receipts at restaurants and stores
April 2, 2005 3:04 PM   Subscribe

Why do certain U.S. fast food restaurants and chain stores have a "if the cashier fails to give you a receipt, we'll give you $5" policy? Why do they feel it's so critical that I get a receipt for a cheeseburger?
posted by punkfloyd to Grab Bag (14 answers total)
So employees don't overcharge you and pocket the difference.
posted by ChasFile at 3:25 PM on April 2, 2005

It could be a sign of distrust for the employees running the till. They could ring up cheaper items than what the customer ordered, give change for the more expensive items, and pocket the difference. Giving a receipt is a way for the customer to help check that this isn't happening.

Incidentally, this policy also seems to make the employees' lives more difficult as it attracts asshats who are determined to score their $5.

On preview - what ChasFile said.
posted by Coffeemate at 3:27 PM on April 2, 2005

It's a common scam to just skip ringing up the purchase altogether, tell the customer the correct price, and then pocket the money. I've even heard of cashiers doing this multiple times in one shift, keeping track of how much they've scammed, and then just lifting that much out of the till at the end of the night so the numbers come out right.
posted by bonheur at 3:31 PM on April 2, 2005

If you don't get a receipt, then it's possible that the cashier voided* the sale and simply kept your money. If you do get a receipt, the amount of the sale is added (internal computer system) to the amount of money that the cashier is expected to have at the end of his/her shift (when balancing out).

Fast food places and chain stores have a lot of turnover - REDUCING it to near 100% is considered a significant success. So there are lot more potential theives than (say) at a high-end retail store, where staff is much better paid (and risks a lot more if caught stealing. Fast food places also tend not to do thorough background checks (too expensive).

* Voiding a sale means telling the computer that the transactions was a mistake (for example, that the customer decided that he/she didn't want what was ordered, doesn't have enough money to pay, etc.) Essentially one tells the customer what the (running/sub)total is, then the cashier takes the money, then he/she voids the sale. This only works with cash or check transactions, not credit/debit card transactions, so low-dollar purchases are ideal. But there is no complete receipt to give the customer
posted by WestCoaster at 3:35 PM on April 2, 2005

I bought a doughnut and they gave me a receipt for the doughnut... I don't need a receipt for the doughnut. I give you money and you give me the doughnut, end of transaction. We don't need to bring ink and paper into this. I can't imagine a scenario that I would have to prove that I bought a doughnut. To some sceptical friend, Don't even act like I didn't buy a doughnut, I've got the documentation right here... It's in my file at home. ...Under "D".

Courtesy of the late Mitch Hedberg
posted by jikel_morten at 5:16 PM on April 2, 2005

Then again fast food places are taking credit cards. A scam that's going round at hotels is to ring a credit card twice for once customer, assign one of the charges off to a cash order, and then pocket the cash.
posted by rolypolyman at 6:03 PM on April 2, 2005

This reminds me of 2 restaurant scams:
1) Ring up soft drinks for a table. When you give them their check, only close the portion of the meal not including the price of drinks and simply open the next check on the same one with the soft drinks. At a party of four with $2 drinks, that's an extra $8 pocketed right there by the server.
2) The server brings in their own buy one, get one free coupon. Charge the table for 2+ full meals, get the cash, and then have your manager enter the coupon allowing the server to pocket the meal's worth. This scam finally caused our manager to personally go to any table with a coupon to ensure it was legit (alas, as with some other scams mentioned here, these only works with cash).
posted by jmd82 at 7:09 PM on April 2, 2005

I'd also like to point out that the $5 they're promising you comes out of the employees pockets. While this may act as a deterrent in some cases, Denny's used to have a policy that they had to tell you about their desserts or it was on the house.
Of course, "on the house" meant "your waitress pays for it". Seems like they're being generous, but as always, it's at the expense of the employees.
I remember working in a movie theater, it didn't occur to us to scam (anything besides t-shirts and soda), and long after I quit, I talked to another manager who used to pocket (his cut!) $1000 a weekend at the sixplex he managed, by not tearing, and pocketing ticket stubs (you and your wife give him 2 tickets, and he tears one in half and gives one half to each of you, keeping one whole), and reselling them to other customers. Only works for movies that aren't selling out, but suprisingly lucrative.
(apologies for bad grammer)
posted by asavage at 9:18 PM on April 2, 2005

Sometimes these policies border on the ludicrous.

Walgreens has something similar - tell customer about X, or customer gets $$, etc. Usually it's a candy bar, a camera, or something equally inconsequential.

One week last year, it was Atkins Diet protein bars.

I'm underweight.

I felt sorry for the cashier, who, because of this rule, had to shill a diet product to someone who obviously didn't need it. He looked really uncomfortable doing it; I told him that I wasn't offended, I knew why he had to do this, and we completed the transaction as painlessly as possible.

I have yet to have another diet product hawked at me.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:08 PM on April 2, 2005

One other possible reason (at least in airports anyway) is that business travelers absolutely need those receipts for reimbursement later.
posted by TeamBilly at 6:24 PM on April 3, 2005

Of course, "on the house" meant "your waitress pays for it".
Seriously? Is this legal?
posted by 4easypayments at 8:13 PM on April 3, 2005

I work at Walgreens myself. I've had to do the product-shilling that spinifex23 mentioned a couple times, but it really depends on the store/manager. My current store is in a fairly low-income urban area, so nobody really gives a shit. There are "promotional monies" that employees receive if they upsell certain items in the photo and (I think) cosmetics departments as well.

Walgreens has the "$5 if we don't give you a receipt" thing, but in almost 2 years working there I've never been bitten by it, or seen it happen to another employee. We may have a whole bunch of customers who are fussy about sale prices and can't decide what they want, but I've never seen anyone trying to scam the $5.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned, and makes sense in a retail context but not really in a fast-food context, is that we only allow returns with a receipt. If that additional incentive is given to the cashier to make sure each customer receives a receipt, it makes the returns/exchanges much easier (especially since these have to be done by a manager).

On the registers, line-item voids (voiding a specific item) are tracked (and you have to write down a valid reason for the void on a slip of paper the register prints out), as are price verifies and total/post voids (post void = transaction voided after sale completed -- this has to be done by a manager).

When I started working there, I couldn't understand why the price verifies and item voids were being so tightly controlled. I obviously don't think enough like a scammer...
posted by neckro23 at 10:17 PM on April 3, 2005

In one of my criminal law classes, we had a federal judge come in to tell us some war stories. One of them involved a Burger King franchise owned by Jesse Jackson's half brother (or something like that). He instituted a policy that the cash registers had to be shut down for the late shift because they "needed time to rest." Naturally, he was pocketing the cash.
posted by MrZero at 6:12 AM on April 4, 2005

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