Sometimes when I’ve paid by CC but then tipped using cash, I feel like a jerk putting a line through the tip amount spot on the CC form. Like I worry that someone is going to think I didn’t tip the server. Can I write “cash” on that line so it’s obvious that I tipped in cash, or would that confuse things?
Former server here. At all the restaurants where I worked, the servers and the managers all used the amount written on the total line and disregarded the tip line.
I’d do a couple of passes through to make sure I’d gotten the math right, the manager would do one pass through the verify my totals, and that was it. In all cases, it was a quick run-through with a calculator. When you have a stack of 25 credit card slips, you don’t scrutinize each one to make sure the tip/total jibe. We assumed that what was written on the total line was that the person intended to pay.
I think that it is easy to claim that it clearly wasn’t intended when you have the advantage of being able to look inside your own brain. I am assuming that the waitress does not have that ability.
Other posts indicate that different places have different policies about which value to use. Either approach is legitimate, although I personally would have thought that using the final total, where the customer has actually written down the number that they are expecting to be debited from their account, makes the most sense. The customer has written down an actual number. If that number seemed off when they wrote it they needed to reevaluate their math. It is not reasonable for you to expect the staff to predict your intent in ambiguous scenarios.
That said, if the error is obvious I would expect them to use the sensible option (don’t pick the 2000% tip over the 20% tip even if that matches the final total). Obviously one person’s obvious error is another person’s ambiguous error, but I think most reasonable people would consider both $8 and $10 on a $42 tab reasonable. Your specific situation is in no way like theft, and in my mind it reflects poorly on you that you would jump to that conclusion. Even noticing the discrepancy and using the final total would be legitimate, but it may even be that the discrepancy was not noticed and the final amount just entered into the system exactly as you wrote it. They’re your waitress, not your math tutor.
If they took $8 I assume the waitress would disregard the written $52.80 and type $50.80 into the system. There would be a point of sale system where you type in the values, typically it isn’t processed by filing all the slips and using the actual written values. The slips are probably only looked at in the case of disputes.
Which raises an interesting question: do the card network companies have policies in place to provide guidance if there is such a dispute based on bad tip math?
When I was a waitress and bartender, we were told we always had to go with what was on the total line, regardless of what was on the tip line. Usually, we ended up getting the short end of the stick. But once in a blue moon, someone would a math mistake the other way and it would kinda make up for the fact that we kept getting stiffed by people who can’t do math.
And now I’m in banking, where it’s illegal for me to take a tip! haha!
I wouldn’t presume malice, honestly. Everything a server does during a shift is done at top speed, and much of it on auto-pilot. When she cashed out, she probably just looked at the “total” line, plugged that into the computer, and the computer then calculated that she got a $10 tip.
When I waited tables, one restaurant’s cash-out procedure was so cryptic that I was never sure that the math made sense. They could have been cheating me out of half my tips for all I knew. I only worked there for as long as I had to, but in the meantime, I just had to take it on faith that the hoops they made my jump through resulted in a reasonable approximation of what my sales and tips were by the end of the night.
And, while it’s usually not legal, a lot of restaurants will dock the server’s tip by the amount of the credit card processing fee. Been there, had that happen to me. Unfortunately servers are usually not in a position to protest this, since the most that will happen is that the server gets shown the door.
I write Cash on the tip line all the time and thus far no one appears to have been confused about it. I think it’s especially handy because it indicates that you did leave a tip (dispelling any notion that the service was bad); plus if the cash isn’t on the table it’ll let the staff know that something hinky is going on, rather than you just stiffed your server. It also lets your server know where to look for the tip and just makes the whole process more transparent for everyone.
Thinking about it more, I would have a hard time disregarding what the customer has written in as the total amount. That credit card slip is a little contract, basically, and an accounting clerk has limited ability to change that. When you’re signing your little contract, it would behoove you to make sure you’re getting it right.
I worked at 2 different restaurants in the state of California and they each gave us conflicting instructions on the matter, supposedly based on the “law”, but I’ve since wondered if it was just their individual policies.
The first told us we had to go by what was written on the “Total” line, regardless of what was written on the “Tip” line.
The second told us that we had to go by what was written on the “tip” line and ignore the “total”. This restaurant had a different software set-up where we actually entered in the tips when we processed our credit card slips, while the other restaurant’s software was the other way around.
So honestly she was probably just following the restaurant’s policy for discrepancies.
When I used to serve, there was no place for us to even enter the total- if you swiped a credit card at the register, a little box would pop up for you to enter the tip amount. The receipt would print with the total both pre and post tip. Since we’ve seen it done both ways in this thread, I wouldn’t equate it with stealing. Maybe her restaurant does it the other way around.
And yes, it is perfectly acceptable to write ‘cash’ on the tip line.
Credit card tips (i.e. tips actually charged to cards) are automatically reported for tax purposes. Total sales are also reported and the IRS assumes a certain lower limit of tip income, it’s been a while but I think it is around 8-10% of total sales. Most servers make substantially more than that on average, and they are instructed (even by the restaurant managers/owners) that as long as they report tips which total at least that lower limit of sales percentage, they should be fine.
Because the credit card tips are automatically reported and 80+% of diners pay and tip that way, it usually more than covers it, and servers simply do not report their cash tips at all opting to enter $1 when the software prompts them to enter cash tips. Thus in reality a server usually ends up having something like 12% of their total sales auto-reported for taxes but in reality they made 18% on average and the rest went into their pocket as tax-free cash. It’s illegal but it’s very, very common.