If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If you tip 25 percent on the wrong check, did you even leave a tip?
We’re all certainly guilty of signing the wrong copy of the receipt when dining out, and perhaps have panicked about whether or not the server was actually able to claim the tip we left for them. But how big of a deal is it, really?
To get more information on what happens if you tip on the guest copy of the receipt rather than the merchant copy, we tapped Jason Sorbet, bartender and managing partner of Nashville whiskey bar Barrel Proof, which opens later this fall.
“The merchant copy of a receipt is simply an agreement between the guest and the merchant that we can use for our bookkeeping purposes,” Sorbet explains. “The guest copy is the same way.” This means that, at the end of the day, having the customer’s signature is what counts.
“When it comes to using either copy of the receipt, the two are really interchangeable so long as the copy you are using to input your tip amount has been signed by the guest,” Sorbet says. “There are no legal ramifications from using one versus the other.”
The real problem emerges when no signature ends up on the table at all — even if a guest signs the correct receipt, they may end up taking that slip of paper with them by accident, leaving an unsigned receipt for their server to claim. Sorbet explains that this situation, although not uncommon in the service industry, is where things can get tough on the business side.
“From my perspective, if there is a very clear imprint left on the guest copy where the bartender or server can clearly see both the tip amount left and the signature beneath it, the receipt can be used,” Sorbet says. “However, you must be able to make out the dollar amount and the signature.” He further explains that if neither are discernible, that server will, sadly, miss out on their tip. That said, it’s always worth checking to make sure your signed copy — preferably with a generous tip — is there on the table when you bid your server goodnight.
When it comes down to it, receipts exist to protect both parties, so it doesn’t matter which copy you end up signing, just as long as you do.
“As long as you as a server or bartender have enough material or evidence in front of you to prove that your tip was meant to be left, you’re safe,” Sorbet says.