Always read the name on the credit card and always look at the signature block.
No, you’re not going to bust them if they haven’t signed it or compare their signature on the chit.
The first thing that you are going to do is see if it’s the wife’s name (assuming that it’s not a unisexual name like Leslie, of course). Occasionally, the husband will present the spouse’s card, or you’ll see him take the check presenter but not see him pass it to his wife. You will probably get brownie points if you notice and give the presenter directly to the wife and say Mrs. So-and-So, assuming that it’s clear that they’re married.
Which brings me to the next part. By all means, use the name. You have it right on the card. It adds a personal touch at the very moment that the tip is going to be assigned. If the name is difficult, use your disgression as to whether to say it. Most people will forgive a mispronunciation if you say, “Is it Mr. Unpronouncable”? If you’re wrong, they’ll correct you. If you nail it, they’ll be pleasantly surprised. Remember, people love to hear their own names.
You’d be surprised what else the card can tell you. For instance, the other night, I saw the corporate name under the guest’s
name. I realized that it was the name of our main purveyor. I said, “So you’re responsible for our (fill in the blank). His mouth dropped and he exclaimed, “How did you know”? I chuckled and said, “A little bird told me”. He said, “Really, how did you know”? I said, “It’s on your card”. He and his guests were really impressed that I knew and he said, “I’m going to text the owner of your company tomorrow and tell him” (whether or not he did is irrelevant). He wrote an $50 tip (on a $400 check) and left me a $100 bill on top of it. So you never know. Let’s say that you notice that the card indicates that the guy works for your bank because it’s a Great Bank of the US corporate card and that’s your bank. You might pull out your checkbook or debit card and say, “Nice bank you work at. I’m a loyal customer”. That HAS to increase your chances of a good tip.
Finally, by looking at the signature block, you might see the phrase “Check ID”. If you see that, ask for his/her ID. You can’t imagine how grateful they’ll be for you protecting them or being the 1 in 20 that doesn’t notice.
Remember, it’s the little things, especially at tip time!