​The case of the $43,000 restaurant tip

Tipping brings out strong opinions in diners. Some think 15 percent is fine; others insist on 20 percent; some say you should tip pre-tax, others on an after-tax basis. But what if your tip was a huge 500,000 percent over the cost of the meal?

Such a problem was discovered after a customer left a $43,239.92 tip on an $8 meal at Brooklyn Bridge Bagel Works in Chico, California. Co-owner Pete Horylev told CBS affiliate KHSL in Chico that the customer had used a new tipping machine, which allows patrons to punch in a tip based on a pre-set percentage, such as 15 percent or 20 percent.

The restaurant called the credit card company, and found that the tip had been authorized and gone through. The credit card processor then reversed the tip, and just ran the bill for the $8 food charge, Horylev said. Whether the massive tip was a mistake or intentional isn't clear, given that the customer would have had to punch seven buttons to enter that specific tip amount.

But regardless of whether it was intentional, the huge tip raises some questions about dining etiquette. If you mistakenly write an overly large tip, what are your options? First, if you realize the mistake, you can call the restaurant and talk with the manager or owner about the issue. The next step would be to call your credit card company to talk the issue over with them.

In some cases, overly large tips have led to problems for servers, such as an IHOP waitress who earlier this year said she was fired after receiving a $200 tip that the patron later said was a mistake. The managers refunded the tip to the patron, and then told her to pay back the $200. She refused, and claimed she was then fired, although was offered her job back later.

But the $43,000 tip also raises questions about tipping machines, and whether they are prone to causing confusion among customers.

"We can't figure out how they could have done it," Horylev said.

Another issue is that some customers have reported machines that suggest tips based on after-tax meal costs, rather than the pre-tax basis that many customers prefer. While some people tip on an after-tax basis, The Emily Post Institute recommends tipping 15 to 20 percent on a pre-tax basis.

  • Aimee Picchi

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