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Always Take a Copy of Your Restaurant Receipt

Lifehacker logo Lifehacker 2/7/2019 Josh Ocampo

a close up of a piece of paper © Photo: Jae C. Hong (AP)

We’ve all left the “customer copy” of the receipt lying on the table at a restaurant after we’ve finished dinner. Here’s a good reason why you might want to take it with you (and keep it somewhere safe).

On a recent thread, Redditor u/Ryan_77, a former restaurant worker, recommended people bring their receipts home, so staff can’t adjust gratuity after you leave.

Redditor u/onekate has this to add:

I had a dishonest friend who I learned would change every tip that wasn’t 20% to at least that. Every single one. Never got caught. Because of him, I write the total amount of my bill including tip below the numeric total and above the signature line like one would write it on a check. Every time.

To be clear, waiters and others in the food service industry work difficult jobs, so taking your receipt home is not about shaming deserving staff, so much as for your own safekeeping (for the record, if you’re having a good meal and decent service, tipping around 20 percent is the standard).

Mistakes happen and bad handwriting on a receipt is common (mine, for instance, is terrible and I don’t blame any server for wanting to confirm my chicken scratch). By keeping your copy of the receipt, at least you can easily refute why it wouldn’t make sense to pay $10 for a $4 coffee.

Then there’s the situation in which you accidentally leave a credit card at a bar and wake up the next day to find a “walkout” fee tacked onto your bill. This is entirely legal, as long as the bar has warned you in advance (like on signage), though you could contest it if that wasn’t made clear to you. A responsible place should only charge you when you return to pick up your card (not beforehand and without your consent, both of which are grounds to dispute the charge).

You Don't Have to Sign Your Credit Card Receipts Anymore

So what should you do if you find a “fake” total? For one, when you keep a receipt, make sure you wrote the gratuity on your copy, too. Contact the restaurant, refute the inaccurate total, explain what you ordered, and the tip you originally provided.

If this doesn’t resolve it or you lost the receipt, contest the charge with your bank. They’ll contact the merchant on your behalf (so you can avoid the awkward conversation) and hopefully refund the disputed amount.

If you don’t want to carry around a load of receipts in your wallet everywhere you go, take a photo of the bill instead. Or provide a cash tip and be sure to write in “Cash” on the gratuity line so everybody’s happy.


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