Restaurant Guru

In Eat, March 2020 by Max TrujilloLeave a Comment

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Dear Restaurant Guru,

My husband and I go out often for drinks or dinner and recently noticed that, when it’s time to pay the tab, we don’t get an itemized receipt. I usually don’t think about it until I get home and realize I had 2 glasses of $10 wine, he had 2 $6 beers, but the tab was $50—before tip. There’s no way! This is happening at restaurants and bars but it feels weird, especially sitting at the bar, to say, “Hey, can I see the itemized receipt, please.” That makes it sound like I don’t trust the bartender or waitress. Is there a reason they aren’t giving me an itemized receipt?

Sincerely, Prof. Proof of Purchase

Prof. Proof Of Purchase,

It sounds like you didn’t have an honest bartender if your tab was $50 but you ordered $32 worth of drinks. That’s probably why you didn’t receive the itemized receipt in the first place. And thus, you really shouldn’t trust that bartender.

But let’s hope it was a simple mistake. Clerical errors are prone to happen. We’re only human. But humans also anticipate our mistakes and untrustworthiness, so that’s why we have the itemized receipt in existence in the first place.

If I had the eyes of every server and bartender in the greater Raleigh area reading this column, I’d politely ask them to always bring the itemized receipt with the credit card receipt, because it’s useful on many layers. We have expense reports to fill out, we have taxes to report, and, sometimes, we have to split the tab with our friends at the table. Whatever the reason, please, just bring the itemized receipt!

At a fast-paced bar, bringing it can feel superfluous and time consuming to the bartender. I always felt it was a time-suck waiting for the printer as you’re trying to get the bill to the guest. Some ordering terminals give you the option of which receipt to print, so the server or bartender elects not to waste time. But those options can create bad habits.

We’re getting better at cutting down the waste and printing. I personally love getting the e-receipt by entering my email or phone number. At least then, you have a digital paper trail of the night’s experience. But be prepared to be on the establishment’s mailing list forever.

When splitting the tab, I encourage using PayPal or Venmo with friends and putting the whole payment on one card. It’s more efficient and keeps everyone honest. And you get to use emojis for explanations of why you owe Matt $60.

Lastly, don’t feel embarrassed to ask for your itemized receipt. It’s not the server’s call to make, and needing the itemized receipt is useful for many reasons…including checking their math. 

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