I’m working all week at the office that I retired from a couple of years ago, replacing the person who replaced me so he can take a much-needed vacation (and going somewhere warm!). Since there are lots of nice eating places in the neighborhood, I plan to get takeout all week. (There’s usually no time to take an actual lunch hour.) But I had a bizarre experience today.
I went to a Mexican place nearby. It has restaurant seating in the back and a takeout counter in the front. I ordered three tacos. The young man rang it up and said it would be $10.72. I gave him $21. He rummaged in his cash drawer, then walked away, and I assumed he was looking for a $10 bill. Indeed, he came back shortly and handed me the $10 bill – and that was all. I felt a little confused and went to sit down while waiting for my order.
When it arrived, the bill clearly said: $10.72. I looked at it and then at him.
“Didn’t you say it would be $10.72?” I asked.
He smiled. “We don’t usually do coins.”
What? Is the restaurant just arbitrarily deciding that a $10.72 lunch is actually going to cost me $11?
“Well, I do,” I said.
He went off and brought me back a quarter. Was I going to quibble over three cents? Some stores really don’t do pennies anymore. If something costs $10.96, and you pay $11, you’ll get a nickel back, and if it costs $10.93, and you pay $11, you’ll get a nickel back. Okay, I can deal with that.
I started to leave, but stopped and told the restaurant hostess what had happened. Was this a restaurant policy? I wondered. She looked puzzled and said she didn’t know anything about it, and it didn’t sound right. And she would speak to someone about.
As I write this up, I wonder whether the restaurant was keeping the change, or whether the takeout countermen were treating the change like an involuntary tip. There was no tip jar; while many takeout places now have such things, perhaps this restaurant forbade that. Personally, I think establishments should pay their workers a living wage and tips banned. In revolutionary Russia tipping was considered insulting, a holdover from czarist times when tips were given servants as a form of noblesse oblige. Who can say what one person can “afford” and what another can’t? A sticky question.