One of the worst inventions for bars and restaurants is the debit card. For the past ten years I have fielded Monday calls and emails from angry customers complaining that we’ve overcharged them. From the high end steak house in a resort town, to the nightclub in NYC, to the restaurant in the Midwest…it is all the same. “You have incorrectly charged me $25 and I demand to speak to the manager ASAP!” One of the things I hate is that old saying, “The customer is always right.” While I keep this in my head as I respond I like to amend it to “The customer always thinks he’s right.” Thus, I kindly operate as if they think they are right and allow the opportunity for me to be corrected if I am wrong. These conversations would be much easier if the customer would keep a saying fresh in their mind as well: “You catch more flies with honey.” Yes, we are in the service industry and we are here to serve you…but that doesn’t mean we are your servants nor does it mean we should be treated without dignity and respect. So…with the understanding that every Monday email or phone conversation begins with me being insulted, yelled at, called a thief, etc., please forgive me while I use a mocking tone to explain the $25 fee on your card from a Saturday night.
Debit cards are different from credit cards because you are directly drawing and crediting money to your financial accounts as opposed to using credit to pay for items which you then pay from your financial accounts. However, banks have done as much as possible to make banking with your debit card seem as similar to your credit card as possible so you will use their services and incur their fees. When you go to an establishment and open a tab, a temporary hold is placed on your card for a certain amount. The standard fee in America is $25. Now lets say you have a 5 drinks, each costs $4, you tip $1 for each for a grand total of $25. At the end of the night when the establishment closes and sends all of its credit card charges off to be processed this is what your credit card company will see:
- $25 pending fee
- $25 credit
- $25 charge
The total charged to your card is $25. When this same transaction takes place on a debit card it looks like this:
- $25 pending fee
- $25 fee
The total charged to your card would be $50 because $25 would be charged to your account and $25 would become unable to withdraw till 1-2 business days when the bank releases your credits. After 1-2 days the bank releases your credited $25 (pending fee) and it is back in your account. Most common is someone spends about $5 and then wakes up Sunday to see they have been charged $5 and $25 and they think they have been scammed by another customer or the establishment. However, they just have to wait till end of business Monday or Tuesday and magically that money is back in their account. Here is what the $5 charge looks like on a credit card:
- $25 pending fee
- $25 credit
- $5 fee
On the debit card it will say:
- $25 pending fee
- $5 fee
You have been charged $5. The pending fee of $25 has frozen $25 of your finances till the bank approves your $25 credit. This is banking 101…but none of us care to hear that when we sign up for a debit card. We just know it looks and works like a credit card. Ever heard a cashier ask you, “Debit or credit?” What’s your response? “Either one is fine.” Most times…it is, but maybe sometimes you would be better running it as credit. I’ve talked to customers of all ages, all walks of life, from all over the world, and in different businesses…every time it is because their account was overdrawn. Every time I am yelled at, called a thief , told the establishment I work for should be ashamed of itself, etc. I guess they didn’t get that memo about flies and honey. I then apologize, calmly explain how it is not a charge but a hold…and since they used a debit card it froze their actual money…blah, blah, blah. Sometimes I end up giving away free meals to win them back because of review sites like Yelp where people only go to give 5 stars to places they love because the waitress was so nice or dog on a place because of something trivial like this. They should actually be giving 1 star to themselves for not understanding how to bank.
After explaining multiple times that there is no button we can press that releases their funds immediately, I feel myself gritting though my teeth and wondering if anyone has ever asked this person, “Hey…if $25 is what caused you to overdraw your account, should you have been at a fine dinning restaurant buying drinks for all the ladies?” Oh yeah…did I mention it is always a dude who calls? Never a woman. Seriously though…”Should you have been spending money like it was a bottomless pit?” This is why debit cards are evil and should not be given to people who cannot manage their finances. A debit card is like a check book that looks like a credit card. If you have $50 in your account and a place tells you something will cost $60 you don’t write them a check for $60 right? You know this because you balance your checkbook and maintain your funds. Nowadays we use debit cards and check our balance via smart phones…but all that checking your iPhone’s banking app won’t save you from the fees your bank charges you when you use a debit card like a credit card. Then Sunday rolls around and you stumble-frump your way to brunch with ironic sunglasses on and when the bill comes the server has to politely tell you your card has been declined. Oops! Embarrassing. Now you feel like a chump and your Bud Light infused biceps clad in Ed Hardy and Affliction rhinestones need to destroy something. You call the bank. ZOINK! Its Sunday. You call the establishment. ZOINK! They’re closed. So you wait up all night steaming, going over the conversation in your head, imagining what the person on the other end of the line will say, getting ticked off…till finally…at last…you call the establishment…and you get me.
I have a form email that gets sent. It is very apologetic, humble, and of course…the customer is ALWAYS right. I reward them for their misfortune which is really their mistake and thank them for being so patient. So…if you get that ever-common $25 charge on your debit card and overdraw your account…do yourself a favor. Wait. Wait for it to disappear by Tuesday when your bank issues your credits and pat yourself on the back for understanding how banking works. Pat yourself on the back for not reacting like a jerk to a situation. Pat yourself on the back for not yelling at someone who has zero control over the situation. Then, go deposit some money in your account or stop using your debit card like it is credit.
LEGAL: The author currently works in marketing and has managed and owned restaurants throughout his career. None of the stories depicted in this article are directly related to any past customers or any businesses associated with the author. No Ed Hardy or Affliction shirts were torn during the making of this article. The author is aware that he is venting and encourages you to remember that this is a comedic site and wishes no ill-will on anyone…just hilarious occasional misfortune to people who take themselves too seriously, hipsters, people who wear Ed Hardy or Affliction shirts, and/or overuse hair gel. The author has overdrawn his account before by using his debit card like a credit card. Money + alcohol = bad decision making. Men shouldn’t wear rhinestones. The author wants to know if we can now call “Hipsters” something more appropriate like “Almost-everyone-sters.” Seacrest out.