Are you sure your servers aren't committing credit card fraud?

Another day, another restaurant receipt making negative news. If it’s not some stupid racist note inputted by a server, it’s from a customer stiffing a server (why?...well, because).

For the last couple of years we have seen this part of our guest interaction splashed across social media, dissected on Reddit and generally exposed to truly reputation-smearing levels. The newest rotten restaurant stories seem to revolve around credit card slips and the fraudulent adjustment of them after a guest has completed their transaction.

You may remember a couple of weeks ago, we featured a story about a veteran that experienced this exact scenario-- three times at a national chain restaurant. That story has spurred some skepticism as to its factualness. Not that the truth is relevant to the perception people have once a story is shared. Such is the case with a woman that visited Roanoke Virginia restaurant, where she saw her tip doubled when she checked her account.

She went back to the restaurant to prove that she didn’t authorize a $20 tip on a $45 guest check and this is what she found:

Are your restaurant's staff committing credit card fraud?

The signature wasn’t even close to her own and the handwriting was completely different. Ironically, the victim has been a server herself.

She said with respect to that, “I have been serving for 11 years now and so many people leave that blank copy of the receipt and it’s never crossed my mind to fill it out and forge their signature! I’m appalled that this place is not doing anything about it and allowing someone so dishonest to handle money and people’s credit cards.”

A fair comment to be sure. To make matters worse, the restaurant corporate office informed her they would respond within 10 business days to her concern. Let’s assume her story is true. Should we make a guest wait 10 days to return their money and deal with the server?

Obviously, the negative publicity generated by a story like this should be enough to motivate an operator to move a tad more quickly.

Capital One gives users a "Second Look"

Interestingly, as we were discussing this one of our team members mentioned that she recently received an email from Capital One after she had authorized a higher than standard tip on her card. They asked if she had received outstanding service to justify the gratuity and insure there was no fraud.

So, reality has come to the point that credit card company fraud protection protocols are set to look out for this type of terrible behavior. We can hardly describe a situation more suited to proactive solving than protecting your guests from fraud when they visit your restaurant.

There are a variety of technological fixes for this exposure. For example, you can implement EMV devices, so guests verify the total that is applied to their check or embrace mobile payment systems like table side tablets or phone based payment apps.

Three ways to eliminate staff credit card fraud

Absent a technology investment, you can try this easy three step approach to eliminate this problem permanently.

1.     Review every credit card slip to ensure the math is done correctly and that they look appropriate.

2.     Require any tip that is over 20% to be declared to the restaurant manager. As with our case above, this would have nipped that in the bud by forcing the server to run their scam past a watchful manager’s eye.

3.     Tracking credit card tips by employee and seeing any variances in performance. This analysis will not only discourage fraud, but will also tell you how well your guests rate your staff.

No one wants to be the subject of a viral story about fraud at their restaurant. By being proactive you can avoid this happening to you. Remember, even the credit card companies are aware that the temptation to steal is great for the average server.

Shouldn’t you at least be intrigued to prove that your team isn’t stealing as much as you want avoid them behaving poorly? Remember, only you can create an atmosphere where guests feel secure in spending with you and staff respects that trust. Systems – technological or procedural -- are the only way to get there.