the way, you’re fired.
Waiter: You can’t fire me for not paying for a customer’s walkout, that’s illegal too.
Manager: Oh, you’re right. Ummm…then you’re fired for being late last week and for questioning my authority just now. That’s insubordination and totally grounds for dismissal.
Look, if your restaurant attempts to fire you specifically because you refuse to cover the cost of a walk out, you need to call The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. They have a toll-free line for employees: 1-866-487-9243. Or you can find your local office on this page.
As for the above photo, the restaurant needs to take that down. It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen if they are requiring their servers and bartenders to cover walk-outs. It doesn’t matter how much attention they give to the “costumers” and if it’s happening so often, maybe the manager of the restaurant needs to sit at the front fucking door and validate each and every check before she allows people to leave. Whatever she does, she needs to find another solution that isn’t illegal.