Earlier in the month we made a mistake. We had a party of 4 who gave us two credit cards. One person was paying for her own dinner and another person paying the rest of the bill. We were having connectivity problems that evening and unfortunately the woman's card was run twice and the 2nd slip presented to the gentleman who left a tip and signed the receipt, believing it to be his card. We also thought it was his card until a week or so ago I got notification from the card company the customer was disputing the larger charge. The man's card was never run.
Here's where it gets weird. I pulled the paperwork from both transactions and find that while they are indeed signed, they were in fact signed by different people. However the last name is the same on both slips, and the man's handwriting has that spidery quality sometimes present in the handwriting of those of advanced years. My guess was this was the father of the other woman. So, at this point I need to get in touch with the man, because I'll need to collect the money from him as the credit card company will definitely not honor a charge the actual cardholder did not sign. I am however, wondering, if my supposition is right, why this woman didn't just have dad send her the money to cover his portion of the bill.
So I call the credit card company, explain the situation and the CSR shares my opinion and she also wonders why dad wouldn't just send daughter the cash. However, she has a job to do and tells me she can call the customer to try to resolve things. After holding she tells me there is no answer and no way to leave a message. In order to contact her I'll have to continue calling the credit card company and having them try again. I thank her and after getting off the phone I notice on the dispute letter there is contact information for the cardholder. It's a Nevada address and phone number. I call and there's a recording saying "I can't come to the phone" followed by a beep. I assume it to be an answering machine and start leaving a message, explaining my need to reach the man who signed the larger credit card charge and the machine cuts me off. I call back, leaving a shorter message but afterwards feel like maybe it wasn't recording anything. So I write her a letter, asking for contact information for the man and telling her I assumed they were related given the shared last name.
We go to SF and I get call from one of our waiters, letting me know the woman had called and was upset and wanted me to call right away. So, I do but get the same machine. I leave a message, telling her (as the waiter told her) that I was out of town and would call her on Friday when I was back at work.
Friday. In the mail there's another notice from the card company, basically saying they're debiting the disputed amount from our account, but it has different contact information. New phone number, new address. I also see a message from one of the cooks saying the woman had called again. BTW, the amounts in question were $25.05 and $87.08.
I call the new number, a man answers I ask for the woman and after a little weirdness on his part I determine that he is indeed the man signed her credit card slip and he is indeed the woman's father. He said they would send me a check but didn't know where to send it and wanted to make sure the charge was off his daughter's card first. He also wanted to know if the check was going to be processed electronically or if he would get his check back. I told him if his bank returned his canceled checks he'd get it back but I didn't know their policy. I then went out on a limb and asked why he didn't simply send his daughter the money rather than have us all go through this complicated process. His reply was that she wanted the charge off her card. I decided not to probe further. He then decided he wasn't going to send the check until he had verification that the charge was off her card. I told him I was uncomfortable with that but there was nothing I could do about it and if that was what he would be doing I'd have to accept that. As he said, he didn't make the mistake.
So, another call to the card processor, trying verify that the charge was taken off her card and trying to find a way to prove to him that it was. The CSR, again very nice and helpful and again thinking the whole thing more than a little weird gave me instructions and said to wait until perhaps Tuesday to make sure the charge, although it was reversed would actually show as such throughout their entire system, before calling the man back. I thanked her and just after hanging up she called back, saying actually, the charge shows as credited now, and if the cardholder called she'd be assured her $87.08 had been returned.
So I call the man back. I tell him what I was just told and asked him if he would tell his daughter since I was sure he'd be speaking with her. He assured me he would.
So at this point I've made 3 calls to her, had 3 conversations with the card processor, written her a letter, made two calls to her father and she's called the restaurant at least twice, I think more, to deal with $90.
It gets better. Saturday, just as service is starting she calls. She wants to talk about her charge of 25.05. It seems she signed the slip for $24.70, not $25.05. Now often when there's a situation like this it's because the bank authorizes a credit card charge for an amount higher than the charge because they assume there might be a tip left on the charge. When the charge is fully processed the charge reverts to the actual amount. I asked her if this might be the case and she said no, the charged amount was finalized according to the card company. So I say this is what, 35 cents? And she said since I had been speaking with the card company she figured I could have them deduct it. I told her that the only way I could issue a credit was if I had her entire card number, expiration, etc and I didn't want to do that saying I'd be uncomfortable having that information given the strange way things had been handled on her end. I asked her why she simply didn't have her father send her the money and she told me I needed to know so I could properly train my staff. They shouldn't make those mistakes. And it might not seem like much but 35 cents adds up. I thought she meant for her and was thinking, wow, that's a tight budget but then realized she was implying that if we were routinely overcharging our customers we would be nicely feathering our nest. I agreed we shouldn't make mistakes but thought there would have been a different way to let me know. A friendly email perhaps. I was getting really irritated, and told her I'd mail her the 35 cents. I told her, No problem, I'll spend 39 cents to mail you 35 cents. Is that really worth all the phone calls we've both made? She said she had never heard from me and when I told her my experience with her machine she, oh, it must have been full. At this point I was getting pissed and since both she and her father had pointed out they didn't make the mistake, I told her her full answering machine was not my problem, that I had also sent her a letter. Oh, I got that, she said. Oh, so you have heard from me, which is it, have or haven't? It got ugly after that, her questioning my ethics because I wasn't aghast at the 35 cent mistake, telling me she has to work also and when she's called I've been (sarcasm dripping from her voice) unavailable. I counter with telling her I was yes, out of town, trying to enjoy my newborn son's first outing into the world and that I spoke with her father twice the day before who assured me he would be letting her know everything was taken care of. She hadn't spoken with her father.She then told me her mother wanted a receipt for the check because some banks don't return checks. And that she would be calling to make sure the charge was off her account. Customers were streaming in the door and I was ready to explode.
I write her a check for 35 cents which was mailed last night. I hope the teller gives her a dirty look.
This post somehow doesn't actually put across how insane this family seems. We did make two mistakes, we ran her card twice and the waiter keyed in the wrong amount for a tip. The second mistake is a bit more disturbing to me. The woman left $3.15 for a tip, the waiter keyed in $3.50. The only thing I can think of, beyond just an honest error by an already flustered young woman who was dealing with a credit card terminal that has having difficulty connecting, was that she was having another waiter help her and was reading the amounts to the other waiter who heard fifty, instead of fifteen.
However, if I had been at dinner with my parents and this had happened to me I think one of the following would have happened. If after determining that my parent's card hadn't been charged I would have said, oh well mom, dad, dinner's on me. If for whatever reason they insisted on paying their share of the bill it would have been likely they would send me the money to cover mine as well. Really, we never would have presented two cards to begin with. I hope my son doesn't grow up to be so cheap.
It's true the mistakes shouldn't have happened and believe me after the waiter seeing this entire process, I'm pretty confident it won't happen again.
We'll see if the parents actually send me the check.
A year or so ago there was an article in I think the Boston Globe about restaurants overcharging on credit cards. The writer posited restaurants use this as an additional revenue source. Let's do the math. We average about 20 credit card transactions a night. If I were able to enroll all my staff in a conspiracy to defraud our customers by overcharging them by 35 cents, that would be, let's say 50% of the customers (couldn't do it to everyone, they'd catch on) by the say, 350 days we're open to the public. Hmmmmm, $3.50 a day, that's $1225 a year. Wow, she's right, it does add up. For that amount I'd be willing to lose my ability to accept credit cards, lose lots of customers and conceivably do time in prison. Forget trying to please people with great food and good service, we'll just rip people off. Thanks for showing me the path to easy riches.
I know I've got a weird attitude to money. My hippie upbringing would make me ashamed to chase someone down for 35 cents. If that's what I'd have to do to get rich, I'll stay as I am.