I fail at math.
July 13, 2008 6:07 PM   Subscribe

After a long day at work, I picked up the check at my favorite restaurant. Checking my receipts today, I realize that I messed up the math and inadvertently left an embarrassingly paltry tip.

It was in no way a reflection on the service. What now? Go in and talk to the host? Make it up on a future visit?
posted by Morrigan to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There's... really nothing you can do at this point. If you're worried about karma, just leave a bigger tip next time.
posted by Yoshi Ayarane at 6:16 PM on July 13, 2008

Make it up next time. On the same day of the week/shift so it's likley to be the same staff who gets the tip. (Just about everyone pools tips anymore.)

Talking to the staff about the tip you left/didn't leave is really awkward and no one comes out feeling good about it.
posted by Ookseer at 6:19 PM on July 13, 2008

If it's your favorite restaurant, chances are good you'd recognize your waiter from that night, right? Find out when he/she will be working, eat there again, and whether or not he/she waits on your table again, give him/her the tip you should've given last time. It will be much appreciated, and you won't be embarrassed to return to your favorite place. (And I bet they won't even spit in your food, especially if you give at least a 20% tip.)
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 6:21 PM on July 13, 2008

I have done this before, Ok I admit it, I am sometimes a flake. I just go back and give it to our server and apologize or if they aren't there, I speak to the manager and leave it with them.
posted by meeshell at 6:21 PM on July 13, 2008

Definitely go back and give it to the waiter/waitress, really quickly explaining what happened ("I fail at math" with an apologetic smile is perfect). It won't really be embarrassing since you are making restitution! They will be pleasantly surprised (I doubt this happens often after they receive a small tip) and you can feel comfortable going back in the future to one of your favorite places.
posted by rio at 6:31 PM on July 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

I did this not long ago--realized it when I got home and entered the receipt into my check register.

I went back to the restaurant, found my server, and told her point blank that I'd flaked and felt terrible about it and forked over the cash.

She gave great service and didn't deserve my shitty arithmetic. And I'd like to eat there again, so...
posted by padraigin at 6:35 PM on July 13, 2008

Doesn't the receipt have the server's name on it? Many restaurant receipts do. If it does, go back and ask for that person by name, explain your mistake and give them the extra amount. Was this today or some days ago? If today and it's not really late, go back now if you can. If not, address this the next time you are there.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:38 PM on July 13, 2008

Someone did this to me a few years back. They called the restaurant the next morning (they were a bit soused the night before) and gave them a credit card number to charge my tip to. It was really well appreciated, and not awkward at all. I also had a friend eat at my restaurant (who was also my boss at my other job) come up to me and give me some extra cash after she realized she left a very small tip. That was slightly awkward, but in the end, I appreciated the thought.
posted by nursegracer at 6:39 PM on July 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

I worked in a position where tips were truly optional, so I probably have a different outlook... But the only people who stood out to me were those who left generous tips. I didn't think anything negative about those who left small ones.

If you do nothing, she might remember you for 10 minutes as the jerk that didn't leave a good tip. I strongly doubt she'd remember you (at least, on account of the tip), but I could be wrong. But if you go back and set things right, she might remember you forever as the totally awesome dude that actually recognized her as a human being.

It isn't necessary to go back, and honestly, I think the average person wouldn't. It's probably going overboard to amend for what's a minor mistake in the grand scheme of things. But especially if you feel bad, I think it would be a totally awesome thing to go back and give her the difference. (Provided it's more than a couple dollars... If you go back and apologize for shorting her $1.50, she's going to think you're a nut. But if it's more than, say, $5, I think it'd be a nice thing to do.)

Interesting reflection on my preconceived notions: as I'm going to submit this, I realized that you never state your gender, nor the gender of the wait-person, yet I've assumed both.
posted by fogster at 6:48 PM on July 13, 2008

Did you leave the server $2 instead of $20 on a $100 check? If so, it might be nice to try and make it up to them, but only if it goes to directly to them. Call the restaurant and ask if they pool tips. If they do, then I wouldn't worry about trying to make it up to them. If tips go to the individual waiters, it would be nice to try and track them down. Nothing makes a shitty night of waiting as much as getting stiffed on a big check, and having a customer come in to make up for their mistake helps in restoring a waiter's faith in humanity after dealing with assholes most of the week. But if your tip only lacked a few dollars, I would just not worry about it.
posted by greta simone at 7:30 PM on July 13, 2008

Speaking as a former server, we all knew and remembered who left terrible tips. Someone coming back to correct the error would always have been really appreciated (probably more so than an initially adequate tip, in that you cared enough to remedy what is, in the overall scheme of things, not an incredibly dire mistake) and not awkward at all. What would be awkward is if you are a regular and left a much smaller tip than usual; then the server might be wondering what he/she did wrong.
posted by Polychrome at 8:12 PM on July 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

I once was so excited about my new haircut that I forgot to give my stylist a tip. I went back and gave it to her and she was happy. :) It wasn't awkward.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:48 PM on July 13, 2008

If the server's name isn't on the check, you could always go by the restaurant and talk to a manager - if you remember where you sat, they could likely figure out who was assigned to that section.
As a server/ grad student, I would greatly appreciate such a gesture. There are, of course, days when I'm just a doof, and I don't give the best service. But if I had been your server, and I had done a good job with your table, I would have been upset at the tip - unreasonably low tips make me feel bad; I tend to take it personally (I know I shouldn't, but I still do). I think, did I really do that bad of a job? Did I forget something? It can throw my night off a bit. (And from a financial angle, it hurts, too. My state's minimum server wage is only $2.33, so I never see a dime of it on my paycheck - all the money I earn comes from the tips I earn.)
A belated tip would be a very kind affirmation of the server's skill.
posted by queseyo at 9:02 PM on July 13, 2008

Speaking as someone who works in the restaurant industry, I would go back. It's not awkward in the slightest and it will make your server feel much better. Not necessarily because of the monetary aspect, but because they won't question their abilities and their service. The first thought in my mind when I get the rare bad tip is "what did I do wrong?" and not "what a cheap bastard!" Also, as far as tip pooling, it's not very common. I think it would speak volumes about your character if you did go back and made it up to your server, I know they would appreciate it.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:06 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I once realized in the car driving away that I had totally forgotten to leave a tip. I was young and still getting used to having a credit card, I just absentmindedly signed the check and peaced out without really looking. I ran back in, completely freaking out, and ran right into my server, who was looking similarly freaked out, and a lot of nervous giggling happened as I rectified my mistake. It was one of those moments that made me feel like I might be an okay human being and I really suggest you try to replicate it.
posted by crinklebat at 9:15 PM on July 13, 2008

I bet it would feel really nice to the server if you made an extra trip to go back in.
posted by serazin at 9:20 PM on July 13, 2008

Polychrome hits it on the head. I took a summer job waiting tables and tonight I got a $2 tip on a $50 check. Now I understand that the woman had sticker shock at her boyfriend's Hendricks martinis but as I told the bartender and the other servers tonight, I know who she is and I'll watch out for her next time. I never forget a face and will always give my customers in the restaurant service with a smile, but if you've screwed me once, I won't necessarily go out of my way to give you exceptional service as I do for those that I recognize in a positive light.

It may suck but that is truely the way it is. I would never do anything gross though, like damage food (spit on it, whatever the usual paranoia is). That is a negative connotation of the industry and nothing I would ever stand for, much less participate in.
posted by sisflit at 9:28 PM on July 13, 2008

I either accidentally undertipped or forgot to tip at a neighborhood restaurant once. I went back the next night, apologized to my waiter, and gave her the tip I had intended. She was grateful and recognized me every time I returned (which was only once or twice a month).
posted by zippy at 10:35 PM on July 13, 2008

I've never worked at a restaurant that pooled the tips, so please don't assume that most places do.

That said, I once had a customer who messed up and left too little (actually stiffed me $2). She called the next day, coincidentally enough talked to me and a few hours later came in with the rest of the money to cover the bill and a generous tip.

If it's bothering you enough to post about it, you should go back and make it up to the server.
posted by yellowlightman at 12:47 AM on July 14, 2008

Go back and give the tip to the server you stiffed. It won't be awkward, you'll make their day.
posted by Rykey at 4:55 AM on July 14, 2008

Go back. I was on the receiving end of this once - a couple I'd been serving had left without tipping me. It was the first time I'd ever been stiffed, and it rattled me. As I was wondering what I'd done wrong, the couple walked back in and said, "We realized halfway home that we hadn't left you a tip, and we felt bad about it because you were excellent," and handed me the missing tip.

I don't remember how much it was, or how much the bill was, but I will always remember the gesture. The thought that they'd go back to let me know I was appreciated meant more than the cash.

If you don't remember your server's face, or if their name's not on the check, go in and explain what happened to the manager and point out where you were sitting - they should have a record of who was assigned to what section that night.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:15 AM on July 14, 2008

One time I realized I didn't have my wallet with me and only had a $40 in cash and the bill was $38. I couldn't figure out what to do at first, but in the end I actually told the waitress the truth and promised her that I would come in the next day to give her more cash. I did and she was very cool about it.
posted by atomly at 9:16 AM on July 14, 2008

Go back and fix it. I waited on a large party one time and received a tip that was something like 5% on a several hundred dollar check. It really wrecked my night, but when I came in the next day, the owner of the restaurant handed me an envelope and said that the host had come in earlier in the day, and 'didn't know what he was thinking' the night before. It was totally awesome.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:24 AM on July 14, 2008

Your favorite restaurant? You can fix it, and you want to if you go there a lot. Go back, give the tip to the server you had that night. All you need to say is that you realized after you got home that you forgot something the other night, and hand them an appropriate amount of cash. If you feel embarrassed about handling cash, use an envelope, but this isnĀ“t necessary. No one who works in a restaurant will in any way feel embarrassed about you walking in the door and giving them some cash.
posted by yohko at 12:13 PM on July 14, 2008

I have worked at a restaurant that pooled tips, and places that did not, and for me the tip distribution policy would have been irrelevant. Regardless of how much money I'm walking home with, if someone left me a bad tip I'm either wondering what I did wrong or thinking "Christ, what an asshole."

So yeah, go back - it's a totally honest mistake and your gesture will be appreciated!
posted by lalex at 8:19 PM on July 14, 2008

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