August 29, 2009


Last Monday during a closing shift an old friend of mine sent me a text saying that she was in town and wanted to see me. I told her I was working, but that she could come in and hang out for a bit, so she came, and brought with her another very close friend that I hadn't seen in a few months.

I casually asked them if they wanted something to drink, while flashing them the "of course I won't charge you" smile. One had a Pepsi while the other had a raspberry lemonade. As many of you are probably aware, to have food made, or a bar drink poured you must ring it into the computer because the kitchen/bartender cannot make anything unless they have a ticket. There are only a few things that servers have complete control over, and fountain drinks are one of them. It is because of this, that I didn't charge my friends for their drinks.

I took their order, and rang in their food. I sat and chatted for a bit while they ate, then I collected their money for the bill, and then hugged them as they left.

About ten minutes later, I made a stupid mistake on a new order and needed a manager to void off an item. We laughed about how I was a total bonehead, always making silly mistakes when she looked at me and said...

"You know, you're only a real bone-head if you forgot to charge your friends for their drinks."

Oh shit...Panic mode kicked in, so what did I do?

I looked my manager straight in the eye, and lied. Completely forgetting that she had the ability to open up a closed tickets to see exactly what was rung in.

I told her I hadn't charged them because I paid for them myself, So she smiled sweetly and dropped the subject.

I spent the next 3 days stressed out that she knew the truth, or that I would get fired.

Thursday evening I headed into work for another closing shift. When I arrived I noticed my name was not on the seating chart, so I fearfully approached the managers office. When I got there I was asked to sit so that we could have a "chat."

Manager C informed me that she had checked my nightly report and found no sign of my friends drinks. She reminded me that stealing was grounds for termination, and she asked me once again if I had meant to charge my friends.

I had two choices. I could either admit that I purposely gave my friends free drinks, then lied about it, and face certain termination, Or lie again and say that I intended to charge them, but must have forgotten, look like a total airhead, but still have a job.

Can you guess what I did?

I lied again. I said that I must have spaced it, but that I meant to ring it in. I apologized for my ignorance, and whipped out a $10 to pay for the drinks.

I was then scolded for making stupid mistakes, and suspended for 2 days.

So, I am not proud of the situation. If anything, I am embarrassed. I feel and looked like a total idiot, and It is all my fault. I deserve to be fired. But now that all is said and done, and we are moving forward, I have to ask my readers and fellow servers a question. Feel free to leave comments anonymously if you prefer nobody find out, but please, I would like as much feedback as possible.

Have you ever hooked up a friend? Have you ever slipped them a freebie while you were working, just because it was easy, and you wouldn't get away with it? Was giving them a free drink OK, but only crossing the line because I lied about it?

Please be honest... I was.


Jessica said...

I work at a building that included a small cafe. Last week 9 of the 11 employee's of the cafe were fired for either eating food themselves or giving other employee's free things. Four others were fired for receiving the food. I, somehow, was not caught and still have a job! There is no way I will ever take free food again!

TauAngelicus said...

I'm not a server but I have been hooked up by friends for fountain drinks and an occasional appetizer or half off meal.

I think your only mistake was not ringing the drinks up on a seperate ticket and covering it out of pocket before management found it. But as far as lieing about was a good idea with the state of things. Better to keep the job you have than to stress out trying to find a new one.

JumpIt said...

I do it all the time. Only, instead of ringing in whatever drink it actually is, I put in waters. Not a single person, server or manager of any kind, has ever said anything about it. If relatives come in, my boyfriend, his parents, etc and they order something like soup or a side salad, I don't ring it in. IMO, soft drinks shouldn't be more than a freaking dollar anyway. They're up to $2.29 where I work.

I would have lied too, and not have bat an eye about it.

Sanity of a Server said...

I'm actually surprised by this! Not that I don't completely understand that giving away a fountain drink is technically stealing but, maybe because I work in a larger scale corporate restaurant, non-alcoholic drinks are definitely the least of management's worries. I know that there have been tables that I have forgotten to ring up their soda or coffee as I was running around and I never feared being caught for this.

I have given my family soup when they have come in to eat since the servers used to serve the soup themselves. I also recently gave a guy I like that comes into the bar a side of free fries, though I was a bit nervous about getting caught for that.

Peter said...

I work for a cell phone company, and there have been times that I have given away a couple batteries here and there, or did a warranty on a phone that was clearly water damaged or something. I have yet to be caught, but i totally know what you mean, its nerve wrecking

Anonymous said...

What I do now not that I have any friends who visit at all but if I did unless management okayed it I would charge them for everything. If we went to where they work would we get free anything? I wouldn't care if they tipped but I would explain I have to charge or I may lose my job. Back in the day when I first started I gave my mom a $100 so she could cover the drinks I would charge her for at the bar. Just so it is legit.Just forget about it and move on and don't worry.

Anonymous said...

What happened to you was absurd and simply shows the management power-tripping. The markup on soft drinks is so high, you could probably have given your friends a box of syrup and they would have still turned a profit. Not charging friends for soft drinks is expected, either your restaurant is having serious troubles, or your manager is a jerk (or both).

Anonymous said...

I totally give my friends and family the hook-up on soda, tea, and coffee--anything that is unlimited for anyone. My managers have pulled up tickets to give random discounts to my family, or to give an employee their day-off-discount, and never said a thing. Still, I've been prepared to say I was going to ring them up separately to pay for them myself if they asked anything. It's not like they can prove differently. But I do think it's bullshit your manager even audited the ticket--for Christ's sake, it's a soda! Sorry you got your ass in a sling. :(

Anonymous said...

Its actually kinda crazy that you got suspended for giving free sodas. I'm sorry but if they paid for everything else then whats the big deal. I guess you know now that you cannot give any freebies. I wonder though how many times the manager that suspended you has covered a meal or drinks or something for their friends or family

LW said...

At my work I occasionally don't charge my family for one or two sodas. I have also on occasion paid for something myself. It's so common in this industry to give sodas to people! Don't feel too bad or stress too much. I don't know a server who hasn't done it at least once.

Ex-Restaurant Manager said...

I think your manager was a bit harsh. If I was your manager, a stern talking to and probation would have sufficed. And I would have kept them under the microscope. Then again, I had a deal with my servers. If their family or friends came in, come to me and ASK me if we can do something for them. I'd usually comp their non-alcoholic drinks and an appetizer or dessert. My go-to servers (the ones who cover shifts or work their butts off) would usually get whole meals comped.

Anonymous said...

I haven't been a server, but I have definitely worked in food service positions where I have eaten food and not paid for it. The one sandwich place in particular, I would frequently make a whole meal (sandwich, chips, drink, cookie), and not pay for it. My justification was that I was working a whole 8 hour shift and they NEVER give you free food, unless you work a 10 hour shift. Even when we do work, we get a 20% off the sandwich only.

As far as your manager's concerned, I think they're being a hardass. Like someone mentioned before, the markups on soft drinks are so ridiculous, it's not going to matter to their profit margin if you give two people free drinks that probably cost the restaurant three cents to make. I am sure that you aren't the only person who has ever done this in the history of the Steakhouse, but because you're an honest working stiff, you got caught. Don't worry your pretty little head over it, but you probably don't want to do it again, either.

Anonymous said...

I've hooked up my boyfriend with a milkshake or two, but I always pay for it myself. I think the lying here was the worse crime than the free soft drinks, but in your case I can understand why you did it. Getting fired over a free Pepsi? That's ridiculous.

IMHO said...

Manager was being a jerk IMHO, I've worked in a variety of bars in the UK and it wasn't a problem at any of them. At a petrol station I worked at as a manager staff got free sandwiches out of the fridge and it was charged as waste, we threw away plenty at the end of the day and my staff worked hard for me. (I doubt my area manager would have approved but he was a t****r anyway)

Mrs. Lazaro said...

I totally used to hook my friends and family up back when I worked at a tiny little ice cream shop. It had no computer--just an old fashioned cash register--and I often worked all by myself there, so I did it secure in the knowledge that I wouldn't ever, ever get caught.

And I never was.

But then I got my serving job and with the POS computers, and the manager's ability to bring up any and all tickets from the night, and I took everything much more seriously.

It sucks you got busted. I don't think you did anything terribly wrong. I am actually pretty surprised that your manager dug through to find the paper proof that you didn't charge your friends... does she have like, no life?

Klaatu said...

Fountain drinks are so ridiculously inexpensive, that your manager really, really needs to get a life.
Coffe and pop are free to staff, unless you work at a really horrible restaurant.
Perhaps your manager is looking to advance in the company, and thinks being a dick to staff is better than being good at his/her job.
They would be wrong.
Does this mean that fountain drinks are not refilled for customers? Or kids have to pay.
What's next? Counting serviettes at the table and charging for those used?
A large soda drink costs between 9-13 cents, the profit margin more than makes up for free usage.
Put ex-lax into the managers coffee( Which I bet he/she doesn't pay for) and hide the toilet paper.

Anonymous said...

Management's position is "If she is comping Pepsi and Lemonade, what else is she giving away for free?" It isn't the cost of the drink - because we all know full well they cost the restaurant pennies to make and are a high profit item - it is that you stole. Period.

You lied too, but didn't get caught at that. Good thing too - because I don't think management would want to see how far you would take that too.

No offense - I understand the want to comp your friends, but the restaurant exists to make a profit. Giving away free stuff without permission is wrong. Lying only compounds it.

I am glad you still have a job, really.

Anonymous said...

i think its okay to give a freebie now and then. especially something like the drinks you gave. its not like you gave them the most expensive bottle of wine is it?! You don't do it all the time so i think your manager was a bit harsh on you.

Cheryl said...

Stinks you got busted. I totally empathize with lying when confronted, and I have a feeling part of the reason you were suspended is that you lied. Many places I've worked, the punishment is harsher if you lie about it and then come clean than if you're honest up front. Suspended for two days over it seems harsh unless you're all the time hooking your friends up--which I know you aren't--but that's management for you. The Pointy-Haired Boss is everywhere. You've mentioned in the past your managers can be real jerks at times, so there you go. At least you weren't fired. What gives with the manager accusing you out of nowhere for not charging your friends, anyway? Seriously, the woman sounds like a paranoid hardass.

I don't personally see the big deal about a drink here and there because, as others have said, the cost to the company is minimal and more than made up for many times over the next time someone buys a drink. Playing devil's advocate for a moment, perhaps some of the reason they're tightasses is because of how people would exploit the heck out of a 'free drinks for friends' policy with the justification that soda is dirt cheap and the profit margin is huge and there are people who'd extend that to cover all drinks of any kind and that would go on throughout the chain. The people making the policies are also number crunchers so it's just as likely they're Pointy Haired Boss clones suffering from permanent wedgies.

R.A. said...

I've given away stuff before to friends/family/others. It's rare, but it's small things, like not charging for a nacho cheese cup, or an extra icing packet, or even a cup of soup from the salad bar. I really don't see the big deal.

Anonymous said...

When I was in college I worked at an upscale seafood restaurant. I met a few cool people at my dorm one night and they said they would love to come in and see me at work. I told them that would be cool, as I was in no position to turn down friends (I had just moved a thousand miles away from home, and needed some freakin friends). A few nights later one of them showed up with some girls. It was a party of 4 and they requested me specifically. They proceeded to order alchoholic drinks only and no food at all. Of course I didn't card them b/c I was trying to be cool, but those girls were young.... really young. Anyway all the other servers made comments about it, and when the "kids" left they only left me a couple bucks anyway. I did later tell them to please never come back to my place of work again.

Anonymous said...

Waitress - I love your blog.

Having said that, I think when the boss brought you in on the carpet, you should have fessed up, completely, and taken your chances. Lies on top of lies are the worst kind. I can't stand it when I lie and the older I get, the more my conscience intrudes.

For right now, I'd keep my mouth shut about this incident. The next time friends come in for a freebie, go ahead and ask your supervisor if you can let them have a free soft drink. Whether he/she says yes or no, you will be 100% in the right.

You shouldn't put your integrity or your job on the line just so your friends can slide on a $1.99 drink.

Bryna said...

I've been quite the thief in my past waitress/bartending/foodservice history. Both to hook up friends AND to hook myself up... I have to say, that probably is what compounds the fact that I couldn't do it anymore. Guilty conscious and all that. Oh, and I hate people. HA!

I never got caught, but that didn't make what I did right. Justifying it doesn't make it right either. Buying that vacation with the profits, hmm.... Nope, that didn't make it right either.

CJ said...

This is the most retarded thing I've ever heard happening to a server. I guess I feel lucky to have worked at places that treat employees like people and not criminals. Soda is the ONE thing in any restaurant that you could put on IV drip and nobody should give a shit. Start looking for an employer with a soul I say. You work hard and are good at what you do. Many places would LOVE to have you.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I don't even know what to say. As a barista at a small, local shop, I gave away EVERYTHING - free drinks, free coffee beans, free sandwiches, etc. etc. etc. In fact, I had a relationship with a pizza delivery guy - he'd bring us a pizza and we'd give him four large mochas. Seemed fair.

And as a cocktail waitress at a country club, I gave away free LIQUOR on several different occasions (mostly to my intimidating father-in-law).

I never once got caught and never felt bad about it. I knew exactly what kind of profits that country club made and, trust me, they didn't need the $20 in margaritas I'd sling away once a month. In hindsight, I feel bad about stealing from the coffee shop, but honestly, you can't employ college kids for $5 an hour and not expect them to drink a damn 12-oz. mocha over an 8-hour shift.

Any server who says he or she never stole fountain soda is lying through his or her teeth. End of story.

Anonymous said...

Your initial response should have been something along the lines of, "Did I? Gosh, I'm having a really bad night." It probably would have been dropped at that point - You knew you were busted, and the manager got their message across that they have nothing better to do than to harass you over this.

Since you lied, and made the manager work for the proof, you got suspended. Be thankful you didn't get fired.

Moral of the story: take what you can, but when you get caught, 'fess up.

Anonymous said...

I have given my friends and family free drinks about 3 times in my 3 year restraunt career. No one has ever asked me about it and I haven't regreting as I feel drinks are so over priced anyway. I have however, given customers free refils and sauce partly because its embarassing to ask for the 25 cents and partly because I think its over priced. I have been asked about this and lied. I feel very little guilt.

DKM said...

I don't agree with the comments saying you shoulda 'fessed up. It's just not practical to let conscience get in the way of providing for yourself and your family, when the infraction was so terribly minor. Jobs are hard to come by now, and you're lucky if you can even hold onto one, much less get another.

I totally commend you for trying to hold onto your job. Just take what happened as a learning experiene. And either be careful how you pick your lies next time, or don't let there be a next time.

The Bitchy Waiter said...

Oh my god! Suspended for giving away two sodas?? That is fucked up. So sorry that you had to deal with that. really unfair when if some bitch complained that the Coke was flat, they would have just voided it off the check with no questions asked.

kara said...

The idiots you work for are lucky to have someone as honest you you working for them.

I'm am the Queen of Comeuppance, and I've stolen everything from full meals to expensive bottles of wine to compensate for what I deem as mistreatment from the woman-hating owner I work(ed) for.

If you consider the amount of food and drinks that managers will comp to advantageous customers, what is a couple of dollars to friends of a valued employee?

Please don't beat yourself up over this. If you worked in an office, this would be the equivalent of stealing half a pad of post-its.

Anonymous said...

Probably I would have lied too just to keep the job.
Anyway, the other thing I thought about right away was if your manager doesn't read your blog. Once I have a problem with that. I found my boss reading mine and he was using some of the information I put there and never had told him.

Bob said...

Holy cow! I thought shops gave soda away all of the time because the margin is so low! I know they can charge a couple of bucks for sugar water, but come on! Is it really the money maker? One of our local sit-down fast food chains frequently gives us "refills to go" without additional charge...boy are we lucky in the midwest.

Wendy said...

This is why I truly hated waitressing. The managers are all petty tyrants. This is ridiculous.

At the most, if she was really concerned about it or was angry that you lied to her, she could have let you know that she knew about the drinks and didn't want to see it happen again. We're talking about maybe 25 cents actually given away from the restaurant (the sodas are where restaurants actually make their profit, I think). To two people who wouldn't have even come that day if you weren't there.

Bullying your waitstaff like this is how you end up with shitty waitstaff. Because the good waitstaff will go find another job. Oh. If they don't live in podunk hell and have other options. ~Sigh.

Anonymous said...

This may be a naive question, but aren't you expected to occasionally give away free drinks? Like, to repeat customers to establish the fact that you appreciate their business? Why would they trust the servers with that if they have a problem with occasionally comping someone else for something so cheap it essentially doesn't even matter?

Anonymous said...

Wow, that really is about the most ridiculous thing I have heard, to be suspended for two days for giving away two sodas. They even ordered food? You really need to find a job at a real restaurant but I know how it can be working up the chain to get good shifts, etc.

But seriously, start looking. Selling yourself short by working for little napoleans does nothing good for your self esteem (pun intended?). But there are actually places out there that know how to treat people with respect and clearly, you are not working at one of them.

Anonymous said...

I think you really have to consider the nature or culture of the restaurant first. If you know that managers usually turn a blind eye to comps for friends, then I don't consider it a big deal to give a free soda occasionally. However, if you are not sure, or you know that management has strict rules on it, it's better to be safe than sorry.

kate said...

I waited tables and bartended for a couple of years during and after college and I can easily say that I gave out more than my fair share of free drinks - one of the places that I worked in had a barstaff that was notorious for ripping the place off (which I'm not saying is the right thing to do, but it happens). Not ringing up any of the drinks if they knew the patron was paying in cash, overpouring drinks, not charging for anything that didn't come in a bottle that could be easily counted...and I will freely admit that I've given a free beer or soda to my friends before - and I've also been on the recieving end of free drinks from friends. I think it's just part of the industry. I'm almost surprised that the place you work took two sodas that seriously.

Stephan Hoppe said...

As I get older, I realize that this is simply the way the world works.

I wouldn't say you stole or did wrong, but instead you merely committed a minor infraction.

It's unfortunate that in business these days it's easier to impose a *level playing field* where any infraction is grounds for dismissal, rather than evaluating each situation and using a little discretion.

Pademelon said...

I can totally understand what you did and I don't think it's a big deal. From a manager's perspective, I think the mistake you made isn't actually the "Oh I paid for my friends drinks" lie, it's that after she called you on it, you didn't pay for the drinks. She gave you a clear indication that she'd be checking your nightly report. Granted, had you paid for the drinks after she called you on it, she'd know BUT had they been paid for that night she probably would have dropped it and watched you closely for a while. It kinda sounds like you got suspended because she gave you an out by letting you know she saw you slip your friends a freebie and didn't like it but you didn't take it. If she waited a few days, you might have been able to go in the next even and go to her and say, "I forgot to pay for those drinks so I'm going to ring them in now and pay for them." and gotten away with it.

All that said, I agree with everyone else that suspending you was really harsh. I've given away freebies as a server but the restaurant I worked at gave us a little leeway to do so for our friends or to build a returning customer base. I did inventory for one of the places I worked and did the actual calculations on fountain drinks. The drinks themselves usually cost $0.03 a piece (that's syrup, carbonated water and ice) and in places that put them in disposable cups (for take-out or fast food etc) the cups usually cost between $0.05 for the kids size and $0.25 for the extra large ones. So the mark-up on fountain drinks really is that insane. So it couldn't have been about the cost of thr drinks.

Anonymous said...

A long time ago, in a Mexican restaurant chain no longer in business, I actually was fired for giving away a drink (ONE drink) to my husband. Funny thing was, I actually paid for the drink when there were enough tips in the jar. When they asked me why I didn't get the money from my purse I told them that going from my purse to the register and back, I wasn't going to be responsible if the register was short. Either way, I lost.

I also stopped bartending right then and got a job in an office.

Serious Replies Only said...

I have done it and I would have lied.

Phrank said...

I just found your blog (via Red Pen, Inc.) and I had to comment on this post. I used to serve for a chain restaurant (one that recently went bankrupt) and all of the servers used to hook up friends with drinks. The one key to the trick was to ring in a water (which is free) so drinks still showed up on the bill. Eventually the managers caught on, but it worked for a while.

beads-n-books said...

Your only vice is virtue pushed.. too far.

If I had an employee like Elvira, I'd have to be strict on everyone too.

Adnoxious said...

You should have said you were giving your friends free refills from the last time they came in.

I had no idea giving away a freakin soda was such a serious offense. If I were an employer, and had a server that took a few liberties, I wouldn't care as long as they were doing a good job.
Taking aim at lousy advertising

Anonymous said...

I am absolutely floored at how many people think stealing and lying are acceptable.

I am happy you still have a job - but the bottom line is you deserved to be suspended.

You stole. You lied. To me that merits suspension.

Does it occur to anyone that all the thefts reported here [giving free food, etc.] is why retail/customer service are paid so poorly - the profit margin just isn't as high as you think it is.

Your lying and stealing may seem like a small blip in the scenario but what is the bigger picture? If you give away sodas [and lie about it] what else are you going to do?

Happily you still have a job. Perhaps you learned a lesson that will follow you outside the restaurant too?

Sascha said...

I so much know what you are talking about!
While working at a college club in my home town in Germany, I fixed up friends with drinks on a regular basis.
I basically did it because everybody did it and no one cared. Maybe this is one reason for the complete failure of this club.

I felt not ashamed as this was going on for ages and all the other guys did it as well. But to be honest, giving away free drinks (your friends just save a feew bucks) just to make your friends feel better and raise your reputation is not worth the hassle!

Just give them a couple of beers while your NOT working and you will receive the same effect and get not fired :)

Best regards Sascha

HG Brit said...

I think they were being a bit harsh. It's soft drinks, and I would expect to get a free one if I went into my work on my day off. I don't expect to be charged $2.39 for a waitress to go behind the counter and fill a drink; I can do that myself. Plus, there's free refills, so it doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

my boyfriend get me frre lotions from the hotel he works at.

Anonymous said...

I've worked as a server in different restaurants for over 6 years. I've done my share of taking a cup of soup, or hooking up a freind with a soda. And this is stealing unless it is allowed. Taking what is not given to you is stealing fair and simple. I know this because I have owned my own bussiness and worked for other small bussinesses. In those environments emotions do not cloud the fact of who legally owns inventroy and what their rights are to how it is used. When working in the restaurant industry in thick of things, those realities are forgotten because of the high pressure and environment of congeniality. I am guilty of exactly what you did. BUT, one integrity is more damgaged when you lie about it to yourself. Your integrity is damaged further when you use lying to protect your self from what you are afraid of. When your pschye gets used to using lying as a tool to save yourself from difficult situations it affects your perspectives and attitudes so subtle it is hard to notice. But eventually it leads callousness or worse. Your integrity is not something you keep to yourslef. It is a bridge with which you connect yourself with your life. It colors all experiences, and it is the canvas that love and respect are painted on. If fear clouds your integrity, i.e. lieing becomes a useful tool, then it is harder for your integrity to serve you.

This long diatribe on integrity isnt just for you waitress. I was saddend to see such the response of your followers.

With so much love your for all of you that allow fear to hurt you. Jobs don't matter in the end. How you treat yourself's is so much more important. The waitress says she is a slave, says she is held captive. All of you who feel this way are only held captive by fear.

Anonymous said...

i was just fired from a restraunt/bar that I worked at for over 1 year. A manager said it was okay to give a free round to the regular customers, that spend their money at the establishment. The general manager fired me for doing just that. I'm going to try and collect unemployment. They also fired 4 others in 1 week.

Anonymous said...

i was just fired from a restraunt/bar that I worked at for over 1 year. A manager said it was okay to give a free round to the regular customers, that spend their money at the establishment. The general manager fired me for doing just that. I'm going to try and collect unemployment. They also fired 4 others in 1 week.

Anonymous said...

I am a server at a pizza place. I hook my friends up with drinks and salads if I can. I feel like i have to.. If I got caught, I would have lied too.

Anonymous said...

A soda!? For real? I can't even believe that your manager asked you about it. I imagine that you give free refills on the things, and that the staff is allowed to drink them for free all night. What's the big deal about not charging for them with a paid for meal? I know that if any of our families came in and were sitting at the bar waiting for us, our management would be appalled if they got charged for a $2.29 Coke.

That's just ridiculous. No one in our place would have even questioned it. I can't imagine working for a company so miserly that you could get suspended over a freaking soda.

It's common bar practice to serve sodas for free to designated drivers. Really, what's the big deal here?

Anonymous said...

It wasn't yours to give. It's that simple.