There are tons of scams that bartenders and waiters can pull on both their customers and on the establishment where they work. They range anywhere from simple to elaborate. Sometimes the restaurant or bar is in on the scam, other times they are the ones being scammed and the customers are not even cheated.
These scams range anywhere from cheating customers by over charging them for drinks and or food items, adding additional items on their bill, increasing the tip amount on the credit card receipt, and stealing their credit card number or even running additional charges on their card without them knowing.
They can cheat the bar or restaurant by not actually ringing up drinks or food that was sold to the customers, over charging customers and pocketing the different, or even seating entire groups of people and charging them without even ringing them up so that they can keep the money.
Some waiters or bartenders only make $40-60 a night doing these scams, but some that work at large, busy establishments can make up to $400-500 a night if they are good at what they do.
So how do they pull it off?
They certainly don’t just sit around and wait for the perfect opportunity to drop out of the sky. These scammers will actually help and sometimes force customers to make certain decisions to help facilitate their scamming, often times without them even knowing.
Create Opportunities to Work Your Favorite Angles
- Convince successive guests to order the same items, thus giving yourself the opportunity to re-use checks. This is an easy sell, they just make these items up as tonight’s special and offer them a low price.
- Convince guests to order the items that you can get your hands on without a ticket and which cannot easily be tracked by the restaurant.
- Convince guests to purchase an item that you need to complete a profitable maneuver, if you have a receipt for two sirloin steaks and two people just sent sirloin steaks back to the kitchen on the other side of the restaurant, you want the next two people to buy these two steaks that were already sent back and you want to reuse the receipt that you had from earlier that night.
- When you want cash, convince customers to pay cash by either saying that the credit card machine is broken or their card was declined. If you want a credit card number or to make additional charges to their card get them to pay by credit card.
Cheat if you have to. If push comes to shove and no one is taking your suggestions, 80 competitive items until you get the order that you want: “I’m sorry, Ma’am. We just ran out of vodka, can I suggest a local draft beer instead?”. You would be surprised how well this works.
Blend in. Maintain a low profile by suggesting inventory that is difficult to track. If you are skimming the bar, the draft beers will be less traceable than the bottled beer. If it’s coming from the kitchen, move inconspicuous entrees that can be quickly and easily prepared, rather than steak or complicated items that take longer to cook.
Play it off. If you’re not careful, you might just make Employee of the Month. Suggestive selling is too much work for your average waiter, so your manager will be delighted to see you taking the initiative.
- Keeping the extra receipts with their credit card information or writing down the numbers so they can be sold later on to a third party.
- Getting them to sign their credit card receipt in pencil so that you can easily write in a higher tip amount after they have left the restaurant.
- Giving them a copy of the recipt without the tip amount and keeping the one with the tip amount so that you can write it in later for any amount you want. Including the tip as part of the bill without telling them so they leave a separate tip.
Peter Francis and R. Chip DeClinkta, two notorious waiters and bartenders, from New Orleans - the corruption capital of the America, have come up with a book that outlines all these scams. Their book, How to Burn Down the House: The Infamous Waiter and Bartender’s Scam Bible, is their collective collection of scams that they have picked up over the 25 years that they had both working in the Bourbon Street bar and restaurant industry.
Below is a video from MSNBC dateline describing this book and how these waiters and bartenders can make up to $1000 on a good night with their scams.
I also found this video below of how bartenders can pull off simple scams of making weaker than normal drinks without the customers realizing it. Sometimes these bartenders do this to make extra money for the bar or sometimes they do this so that they can pocket some of the money from the drinks without the bar knowing about it.
So who makes good targets? A guy out on a date trying to impress a woman, a group of guys out on a business dinner, or a drunk guy is not likely to dispute a higher than normal bill. They make easy targets.
So how do you protect yourself from these scams? Always watch the waiter or bartender closely, make sure that they are giving you what you are buying, don’t let them decide your order- pick what you want and not what they suggest, check the bill carefully and make sure that it’s accurate, pay cash or pay credit card (and keep an eye on the waiter while he is ringing you up), and always re-check the bill before you sign for the credit card receipt, always use a pen, check to see if the tip has already been factored into the cost of the bill, and write the tip amount so that it cannot be changed. At the end of the month overlook your credit card bill and make sure that there are no unknow charges.