Photo of a credit card in a restaurant bill sleeve

Photo of a credit card in a restaurant bill sleeve

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200 Thousand Dollar Tip: Waitress’ Lucky Day or Just a Scam?

While many disgruntled servers take to Internet to call out bad tippers, a waitress in St. Louis had the opposite problem: Her customer tipped too well. The waitress posted a photo of a check on Reddit, where a customer had tipped $200,000 on a $111 lunch bill.

Not sure if it was an act of life-changing generosity or a cruel joke, the waitress, who later identified herself as “Sara,” got her manager involved. The manager called the restaurant’s credit card processing company and discovered they have a fraud protection policy against paying out “excessive” tips.

The policy is supposed to protect consumers from tip-tampering by servers, but it’s also something scammers can exploit to get a literal free lunch.

 

Customer Appeared to Be Big Spender

Check with $200,000 tip

The check in question (via Reddit).

Sara reported that the tipper in question – a woman who was treating her sister – was being quite generous throughout the meal. She paid for both her sister and a man who joined them later, they kept ordering extra items, and she was “tossing a lot of cash around” at her guests.

Throughout the meal, the mysterious tipper also kept telling Sara, “don’t tell my sister how I tip,” and “today, I’m your guardian angel.”

Things then passed fully into TV-movie territory, said Yahoo!:

After the “guardian angel” paid the bill with a Visa card, signed and left, the server said she looked at the receipt and found $200,000 written onto the tip line for a bill that totaled $111.54.

Not wanting to be taken for naïve, Sara went straight to restaurant management, asking if this could possibly be legitimate. A good move, because Visa has a policy that allows them to reject even 30% tips as suspicious.

 

Extreme Generosity Can Be A Scam

As it turns out, extreme tips are often a scam — a way to dodge not just the tip, but to avoid paying for the meal altogether.

$2 Restaurant Tip

A more reasonably-sized tip

If the credit card company won’t authorize purchases that large, they’ll void the entire transaction, including the original cost of the meal.

Since fraudulent tip inflation by servers is a somewhat more common problem, the payment company will “side with the cardholder,” and call the entire transaction bogus.

Another indication that the move was a scam: the customer’s poor arithmetic on the receipt. She added the $111.54 lunch bill to the $200,000 tip, and somehow came up with $211,000.54. That literally doesn’t add up. If the credit card company did ask to see the receipt before honoring the charge, a scammer could easily claim that the bad math was a sign of tampering, or at the very least, that it’s unclear what amount was actually approved.

Fortunately, the story ended happily for Sara and the restaurant: the manager ran the transaction without a tip, and then tipped Sara out of the bill about 20%. Everyone wins.

Unless the customer was honestly trying to unload some lottery winnings. In which case, she’d have been better off leaving a briefcase of cash.

 

Server Still Seeking Answers

Since the story went viral, Sara has begun to fear for her job.  She recently requested answers on the local Fox News affiliate: “I would hope that her sister or the other gentleman with them would step forward and say something.” Fox 2 News St. Louis reports, “She is still waiting for an answer.”

Chances are, Sara will be waiting for her answers for a long time. While everyone loves a rags-to-riches story, the larger truth stands: if something seems too good to be true… assume it is.

 

See Also

Kentucky Man Busted for ‘Catch Me If You Can’ Checking Scam with a Smartphone Twist
The Unexpected Lottery Winnings: It’s Best to Think Twice
Actresses Fooled by Audition Scam for ‘May the Best Man Win’ Prank Film

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Author:

Christina Newhall is a freelance writer, editor and perpetual learner. She resides in Los Angeles, and enjoys educational podcasts, ambitious baking projects, and sci-fi TV.

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