Will Leaving a Cash Tip Open Us Up to This Kind of Fraud? -UPDATED

Because my mother was a waitress who worked for mainly for tips, when my husband and I dine out we will very often strike a line through the “tips” portion of the bill, and leave our gratuity in cash. We do this for a couple of reasons — because often food-servers need the cash to pay the babysitter when they get home; because keeping track of what tips should show up on a paycheck is difficult; because why not let people access their tips immediately?

Well, we may decide to stop leaving cash. The question in my header is inspired by two disturbing stories linked to by Glenn Reynolds — both of which seem to suggest that if you leave a “tip” line open on a dinner charge, (or, actually, even if you don’t!) you’re inviting the sort of fraud that can bring defamation upon you.

On the evidence presented here, this story is pretty disturbing:

Dayna Morales, a former Marine and a server at Gallop Asian Bistro in Bridgewater, posted a photo on Facebook earlier this month, showing the bill with a line through the space for a tip. The photo of the receipt showed someone had written, “I’m sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle.”

Morales indicated in her Facebook post and in subsequent media interviews . . .that the customer wrote that line.

But a family contacted NBC 4 New York claiming their receipt from the restaurant shows they did leave a tip, and provided what they said was a credit card statement as proof.

The husband and wife, who asked to remain anonymous, showed. . .a receipt that appeared to be printed at the same minute, on the same date, for the same $93.55 total, except with an $18 tip. They also provided a document they said was a Visa bill, which appears to indicate their card was charged for the meal plus the tip, for a total of $111.55.

Morales is still saying she is certain she didn’t receive a tip, and she can’t explain the evidence before her eyes. “I don’t know, all I know is what I’ve been saying.”

Look, I spoke up at the first (and I believe genuine) case of “hate-stiffing” and even harangued members of my tribe for self-righteously using scripture as a hammer in order to pound on those they identify as nails.

Now, I’m doubly pissed-off by these copy-cat fraudsters, who are now forcing us to re-think a habit my husband and I thought of as generous.

I really hope that when people appear to be falsely accused of doing awful things (like leaving a gay-hating lecture in place of a gratuity) our friends in the gay community will also speak up, and denounce these fraudulent scenarios that play upon the sympathies of people of good will — whatever their creed, their race, their sexual orientation — and which only end up stoking the fires of resentment and distrust between people, where none should exist.

Here’s the second incidence of a tip-less receipt apparently being exploited for profit:

…Toni Christina Jenkins [served] Devin Barnes and his wife. When she got the receipt back, she says, the word “none” was written on the “tip” line.

And underneath the word none, someone had scrawled the racial epithet, “N****r.”

Jenkins…then posted a photo of the offending receipt on her Facebook page, along with the caption, “This is what I got as a tip last night…so happy to live in the proud southern states. God Bless America, land of the free and home of the low class racists of Tennessee.”

Barnes signature was clearly visible on the the receipt posted on Facebook by Jenkins.

Then the photo, and story, went viral . . Jenkins received an outpouring of sympathy. In fact, that sympathy turned to hard cash. To make up for her getting stiffed on the tip by an apparent racist, people started sending her money. In the end, her “tip” totaled $10,749.

And then the problems began. Barnes flatly denies that he added the “N-word” to the receipt. And his attorney hired a handwriting expert to prove it.
[. . .]
The handwriting expert found no match between Barnes’ [or his wife's] handwriting. . .and the writing of whoever wrote the offending term on the receipt. Barnes. . .said he wrote “none” on the tip line when he and his wife had to leave in a hurry and switched their order to take-out.

Jenkins now says she doesn’t believe Barnes wrote the N-word on her receipt.

She said, “It could’ve been any person in the building”.

A second handwriting analysis was performed, independent of Dugger and Barnes.

“I believe within a reasonable degree of certainty that the waitress actually wrote the word,” said forensic handwriting expert Bob Baier. . .”If you look at the g’s, the e’s, the r’s, they match up,” said Baier [who cautioned] that a stronger analysis could be undertaken with a larger sample of Jenkins’ handwriting, as well as original copies.

[...] After Baier’s analysis, Jenkins maintained that she did not embellish the receipt.

Sigh. So, Miss Jenkins seems to believe that one of her co-workers could have picked up that receipt at random and scrawled a repellent word on it, and then slipped it into her receipt collection. It seems to me this restaurant, like the other, will have to conduct an “internal investigation” and discover which of their employees is a foul racist.

These are disturbing, unfortunate stories. They contribute to our growing social cynicism; when false charges of “hate” are exploited, they dull our response to genuine instances of unjust, hate-filled behavior wherever it is directed — against gays, or people of color, or…you know…Christians.

Meanwhile, I am disturbed that our generous instincts are being eroded by rampant social distrust, but if leaving a cash tip for our servers is going to make us vulnerable to opportunistic fraudsters who mess with their co-workers receipts (yes, I think I am being facetious, there) then I guess my husband and I will include the tip on the bill, from now on.

Or, maybe, we’ll just eat out less — until the restaurateurs can figure out who the bad guys are.

UPDATE:
I don’t know from waitressing,
myself, but this commenter at gawker writes of the Morales story:

The waitress is the only person who enters the tip at a restaurant. I know, I waitressed for decades. The waitress enters the tip into the computer/keypad and then is paid that tip. So she entered the tip, took the tip, and then doctored a copy. The part that stumps me though is that the copy should say “reprint” on one of the checks. Whenever there is a reprint is says so. So, she may have printed it once, kept that copy, and then reprinted for the table, which means that it was premeditated. Possibly a $93 bill is a lot for that restaurant and she thought the outrage would be bigger if she were stiffed on that much.

She has more to say so read it all.

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