I Hate Calculating My Own Bill at a Restaurant

A solar powered giant calculator from geekalert.com that will help in situations like these.

I visited an Indian restaurant in Irving this past weekend with a couple friends, eager to consume mango lassi with a side of samosas since it was a place that I’d heard good things about. I walked in, and it was one of those confusing restaurants where you’re not sure what to do first. Seat yourself or wait to be seated? There wasn’t a sign, so the woman behind the cash register told us to order first after I’d asked.

Six samosas, three drinks, and four entrees later, I could tell that the employee was struggling with my large order. She didn’t have a fancy cash register to add up the bill, but possessed a calculator-looking thing that spat out the receipt at the top. That’s fine. I understand that not every restaurant has the means to buy the most modern technology. What boggles my mind is when the cashier woman finished adding up my bill, she told me she wasn’t sure if she did her math correctly.

Really? I wondered if she was serious, and when she gave me another confused look, I pulled out my calculator app and began adding up my own order. A lot of you will probably think I’m a snot for even mentioning this out loud, and I agree, yes, I probably am. But I’ve realized that all this time I’ve taken competent cashiers for granted.

Has this happened to you before? Do you carry around a big calculator everywhere you go so you can tally up your bill? If this happens again, I think I’ll bust out my TI-83 and at least look a bit more professional when I’m doing someone’s job for them.


  • Kessler Porker

    Yes I think you are a snot (?) or even a snob. Tell me about the food, not how you were marginally inconvenienced.

  • JTT

    Sorry, Carol. You are generally a friend to the industry, but here you are being a snobby snot. KP is correct. Did you know that a POS system, an average sized one, costs about $24,000? How many lassis do you have to sell before you can even cover the first payment for that system.

    You and your friends need to grow up and: 1) split the tab evenly 2) take turns picking up the tab / 1 card for each outing/rotate payee 3) have someone put it on ONE card and have your friends reimburse you

    If you are afraid of your friends ripping you off, stop being friends with them. They aren’t your friends!

    You should have taken responsibility and told the restaurant in advance that you need separate tickets.

    (People in your age-bracket love to organize large parties for themselves and request separate tickets. The customer never realizes how this monopolizes the terminal, slows down the service for all the other tables and the service for all the other servers on the floor. No one shows up on time and it’s a headache because it’s difficult to separate the tickets even on a $24K system. There’s a reason restaurants like Momofuku only allow a max of 4 cards per ticket. Your demands make it difficult to service other patrons properly.

    Get that iphone app your boss wrote about a while back. Or yes, break out your old TI-82. There’s no reason you spent $100 on a graphing calculator not to use it. Or be like everyone else and use the calculator on your phone. Even a damn flip phone has that function.

    It’s not that the server didn’t know how to add. It’s that she can’t remember exactly what you and the rest of your party ordered individually.

    Here’s what you do: Add up your food = ABC. Punch in ABC * 1.0825 = XYZ. Add your liquor to XYZ = Grand Balance. Grand Balance + 15-20% tip. This coming from a liberal arts major, just like you.

  • Um, maybe I didn’t make it clear, but I paid for the whole tab myself. There was no splitting involved. It was pretty easy math.

  • JHS

    Messin’ with the counter help.

    Here is some fun especially if you want to see the state of our ‘public school system’ product in action. Go to your friendly fast food restaurant with a drive-thru (no need for names). Place your order and pay with cash (bills and coin).

    For the experiment to work do not provide EXACT change.

    Pay for your order using just enough coin to bring the transaction to a round number on the return change.

    For example say your order is $4.38. Hand the cashier a $20.00 bill then pause and hand the cashier thirteen cents only after they key in the $20 bill into the POS. (The correct change due is 15.75)

    It is freaking fun to watch math skills (or lack there of) in action. Between Credit Card transactions and glorified P.O.S. terminals we have lost the art of a cash transaction.

  • Stacy

    So….how were the samosas?

  • Disappointing. Not worth the trek to Irving when there are better ones at Al Markaz.

  • irodguy

    JTT by the way Quick Books and several others sell POS systems for less than $2000. No they are not monster networked systems, but work fine for small restaurants.


    I agree it’s not rocket science. I have been at many small restaurants that use a calculator and get it done without issue.

  • Amy S

    You can get a used electric cash register for less than $200 at Goodwill or Salvation Army.

    If they can’t add up a guest check, how good can they be at adding up the sales and liquor taxes they owe at the end of the day? There is a management issue here that is pretty basic. Either the owner doesn’t know, doesn’t care or doesn’t want a paper trail of sales.

  • Amy S

    @JHS – most of the workers at fast food did not graduate from high school. This is the job future of a dropout, not the average graduate. You think it’s “funny”, I think it’s tragic.

  • Amy S

    I’m thinking more about JHS’s comment, because he’s probably correct that the average counter person can’t make change.

    They could, if the fast food employers (large corporations, generally) chose to pay a high enough wage to attract an employee with real math skills. But they don’t/won’t, because this job skill has been replaced with technology. Just as the bank teller became the ATM, the grocery checker is morphing to self-check, the cash counter is just a person punching in buttons on a screen and doing what it tells them to. At that point, any higher wage than necessary becomes a competitive disadvantage.

    I can’t laugh at this, because I’m still trying to figure out what the heck the credit default swaps, the synthetic collateralized debt obligations, and the interest rate swaps are. After all, this is the “math” that kicked our economy in the groin for the last 4 years. But maybe you can explain them, because I’m certain I’m hearing someone laugh over our inability to understand this math.

  • KG

    You are not a snob – i would be annoyed too that the employees could not total up the bill.
    @JTT – I understand & agree with your rant,as a former server & bartender it is annoying to split a tab 12 ways from tomorrow.

  • Aarti

    Its nice to have a “casual, homey” feeling but asking someone to tally their own check is crossing the line!

    Wow Mr JTT, for someone with nothing to say that was applicable to the situation, you sure did write a long comment!

  • JTT

    Carol, my comment was misdirected. It’s rare (and very unfortunate) that this person was incapable of calculating the bill. There are plenty of restaurants that don’t have registers that provide correct handwritten receipts (S&D, Daddy Jacks).

    I automatically assumed the bill was split because that is where the 99% of ticket problems happen and you mentioned that you were there with friends.

    I don’t think this particular case is a common occurrence. That is pure incompetence. You were not being a snob to calculate your own bill. She might have been filling in? Or she might have just been poorly trained or not trained at all?

    JHS – you are a bully. Why is that “funny?” There is nothing comical about being paid minimum wage in this economy with skyrocketing gas prices, unemployment, inflation, student loan debt, foreclosures,,,,, These individuals don’t have options or mobility.