multiple resteraunt bill problems
February 28, 2017 2:25 PM   Subscribe

So, I've got a restaurant bill problem that is confusing me, and I'm worried about bill inflation fraud and not understanding the complexities of debit card transactions. But I think the restaurant is scamming. Halp?

I went to a restaurant Saturday evening with a group and paid for myself using my regular debit card; that night the group leader sent me a message saying my card didn't fully go through so another group member paid my bill. I don't have any more details than that, and she sounds like she's getting secondhand information.

Three problems: When I looked at Chase's online website that night, it said the payment was pending for the correct amount (which is normal I believe)

Today it is no longer pending, but the website says the final amount paid was almost $4 more than the final bill (tax and automatic gratuity included on final bill); and thus more than I authorized paying. I did not keep receipts, but the extra dollars mystifies me as to where it came from.

The restaurant manager suggested that they sometimes over-charge till the bill get finalized, as some sort of security/hold which I know some places do. She suggested I wait till Thursday-ish to see if Chase reflects the correct amount. Chase does mention "The final dollar amount may vary from the pending transaction once we process it. This is common for merchants that put a temporary charge on your account before finalizing the amount (for example, restaurants etc)"

Actual questions:

1) Do I owe the group member anything, or can I politely but honestly tell them that they need to take it up with the restaurant/their own bank? 1b) why would the restaurant say the bill didn't go through? Did they even get the right person?

2) Will the amount my bank pays the restaurant change now that it is no longer listed as pending? 2b) would the hold amount make my total a nice even $20.00, though the total bill was some $3.84 less?

3) Did the restaurant add to my bill illegally, and should I dispute the extra charge with my bank?

Thank you!
posted by Jacen to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Tell the group leader the transaction posted to your account and took out the correct amount plus additional tax and tip. The rest is not your concern. You have proof (a bank statement) so that's that.

Call your bank concerning the amount. Dispute the transaction if appropriate.
posted by jbenben at 2:35 PM on February 28, 2017 [7 favorites]

This is very aggravating and definitely sounds shady. If your credit card transaction had not gone through, surely they would have let you know as they gave you back your card/before you left the restaurant, and demanded payment at that time. After all, if your group had all left at once, they would have been left with no one paying the bill under this supposed scenario!

I would ask the group leader who it is who paid your bill (after all, you can't be meant to owe anyone money if you're not actually told who paid it!). Then talk to that person directly and confirm the story (since it's possible the group leader had details wrong or something), and then if necessary you probably need to both go to the restaurant in person to deal with the situation. One or the other of you could do a charge back as a last resort, but at a minimum you need to confirm with the person who supposedly paid your bill that it did in fact happen and there wasn't some other mixup/miscommunication in your group.

For the extra amount, I would wait until Thursday as requested by the manager. The period for requesting chargebacks is not going to be affected by waiting a couple of days, and it may clear that problem up entirely. That said, it is not impossible that the server added on a larger tip -- a family member of mine once had a situation where a restaurant manager called her to inquire if she had really meant to leave a 200% tip (of course she had not), and in the process of this it was discovered a server had been altering multiple receipts to add on huge tips. (Small town, which is how she ended up knowing all the details.) So, certainly that's not impossible, but I would just wait the normal amount of time first before jumping to that conclusion.

Finally, assuming that you don't discover this was merely a miscommunication entirely on your group's side (i.e. maybe someone else in the group had the problematic credit card or something like that), and the manager isn't forthcoming about correcting the problem, leave a negative Yelp review and don't return.
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:57 PM on February 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

For the money-engineering aspect, the thing to do is wait until the final bill goes through, and try not to worry about it. The $4 stinks, but for me that's more a reason to never deal with that restaurant ever again than to go through a lengthy and annoying dispute process. If it is about the entire amount of your bill being paid on your card and somebody else's, that could become enough to justify the hassle.

For the group social-engineering aspect, leave the group leader out of it, they're clearly under-informed. If you know who paid your bill, get in touch with that person. "Hey $friend, $leader said that there was an issue with the bills last weekend, was it my bill you paid or somebody else's? I ask because my card went through and my account was debited (note, they don't need to know about the $4 weirdness right off, the relevant point is that your card worked). If we both paid for my meal, we should talk to the restaurant."

It's up to you how you deal wit hit if you and friend both paid the full (or full+4) bill. From your perspective, you didn't ask for any of that interference, there's no reason you should have to pay for your meal twice. From your friend's perspective, they were just trying to do the right thing and not make you or the group look like a dine and dash risk, and they shouldn't have to take a financial hit for being willing to step up and smooth out a problem. It really should be the restaurant who refunds one of you. But if the restaurant can't or won't, you have to decide whether it's worth the monetary cost to pay the friend back, or worth the social cost to stick to your guns and not cough up the $$.

How aggravating!! You have my sympathy.
posted by aimedwander at 3:18 PM on February 28, 2017 [10 favorites]

But I think the restaurant is scamming.

It feels more likely that the waiter is scamming rather than the restaurant. But it's also possible that there was just some innocent confusion.

1. This is the sketchy part - the wait staff should have gotten a thumbs up or thumbs down from the bank on your transaction. Is it possible that you forgot to sign the receipt and the waiter thought that it was invalid for that reason? In any case, that other person should contact the restaurant and have the transaction refunded and failing cooperation on that do a chargeback.

2. It's not uncommon for transactions to be rounded up to a nice even estimated amount and the reconciled a little while later. I would wait and see whether the amount becomes correct in a few days.
posted by Candleman at 4:22 PM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

More on the extra ~$4 - it's called a tolerance.

The bank doesn't know that you were part of a large party that automatically paid the tip as part of the bill, it just knows that people usually pay a tip at restaurants. So some wiggle room is added to your transaction when they run the card (which happens before you would have added a tip, if you were leaving one). That amount gets reconciled once they get the image of the signature slip, so when that happens, you should see it adjusted to what you expect to pay.
posted by Candleman at 4:28 PM on February 28, 2017 [11 favorites]

I don't think there's a such thing as "didn't go fully through."
posted by rhizome at 10:28 PM on February 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

My assumption would be that the group member or organizer is making things up, or confusing you with someone else.

You cleared it up with the bank (and adding a large tip to the authorization makes sense, because servers run the card before the customer adds a tip to the total, so the restaurant wants to make sure that the customer adding a tip won't invalidate the charge).

You can tell the organizer you cleared it up with the bank and they'll need to tell the other group member. There's no reason for you to get into an argument with the other group member (unless you're friends or close outside the group, but then they'd presumably have contacted you directly).
posted by lazuli at 6:40 AM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

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