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Mistakes happen. A hurried, or harried, server gives a customer the wrong check, or swipes the wrong credit card. I eat out a lot, as almost everyone knows, and I use a credit card with my name on it. I rarely have problems, but when I have one, and the server doesn't tell the truth, and the restaurant tries to convince me it's my fault, I get hot under the collar.
Try this one on for size...
Ann and I went to dinner at the new Tucci & Fresta's Trattoria and Bar in Clayton on Friday, Jan. 13. Maybe I should have been warned by the date. But I've known Kim Tucci close to 50 years, when I was working for the football Cardinals and he was a waiter at Rossino's, and at Tony's.
At the end of the meal, the bill was $107.91 and the itemized receipt was in the folder. It was correct. But the folder held another bill for about $85.50. No itemized receipt. I signaled the server. I told him I'd be happy to pay the lesser amount but it wouldn't be right. He got quite flustered, apologized, mentioned mixed-up checks and assured me he'd fix it right away.
When he returned, he told me everything was fine and I would be charged only one amount, the correct one. I tore the smaller charge slip in two, gave them to the waiter, signed the bill for $107.91 and added a $20 tip. Total: $127.91.
The end? Only until the next morning.
I use electronic banking. I like it a lot. I keep track of deposits, expenses, purchases by both Ann and me. I check it on my computer every day or two, noting bills that have been paid or are coming due, what deposits have been made. As I say, I'm very fond of the system.
I looked at it Saturday morning. Two charges. Close to $200. Interestingly, the correct amount became incorrect because someone had neglected to include the tip.
But it was Saturday, and then came Sunday and the Martin Luther King holiday, two days when the banks would be closed. I waited until Tuesday, then called, asked for a manager and talked to a rather brusque woman. I (Joe) must have made a mistake, she informed me. No apology, no remorse about inconveniencing a customer who had been billed for almost $200, nearly half of it in error.
Why not just give me a credit for the wrong amount, I asked.
She told me that was impossible, that once the card was swiped, it could not be changed, and everything had to go through the downtown office anyway.
On Wednesday, I checked my account to discover that the tip had been added; obviously errors could be rectified. I called the restaurant, not mentioning the added $20, and still was stonewalled. I was exasperated by then and told the restaurant representative to forget it, that I would call the bank, protest the extra charge and let the restaurant and the bank fight it out. Not long afterward, a person from the restaurant called, having set up a three-way call with someone at the bank. I told my story again.
A little later, the restaurant person called again, assured me the erroneous charge had been removed, explained that a charge, with a zero balance, would remain for a day or so, then drift off to join all the other Little Lost Checks in some extra-terrestrial limbo. It did.
A lesson to be learned? Of course. Always pay attention when you use a credit card. Keep the receipt. Check the bill you receive from the card company to make certain the amounts are the same. That's just like counting your change if you pay cash. And yes, we'll return to Tucci & Fresta's. Maybe to write about the meals.