Let me tell you about how I got scammed at an Ohio based Marriott hotel/restaurant.
Have you ever been scammed by someone in the food or service industry? If so, you can identify with that snowed under feeling you experience when you realize what/how/WTH happened. It’s painful. That’s the most adequate way for me to define it. Pain. Unlike other scams – like internet or mail fraud, which one generally falls victim to from the comfort and convenience of one’s own home – being scammed by a restaurant involves a great deal of physical effort on the part of a target to fall subject to the con.
The person(s) eating out have made the herculean decision to get dressed, bypass their fridge, the local grocery store (where there is PLENTY of food), settle on one restaurant out of many dozens, and pay for service that they can get at home. For instance, I have my kids to bring me plates and drink. Now that I’m out, I have to pay someone else’s child to bring me plates and drink?
Because these people are providing a service in a professional environment. Each of us – the patron and the server – has a defined set of expectations during our brief encounter. The relationship between patron and server plays itself out in interactions millions of times a day all over the world. You don’t need me to explain what those parameters are. This is why it is so painful when either party violates the rules of engagement.
The first time I got scammed at a restaurant was at a pizza joint in Accra a few years ago. I’d gone out to eat with my friend Holit, who’d raved about their food. I’m not great at math, but when we got the bill the number seemed higher than what it ought to have been. Holit then requested an itemized bill.
What we discovered was shocking. We were charged for toppings we hadn’t ordered and drinks we never received. The overages amounted to approximately 20% more than what our bill ought to have been. And this was on TOP of a tip we’d both left…and Holit was a very generous tipper. After he finished saying everything he had to say, the difference was paid back – and quickly. I never forgot the sick feeling I had at the moment, and I certainly always remembered to check my bill whenever I dined out in Accra. Because of course, this was an African scam. It was a desperate person’s scam. No one would ever try this in the land of ‘laws and checks and balances’; not in a place like America.
Enter: The Marriott.
My daughter turned 9 this week, and she has long held the belief that from the time her eyes fly open and until they glue themselves shut, only good and special things should happen on her birthday. So we trooped down to the Courtyard by Marriott (because pickin’s are slim on fancy places to eat out in Springfield, Ohio) for an all you can eat buffet breakfast of scrambled eggs, waffles, oatmeal, potatoes, dry cereal and bacon. Really good bacon, actually.
The hostess greeted us with lukewarm enthusiasm and put water on our table. Another brought out a pot of coffee and 4 hot chocolates for the kids. Five minutes into our meal and without a word, she presented us with a check for $55.46.
No, “No rush. This is just for your convenience whenever you’re ready.”
No, “I just wanted you to have this in case you have to dash out.”
Just a check and a grim look on her face, which soured the mood considerably. The kids were oblivious to the indications of her actions, which was great. What was not so great is what happened afterward.
I paid the bill and gave a $5.00. Had it not been for my congenial nature and drawing the waitresses into interacting with my family in a more friendly manner (essentially I was going their job) the whole affair would’ve been dull and harried. The tip was adequate in my estimation. I signed off for $60.46. When she brought me back my receipt, it was for $64.76. Again, without a word.
So I walked over to the server’s terminal.
“Excuse me,” says I, “can you explain why this number went from $60 to $64?”
“Oh! Well that’s because I forgot to add gratuity the first time I brought your check.”
“I can show you, if you like.”
She then prints up the original bill, which now has an additional $9+change that wasn’t there before. So yes what you’re thinking is exactly right. This lady charged my card, without my consent or knowledge, for a tip that she felt she was entitled to. And she wasn’t even going to tell me.
“It’s okay, hun,” says she. “You don’t have to add an extra tip…”
We sat down in the car and puzzled this between ourselves. Was this right? Surely it couldn’t be right. Hubby, who was already vexed prior to this point, hopped out of the car and strode in to ask for a manager.
The manager naturally went through the canned customer service apology that all of us have (or will) received at some point in our lives. You know the one that the district manager flies in, offers the team yesterday’s bagels and scorching hot coffee during the training module? That one. It’s also the type of apology that never comes with restitution, because hotel chains and airlines are notoriously miserly. It’s okay, though. God gave me back part of the stolen $4+ in coupons at Kroger later that day.
So what’s the point of all this? To remind you, dear reader, that as we head in earnest into the summer travel and leisure season, to be on the look out for scammers, even in the most unlikely of places. Scammers who will nickel and dime you and not have the decency to show appropriate remorse. Scammers who operate from hotels bearing celebrated names like Marriott.
Have you ever been cheated when you’ve been out to eat? Was it overseas or locally? How did you resolve it?