June 14, 2012

Correct Change - Bad Math or Thoughtless Customer Service

My spouse and I have noticed a slightly shocking trend when paying our bill at restaurants.  When I tell you about it, you might not think it is a big deal but remember it all adds up in business.  This slightly disturbing trend has not been with a single server or a particular restaurant.  I have noticed it always seemed to be a college-age server.  Did they not need to know math to get into college?  I know I had to both learn it and apply it for making change back when I worked in the hospitality industry and in retail sales when I went to college.

Anyway, the trend seems to be to not give proper change when bills are paid in cash.  They bring me the paper money but not the coins.  The first time this happened, it was less than a dime they owned me and I assumed the waitress dropped it into her apron and forgot to get it out when she got to the table.  However, it continued to happen at the next several restaurants I went to where the waiter only brought the bills and not the coins.  Once they owed me 98 cents – that is almost a dollar they kept.  That time, we decided to reduce the tip by the dollar that was kept but who knows if the server even noticed this.  Now I see it as a trend and it worries me because I do not know if it is thoughtless servers or something being taught in the food service industry.  I also think the trend must be more widespread than my local eating places.  I was recently in another state and the same situation occurred at a restaurant there!  I now feel it may have only happened at the one restaurant because the others were paid with a credit card.
This is not the only math problem I’ve noticed at restaurants.  We have twice given the server a large bill along with exact coin change at a restaurant.  Both times, the server gave us back change as if we never gave them any coins.  In other words, they kept the coins and only put the bills into register which of course calculated what we should get back wrong.  When we brought up the incorrect change, we were told “don’t worry about it” as if they gave us extra money rather than less.
Do people just not care about getting it right any more?  Does their management know they are making these mistakes and frustrating their customers?  It is not just bad math or outright stealing; it is very bad customer service! (Read good example post)  I think managers should be watching and where appropriate saying “please go back to school and learn math or get a pocket calculator.”

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