2 lousy dollars


There is a cafe that I have been working at most mornings, and I really enjoy the atmosphere in this place. I have even struck up a little acquaintance with my cute and friendly waiter, sharing small talk about our lives. I learned that he just arrived in NYC a few weeks ago from Arizona of all places. He is just a sweet kid of about 22, struggling to make it in the big city.

This morning I logged into my bank account online (as I do occasionally) and noticed an odd charge from the cafe. It was dated yesterday, the last time I used my card there. It wasn’t a huge difference, but I didn’t remember spending that much there, so I found my folded up receipt from yesterday’s pants pocket and sure enough, my card had been charged more than the total I had filled out including tip. As I said, it wasn’t a huge amount, only 2 dollars more (from 19 to 21, which would have increased my 20% tip to 33%, but I digress).

At first, I thought perhaps there was an old charge that had been dated wrong and had coincidentally come through on this day. But when I checked through my records, every other charge was there and was in the correct amount. So I am left with the following possibilities as to how this happened:

– My waiter added a couple of bucks and put the charge through (purposely or by accident)
– Someone else at the restaurant added a couple of bucks and put the charge through (purposely or by accident)
– There was a bank or credit card error in the amount of two dollars

And now there is a dilemma about what to do about it:

– Take my receipt down to the restaurant and demand to talk to the manager to get them to reverse the charge
– Talk to the waiter directly about it, giving him a chance to investigate
– Pretend it never happened (it is only two dollars after all)

If I go down to talk to the manager, what will happen to my waiter if he is to blame? Will he be fired? The poor kid just arrived in New York and is struggling. I don’t want him to be fired over this if by chance he is at fault, and yet if he is, he clearly should not be engaging in this type of behavior. If he is not to blame and someone else is, what happens to them? Perhaps it would be better to confront the waiter directly, giving him the opportunity to explain or investigate without management knowing?

Maybe it is all just a misunderstanding, an accident easily rectified.

I am a practical person. I don’t believe in making a big deal out of things that are trifling. I am not one of those people who is so wedded to “the principle of the thing” that I lose sight of reality. Life is too short really. And yet, I feel a little as if a trust has been betrayed. I have really enjoyed spending time in this cafe, chatting with my waiter, sipping coffee and working. My image of this place is now a little tainted. I would like to be proven wrong, but can only do so by bringing it up.

On the other hand, I could just let it drop, continue to enjoy the environment and pay cash from now on. I think I like the sound of that best. What do you think? (besides the obvious “Haven’t you just wasted more than 2 dollars worth of time and energy thinking about this?”)


  1. Kelly Mayfield says:

    Hi Stephen,

    Back in my waitressing days, we weren’t allowed to run our own cards–our manager did. Check and balance. You never want your A/R and A/P from the same desk. But that might have changed.

    I’d talk to the waiter. I’ve read about this nickel and diming theft. who notices a couple of lousy dollars here and there? Umm, me.

    And if it was just a mistake, the air will be cleared and you will be able to enjoy your cafe once agian.

  2. Kelly says:

    With apologies for my final misspelling. I hate it when I finish in a rush.

  3. There’s a spectrum of customer service that ranges between the two examples below:



  4. Eric says:

    This has happened to me at a restaurant in the Castro. I signed for a $60-something tab, but my card was charged over $90.00. I called the restaurant and after some research they acknowledged the “mistake” and credited my card instantly. Mistakes do happen, but as for the restaurant– I point to the sign and declare “THIEVES!” each time I walk by.

  5. Audrey says:

    I’d go in and speak with the manager in a very casual way and explain the mistake. I wouldn’t mention names, just that a mistake happened. I’m sure they will gladly refund the difference and be happy that you are pleasant about the entire experience….you may even get a free cup o’ joe out of the misunderstand! We’re all human and we all make errors every now and again.

    Have some fun for me in the Big Apple! Hugs, aud

  6. Amanda says:

    I think you should mention it, but in a non accusatory way…..

  7. Kelly says:

    Call your bank. Fax the receipt to your bank. Let your bank be the bad guy. You can then go on enjoying your little cafe.

  8. Raffy says:

    Be careful how you bring it up – you don’t want to get escorted from the premises by a cadre of big ass security doods.

  9. Robert (your struggling waiter) says:

    I want you to know that i’m printing this, framing it, and hanging it up on my wall. I love it. I hope to see soon.

  10. Amanda says:

    so what did you decide to do? (and see–lots of people read this–not just me and your mom!)

  11. Salvador says:

    Your two dollar saga has been a great preview of the interest you can generate on those who read your blog. Now imagine the hit a novel on a multi-million dollar scam would be! Write away!

  12. PattyK says:

    How about the next time you go in there you steal at $2 dollars worth of salt and pepper shakers?

    Passive Aggressive Patty