Bartender's $200,000 Tip Not Quite As Great As It Seems (PHOTO)

09/12/2013 11:08 am ET | Updated Sep 13, 2013

So a person claiming to be a St. Louis bartender and server posted a photo of a $200,000-plus tip to Reddit today (note the bad math):

The post quickly rocketed up the site, and you can understand why:

tip

Sadly, it appears the bartender will never receive her lottery-like tip, since some credit card companies apparently don't process excessive tips like this one. The employee told the whole story on the comment thread (emphasis ours):

I bartend and serve at a restaurant in St. Louis. Today the absolute weirdest thing happened to me, ever. We're pretty slow during lunch shifts. I was working by myself and had literally only had one table the entire shift when about a half hour before close two mid-20s sisters walked in and said another person would be meeting them. I had been bored the entire shift and basically just filling the time with doing mundane cleaning tasks so actual human interaction was pretty exciting. They were pretty nice. One of the sisters was taking the other out after she had gone through a pretty big personal trauma and she obviously wanted to show her sister a good time. They ordered quite a few things and a gentleman met them.

Throughout the meal the sister that was treating the other one would flag me down and talk with me and kept saying things like “Don’t tell my sister how I tip.” “Today I’m your guardian angel.” Etc, etc. I’ve worked in restaurants forever and can tell you from experience that usually people who say things like this are full of shit. But she seemed to be tossing a LOT of cash around to her guests and the situation was just bizarre. She asked for the check only a few minutes after we closed (which is super nice and courteous anyway, often we have people walk in right before we close and hang out for ages which forces me to stay later). She signed the receipt (paid with a normal looking Visa debit) after I brought her the check. I don’t like to be rude and look at or pick up the checks before the person has left and since she told me explicitly not to react to the check in front of her sister I especially didn’t want to on this check.

OK, so this is semi-weird, but not, like, full-on freaky, right? Read on:

They leave and I look at the receipt and yeah. $200,000. [Editor's note: KABOOM!!!] Being realistic and not insane I immediately ran to get my manager. He was in a meeting but the corporate office for our entire restaurant is two floors above the restaurant I work at so I ran up there to grab someone and they were empty too. I called the marketing director who I had just seen previously and my manager finally gets back from the meeting he was in and the marketing director and my manager were both as incredulous as I was. They decided to call the credit card processing company. I basically couldn’t function at this point because even though I was pretty suspicious it’s still pretty life changing to even think about getting that kind of money just for being courteous and doing your job.

Here comes the really, really depressing part:

Basically, the gist of it is that banks don’t honor payouts on excessive tips. (Apparently they can bounce back tips that are even over 30% of the bill… which is kind of crazy because I often receive those kind of tips on tabs of regulars or other industry workers.) Although they did say that things like this actually happens pretty often like when someone wins the lottery or a jackpot at the casino, receives a lot of money in a settlement or inheritance, or was already wealthy but terminally ill with little time left. I guess nobody actually ever gets the payout on it. I didn’t even attempt to close out the check for $200,000 obviously so who knows if that kind of money was even in the account. But yeah, it was still a pretty exciting and crazy afternoon. I wish I could get a hold of my “guardian angel” and at least thank her for the entertainment haha. And if it was real, I’d thank her for the sentiment at least. It’d be cool to know why she was possessed to give me of all people that kind of money.

This is the sadness. But other Redditors had a theory -- the excessive tip was not an act of kindness gone wrong, but a premeditated scam:

SHE WAS TRYING TO SCAM YOU! Since no one else has said it I thought may as well. The long and the short of it is that you got scammed out of a tip. I used to see this quite frequently when I was an FOH manager. Basically it gets the guest out of paying their bill. If the server were to reconcile their transactions at the end of the night the entire transaction would be flagged and a stop payment would be put in place immediately. If by some miracle the transaction were approved all the cardholder has to do is call in and say its fraud, boom charges reversed. For future reference there is a $25,000 maximum on check cards in the USA unless you have a business account. And people that spend that much on plastic almost always use Amex if not just a regular credit card.

And:

That is a common scam. I used to be a bartender, and every once in a while that would happen. The person just has to put something "impossible" on the bill, and Visa will not process it. Since the amount and the tip are hand-written, it means you had to enter it into the till with the tip amount AFTER the sisters had left. Visa would outright reject it then as almost no one has that much credit. Even if Visa accepted it, the customer would just call later and claim she had been scammed. Visa would annul the entire bill. The only thing you could have done is pointed out her error, which is why she "secretly" and repeatedly kept asking you not to talk to her sister about the tip. That and the fact that she added 200K to 111 dollars and came up with 211K.

The card used by the customer was a Visa, so we called the company to see if they had anything to say on the matter. We have yet to hear back.

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