So You Want To Be A Waiter

The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

Quick hint

I’ll be occasionally be posting some quick hit quick hints. Things that you might not think of but can help you solve a problem, streamline service or increase your tips. Some of them might be common sense or obvious for those of us who have been in the business, so, those of you who are more experienced, bear with me.

Today’s quick hint is regarding the problem of the guest taking both copies of the credit card or putting the tip on one copy but taking it and leaving the other copy, which they might have either not signed or put in the tip.

First of all, if you are working in a place where they sign both copies simultaneously (a carbon sits below the original), dog-ear the top copy so that it’s clear that there are two copies. I even used to separate them and put them back together so they weren’t plastered together. To be on the safe side, tell them “Sign here and make sure you leave the bottom copy”.  Yes, some guests will accidentally take both copies, thinking that they only have to sign one copy and that you mysterious will know by incredible mental powers how much they are tipping and that management will also take your word for this. I wouldn’t doubt that there are a very tiny percentage of this already admitedly small percentage of guests who might even do this deliberately in order to get out of paying the tip because they know that without a copy, most restaurants won’t allow anything to be put in for the tip and the waiter gets screwed in the process.

For those of you who get two copies which the guest has to sign, here’s a little trick. When you open your check presenter, put the copy marked merchant copy in the left cover of the book and put the customer copy in the right. Put the check over the customer copy. This forces the guest to deal immediately with the merchant copy, at least at first. You see, it doesn’t matter what he or she does with the guest copy. I’d say about 30% of guests don’t do anything with it at all – they leave it unsigned for you to throw away.

This doesn’t guarantee that they won’t take the merchant copy with them, so you still have to be quick to retrieve you book. All it does, in my experience,  is make it less likely that they will accidentally take your copy, the one with the tip on it. There’s still the danger that they sign it, put the tip on it, put it in their pocket and ignore the one hidden under the check. But if you’ve been having trouble with the guest signing both copies but only putting the tip on one and taking that while leaving the other, try this little tip and see if it doesn’t help.

The ultimate solution to this of course is to retrieve the check before the guest leaves and verify that you have a credit card slip signed and with the tip. Just between you and me, and I’m not saying that you do the same, if the guest hasn’t signed the slip, I don’t go back and have them sign, as long as they’ve put the tip in it and totalled it. I really don’t want to confront them about this at the end of the meal because it’s a slightly negative thing in the sense that you’re asking them to do something that they forgot to do and it could be slightly embarrassing to them in front of fellow diners. Of course, your management might be very strict about signatures, so you might have to have them do it. However, if they’ve left me the blank guest copy instead of the copy that they signed, I absolutely will go back and ask them if they took the wrong copy. This has actually happened to me a couple of time. Hell, it’s my tip at stake!

BTW, some people don’t realize this, but a signature isn’t even absolutely necessary. The money is captured as soon as it’s approved by the credit card company. However, a signature is important should the charge be challenged down the road. Without the signature, there is no evidence that the person who owns the credit card is the one who actually presented it. Frankly, I can really only see this happening in the case of a crooked guest, because who’s going to challenge a charge that they actually made, unless the total is different because the either the tip got changed or they grossly miss-added the total themselves and the waiter corrected it. But this is a topic for another day, a topic that I believe I’ve even addressed in the past.

Damn, that was longer than I expected.

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