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Miss Manners: Requesting proper change is OK

Dear Miss Manners: I’ve noticed a trend when paying with cash at restaurants. It used to be that if my meal cost $16.32 and I paid with a $20 bill, I would receive $3.68 back from the server. Last week when I paid a $16.32 bill with a $20 bill, I was given only $3 in change by my server, leaving me 68 cents short. My friend told me that servers are now doing this to save time in processing cash payments, and so they don’t have to carry around a lot of change in their apron pockets.

In a way I can see how this makes sense, but I also feel a bit miffed in getting shortchanged. Each time this has happened, I’ve found myself wanting to ask the server for my correct change, but then refrained from doing so after thinking it would appear silly or impolite to get into an argument over such a small amount of money.

Is this method of shortchanging customers the new normal that I should graciously accept? If not, what would be the best way for me to address this issue with my server?

Gentle Reader: That a pickpocket finds his profession more convenient than remembering to bring his own wallet is no defense. Servers who cheat you by 68 cents should feel lucky to find their tips reduced only by that amount. Miss Manners sees nothing embarrassing about asking for your proper change. But you could also ask the server’s boss, who probably does not authorize shortchanging the customers, whether such is the restaurant’s policy.

Punctuality problem

Dear Miss Manners: My boyfriend of six years and I have been engaged for a year now and are officially tying the knot. Now that we’ve come to the stage of creating and ordering invitations, we have to address an issue: His family is always late. There’s hardly a punctual person among the bunch. For his cousin’s wedding two years ago, the bride and groom lied about the start time of the ceremony on the invitations just to ensure that everyone would be there on time. The invites said it started at 3 p.m., but it didn’t actually begin until 4 p.m. The trick worked, as some family invariably showed up past the 3 p.m. start time, which still made them perfectly on time for the actual 4 p.m. event. What can my fiance and I do or say (either via the invitations we mail or via in-person conversations) to get these people to show up?

Gentle Reader: Without objecting to your fiance’s cousin’s solution, Miss Manners questions its long-term effectiveness. Do you plan to pad holiday dinner times as well? You will acquire a reputation for starting everything late, thus encouraging others to adjust their arrival times back even more. The cocktail hour was invented to solve the problem that, even with good intentions, no group of people all arrive at the same time. By all means, have your fiance speak with your relatives about arriving on time. But assuming you would prefer not to have the punctual relatives drunk before the ceremony, you might leave a few empty pews at the back of the church for late arrivals.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.