How risky is it to leave the tip line blank when paying by credit card?

So (in the US at least) when you pay by credit card at a restaurant the receipt comes with a blank tip line (and total below it). Being the suspicious type (and the type that is not organized enough to check their bank statements for this kind of thing), I always feel dubious about leaving this blank (even in cases where I have paid the tip by cash, or haven’t actually received service worthy of a tip), in case someone at the restaurant fills it in for me.

Am I right to be wary of this ? How common is it for this to happen ?

You’d think it would be an easy test for a consumer advocate of some kind to carry out (spend a month or so eating out in a major US city, and always leave the tip line blank, see how many times it gets filled in for you). Has anyone ever actually done that ?

I don’t know how common it is for someone else to fill it in, but there’s an easy solution. I write in a zero with a horizontal line through it and then carry the subtotal down to the total line when I’m leaving the tip in cash.

I’ve been waiting tables for three years and I have never even been tempted to do this (but then, I"m an honest person.) Not only that, but I have never known a coworker to do this. It would be trivially easy for someone to look at their CC statement and compare that to their copy of the receipt. They then call the CC company and restaurant. At the end of my shift I have to hand in all my CC slips the customer signed. These are kept at our restaurant for some period of time (I honestly have no idea how long, probably a week) and then are sent to corporate HQ (well, probably just a regional HQ.) So they can always check the slip and see what happened.

I guess there’s not really a way for the company to know for sure that the $10 that’s written in the tip field was put there by the server after you left, but in general the restaurant will side with the customer and discipline the server. Odds are if it just happened once, and for a small amount, the server won’t get fired, but if it’s a large amount, or it happens multiple times, adios dirt-bag.

So no, I’d say there really isn’t any risk…we servers may complain about our jobs a lot, but the fact that we’re still doing it means we don’t want to quit/get fired just yet.

Most people either put a dash in that space or write “CASH” there when leaving a cash tip (lest someone who saw the receipt think you were a big cheapskate). What really matters though is what’s written on the final total line, regardless of whether there is anything in the tip line or not (although this may vary by jurisdiction and even individual restaurant policy).

Just write “CASH” in the tip line.

I leave it blank all the time and have never had any trouble.

I’ve worked in hotels with resturants for years. First of all these receipts ARE monitored. Second the server could forge it once or twice, but that’s it. What would happen is the person getting the charge would dispute it.

If this happened more than once or twice, the server would be out on his butt. It’s really easy to set someone up. Have your friend come into the resturaunt and order and then leave it blank and see.

It would also hack off the accounting department because the customer would dispute the WHOLE THING, not just the tip. And that costs money.

So if the bill was $100.00 and the tip was left in cash and the server wrote in say, $5.00 more the customoer wouldn’t dispute $5.00 he’d dispute $105.00.

So you see why it’d be caught easy.

Also remember companies are charged win or lose. For instance, at the last hotel I was asst controller at, if a customer disputed a charge, we were charged $15.00. Even if the hotel was 100% correct and won the “chargeback” we STILL LOST the $15.00 charge backfee.

As I said you might get away with it once or twice but any more than that you’d get caught. For the customer as long as it’s a credit card it’s a no brainer, you will most likely win as you’ll have your copy.

There are a lot of better ways of skimming if the server wants to

I have had a server once add a tip onto a blank tip line. I don’t remember why I didn’t complain, but it has happened at least once in history.

Is it correct to conclude that some people on this thread are habitually leaving the tip line blank without leaving cash? The OP mentions a “haven’t actually received service worthy of a tip” scenario but it seems to me that if there is service of any kind a tip is required. That’s the system in the US, and if you don’t tip you’re cheating the staff out of their fair wages.

When I use my Korean debit card (mine’s a debit card, but the credit cards have the same option) here in Korea, the second the charge is processed, I get a text message from my bank to my cell phone telling me the particulars of the transaction: merchant, date, time, and total amount. Is such a service available in the US? If it is and you use it, you’ll know immediately if someone’s mucking with the amounts.


If you want to discuss this angle, please open (yet another) tip thread in Great Debates. If you just want to gripe about it, try MPSIMS. But don’t derail a GQ thread with it.

Thank you.

Yes, we have that but its just more added noise in my life so I op not to use that feature myself. My card does call me if they see something totally strange; like when I was in Detroit buying gas and someone in DC was using my credit card number around the same time; that was helpful; but texting every transaction no thanks.

I used to get my hair cut at a place that twice added a $1 tip to the charge. (I always tip in cash). I check my statements pretty carefully.
Never going back there.

Once my bill didn’t match my receipt, and I notified the bank. They said it was such a small amount they just credited my account, and the news never even got back to the restaurant. It would have cost the bank more to investigate it.

FWIW that has happened to me one time in over 30 years and I’m still not sure whether it was fraud or a mistake on my part. Most restaurants now give you two copies, rather than a two-part form, so if I forget to write what I tipped on my copy it won’t match the credit card bill.

I run into this situation most often when picking up take-out food–like at the local Chinese restaurant or pizza joint, for instance. Whether you sit down for a meal or pick up take-out, their credit card machines give you a blank tip line.

If we sit down for a meal, I tip, of course.

If I’m picking up take-out, however, I don’t feel any obligation to tip, so I always draw an “X” through the tip line, and write the total at the bottom.

A comedian once compared this to the tendency of people to put a line through the blank area of a check, on the amount line, to discourage the recipient from adding “plus eleven million dollars”.

I habitually leave the tip blank even when I am tipping. I always round up to the nearest dollar, so I don’t need to calculate the exact tip. Putting the altered total on the bottom is sufficient, and I’ve never seen any other result.

Then again, it has been a while.