I had a single guy at a table last night; nothing really remarkable about him, but he gave me a slightly creepy feeling. When I went to greet him, he ordered a drink and his meal right away; no problem. He didn't make eye contact with me or say anything else until I asked how his meal was; he said it was good and nothing else. He ate quickly and asked for his check.
When I went to pick it up, he was filling out a traveler's check. Not my favorite thing in the world; but doable. He already had his Vermont driver's license out, and suddenly started gabbing away as I went to write his license number on the check. He was asking if I'd ever been to Vermont, started talking about the mountains there, how they compare to mountains here, etc. I don't know if he was trying to distract me or what; but as I started writing down his license number I noticed something odd about the check: it said "100 Australian dollars" on it.
It's a good thing I have a modicum of self-control, because I wanted to say "Do you see any kangaroos around here, bitch?" Instead, I politely told him I'd have to check with the manager to see if we could accept something in foreign currency.
"It's AMERICAN EXPRESS." he says loudly, as if I'm dumb.
"Yes, sir, but it's not in U.S. dollars, so I'll have to check with the manager."
He snatches it out of my hands. "New York, New York! It's a traveler's check! You can spend it anywhere!"
I tried to be sweet and reasonable. The guy had a little travel folder from an airline out, so I thought maybe he'd just gotten confused about which check he'd pulled out. So I held it out and pointed to the left hand corner and said, "But sir, it says right here '100 Australian dollars'."
He threw his arms in the air. "You can't take what it says on bills literally! Our money says 'In God We Trust' but if we trusted in god we wouldn't need to pay the Department of Defense."
I just sort of looked at him, I didn't even know what to say.
"It's AMERICAN EXPRESS."
"Let me get the manager," was all I said, and walked away.
The manager was utterly confused, and went to the back to make a phone call. Even though we both knew we couldn't take it. I gathered up things for my other tables, hoping the manager would come back out before I finished; I don't get paid enough to deal with that sort of thing. Alas, he didn't come back out, so I went out into my station. The customer was sitting there staring at my expectantly, so I put on my best shiny fake smile.
"My manager is making a call to find out if we can take traveler's checks in foreign currency, it'll be just a minute."
The guy throws himself back in his chair and yells "IT'S NOT IN AUSTRALIAN MONEY!"
"The manager will be out in a minute." I'd stopped smiling; I don't have to take people screaming at me. I went down the row and talked to each of my other four tables, then took the long way around into the kitchen to avoid the guy.
The manager met me in the kitchen and said we couldn't take it; he tried to hand it back to me, but I shook my head and told him the guy had just yelled at me and didn't understand why we wouldn't take it. When I was a retail manager, I'd've cheerfully faced the guy--so that means the manager here could too.
I didn't have to speak to the wingnut again; but the manager did, for about ten minutes, which I focused on my other tables. I overheard the guy telling my manager that nobody else had ever refused to take one of these checks. I was in the back ringing in a new order when the manager came up.
The guy insisted we should take it, that nobody else had refused to. He said he had ten dollars cash, and absolutely no other way to pay. So the manager discounted the $11.17 bill, gave me the ten, and of course I was out the tip.
I don't know if the guy was trying to scam us, or was just dumb. It's not the most elaborate scheme I've seen, but it's still ridiculous, and it's entirely possible it was a counterfeit check. Even if it wasn't, can you imagine the shitstorm if I'd taken it? It was for $100; his check was $11.17, meaning he was expecting $88.83 in change. Even if it was a real check, and even if we could've cashed it at a bank (rather than a currency exchanger with the attendant fees), it would still only be worth $75 to us with the exchange rate.
The more I think about it, the more I think it was a scam. Wonder how many people he managed to screw with it.