1 WWYD: The Absent-Minded Cashier | The Billfold

WWYD: The Absent-Minded Cashier

In this installment of WWYD, whether or not to correct an honest mistake:

Back in college, my boyfriend and I decided to get a burger one night and went through the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant to give our order. When we pulled up to the window, the woman said hello and gave us all of our food and drinks, then closed the windows and walked away. Not thinking, my boyfriend drove off before I realized she’d never asked us for a method of payment. At the moment of realization, we were already far away and onward to our next destination. It almost seemed to happen out of habit—when fast food windows close, you drive off. The right thing to do would have been to turn around, go back and pay … but we didn’t. Even though it was great to get a free meal, I was embarrassed to know she would probably would have to cancel out the order, or explain the mistake to management at the end of the night. Would you have gone back? – D.

I believe in karma, and I believe that if you have the ability to correct an honest mistake, you should do it. But I don’t know if I would have pulled a U-turn in this situation, either.

It would really depend on how far away I was at the moment I realized the cashier’s mistake. A mile away? Sure, I’d turn around. Two miles away? Um, okay, fine. Three? Hmmm. Four? Uh. Five? Guh. How about I donate the money to one of Jonathan Coulton’s charities when I get home? Time is also money—and so is gasoline. The farther I was away, the less inclined I would have been to go back.

Having a significant other in the car would have also played a huge role in this decision, as well as who was in the driver’s seat. What if one person wanted to go back and the other didn’t? Does the driver make an executive decision? This burger incident could make or break a relationship. You jump, I jump, Jack, remember?


Email me your WWYD experiences to me with “WWYD” in the subject line. See previous installments.



17 Comments / Post A Comment

Quinn A@twitter (#1,008)

I accidentally walked out of a restaurant without paying once. It was like a $7 bill, but I still drove right back to pay. Also, I once noticed that a cashier forgot to charge me for about $9 worth of cat litter. I drove halfway across town to pay for it the next day. It just seems like the right thing to do, for me.

lil sebastian (#2,900)

I went to a happy hour where the bartender was just keeping tabs by everyone’s first name- no card held. I walked outta there without paying for my one very marked-up glass of wine without paying and then got home and realized it. I wasn’t about to go back up to that part of town but I called them right up and gave them credit card info over the phone. They were so thankful! It was just a tiny little bar that was just getting started though, not a mega-chain. I probably wouldn’t have felt as bad if it was a big corporate place that can afford a loss or two.

Morbo (#1,236)

@lil sebastian
Trust me, the chain would have taken it out of the bartender’s nightly drop drawer.

Lily Rowan (#70)

At a fast food place, I would probably go back eventually to pay (like days later), but would kind of assume the manager would say it was too late for them to take my money. So then you get the good-karma points AND the free food. (But also you have to be ready for them to take your money.)

ThatJenn (#916)

@Lily Rowan This is what I would do if I were feeling guilty about it. But I might have just driven away, because… I’m busy and it’s not my fault they forgot to charge me (and it’s entirely believable that I might not notice at all!).

honey cowl (#1,510)

I would not feel bad in the slightest driving away. I am a bad person!

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

I worked at a lunch counter and one of my regular customers just disappeared one day. The woman next to him said he just up and left. I was so mad. 20 minutes later he came back and told me he just forgot to pay. He was so embarrassed, I absolutely believed him, laughed and told him he would have never been allowed to eat here again. Seeing that he came to the counter three times a week, this would have been a problem for him! So yeah, go back and pay if you can. If you’re already home, maybe not a big deal, but if you remember in the car, go back.

But Lily, you could get the person who forgot to take your money in trouble that way! She will have probably already covered her mistake.
And yeah, Lauren, you are a bad person if you think it’s okay to get something for free. But at least you admit it. Which means nothing in the grand scheme of things. But oh well.

honey cowl (#1,510)

@josefinastrummer Thanks!!

Megano! (#124)

Uuhhhh well when I used to work the drive thru (which is the worst job ever, btw), I closed the window all the time when I wasn’t done with the order b/c I had to like check something or get the stuff (although I think I always had people pay first? I dunno, this never happened to me), so I am inclined to think you are a bit of douche for driving off.

@Megano! ugh, it IS the worst. When I worked at a fast food place the drive-thru cash register was called “the hole” and people cried their first time working it (or at least, I cried, and was assured that it’s typical). But we also had two windows, you had to pay first and then drive up to the next one to actually get your food, to prevent this kind of thing happening.

If I did this, like Mike Dang it would depend on how far away I was when I realized, maybe also how big the order was, but I think I’d have to be pretty far away before I just didn’t go back. Seriously, drive-thru workers need your kindness.

lizard (#2,615)

thats pretty much stealing, i mean who forgets to pay? dont you have your wallet out and ready to go usually when you pull up? thats like getting gas and then saying.oh well i forgot!

Titania (#489)

I went to the Container Store the other day and realized when I got home that they forgot to charge me for one of the five storage bins I bought; it didn’t scan or something. I was not particularly inclined to carry it back to the store, so I kind of just chalked it up to it being their fault, and took comfort in the fact that pretty much all businesses have a cushion built in for shrinkage. When I needed more stuff I went back there (even though I found the same item elsewhere for less) and told them then. So, I probably wouldn’t have bothered going back that night, but I would have another time when it made sense.

Olivia2.0 (#260)

I would probably just consider it even after all the times the drive through messes up my order and I don’t turn around and go back to have it fixed….

Years ago I accidentally drove away without paying from a full service gas station. I went back the next day with the cash (I think it was only about $15 or so) and the three people working there were almost falling over themselves thanking me. I guess the attendant who helped me had to pay for that gas himself (which seems illegal?) and they were all really appreciative that I came back to settle it.

Honestly, though, I don’t know if I would have done the same if it was a random gas station I’d never see again. I had gone to that station on a regular basis which I’m sure had something to do with my going back.

lizard (#2,615)

@Deb of last year@twitter when waitresses get walk-outs they normally have to pay. it seems illegal but i guess thats your punishment for not keeping track?? horrible,

@lizard That is horrible and seems wrong, but I’m not entirely sure on the legality of it. At one of my early teenage retail jobs, I undercharged for some special they were running. It was a buy 4 get 1 free sort of deal and I messed it up somehow and gave away 1 free when they hadn’t bought enough to get the freebie. Or something? Anyways, I do remember that my manager made me pay the store the $7 they were out and I was SO MAD. I almost quit I was so mad about it. BUT THEN, the owner came by at the end of the week for the deposit and told my manager that she can’t actually charge employees for mistakes and I got my $7 back. But I don’t know the legality of paying out for mistakes. Like, I can’t imagine food service employees having to pay the restaurant every time they break a plate?

Fig. 1 (#632)

@Deb of last year@twitter It’s illegal in Canada but happens all the time. I mean, if you work at a gas station, you need the job, right? Who’s gonna stand up to their employer?

Comments are closed!