Scammed! Or maybe not! It was kinda hard to tell…

“I’m sorry. It seems you gave me four hundred and ten rand instead of five hundred.”

And the waiter proffers the five notes we ostensibly given him a minute ago. Or did we? It’s five past one in the morning, we’ve been out since about 8pm, when we left for the Greek restaurant.

I had the peri-peri spatchcock chicken, as I do. And the Stella Artois draught. One of the few places that do it. And they do a perfectly serviceably cheesecake. And a cappuccino that skriks for min, which gives you the urge to stick around for perhaps one more of those Stellas.

Flushed with the joie de vivre and camaraderie of a successful dinner, we stroll out of the Greek and find we’re still in the mood for socialising. As luck would have it, there’s a restaurant right next door. There was a function on earlier, but it seems to be over.

Do they have room for us? Indeed they do…

After a couple of beers, you feel like moving on to whiskies. Shoo! Expensive whiskies! Four-twenty bucks for a couple of rounds? Well, there are four of us, and we did have two rounds, so maybe it’s possible.

I paid with a card downstairs, so I’ve still got cash on me. Five hundred. Hey, what the hell, keep the change. We’re feeling prodigal tonight.

And now this! I didn’t give him five hundred, I gave him four-ten! He expects me to believe I mistook a R10 note for a R100. As if I would! In this orange light!

I mean, it’s possible, but I honestly don’t think I did. Still, there’s no way to prove it. I hand over another hundie.

“There you go. One hundred rand note,” I tell him sarcastically. “Please bring me my change.”

Still unsure whether I’ve been scammed or not, I’m not sure what to tip him. The original eighty I was gonna give him? Or a token twenty? If he isn’t ripping me, then that would be rude, but if he is ripping me, he gets a wicked R100 on a R410 bill.

I’m getting a maths headache just thinking about it. And I feel scammed, whether I have been or not! Plus, they served us whisky that tasted like dishwater.

So far, so mundane. Man gets a bit pissed, gets his sums wrong at a bar. But then! A week later, the same thing happens to my wife’s mate at another restaurant. Sorry, you gave me the wrong notes. Look, two hundreds and a ten. You owe me another hundred.
Did I?

Forget credit-card fraud. Now the guys are committing note-switching cash fraud. So how are you supposed to pay for your stuff?

Take a cameraphone photo of your notes before you hand them over? Write down the serial numbers? Ask for a receipt there at the table? Do an internet transfer?

I haven’t quite decided. But in the meantime, there are a couple of venues that aren’t seeing my face again.

Writer for television, print and digital, corporate and editorial. Editor and writer of books. Musical performance, spoken word as Inspector Ras. Guitar/vocals for The Near Misses, (Worst Band In JoburgTM). The last whitey at umsebenzi. Latest book 415 Action-Packed Neighbourhood Marketing Tips with Basil O'Hagan, out now. @hagenengler

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