Suggested Gratuity

Several restaurants are now printing a “suggested gratuity” right at the bottom of the check. However, if you take a close look, you’ll see that restaurants are trying to bump up the tip by calculating the suggestion on the check total, not the total minus tax.

For instance, if the check total is $50, the suggestion claims the following:

  • 10% = $5.00
  • 15% = $7.50
  • 20% = $10

This seems to be correct at first glance, however, the total includes tax and the tax is an extra cost that the restaurant neither charged nor keeps. By including the tax in the total, you’re basically tipping 10%-20% on the tax.

So, let’s assume that your tax rate is 8%. If the check total is $50, you really should be tipping on $46.30. The suggestions should then be:

  • 10%= $4.63
  • 15% = $6.95
  • 20% =$9.26

To put things into perspective, if the suggestions for this check that includes tax in the total are followed, here’s how much you’re actually tipping:

  • 10.80% = $5.00
  • 16.20% = $7.50
  • 21.60% = $10

While this seems minor, it probably is. However, you should be aware that the suggested tip is not accurate if you are depending on it to tip appropriately.

Sign here

I went to Banana Republic to purchase a pair of pants and brought them up to the cashier. After signing the sales receipt, the cashier looked at my signature and then looked at my card. He then proceeded to rip off a strip of blank register tape. He handed me the blank paper and said, “Could you sign this for me please?”

“What for?” I asked.

“Your signature didn’t match, so I need to have you sign this paper again.”

Boy, did I feel uncomfortable. He wants me to sign a blank piece of paper? What was he going to do with it? I refused. “If I sign this paper, it will look the same as the receipt I just signed.”

“Well, this is what I’m supposed to do. I’m required to get your signature again.”

I asked him what he would do with the signature once I signed the blank paper.

“Oh, I don’t need to keep it. I just need for you to sign it. I’ll even give it back to you.”

I signed the paper. He looked at it, and crumpled it up. I then held my hand out. He looked at me and then handed me back the crumpled paper. I placed the paper in my pocket and walked out, not understanding what had just happened.

The only thing I could figure was that they felt that if I signed my name again, it would be a better match with the one on my credit card. What I didn’t understand was why he didn’t simply ask me for some other form of ID, like my drivers license. My license has both my picture and signature. That would seem to be a much better form of identification than my signature.

Besides, my re-signature looked identical to the sales receipt I signed. Perhaps it was just a test to see how I’d react. Who knows. While I think he was following orders, I don’t really think that their method of confirming that the credit card was mine really proved anything.

And my credit card number is…

Lets face it. Your credit card number is never truly safe unless you never use your card. Every day, there are opportunities for your credit card number to get into the wrong hands.

I’ve spoken to friends who have never shopped online. “Is shopping online safe and have you ever shopped online?” they ask. They seem to have “heard” from some unknown source that shopping online is bad and will cause your credit card number to be compromised.

My response? “Do you go to a restaurant and pay with credit card? When you had the waiter your card, he walks away. Do you follow him? Are you sure he hasn’t copied your number down?”

You can see the wheels.

If your credit card ever truly safe? What does the waiter do when he walks away? I trust that he’s running the card through the machine, but can he quickly grab an imprint of the card for use later? Can he press your card quickly into a small mound of silly putty to get the number? Sure he can.

Does he? Probably not… but he could if he wanted to. Can your card number be compromised when it’s used online? Sure! Is it? Probably not, but again, it could be.

I called State Farm today to pay my bill with a credit card. I read the number to the operator who then read it back, along with the expiration date to me to make sure she had it right. Was a customer in the office while she was on the phone with me? It’s possible, and even likely. Is my card number now in the hands of another State Farm customer? Possibly.

The bottom line is that your card number is just not safe and for me, the convenience of having a card and using it far outweighs the need to worry everytime I use it.

I’ve been using credit cards since 1987 and so far so good. My number has never been used by anybody other than me. I buy almost anything and everything with my credit card and pay my bill in full each month.

My favorite story however involves a visit one day to Macy*s. I had a registry there and wanted to buy out the remaining items. We were told to go to a special office where a woman would help us to place the order. We sat in her office with the door open. Occasionally, other customers could be heard mulling about.

“Your order is complete. How would you like to pay for that?” she said.

“I’ll be using my MasterCard.”

“Ok, what is the number.”

I recited the first 4 numbers in a soft voice. She repeated them in a voice that was only slightly lower than the store’s PA system.

“Umm…” even softer, I said the next 4 numbers.

Not taking the hint, she said the second set of numbers as loud as the first.

“Excuse me.” I said. “I’m not really comfortable with everybody hearing my credit card number. Here’s my card and use it so that I don’t have to say the number out loud for everybody to hear.”

“Ok.” she said.

I handed her my card and she placed it down next to her.

She then proceeded to look at the numbers and like Austin Powers, she had no internal monologue. Now she was reading the numbers out loud AND typing them into her computer for validation.

“Excuse me, but would you mind not repeating the number out loud?”

“Oh sorry.”

She started over, and again said the number out loud, but maybe not quite as loud as before. If anybody was standing nearby, they could have easily heard my credit card number.

I let her finish and I took back my card. I didn’t cancel the number and in the end, my card number was not stolen and all is well.

So far.

The Subway incident

Occasionally I’ll head over to Subway to buy a sandwich for lunch. On this particular day, the line was longer than normal. The people ahead of me were all together and one of them had a sheet of paper with additional orders from back in their office. After ordering one of the sandwiches, the Subway sandwich assembler informed them that they were out of the bread that they wanted.

To fix the situation, one of the guys got on his cell phone and called up his office to speak to his co-worker in order to pick another type of bread. This conversation followed. Note: It’s much better to hear than to read, but I’ll do my best.

Since he was on his cell phone, I only got one side of the conversation:

Hi Mary, get me Sue. Tell her I’m over at Subway and they don’t have Italian bread. (pause)

Hi Sue, yeah, I’m over at Subway and they’re out of Italian bread so you’ll have to pick something else. Ok let me look at what they have.

(he walks to the list of bread types. He sees the different breads in a case and the name of the bread below it on a small tag. The different tags say, “Honey Oat,” “Wheat,” and “Jalapeno”)

Ok, let’s see. It says that they have Honey Oat, Wheat and (phonetically he says) gel-op-ano.

I said GEL-OP-AN-O. Yeah. I don’t know what it is either, let me look.

(steps closer…)

Looks like it has jalapeno’s in it or something.

No, he never did put it all together.

Don’t drop film!

In the days before digital photography, we used film. To develop the film, we brought it to a camera store where an envelope would be filled out and the film would be dropped in. That evening, or a day later (or even in just an hour), your prints would return.

That’s how this story begins. My father owns a camera store and a customer came in to develop a roll of film. She placed the 35mm film container on the counter and my father started filling out the envelope. My accident, the envelope knocked into the film container and it dropped to the floor. He didn’t think much of it and the customer picked up the film and placed it back on the counter. The film was sent off for developing.

When the prints were developed, the customer came in to pick them up. Upon looking at the results, the following conversation occurred:

Customer: All of my pictures are blurry!
Salesman: That could be caused by several reasons… low light, slow shutter speed, unsteady camera…
Customer: No, you pushed the film canister onto the floor when you were filling out the envelope!
Salesman: That wouldn’t cause your pictures to become blurry.
Customer: Of course it would. The film got all shook up, which caused the blurry pictures. I want a refund. You ruined my pictures! I’m never shopping here again!!

It’s customers like this that just can’t be reasoned with. Good riddance.

The Noodle vs. The Cash Register

There are many times when a person seems willing to help, but then is unable to because “the computer won’t let me do it that way.” Such was the case when visiting a local takeout. I wanted to purchase two orders of their “Salmon and Shrimp Curry Noodles” but without the salmon or shrimp. Nowhere on the menu could I purchase only curry noodles. The only way to order it was with the salmon or shrimp.

An order cost $11.99 each, but you have to figure that most of the actual cost is taken up by the salmon and shrimp. Since I was only getting noodles, it didn’t seem fair to be required to pay full price.

“I can’t do that”, the waiter explained. “There’s no way for me to charge you less and we don’t have only the noodles on the menu.”

Have the machines already taken over? Didn’t man program them? Can man override them?

Surprisingly, a solution was found. the waiter offered to add “extra extra noodles”. In the end, each order had at least twice the noodles than they normally would. I think that was a good compromise and I give my local takeout a thumbs up for coming up with a way to override the system, even if they could not override the machine.

The inseparable couple

Working in tech support for a company exposes me to many instances of ineptitude. Some make me roll my eyes, others make me laugh out loud.

My first encounter was also my most memorable and to this date, my favorite story.

The setup: This story dates back to around the year 2000. I’m on the phone with an elderly man who called in for support with software for his PalmPilot.

Note: The product name has been changed to “Funkyware” to protect the innocent.

Me: Hello, how may I help you?
Man: Hi, my name is Leo and I’m having trouble with Funkyware.
Me: Ok, can you tell me what you see on the screen?
Man: (moves phone away) “Mildred, what does it say on the screen?”

Long pause as I hear Mildred say something to her husband.


Man: It just says Funkyware.
Me: Does it say anything else?
Man: (slightly muffled) “Mildred, does it say anything else?”
Man: No, that’s it.
Me: Can you tell me what version of Funkyware you’re using?
Man: “Mildred, what version of Funkyware are we using?”
Man: I don’t know. How can I tell?

I can see how this call is going, so I take a different approach.

Me: Sir, would you mind putting your wife on the phone. I think it would be easier if I spoke directly with her.
Man: “Mildred, the guy wants to talk with you.”
Woman: Hello?
Me: Hi. Ok, We want to find out what version of the application you’re running.
Woman: How do I do that?
Me: Please tap on the top left part of the screen.
Woman: “Leo, the guy wants you to tap on the top left part of the screen…”