Several weeks ago my husband and I had lunch at a local restaurant. When we asked for the check, we realized that neither one of us brought a wallet. Mortified, we motioned the waiter over and explained that while we don’t physically have our credit card, we know our account number by heart. He politely told us that he is not authorized to deal with this complication and sent over the manager.
“It’s not enough that you know the credit card number and expiration,” said the manager. “We need the security code.”
“Great!” I beamed. “I know the security code. So you can run it through, get the authorization and we can sign it.”
“I just can’t do it,” he said. “We can’t take that chance due to credit card fraud.”
“But merchants accept credit cards over the phone all the time and you just said the issue is the security code,” I whined.
“I just can’t do it.” He said.
I couldn’t help but wonder — can’t or won’t…?
“It’s no big deal. We live ten minutes away and I’ll go home and get it,” interjected my husband who had enough of the embarrassing discussion.
As my husband walked away, the manager looked at me without smiling and offered, “I can always put you to work doing dishes in the kitchen until he returns.”
“Or you can bring me coffee while I wait,” I snapped.
The coffee never came, in case you’re wondering.
I fully understand that it was our fault for forgetting our wallets. I also know that people skip out on checks. But I don’t understand why the manager told me that he cannot manually enter a credit card number without a security code, and then immediately changed his reasoning when I explained that I actually knew my code. He didn’t trust me, and yet he lied without compunction. Since we were at his mercy, we had no leg to stand on. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder why his knee-jerk reaction was to come up with an excuse. What happened next took the issue of trust to a new level.
For the sake of clarification, I’ve frequented this establishment at least once a month for the past three years. I don’t know the rotating wait staff or manager personally, but I’m certain the hostess recognizes us, judging by her usual greeting. As I sat in the large booth waiting for my husband to bail us out, I noticed several servers peeking in on me. I didn’t pay much attention to the first one, who popped his head into the booth, gave me a quick glance and went about his business. Perhaps he was checking to see if I got my coffee…?
The restaurant was fairly empty and I spent the time speaking quietly on my cell. Admittedly, I was distracted by my conversation, but not distracted enough to miss the redheaded server who casually walked by and looked at me. Seconds behind her was the hostess (not carrying menus or seating another party) who also poked her head into the booth. Was there a restaurant-wide alert regarding my potentially criminal status? Quite alarmed and embarrassed, I realized they were checking on me to make sure I hadn’t left! By then I was in bad need of the restroom but was afraid to risk looking like I was escaping!
My husband walked in within a minute of the last “check-in” and I immediately informed him that I was being watched.
“You’re paranoid!” He laughed. And just as he did, a fourth check-in occured in such an obvious way that he blurted, “No kidding! You’re right!” He witnessed a server peeking out of the kitchen and when she caught his eye, she mouthed, “I’ll get your server.” How did she know we needed our server unless she was in on it? The manager certainly kicked it into high gear over this $30 check. The Department of Homeland Security could come here to learn a thing or two.
Larry David could resurrect Curb Your Enthusiasm using this ridiculous storyline. We paid our check and left. While I understand that they have every right to protect their investment and that we were at fault, we were unabashedly lied to and then treated like thieves. Had the manager explained that under no circumstances could he manually punch in our card, I would’ve been perfectly fine — assuming the stake-out he orchestrated was less obvious. Was he afraid to offer me coffee to avoid adding an expense to a bill he was afraid we were about to not pay?! He mistrusted me to such an extent that he had not one, but four different people watch over me as I waited. Should I have expected him to trust me? I don’t know. I do know that a little kindness goes a long way and even where money and trust are involved, there’s a way and then there was his way.
Without naming names, I relayed this story to a restaurant manager that we know in order to assess whether I was overreacting. She explained that patrons forget their wallets at home often and that it’s her policy to let them leave and come back to pay the bill when they’re in the area again. She doesn’t even require them to return the same day! She said that she has never been stiffed and that in neighborhood restaurants this is a common occurrence and not a big deal. I thanked her for validating my feelings and assured her that I will not be visiting the other restaurant again soon. “That’s what you get for choosing another restaurant over ours!” She laughed. Indeed.
I was leery about sharing this adventure publically (because I’m still a little embarrassed) until this past weekend. My husband and daughter visited a local sandwich shop only to discover that again, he forgot his card. We now know that this is the result of changing out of his early morning golf pants and leaving the cash and cards in the pocket, but I digress… The manager quickly came to his aid. He took my husband’s card, expiration date and security code verbally, processed it and sent him on his way with sandwiches and smiles.
I drove by the scene of my crime the other day and noticed a huge banner on the side of the restaurant promoting their services to the surrounding businesses. Ironically, I heard that they’re specifically targeting one particular place of business, in which my infamous husband has an office. Unfortunately, Karma is a bitch.