“Is it normal for a restaurant to have 100+ customer credit cards stockpiled?”

by Prince Of Petworth March 23, 2016 at 2:25 pm 39 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user washingtonydc

“Dear PoPville,

Last week, a few of us went to Provision 14 for happy hour. Only three beers over 90 minutes, so definitely a tame night. I went to close out a different bartender from who had helped us earlier handed me the receipt but I cannot remember if he gave me my card back but when we left, the sleeve had no credit card (verified by someone else in our party).

I noticed my credit card wasn’t in my wallet so I just assumed the bartender never gave it back. I called them a few minutes after 5pm and was put on hold a couple times and the hostess asked me a couple times to say and spell my name. She said “no sorry” and hung up. I decided to walk over and ask in person. Mind you, there are zero people in the restaurant at this time. I gave her my ID and she goes “Oh i think you just called but this isn’t the name you gave me.” She whips out a box of maybe 100 credit cards that had been left. I was astonished and appalled that so many cards had been “left.” After looking in two sections at about 3 different cards, she goes “sorry, I looked everywhere and it’s not here. You probably dropped it.”

Not only was she rude and very flippant on even trying to help. I get that this is a sticky situation, but a little effort could have gone a long way.

I know that I can’t ask to look, but the fact that they made such little effort to look can only raise some suspicion that have those 100+ credit cards really been left behind? Is that normal for a restaurant to have that many stockpiled?”

  • Yes it is quite common for restaurants to have several credit cards on hand. People leave them all the time – I witnessed this when I waited tables years ago; the restaurant I worked at kept them in the safe in the manager’s office.

    Sucks the person you were dealing with wasn’t friendly. :(

    • JD

      Yup, pretty standard.

  • sproc

    People opening tabs, getting drunk and leaving cards behind seems entirely routine. Hopefully the business has a policy of locking them up after they close out the tab at the end of the night (which, BTW, you’ve just stiffed them on the tip) and shredding them after X number of days if unclaimed. I’m guessing the attitude stems from all those cards representing a tipless tab.

    • Ava16

      Any time I’ve forgotten to close out a tab or left a card, I’ve been charged 15-20% tip. I don’t mind as I would leave 20% anyway….do most places not do this?

      • Anon Spock

        I thought most did. They always post a sign.

    • Formerly ParkViewRes

      Huh? I can’t recall a single place that doesn’t auto charge the 15-20% tip on credit cards left open. In college every bar had huge signs that said “Tabs left open at the end of the night will automatically be charged 20% tip.”

  • jcm

    Yes, it’s normal. Lots of people forget their credit cards, particularly when they’ve been drinking. Why don’t you just call your credit card company and tell them you lost it? It takes much less time than calling and then walking to the bar.

    • Because walking to the bar and (hopefully) getting it back takes ~20 minutes, but if you call and cancel you have to wait days for the new one to arrive in the mail, change over all your automatic payments, etc etc…..

      • jcm

        Fair enough. I forgot about the automatic payments, that really can be a pain in the ass.

  • bars

    yes its extremely common in any bar. people get wasted like you did and lose track of their cards. end of the night, they put them in a box in case someone comes back for them. what’s the big deal? what sort of nefarious thing are you trying to imply by putting “left” in quotes and claiming they are “stockpiling” credit cards? if they were engaged in criminal activity do you think they’d keep the cards in a box and whip it out when some random stranger came into the bar asking about it?

    • Anon

      This is unnecessarily judgey. Three beers in an hour and half would get you a good buzz, but no where near wasted, IMO. Even if she/he was wasted that is her prerogative. That being said, I agree that this is in no way out of the ordinary and would not even have phased me.

    • Philippe Lecheval

      You are bad at reading comprehension. “Only three beers over 90 minutes” doesn’t sound like wasted to me.

  • K

    I’m a bartender. My husband is a bartender. And yes this is very normal. Most of the places I’ve worked at keeps the current left behind Credit Cards in the register and the ones that have been around longer in the safe in the Managers office. You would be surprised how many get left behind every night.

    • Petworth Pal


  • Louisatim

    Yup– I work in an upscale establiment and cards are left behind all the time . Standard practice is put card in register – by the end of the night if not claimed they go into safe.

  • CHGal

    Have brunch at the bar at Wonderland one weekend morning and watch the endless stream of hungover 20-somethings come to collect the cards they left he night before. Yes, very common and not suspicious at all.

  • Vincent

    Sorry, very little of this story seems likely to have happened. This box was out in plain view and stacked full of credit cards? They hung up on you when you called? This just seems really unlikely. Source? I left my credit card there not even a month ago, they were super helpful and responsive over the phone ( I don’t live in DC ) when I called 2 different times, as soon as I showed up the hostess took my id and went in to the back (where the credit cards would actually be) and came back with the card and a smile a few minutes later.
    Maybe you caught some bad luck on someone’s bad day, but this isn’t standard for prov14.

    • The Other Jason

      I’d say the OP’s exp is much closer to reality than Vincent’s. Unfortunately this place is suffering from the owner and staff thinking their joint is just too cool to take care of all customers. It really has gotten ruder and douchier over the past 3-4 visits. More on topic, I’ve heard of some bars destroying abandoned cards themselves after a couple of months. I personally like this policy.

      • Allison

        Totally agree. I had a terrible experience there this past weekend, from food to service to manager, once brought to their attention. Not returning. We had planned to stay for two drinks, but ended up leaving after one because it was that bad. I was disappointed because, while the food was bad, the drinks were quite good. I just couldn’t bring myself to go through the ordeal of ordering another.

  • Ally

    Normal to have that many left credit cards. Not normal how unhelpful the employee/manager was. Bad business.

  • gonzodc

    everyone is appalled today.

    • Dan

      Amen. Too much “I made a mistake and want to deflect the blame for that onto someone/someplace else.”

      The other day it was people getting “depressed” about a bar closing. Then the crowd who left their purses and phones on the floor of a bar while they went dancing.

      I love this blog, but it’s got a reputation for being full of a bunch of pearl clutching gentrifiers.

    • wdc

      Yes, I worry about the coping skills of the younger set. Do you think it’s like 1st grade tattle-tales? That they’ll outgrow it at some point and get all secretive? Probably not… they get validation online for every emotional owie.

      • dcd

        I’m fairly certain OP has a newborn at home and frequents the Tenley library. At least I hope so – I’d like to think this kind of hyperventilating overreaction is not commonplace.

  • Tescadero

    As a bar manager, been in this industry for years, I’ve seen drunks leave cards behind, I’ve seen cards slide down INTO the deeper pocket of the bi-sleeve check presenter as the bill is presented people busy talking to friends instead of paying attention, leave them behind. Most places save the card in the register or the house safe for easy retrieval. Whether or not a gratuity is added at the end of the night for FAILURE TO CLOSE the bill is up to the house’s policy. Cards left over two weeks are usually tossed, or turned into the bank they are written on.

  • petworther

    That sounds like bad service but the number of cards seems totally reasonable.

  • Philippe Lecheval

    Why can’t more bars just scan your card when you open a tab, and then give it back to you? I absolutely HATE handing my card over to a bartender, because there’s always a chance I’ll forget to retrieve it, or there’s a chance the bar will somehow misplace it or give it back to the wrong person (I’ve seen this happen more than once).

    • Marty

      If a gas station can hold $100 or $150 on your card, seems like a bar could do the same.

    • AdMoGuy

      This. Or even better, a smartphone app that will allow you to close out your tab at your convenience without having to return to the bartender.

      • skj84

        Actually there are quite a few apps that allow you to pay through them rather than in person. They connect with the restaurants Point of Sale Systems. They also allow you to split checks and will calculate your tip. And I think the opentable app has the same capabilities.

    • Anon Spock

      Cash still exists.

      • Jerry Grundle

        You’d have to be stupid to carry around hundreds in cash on these streets.

        • FridayGirl

          Actually I went to a bar one time and wanted to pay cash — but they told me I could only use a card. So I left. Lame.

  • NotGrinchandNotScrooge

    I’d rather have this than the alternative. I left my debit card and out of state driver’s license at a 14th Street staple years ago on a Saturday night. When I called to ask if they still had it the next afternoon, I was pleasantly informed by the manager that their policy was to shred all plastic every Sunday morning. Proud to say I haven’t returned since.

    • Dan

      May I say you are a gentleman/lady for not shaming the place you went. Enough blog-shaming people for honest mistakes.

  • skj84

    I’m just going to co-sign on other industry folks response. Yes, a lot of restaurants will store your card, usually locked up in the managers office or the register. You must show ID to get it back. When I worked at a hotel restaurant the cards were stored in the security office.

    I’m also going to defend the host. If she was the only one on duty she may have been fielding other calls/people in front of her. I know the letter writer said no one was there, but 1. They don’t know if that was the case when they called, and 2. Customers perception of busy can be vastly different from staff. And 3. She didn’t really sound that rude to me.She asked them several times for their name, probably to ensure she had the right person. I did that whenever a customer called. Not too mention sometimes its just really hard to hear. She looked through the credit card box. She took the time to look them up and for their card. Maybe she was a bit abrupt with hanging up, but its not like she didn’t try. The OP needs to chill out.

  • Dan

    Some might call it “tacky.”

  • Irex

    In my drunker days, i once left two credit cards at a bar in dc. both the upstairs and downstairs. 100 still sounds like a lot. Why not just cut them after awhile?

    • Anon



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