Did I steal a dollar?

This sort of thing happens to me so often that I thought I’d submit it for your opinion. Yesterday, I ate lunch at little place that is like an old-fashioned soda fountain. The person who waited on me gave me my coffee and water, then she disappeared. Finally, I flagged her down and said “Did you forget to take my order?” She acted embarrassed. When my hamburger finally came, she gave it to me without silverware. Again, I had to wait for her attention to ask for silverware. When it was finally time to pay, she gave me my change and disappeared again. As I was counting it, I realized she had given me a dollar too much. By this time I was so frustrated I wondered if I would do more damage by waiting patiently to get her attention while we went over the bill. Being an introvert by nature, this was getting to be too much for me, so I laid $1.50 on the counter and walked out the door. Later, I slipped a dollar bill into the slot at the vestibule of the church to make up for this. My mother used to say that you are not guilty of a sin in a situation like this because it is not your fault that you were undercharged. What is your opinion?

Although the waitress probably considered the $1.50 her tip and not the restaurant’s money, I don’t think you need to worry about this. You had already had at least two go-arounds with her over her carelessness and inattention. If the dollar shortage in the cash drawer caused the manager to sit down with her and talk to her about her carelessness and inattention, then at least you may have spared someone else from going through the hassle you went through.

Should something like this happen again, use your receipt to write a brief note explaining that you were given a dollar too much, that one dollar should go to the restaurant, and include the note with the money you leave on the table. Only if the change was a significant amount – say $5 or more – over what you were due, would you have the responsibility to make sure that the money was returned to the restaurant by flagging down the waitress or asking to speak to the manager. (When I was a cashier, five dollars was the leeway we were given in balancing. More than that and we were subject to termination.)

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