There are instances where what looks like questionable behavior is actually totally reasonable once you understand how the restaurant industry works. Straight-up theft is not one of those instances.
Via Clint Rainey at Grubstreet, Victoria Lynn Bachmann, now formerly of Ozona Blue Grilling Company in Palm Harbor, Florida stole $1074 over the course of her first month on the job by entering higher amounts in the computer than what was written on the tip line on 134 different checks. It wound up being about $8 per bill, which frankly makes me wonder how the hell she didn’t get caught sooner. She was fired on April 10 after Ozona discovered what she was doing, then she was ultimately arrested on May 5. Here’s her mugshot, in which she looks like exactly the sort of person who’d be dumb enough to think they could get away with this.
Before panic sets in and restaurant-goers start freaking out about this happening to them: this does occasionally happen if your server is an idiot, but it’s not a common thing. I worked with one person who got caught doing it in my entire time as a server, and she was fired on the spot. Moreover, it is very, very easy to protect yourself against it: just check your bank statements and make sure what you wrote on the check is the same as what you were charged (wait a few days to do this, though; usually, tips don’t immediately process on the charge, so you’re only going to see the food charge initially). If it isn’t, contact the restaurant and they will fix it; they take this shit seriously.
The important thing to remember is that it is really, really easy to catch someone doing this. Modifying checks leaves a literal paper trail the restaurant can use to easily trace this behavior the second a customer complains about it—and if the customer is wrong and they weren’t overcharged, that’s easy to ascertain, too. Of the many, many things the restaurant industry does incompetently, ascertaining the veracity of claimed tip fraud is not one. In Bachmann’s case, it’s even easier to track than if she’d modified the paper check itself; all they had to do was check the computer record against a paper check to see if they matched.
To any servers who might think about doing this: fucking don’t. Yeah, it’s shitty when people don’t tip what they should—but this is straight-up theft, and it’s theft you can’t possibly expect to get away with. Modifying tip lines to steal from customers is fucking dumb.
Image via Ozona Blue/Facebook.
Contact the author at WilyUbertrout@gmail.com.