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Restaurant Tipping Fraud Revealed

Restaurant Tipping Fraud Revealed

September 14, 2016 – Do you tip your waiter with your credit card or in cash? A restaurant waiter in Mount Laurel was arrested for tampering with customers’ tips when they paid with credit cards, making us wonder how often this crime actually happens.

We took the question users, asking restaurant patrons and waitstaff to dish anonymously about their personal experiences with tip fraud.

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We also asked for what the right amount is to tip and what’s the best way to avoid being scammed.

The informal and anonymous survey reveals that while this might not happen often, it’s an easier crime than one might expect, especially when you’re at a bar.

Here’s a sampling of responses, which were edited for clarity. We omitted the names of specific restaurants.

Patrons: Have you been over-charged for a tip?

At a Middletown restaurant: I left a tip on a credit card. When I got home, I checked my on line bank account and realized that the waiter padded the tip I had left him. I returned to the restaurant and spoke to the manager on duty and he gave me a refund and a free meal gift card for a future meal. The waiter was fired.

At a Woodbridge restaurant: I check my card every day and this time found the discrepancy. Calling the restaurant wasn’t a hassle but the manager could not produce a copy of the receipt I signed. Yes, this was less than $2, but what if this waiter (not waitress!) had done this to so many customers over a long period of time – impossible? The manager finally agreed to refund! I leave it to you readers and wonder why this manager could not produce a copy of the signed receipt

At a Middlesex Borough restaurant: The first time I noticed, the charge was just $1 more than I expected. I thought it was a mistake so I left it alone. One month later, the exact same thing happened. I found my receipts, which showed what I wrote down and went to the restaurant. I had the manager dig out the receipts and showed him that they were altered. I told him how upset I was that this happened, he didn’t seem to care about much. He thought the $2 was the important part, so he made a point of giving my money back. I haven’t and will never go back to that restaurant, and I tell the same thing to anybody I know.

At a Pitman tattoo studio: Inadvertently I forgot to leave the artist a “tip.” It wasn’t until a few weeks later when I looked at my credit card statement that I realized the artist had helped himself to a $20 tip added on to my card. Completely unprofessional!!

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Waitstaff: Is it easy to fudge the tip? Have you seen it done?

Incredibly easy: I have never messed with a person’s credit card, but you are literally giving us your credit card numbers every time you use a card at a restaurant. Someone could easily write down your numbers and use them on another bill an online or whatever. We could easily change the 0 into an 8 on the tip sheet. In my experience I don’t know of anyone who has done this because when it really comes down to it jail time isn’t worth a couple bucks here or there.

Pocketing the cash: I used to work at a restaurant where there was a common lunch order of soup and salad for two people, plus two drinks. The food was something the waitstaff got on their own — no need for a computer entry to send an order to the kitchen. Many servers would save an old copy of a check for an identical lunch order, serve their customers and present the old check. If the customers paid the bill and tip in cash, the server would pocket the entire amount. If they tried to pay with a credit card, the server would then ring in the check. I witnessed one person get fired after a manager found his apron with those saved checks in it. In this case, the customers would be better off paying credit!

Gratuity included: Biggest way to “fudge” is to not remind tables of 6 or 8+ that gratuity is included. Many restaurants include gratuity on large parties and some servers will neglect to mention/remind the tables this. Sometimes, patrons at tables will leave an additional tip not realizing gratuity was included.

Don’t get drunk: I was a bartender for years. It’s extremely easy to take advantage of a customer when they are intoxicated, not only by changing the tip but by padding the bill when they are buying drinks, not keeping track, etc. Always use cash! Pay for each round as you order it.

Avoiding tip fraud

The advice we got from readers — patrons and waitstaff — was consistent with what professional financial advisers recommend: Pay cash or pay close attention to your credit card statements.

Our Bamboozled columnist, Karin Price Mueller, offered these simple tips, ehem, to avoid tip fraud:

• It’s important that you fill out the tip part with “In cash” or “None” if you tip in cash.

• Keep the receipts until you see the bill on your statement and compare them to be sure the amounts are the same.

• If you find a discrepancy, call your card. Provide your receipt as proof and dispute the charge — in writing — and the card will contact the restaurant.

Last tip, which was voiced by the handful of servers who responded: Tip your waiter or waitress.

As one server wrote, “Not only are you tipping us, your tipping the food runner, the bus boy and the bartender (if it’s a server) and we do not claim our tips ourselves anymore the computer tracks all of it. So we are paying taxes on all of it, including our tip outs to the other staff. And we make any where from $2.15 to $4 an hour.

Bon appetite! And tip safely.

Are you a victim of fraud or money scam? Share your story with us on the Money Credit and You Facebook page!