Social Question

girlofscience's avatar

Please provide insight into this strange interaction with a waiter. I am absolutely baffled.

Asked by girlofscience (7556points) April 25th, 2010
62 responses
“Great Question” (7points)

If it matters, this was at Lone Star. And vibe with the waiter throughout the dinner had been very positive.

1. Friend and I finished dinner.
2. The waiter dropped off the bill.
3. It was $52.79.
4. We put $63 in cash inside. (3 twenties, 3 ones.)
5. The waiter brought the bill back with a five, two ones, and a dime. (This seems to be what the change would be if we had just given him $60?)
6. I signaled for him to come over and said, “Hey, I’m really confused. I put $63 in here—that was all for you. You brought this back with the change as if we had given you $60? Did you get the other three dollars?”
7. He said, “Yeah, I’m sorry, I already put that in the register. We just put all of that in the register until the end of the night, but I can bring it back to you.”
8. I said, “What? No, I did not want to get any money back. I was just confused by this partial change I received and wanted to make sure you were getting your full tip. I was trying to tip you ten dollars and twenty-one cents.”
9. He said, “Okay, I’m sorry about that. I can just bring you back all of your change. I didn’t mean to do anything wrong.”
10. I said, “No, you didn’t do anything wrong. I put $63 inside. I did not want any of this back. The extra money was your tip. I received some of the extra money back as change and was confused. I wanted to make sure you got your full tip.”
11. He said, “Oh okay, sorry about that. So what do you want to do?”
12. I said, “I want you to take back this change…”
13. He said, “Okay, thank you,” gave me a weird/annoyed look, and walked away.

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cockswain's avatar

I would love to answer this question….but I can’t find it.

girlofscience's avatar

Yeah, this is really killing me. I just cannot figure it out. I almost want to go back to the restaurant tomorrow to discuss it with him to get to the bottom of what the hell he thought was going on. But obviously I won’t because that’s completely insane.

Buttonstc's avatar

He was temporarily insane ?

Or incredibly stupid.

earthduzt's avatar

Alot of people in the food service industry (food servers) tend to smoke alot of pot. Other than that I do not know it is very strange.

girlofscience's avatar

@earthduzt: He wasn’t high.

chyna's avatar

Then he was just stupid.

girlofscience's avatar

Like, did he think I was tipping poorly or being rude?

Keysha's avatar

I would have asked to see a manager and asked them what that was all about.

JohnRobert's avatar

If it was a busy night, he may have confused you (and your change folder) with another customer.

Buttonstc's avatar

It was his first day on the job and whoever trained him did a crappy job ?

He’s a typical graduate of the public school system and can’t do basic math?

He needs to go back to McDonalds where the cash register automatically spits out the correct change. Big bright picture buttons to push on the cash register and no thought required :)

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Was he hammered??lol

Fernspider's avatar

I hate situations like this… they do my head in. Because it defies logic, you are constantly asking why??. Analysing it until it makes sense, only that it never does. Annoys the crap out of me LOL.

I would secretly want to ask him too, insane as that may be!

dpworkin's avatar

Not too bright, that’s all.

girlofscience's avatar

@Rachienz: That is exactly how I feel! This is bothering me so much.

Trillian's avatar

@Buttonstc probably has it right. Also, it have noticed that a lot of restaurants seem to hire from a couple “types”. We all know the one like the waiter on Office Space, way too happy and possibly on coke. Another seems to be not so bright and unable to perform basic math functions and people skills. Looks like you got the latter.

OneMoreMinute's avatar

dumb waiter

Cruiser's avatar

Honestly the only explanation I can have is some people are TERRIBLE at math!! I have an employee that is absolutely dangerous if left to do math at work on his own! He probably figured the $3.00 was his 15% tip!! Don’t give it much more thought but thanks for sharing!! It is a good story!

john65pennington's avatar

Maybe, just maybe all the waiters leave the collected tips in the cash register and equally split the tips at the end of their shift. they do this at bingo. when a person wins money and wants to tip the workers, the workers combine all their collected tips for the night and split the total equally to each worker at the end of the session.

If this is the case here, your waiter should have given you a better explanation to your question to him. was he new? did he speak fluent english?

chyna's avatar

@Trillian I had a waiter at a new restaurant that was acting very weird. He took our glasses for a refill and never returned. After about 10 minutes we grabbed another waiter and they said “oh yeah, he was doing coke so they sent him home.” What? Is this common now?

girlofscience's avatar

@john65pennington: Yes, it seems that is what they do with tips there; that wasn’t really a question. It doesn’t make any sense that he wouldn’t think the entire thing was his tip, though. And the rest of the interaction is still perplexing.

I have no idea if he was new. He spoke fluent English.

SuperMouse's avatar

I’m kind of with the people who argue this guy is just not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Fernspider's avatar

I’m starting to think his math was just really bad and he someone thought you were wanting your full change back.

What boggles my mind is the annoyedness (my new word) at you insisting that he keep the money. At what point was the lightbulb going to activate for this guy!?

john65pennington's avatar

Do you think this person could have been one of the terminated accountants for General Motors? if so, no wonder GM just about went bankrupct.

jaytkay's avatar

I can’t explain him, but when I don’t want change back, I tell them when I hand over the money.

girlofscience's avatar

@jaytkay: Yeah, I usually do that, but I happened not to this time and figured that the $10.21 was obviously the tip, since it is a standard 20% and included three additional ones…

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I had a thought, but… none of this makes much sense.

Perhaps he wanted to ‘report’ the $3 as the tip, and pocket the rest? That’s why he entered the $3 into the register. If he does this throughout the year then the employer will show “tips reported” on his W2 as much less than what he’s actually taking home. But since the W2 will show “tip income”, then he may think he can (more safely) evade tax on the rest.

And he’s ‘annoyed’ with you that you didn’t get… that he would certainly take the cash after you left. But I’m just guessing. It doesn’t make much sense to me.

Zen_Again's avatar


chyna's avatar

@Zen_Again Don’t hold back, tell us what you really think. :-)

Jeruba's avatar

He wasn’t paying attention, was drifty for some reason, and thought you’d given him $60. (The three and three confused him—a reflection or redundancy; he registered only one set of three, the expected one.) He lied right here:

7. He said, “Yeah, I’m sorry, I already put that in the register. We just put all of that in the register until the end of the night, but I can bring it back to you.”

in hopes that maybe he wouldn’t look like such an idiot. He ought to have said “Oops, no, I just saw the sixty. I’m sorry. Thanks!”

The rest doesn’t make sense because he was inventing it on the spot. Maybe his girlfriend just broke up with him.

The look at the end was for making him feel stupid.

jazmina88's avatar

pain pills is what was wrong with the last waiter i had..he was awful.

Coloma's avatar

Who knows what was going through his/her mind.

I once had a waiter show the most incredible rudeness.

Had been waiting forever for our bottle of wine and bread.

Asked the waiter if we could expect it soon..his reply ” Why? do you need it?”


Had a talk with the manager about that guy!

plethora's avatar

What @CyanoticWasp said had not even entered my mind, but it is the only one that makes sense. I was thinking he was acting like you had caught him at something, but could not figure out what. This makes total sense.

Typee's avatar

All I can do is smile…

Coloma's avatar


Aaaah….good deduction Watson!

RedPowerLady's avatar

I agree that @CyanoticWasp makes the most sense. The guy simply wanted you to leave the rest of the tip in the folder so he could pocket it. He was pretending like it was your change so he wouldn’t have to report it.

thriftymaid's avatar

Perhaps this is your first encounter with a fool. If you are an adult, that’s pretty surprising.

hannahsugs's avatar

Maybe he dropped the three ones on the way to the register, and had no idea what you were talking about.

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

Maybe he was embarrassed about what was going on and wasn’t understanding what was going on. He was probably new. That’s about a 20% tip, he shouldn’t have been offended or anything.

Fernspider's avatar

@Jeruba – that is a fantastic explanation… makes total sense! I also like @CyanoticWasp. HA! With our powers combined…

Why am I so caught up with Captain Planet today? It isn’t the 90’s!

j0ey's avatar

I know what happened…..

The waiter was obviously bombarded with rude, cheap customers all day….So by the time he served you, in his mind you were a cheap customer. He looked at the money you gave and just assumed that you weren’t tipping and that you wanted the change….

….then his poor mental calculation ability came in to play, this is why you received the “wrong” change.

…..because he believed you were like all the other a-hole customers he had served through out the day, and believed that so strongly, he wasn’t hearing what you were actually saying to him when you were being nice and not complaining.

The poor guy was just so used to horrible customers, he just assumes now that every word that comes out of any customers mouth is going to be negative…

He wasn’t offended, he just has an automatic scheme of what his job entails….so he didn’t know what was going on. He probably wasn’t even listening to what you were saying, he was just assuming what you were saying.

breedmitch's avatar

Cyanotic wasp has the right idea. Not is he only reporting a smaller percentage of the tip, he’s not having to split the other ammount with his coworkers.

mrentropy's avatar

I’m with @CyanoticWasp and @breedmitch , especially with not sharing the tip with other servers.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Yep, he was high. Probably went for a quick joint between serving you dinner and this check fiasco.

Jeruba's avatar

I think a moment of stupidity is much more likely than an act of larceny over three dollars, especially since if he were trying to pull a fast one he’d have some kind of explanation ready for a puzzled customer. He clearly did not know what was going on.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. Maybe he was new to the country or not use to getting tips that way.

breedmitch's avatar

You misunderstand, Jeruba. He might be pocketing $7.10. See he puts the $3 in the register with the ammount for the check. (At the end of the shift the register tells the servers how much they owe the house. Anything over is tips that all the servers split.)
The register area is where any cameras or management might be watching.
Now he brings what looks like “change” to the table and expects the customer will just leave it since that is what they were going to do in the first place. (The fact that the customer left singles is an indicator that they don’t want change.)
After the customer leaves the server puts the check presenter in his apron and at some opportune moment (perhaps in the back or soda station) pockets the $7.10. He does this three times a night and he has his beer money for the night.

I think the fact that he played dumb actually makes it more likely that there were shenanigans afoot.

If he had really thought you wanted change he would have brought you seven singles and a dime so you could leave the tip you want. that 5 dollar bill is the smoking gun.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

He was probably just tired and got confused, and then was just annoyed that you called him away from his side work (the things he has to do before he can go home), or smoking a cigarette, or whatever, in order to have a conversation with him about the change, when you could have just left it in the bill and he would have gotten to it when he was ready to.

I resent the answers that say he must be stupid or insane. Everyone makes mistakes. I wish they would go walk a mile in the typical restaurant servers shoes before they start talking like that.

Jeruba's avatar

I still think if he were being sneaky and clever he’d have an excuse ready and not be babbling nonsense because he’s baffled.

But none of us knows the answer. Maybe the poor kid doesn’t even know the answer. I just think it’s odd that people would be so quick to presume deliberately malicious intent when simple, commonplace incompetence or a lapse of attention would explain it.

breedmitch's avatar

Jeruba, there are a few red flags that make me think it was malicious. That 5 dollar bill is one. His wanting to make the situation go away quickly by just giving the tip back is another. The OP said it was a Lone Star Cafe, a large corporate chain that has lots of rules and very little perks. Plus that chain probably doesn’t attract the best quality servers or the best tipping customers, although the OP sounds like a gracious customer and generous tipper.
I admire your trusting nature, Jeruba but as someone who has managed many restaurants something about this situation just doesn’t sit right with me; it didn’t with the OP, hence her posting here.
I can’t say it’s more acceptable because he was stealing from his coworkers and not the house.
Had I been the manager on duty or a coworker and witnessed this exchange, I would have done nothing, but I would certainly be watching this employee closely.

Buttonstc's avatar


I understand your sympathy for waitstaff and how hard they work (I did that to get through college and can relate).

However, the thing that got to me was the last sentence of the Q. Even if a server has a momentary attention lapse, when they are dealing with a generous pleasant customer trying desperately to give them a tip which is more than twice what they initially thought it was, it’s not a normal response to give that patron a “weird, annoyed” type of look.

This is not a customer being a jackass like some they most likely deal with all too often. This is someone desperately trying to do them a kindness.

Rather disproportionate amd imappropriate response, wouldn’t you agree?

THAT’S the reason for the guesses of stupidity, etc. It’s not smart to “bite the hand that feeds you” to borrow a metaphorical phrase. Why alienate a patron trying to be nice to you?

CodePinko's avatar

Waiters are (hopefully) busy people. They will round up or down sometimes for the sake of both parties convenience. They assume that if your worried about a matter of a couple of dollars you’re to cheap or poor to be eating out.

cockswain's avatar

@CodePinko The waiter’s manager would likely strongly object to such a practice. And I don’t understand your last sentence since this is a couple that already did eat out.

Wait, do you work at the Lone Star?

john65pennington's avatar

CWasp. you are the man. maybe this man is not as dumb as he appears. your idea of him being a theif just did not hit me like it should have. i must be getting older. i think you have hit on the right idea. way to go. john

CodePinko's avatar

@cockswain I do not work at any restaurant.
Just because people are too cheap or poor to eat out doesn’t mean they don’t.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@Buttonstc: I think you’re reading way too much into my answer. I didn’t say he did the right thing or was perfect. I said he was probably tired and annoyed.

jca's avatar

i would have asked for all my change back, and then left him an even amount (like a ten, or seven, or whatever). that way he would be clear on what i left him, and not confused.

jca (36054points)“Great Answer” (0points)
Jeruba's avatar

Well, @breedmitch, I certainly can’t say you’re wrong. You have the right kind of experience to form a correct intuition in a situation like this, and I guess I am just inclined to be sympathetic toward someone who messed up.

At the same time, if this young man were working for me and had a second such interaction, or I saw him repeat a cash-handling error with me as a customer, or anything else didn’t add up, I’d be wary as hell. Once my suspicions are aroused, I’m no pushover. I’m just more likely to have such suspicions in other settings, probably those where my experience has taught me what fits the picture and what doesn’t.

So most likely I would get cheated once and you wouldn’t get cheated at all. That’s a price I pay willingly for thinking a bit better of human nature.

breedmitch's avatar

I’m sure you didn’t mean that last sentence as condescending as it sounds. See? I can belive in better human nature, too. ;)

Fernspider's avatar

@jeruba – I thought that was a beautiful and well written response.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

It’s the “annoyed look” on the waiter’s face at the end of the exchange that has my radar up. I would rather have given the benefit of the doubt and thought that he had simply made a mistake—we all do, so that’s not hard to believe—but most of us don’t end up with “annoyed look” because of a simple mistake. (This is such an odd ‘mistake’ in the first place—to assume that the three extra $1s were the tip, and to give change on the $60?—pretty odd behavior for an experienced and competent waiter.) And I’m presuming that the waiter was competent and gave good service to merit being over-tipped, so it seems that he may be some combination of smart, quick and attentive to detail. For a waiter with those attributes to end the interchange with the good-tipping customer with “annoyed look” ... has me tuned in to wonder “what’s really going on?”

judochop's avatar

I am with @CyanoticWasp on this one. Are you positive of what happened? Did this waiter bring you drinks? Lot’s of them?

Ron_C's avatar

It was almost a 20% tip, if the waiter was too ignorant to see that, he probably should get it.

That has happened to me mostly because the waiter didn’t hear me say “keep the change”. In that case, I just left the change in the folder and left the restaurant. If the waiter didn’t figure it out then the bus boy would. That’s o.k. because the person that buses the table probably needs the money more than the waiter.

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