So you’ve had a few drinks with dinner, and once you’re back home, you reach into your pocket to take a quick peek at your receipt. To your horror, you discover that you’ve taken the merchant copy instead of the customer copy. Did you just fuck over your server? Is it this the equivalent of saying, “Thanks, you too,” when the theater employee tells you to enjoy your movie? Does it matter at all?
“The customer copy is strictly for old people who collect receipts because they don’t understand online banking,” says Marley, a 24-year-old waitress living in Florida. “It’s all the same info. The server just needs a slip to turn in at the end of their shift as a record that they charged the correct tip amount. So it’s not a big deal as long as you leave one signed copy.”
Restaurant manager Max Berlin of Papillon in New York City confirmed this for Thrillist, saying that there’s not actually much of a difference between the merchant and customer copy. What’s important is that you at least sign one of them, and leave the signed version on the table.
Merchant Copy vs. Customer Copy: What’s the Deal?
Restaurants provide two receipts so that there’s a copy for their records and a copy for yours. The only reason they’re even labeled differently is that we’re complete fucking idiots. Imagine you were given two identical receipts. You wouldn’t even know what to do with yourself! With the copies labeled differently, you save yourself some precious time by being told which copy you should sign and which copy you can do whatever the fuck you want with.
In reality, then, there’s no functional difference between the merchant and customer receipts. The dining experience hinges upon a false set of constructs and rules in order to function cohesively. We live in a society!
What to Do If You Left the Tip Blank
There is still room for trouble, though. In the event you find yourself with a signed copy of your receipt in your pocket and know damn well you didn’t sign the other one, you may have left a blank receipt on your table, meaning the restaurant technically hasn’t received your authorization for the purchase. Were you to later dispute the charge with your credit card company, you’d probably win. But you’d be an asshole.
Furthering your asshole status, a completely blank receipt definitely screws your server out of a tip. “If the tip line isn’t filled out, the server won’t know how much of a tip to charge to your card so they most likely won’t make any money off your bill,” Marley explains.
If you want to be a decent person, it’s probably best to call up the restaurant and confirm whether your dumb ass filled out the other receipt, and if not, make your shame journey back into the establishment to retroactively sign it and tip (well).
It’s Pointless, but Take One Receipt With You Anyway
Of course, service workers could just say “fuck it” and sign your name and tip themselves (can you blame them?), but they’d be committing fraud. Which brings us to our next little piece of advice when it comes to receipts: Either sign both receipts or take the blank one with you. According to service workers on Reddit, it’s not unheard of for waiters to alter the tip written on the receipt, and a blank customer copy (that’s been left behind) means you don’t have much evidence to refute them.
If all this sounds confusing and frightening, you really ought to be paying in cash. Not that I support committing tax fraud or anything (I do), but a cash tip means it’s up to the discretion of the server as to whether they’re gonna report it to the tax man. Meanwhile, you don’t have to deal with this “sign the receipt” nonsense.