“When you make a mistake, admit it. If you don’t, you only make matters worse.” – Ward Cleaver

Error on dining billLast night, Jeanine and I ran a quick errand at South Coast Plaza and as we were leaving we stumbled upon the new Charlie Palmer restaurant. We sat at the bar and ordered two glasses of wine, the cheese plate and a salad. The couple on our left and the woman on our right even offered a taste off their dishes… how friendly is that for Southern California? It turned into a little food fest on a Tuesday night.

Eventually though, I had enough of the impromptu party and placed my credit card where the bartender would notice I was ready to cash out. He took the card and returned with the bill for my signature. I was still talking to the woman who had shared her SHRIMP KABOBS A LA PLANCHA TAMARIND CHIVE GLAZE, CAPONATA SALAD (fantastic, by the way!), so Jeanine opened the bill presenter. After reviewing the line items she said in a soft voice, “He charged you for the $40 Cabernet… what do you want to do?”

“Umm… I’m going to tell him that I didn’t order the $40 glass of Cabernet.”

I’m sure Jeanine thought it would turn into an awkward scene, but there was no way I was going to pay forty bucks for a glass of wine. Earlier, I had even vacillated about the $15 option. Most of their reds were in the $12 range and typically, I’m hesitant to select from the higher priced tier… but it was a Tuesday night and I was only going to have one glass of wine so what’s $3 in the big scheme of things?

I ordered it by name. It was something, something Conn. I assume as in Conn Valley, but regardless I remember saying, “I want the Conn Cab.” This was my way to make sure he knew I wasn’t ordering the $40 option.

When I brought it to the bartender’s attention, he seemed surprised and indicated it was his mistake. He immediately swapped it out for the $15 item and re-presented the bill. No scene. But I suspect there are some people that might feel timid about addressing an error on their dining bill.

Unlike other transactions, diners are in a unique social setting putting them at a disadvantage to examine the bill. Do you think this bartender knew this and took advantage of the situation? After all, I was busy talking and never even saw the bill before handing him my credit card. If Jeanine hadn’t scrutinized the bill for me, I would have likely signed and walked away, saying that was a fun night, but kind of expensive. Hello? A forty dollar glass of wine… was he trying to pull a fast one on me or was it an honest mistake? I still tipped him just shy of 20 percent, but I wonder what Mike would say about the tipping etiquette in this situation.

Anyway, Paula covered this “error on the restaurant bill” topic over a year ago, but in light of my recent experience, it seems worth repeating her questions here:

  • Do you review your dining check in detail?
  • Would you bring it to the server’s attention if there were an error (especially if that error was in your favor)?
  • Would the type of dining establishment, amount of the error, or personality of the server influence your actions?
  • Would your actions change if the restaurant was gay owned and operated?

We’d love to hear your thoughts below.