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Subject:  Re: Fraud? Date:  11/17/1999  12:01 PM
Author:  JAFO31 Number:  19995 of 312185

<<long post alert>>

AntiTrader: <<<I had an interesting experience this weekend, and I would like some of your opinions.

I went to dinner with some friends at a local carribean eatery called SweetWater's Jam House. The server very spicy Jamacian food (recommend it if you are ever in Portland). Well, it wasn't cheap and I don't like putting money on my AMEX if I can help it. The bill came for my girlfriend and I and it was $47.57. It had a line item for a "automatic gratuity" (we were in a part of 11 people), which I completely dissagree with anyway, of $7.13. I had eight dollars in cash in my pocket and decided I would just throw that in as tip and keep the extra eight bucks off the card. so, I scratched out the 7.13 and filled in the total like with the $47.57 and signed the receipt. Well, I checked my AMEX bill online yesterday and they had changed the amount to the full $54.70 without my authorizing it by signature. So, I in effect payed a 30% tip for what I would call poor service (althought I will admit it is difficult to serve 11 people; I know, I was a server myself during college).

My question is, is this out-an-out Credit Card Fraud? They are making grumblings like they aren't going to replace those funds on my card. Only time will tell. I just want to be able to tell them that what they did was illegal if it is, so that I can get the money back. By the way, it is more the principle than it is the money. $7.13 won't break my budget.>>>>

"Just for clarification for anyone else that answers; It did say gratuity include for parties larger than 6. I did expect the automatic gratuity, and have no problem with the amount (it was only 15%). However, I paid $8 in cash rather than put it on the card (for a number of reasons), that is why I scratched it off the bill. I actually gave him more money for a tip than the bill required. In hind sight I should have written something on the receipt that said "Tip paid in cash".

The real concern that have is that they changed my signed receipt. The one that says "I authorize such and such to take this money off my card". That, to me, is like going to the Gap and paying $50 for some jeans, then after I leave the clerk realizing, "oh these weren't on mistake, I will just change it to the original price of $60". Is that illegal? It seems like an unauthorized charge.

This is of interest to me for future reference. It seems alot of people get screwed in various ways, and I am just building up a library in my head to protect myself."

I have never researched this question and do not have a deinitive answer for you, but I suspect that it is a closer call than several people have suggested.

You posts indicate that the fact that the gratuity was included was disclosed and that it was the "expected" 15%, so I suspect that it becomes a question of whether the cash you left (i) was reasonably assumed by the restaurant to be an additional tip or (ii) known to the restaurant to be in lieu and replacement of the line item on the charge.

I suspect (without really knowing) that if the gratuity is fully disclosed, simply deleting it after eating the meal [[and yes, I understand that it not exactly what you did]], gives the appearance of changing a contract after accepting its benefits (i.e. eating the food at the restaurant served by the waiter/waitress).

Was it clear tht you were the one that left the cash on the table? and that you deleted it from the charge slip because you were leaving cash on the table in an amount greater than the required gratuity?

I do not think that your analogy to GAP works because there is no indication that you intended to pay more (or IOW, the higher price was not disclosed to you), whereas the restaurant apparently did disclose its gratuity policy.

Sorry that I have no real answer for you. Disputing the charge in writng and otherwise in compliance with the dispute process of the card issuer (and the governing federal regulations) is the most appropriate manner to proceed, IMO. You may also wish to speak to the manager of the restaurant directly, too.

Hope this helps. Regards, JAFO

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