Non-Fiction Friday: Check Swap

The customer is not always right. Sometimes the customer is a lying, conniving, thief. And to let a lying, conniving thief believe that she is right is to do a disservice to humanity.

It was a Monday night and I was training a new bartender. The new girl had her cocktails down but the complicated computer system was throwing her off her A-game. She was nervous, and a bit frazzled, over-pouring martinis and breaking two wine glasses. My objective was to sit on the sidelines and let her run the show to get rid of those jitters. She needed to prepare for the demands of a Saturday night shift when nerves would be the death of her.

At about 8:00 p.m. only two couples were left at the bar. Couple A had been drinking for a few hours and Couple B was half-way through their first round of beer. After Couple A paid up and went to their table to dine, the bartender realized that she had made an unfortunate mistake. Couple A had received Couple B's bill, paying a $12.00 tab (and leaving a $1.00 tip) instead of a $65.00 bill.

If I hadn't been perched at the end of the bar observing every rude demand for more wasabi peas, every under-the-breath condescending remark about the rookie's mistakes, and every obnoxious attention-seeking laugh from the female equation of Couple A, I may have handled the situation differently. But I witnessed the woman pick up the check and visually dissect it. She knew. She saw it. But she said nothing.

Politely, with an apology for interrupting, I introduced myself at their table and explained that they had been given the wrong check. I set down the cash they'd left along with the correct bill.

Without even a glance down the woman blurted, "But we paid for the check that she gave us." I explained that the error had been caught before the bill was settled and that I would be back in a few minutes to collect payment on the correct amount. She snapped back with, "I'm not paying a new bill."

I wasn't cranky or over-worked. I didn't hate my job or the customers who depended on me for a pleasant evening out. But I was sick of people displaying a sense of entitlement simply because they were willing to spend a buck.

When I returned to the table the man wouldn't make eye contact with me and had slipped lower into the booth. The woman had her arms crossed and sneered, "I'm not paying a new check."

I took a deep breath and calmly said, "then I suggest you go ahead and leave."

Their jaws dropped. "Well I know the owner!" she said. "So do I," I responded.

She snatched her purse and stood up, jostling the table hard enough to cause the water glasses to spill and for other diners to tune into a conversation more interesting than their own.

On Couple A's way to the front door, the woman loudly announced, "I'm never coming back here again." "That's great news," I said, determined to get the last word.

As I watched them stomp down the street I felt no regret. In the battle against the discourteous, the uncivil, and the brash, I had won.

-Jordan Catapano

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