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How Waiters and Bartenders can Make Money Scamming People

Tricks of Trade View comments

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.

Bartender

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. 

Waiter

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. 

Cocktail Waitress

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Scamming Bartender

Other Tricks

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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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.

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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.

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39 Comments »

Comment by Marissa
2008-01-18 08:28:55

This is really scary. I had no idea that bartenders and waiters could rip you off like that, but it makes sense totally. I have been to bars many times only to find that my drinks were weak, the first sip always tastes good, but in the end there is no alcohol in them and I don’t get drunk. I will think twice next time I am charged $10 for a run & coke. They probably upsell alot of people on the price of drinks!

 
Comment by Lisa
2008-01-20 10:10:27

I used to scam people as a waitress. Sometimes I would run two tickets… I would over charge them $8-10 for their meal and run up one ticket and then I would intentionally correct it on a second ticket. I would give the higher ticket to the customers. If they paid cash, I would ring them up at the register for the lesser of the two tickets the corrected one, but only give them the change for the higher of the two tickets the over charged one. I would pocket the difference.

Two Tickets, one for $50 (over charged) one for $42 (right amount) = profit of $8.

If they paid credit card I would ring them up for the lesser amount and not do this scam, but I might raise the tip amount after they left.

I would do these scams 4-5 times a night and net between $50-80 depending on the size of their bill. It worked like a charm!

 
Comment by Ryan
2008-01-24 09:54:17

Many bartenders rip people off with weaker than normal drinks. Its part of the business and it helps the bar or club to make more money. It also protects them from the liability of having people too wasted and getting into fights or driving wasted.

 
Comment by Carl
2008-02-07 08:10:55

I have been scammed for a few dollars by crafty waiters and waitresses in the past.

 
Comment by Eric
2008-02-08 03:08:38

These waiter and bartender scams may work for getting small amounts of money over short periods of time, however it will not take very long for both the customers and the restaurant/bar owners to catch on and catch these scammers in the act.

 
Comment by mark
2008-02-08 21:25:21

Thanks for explaining these restaurant and bar scams, you nailed them and explained them rather well….

 
Comment by Jessie
2008-02-10 07:00:24

Great post. I have added you to my digg bookmark…

 
Comment by Carter
2008-02-12 01:12:21

New Orleans’ Bourbon Street is definitely the corruption capital of the restaurant and bar scene. The entire city is corrupt all the way up to mayor Nagin’s office.

Comment by Travis Bickle
2009-01-07 13:35:17

I guess what I said in 1976 about a good rain coming and washing out all the scum should have been applied to New Orleans, not NYC?

 
 
Comment by Eric
2008-02-15 09:01:02

I love reading about this scam and hustling stuff!…

 
Comment by Larry
2008-02-17 17:10:50

I know that these two bartenders/waiters exaggerated in the book. I read this book and have been all around Bourbon Street. Yes, this type of scamming does exists, but on a much smaller scale. They can’t get away with half of what they claimed in this book.

This book is hyped up so that it will sell more copies. However, it does make for a good semi-non-fiction book.

Comment by rachael
2009-03-04 20:22:17

hey larry. you must never have been a server. on an average day a person can make about $100 extra by scamming and on really good days $200 and more. an excellent day would even net a good scammer $500 or more. and trust me, it happens everywhere, in every restaurant chain.

Comment by Jeff
2009-03-04 23:52:52

I work at a busy night club & bar in San Francisco which probably sees around a third of the customers that your typical Bourbon Street place would see.

Tending bar and scamming I can easily make $150-200 during the week and $300-400 on Friday night and $600 on Saturday (all day & night) scamming.

On a typical Saturday I will pour over $10,000 worth of drinks. Our drinks are $5-12 each depending on what you order (beer $5, cocktails usually $5-12). So it’s not that hard to skim $600 over the course of a 10-12 hour shift… so that would be pocketing $45-60 an hour. Which isn’t that much or noticable when you are taking in $1000+ an hour.

Especially when there are free drinks given out to regulars and friends of the owners, as well as tips flying left and right.

 
 
 
Comment by louis
2008-02-23 07:11:42

I was scammed out of $5 by a waiter the other night. It wasn’t a big deal, but $5 is $5 and if this waiter can rip half the people off for $5 and he clears 8-10 people an hour. That’s $25 more an hour that he is making on top of his $15 salary and his other tips which may amount to $30. So this brings his total hourly wage up to $70 an hour or as much as $400+ a night.

In this scam they rip people off for small amounts so they will not notice or make a big deal out of it.

 
Comment by Nancy
2008-07-18 20:52:14

I used to be a bartender, I never scammed I had too good of a job to jeopardize it, besides what about the customer that scams. Sometimes these posts make the good look bad if they do make an error, then when another customer complains about a drink that you need to remake it makes the establishment start thinking bartender is scamming.

 
Comment by John
2009-01-05 22:32:54

Wow. I worked as a waiter at a family-owned restaurant this summer and one of my co-waiters did many of these scams. I must say, although it was wrong, I always ended up making more on the nights I worked with him (we would split the tips evenly).
But we rarely ever scammed the customers out of their money. Most of the time we were getting the money out of the restaurant itself. For example, if a person ordered a soda, we would give them a soda but write water on their checks. Then when it was time to total up the bill, we would charge them for their soda and then pocket the difference.

 
Comment by Travis Bickle
2009-01-07 13:42:20

Restaurant management passes on the overhead to the customer; so, in essence, you were ultimately cheating the customer.

Also, in general, knowledge of the scams assists in thwarting them, as the average customer is aware of what could possibly happen, thus is on the look out for them, although always being on one’s toes lessens the pleasure derived from eating out in the first place. Just buy high-quality food at your local grocery store and prepare it yourself.

 
Comment by jamie
2009-03-20 22:51:09

i worked in a restaurant and use to scam like crazy. It was a very small restaurant that only sat about 40 people comfortably. I use to walk away with about 150 extra on a good night from scamming. It’s a rush that you get. You start and it’s hard to stop. I never scam on nice people just the cheap jerks.

Comment by Colin
2009-03-21 00:17:44

Hey Jamie, how did you scam them? Were there ways to charge them extra or pocket money that wouldn’t go back to the restaurant?

 
 
Comment by JKofToronto
2009-11-18 17:24:16

I’m pretty sure I was scammed last night at Cafe D. on College St. West, Toronto.

Bill $18.25, put $21 cash in the folder, waitress returned it with $11 in the folder “you did not leave enough.”

Scam: make the customer believe they left the wrong bank notes by mistake. Risky! In retrospect I made no mistake, my wallet IS ten dollars light!

I’m going to go back weeks on, see if she will re-scam. It sucks that bonehead waiters are willing to screw Toronto’s already dodgy dining scene with cheesy rip-off antics.

Comment by Evonne
2009-11-18 19:02:58

Yes, this sounds like a typical waitress scam.

The majority of the time the customer will just pay the additional $10 without second guessing the situation.

The waitress probably pocketed that $10 and will probably do this scam several times a night.

Rarely, the situation is an innocent mistake and that $10 actually fell out of the folder and onto the floor.

This would be if you paid that $21, with two $10 bills, but if you paid with a $20 bill and she came back with a $10, you were most definitely scammed!

 
 
Comment by Tater
2010-12-29 21:56:12

as a person who bartended and waitstaffed for close to 10 years i can say that in my opinion the people who pull these scams and ive seen most of the ones on this page are no different than any other thief. and the only good thief is a dead one.

Tater

PS.Its douche bags like these that give decent hard working folk a bad name.

Comment by Jane
2011-07-01 07:42:35

Tater, I completely agree with you. I am a waitress at a chain restaurant, and I am disgusted at the idea of scamming my customers. They work just as hard for their money as I do for mine. Way to make all of us look bad, douche bags.

 
 
Comment by David
2011-02-08 02:39:25

In Florida, bars are notorious for ripping off people. I always pay by the drink and not take a tab. I have caught these bastards trying to cheat me and I am always alert.

 
Comment by David
2011-08-11 21:06:14

I’ve been in the F&B business for well over 30 years now and in various positions from grill cook to Gen Manager and I can guarantee you that where there is a will there is a way! Servers and bartenders are a creative lot of people, often times they put more effort and thought into scamming than they do into running an honest operation. This is not to say that all servers an bartenders are dishonest, the are not.

I recently made an observation of two bartenders working a 4 month seasonal job that were able to take a month long trip to Thailand and a 2 month driving tour around the US before heading home where they did not work all winter. Liquor costs at that bar were astronomical, does not take a dummy to figure out these guys scammed the hell of the company.

 
Comment by Chris L.
2011-09-14 19:54:21

I had this happen to me once; a waitress not only increased the tip but bought herself lunch on my card for the next two days. I went back to the restaurant with the police and she went to jail (and lost her job). Hope that lunch tasted good.

 
Comment by Marshall
2012-03-21 10:13:55

Wow! Here in Seattle they do these in every little pub to ram’s brewery! But I don’t see it in the restaurants much.

 
Comment by Mia
2012-08-15 06:08:23

Sorry, but this is how bartenders make a living. If they are smart, they will keep in mind that the bar/restaraunt also needs to make money and will do what ever it takes to increase profit for their employer as well as their tip jar. Not only that, they will keep their customers happy by pouring them buy backs. They are not scams. They are sales techniques. (Fortune favors the bold !) Also, if you go to a bar, you shouldn’t be cheap, and you should be willing to spend your money. If you wanted to save money and drink economically, you could go to your local liquor store, and stay home ! If the sevice sucks, that’s one thing, but spending money is what the bar industry is about ! Let them make their living and don’t be a cheap asshole !!

Comment by H.R. Paperstacks
2013-04-04 02:29:49

You’re an idiot. Of course this is a scam. Also a tip is for recognition of good service. It’s not a required part of a bill. If it was, it would be called, the bill. I’m all for tipping the guy pouring my drink. I’m not an asshole. But pouring liquid into a glass isn’t microbiology. Just because I’m not willing to give the man/woman $20 for their ability to use gravity and put liquid from one container to another does not make me cheap. You want $200,000 a year? Find a skill that a monkey cannot perform perfectly, and perfect it. Now go spend whatever tip money you just stole on some night classes instead of the heroin you’re planning on.

 
 
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