Most stories in the Squirreling Gone Wild series have centered around interesting measures people take to save money. Usually, these stories have been about people I know or strangers who I have seen trying to save a few dollars or even pennies on food, gas, and other purchases. A few of these stories even involved me:)
This story is in that latter group as it involves me. However, it’s a little bit different because it discusses how someone appeared to keep a few dollars at my expense.
For this story, let’s rewind a few years, when I was doing a little bit more business travel. It’s one that I actually hadn’t even thought about being included in this series, until it popped in my head at a restaurant recently when trying to pay for a meal.
Anyway, during the aforementioned business trip, I recall eating a meal at a hotel restaurant by myself. Yes, the lonely business traveler is what I was that day:) Actually, the restaurant was a bar and grill, and I had been there before on a previous trip. Decent atmosphere, several TVs with sports on, and quick service….about all you can hope for at a mid-range airport hotel.
I don’t remember exactly what I ordered that day – but it was probably a small order, since it came out to just under $10. I think it was $9.83, but it might have been a few cents more or less. That is the price it came to, before tip, when I got the check.
Once I got the check, I reached for my wallet, pulled out a $20 bill, and set it in the little black folder that restaurants provide when giving you a check. I didn’t use a credit card that day, probably because the total was relatively low.
Soon after I set it down at the edge of the table, the waitress shuffled over to pick it up. Then, she proceeded to ask me the following question:
“Would you like any change?”
I remember sitting there thinking to myself, “Ummm….uh…YEAH! That’s $20 I left with the check!”
So of course, what I actually said was a polite “Yes, please.”
It seemed odd to me. Did she forget that my bill was less than $10? Clearly, my $20 was visible as it edged out of the little black folder. Maybe she didn’t see it? Hard to believe, but who knows.
Then, she quickly came back with the change and a big cheery smile, saying “Thank you!” I opened the folder, and saw the bill with a smiley face and the same words written. Then, I grabbed the bills and coins that represented the change she gave me, without thinking twice. I did a double take when I saw what she gave me, in addition to the loose change:
Two $5 bills.
On the occasions that I actually pay cash instead of charging, I usually look to the change I receive as the source for the tip I will leave for the server. I have to think many others view it the same way.
This got me thinking; “Why did she leave two $5 bills? Wouldn’t that make it tough to leave an appropriate tip?”
There’s no way I’m leaving a $5 tip for a meal that cost me less than $10. But that’s what would happen if I counted on the change for the tip.
I smiled as I realized that the waitress might be playing games with me, to secure a bigger tip.
At that point, I waited until I made eye contact with her, at which time I motioned to have her come over. She walked to the table, and I asked her if she could make change for one of the $5 bills.
She paused for a second or two before saying “It might take a while, since I have to get change from the bar. Do you want to wait?”
Ok. Maybe I was being cynical, but that convinced me that she was probably trying to extract from me. Believe me, I have seen enough instances of extraction to know what this looks like.
I paused, then thought that maybe I have some change in my wallet. I checked, and found a few singles.
I made the quick decision: take out a $1 bill, leave it on the table along with the change, and say “No thanks, there’s no need to get that change”.
I shared the story with someone, who chuckled while telling me that I didn’t exactly teach the waitress a lesson. After all, I did leave a tip.
That’s probably true. I said my tip was about 12%, which is lower than my usual 15% to 20%. Again, I got a few extra chuckles, as this wasn’t exactly a motivator for the waitress to play fair with the customers. I guess that in the split second when I made the decision, I just couldn’t walk away leaving nothing.
Allow me to ask you:
Do you agree with me that the waitress was playing games? What would you have done in this situation?