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Tipping thieves

By Kat Rowoldt

San Angelo, unfortunately, has some people who have discovered how to pick your pocket. I dare say, most of you probably do not even know you may have been the victim. I have three stories to share - very different - but each having to do with tips at restaurants here in San Angelo.


One benefit of being somewhat geeky is tracking your expenses and being able to immediately identify when something is off. My first experience of this was discovered on vacation. Doing my daily ritual of posting our expenses (yes - even on vacation) and then comparing my posted books against my bank records online, I was shocked at the dollar amount posted for the restaurant where we had dined on our way out of town.


I pulled my receipt for our $16 lunch and remembered I had written a note on her copy thanking her for the great service. I gave a generous tip of $5 because of the great service. When I compared the numbers of what was taken out of our account versus the actual receipt, I realized that the tip must have been keyed in as $50 accidentally instead of $5.


I called the restaurant immediately and informed them of the error. Fortunately I had the receipt. Since this was a national chain restaurant, they were required to get a copy of the actual receipt from me, plus a copy of my bank statement. I would have lost $45 if I had not had the receipt. They graciously sent everything in to their corporate office and it took several weeks to receive my refund.


I genuinely believe that was a human error. But the other instances I am going to share are not human error, but thievery through tipping. I cringe every time I hear someone decline their receipt at restaurants.


It wasn't long after the "accidental" error in our tip that I noticed one of our favorite restaurants had keyed in an extra dollar on tip. Ok - human error - just a dollar - no worries. I was so wrong. After the next three entries from that restaurant all came through with one dollar more on tip, I realized there was a problem.


I realized that what I was witnessing was a great way for the cashier to create a method of getting in on the tips too. The books would all balance if they simply slipped a dollar out of the cash drawer when they upped the tip one dollar when they keyed in the tip. The waitress got their tip, the restaurant got their funds, and now the cashier got a dollar out of the deal too and no one would notice. The majority of patrons decline their receipts and an even smaller percent of those who keep their receipts post them and compare against bank statements daily.


I pulled all my receipts and copied the bank postings from online and went by to see the owners of this restaurant. They appreciated me letting them know, but they did not understand that this was really happening. They tried to believe that it was our bank charging us for using our card, but I knew differently. Someone was stealing from their patrons. I had hoped this matter would be dealt with, but it continued. We started using checks or cash so it couldn't happen again to us. If they didn't have such great food, we would have stopped going there immediately.


A few weeks later the owner's wife commented to me that a few others had commented on their receipts too. I decided we would use our card again and see if it was still happening. Sure enough - it was. Always exactly one dollar. Once again I copied everything and gave them a copy. The person who was doing it was telling the owners that it was a fee the banking system charged.


As we were leaving that evening from eating the owner snuck out the back to talk to us in the parking lot. It turned out that it wasn't the cashier, but someone else who at the end of the day was clearing all the tickets through. With this new evidence and the fact I mentioned that I had talked with the police about the situation, they were ready to make whatever changes were necessary. To compensate us for all the "dollars" that had been lifted from us, we enjoyed a great steak dinner the next time we were there on the house.


I'm delighted to report they completely changed their system out and removed the other person from that duty. We have not had any more problems at that restaurant since that time. Do note though, it took having our copy of the receipts in each case to validate what had happened. Get your receipt!


This last situation directly involved the waitress. I was just getting over all the extra work of logging the dollar scheme when a new situation popped up at another restaurant. At this restaurant, your wait person is also your cashier and runs the transaction for you. We had eaten at this restaurant several times in the course of a few weeks and whenever we had a certain waitress we always had additional monies added to the ticket.


The first incident we left a $3 tip on a $16 meal and discovered she upped it to a $5 tip. The second incident, same waitress, she added $4 more dollars, giving herself a $7 tip on a $16 meal. That's a little high for me! If she wasn't our waitress, we never had a problem.


I got everything together to take by there and ended up dining there unexpectedly and without my documents. I mentioned it to our waitress that evening and she unfortunately didn't seem shocked. The one who was lifting funds via tips wasn't there that evening. I never made it back over there to address the issue because of my knee surgery, but the waitress seems to be gone from there.


I can't stress enough the importance of getting your copy of the receipt and checking it against what actually goes through on your account. If there is a problem, take it to the restaurant and let them know what is happening. If it's happening to you, it's probably happening to countless others.


I don't know about you, but the last thing I want to do is tip a thief! So take this tip from me, keep your receipt and report crime when you see it.

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