If you’ve gone out to eat with me in the last year or so, you know I like to play a little game with my servers when they drop off the bill. When they swing back by, I hand them my credit card, look them dead in their eye and announce matter-of-factly, “Hey, see if this card goes through, please. I found it on the sidewalk outside. Thanks.”
What started as a little ha-ha joke to myself has now turned in to a full-blown sociological experiment with unexpected and varying results. Here’s what I’ve gleaned from being a newfound, but polite credit card thief:
Some servers who are dead behind the eyes (and you know exactly the look I’m talking about) never even flinch. They just run the card, drop the check back off and say, “Thanks” with zero inflection or eye contact. I’ve thrown them out of the equation because … well, I’m just a cog in their factory line.
38% of servers are busy. When I throw that line out, it suddenly makes them stop thinking about the next four things they have to do. They’re now 100% present. It’s a weird, half-second mic drop moment. I see a brief twinkle, get an even briefer nod and maybe a smirky “Mmmmhmmmm.” These are my favorite reactions. They’re professional servers who don’t have time for my B.S.—but will subtly acknowledge they probably haven’t heard that line before.
17% of servers stop and look at me, then look at the card and furtively look back at me. It’s as if their brain skips a beat and they have to process what they just heard. Their eyes say, “Did he just say that?”—but yet they never question or second guess me. Even weirder? They never ask me to repeat myself.
15% of servers bust out laughing. Like a genuine, hearty guffaw. Because I say the line so incredibly dead-pan (and believe me, I’ve honed the nuance of said statement), they genuinely buy my schtick. They’re just excited I may (or may not) get a free meal. It’s credit card roulette. Typically, they always get a slightly bigger tip—say 24% instead of 22%—because their reaction brings me insta-joy.
15% of servers are clearly grifters. One time at an unnamed Cajun restaurant, the server actually gave me a list of nearby places to use the card before it was discovered MIA. He was pretty detailed too. This scenario happens more than you’d think.
10% of servers actually ask to see my I.D.—as it clearly says on the back of my card, “SEE ID.” If there’s going to be credit card fraud, it’s not going to be on their watch. No, siree! These are the astute servers who ensure each guest only receives six croutons on their Caesar salad. Rule followers rule!
2.5% of servers lose their sh*t—and go get their manager. Fun haters.
1.5% of servers remind me that’s not cool—and ask for another card. I oblige without hesitation.
And 1% of servers (well, specifically Constance at an Orlando pizza joint), demand I add on a 50% tip before she returned my (faux) stolen card to me. She wasn’t playing either. I think she was ready to call the cops. “I’ll be cool, if you’re cool, SIR!” she austerely hissed. Constance, you’re my favorite. I hope you enjoyed that extra $22 in your pocket, dear.