Gordon Biersch Pinches Your Pennies

Gordon Biersch, a small chain of brewery-restaurants, stole a penny from our reader. Consumerist “Punkrawka” used a credit card to hold open a tab at the bar, then closed the with a gift card. Gordon Biersch then passed a one-cent charge onto our reader’s credit card a few days later. More funny than anything else, the bizarre details, inside…

Hi Consumerist,

I’m amused by this and I’ve noticed that you often tend to be amused by this sort of thing as well. I’m attaching a screen cap of my online credit card statement, which just posted a cleared transaction from Gordon Biersch (a microbrew restaurant chain) for… a penny.

Obviously it’s not worth my time to do a chargeback or inquire with the restaurant, but I only used this credit card to hold open a tab at the bar; we paid the tab off with a gift card and I never authorized any charge to my card. I saw the pending transaction for a dollar yesterday, but today the one-cent transaction actually posted!

I assume that, practically speaking, this is because GB’s credit card processing system can’t correctly reverse a credit card charge once it’s in the system, but this probably adds up to a lot of pennies when you think about how many tabs they open and close that may be paid by other means. Oh well.

And for the record, I don’t send this to bash GB, because I enjoy their food and beer and have no serious complaints with their service.


While they do serve a delicious Ahi Salad, it’s simply not cool to make mysterious tiny charges to your card. It could be an innocent case of incompetent staff not knowing how to close your tab without charging your card, or a stupidly designed credit card processing system, but either way Gordon Biersch is taking pennies that don’t belong to them. Anyone else have this happen to them? Leave us a note in the comments.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Buran says:

    Why not just dispute it online? Not much effort required..

  2. Wis Tungsten says:

    Keep this in mind: charging you $.01 probably cost them a $1.00 in processing fees. You can take comfort in the fact that they hurt themselves more than you.

  3. Karl says:

    The best part of this is that it cost them much more to post the transaction (probably on the order of 20-30 cents).

  4. dugn says:

    This is commonplace for any credit card confirmation. The 1 cent charge will disappear in a few days. It’s just a placeholder for the ‘confimration’ transaction.

    No story here.

  5. Icepagoda says:

    What I want to know is, what can you buy at circuitcity.com for $1…?

  6. smackswell says:

    Um, they lost hella money compared to your penny. I’d let it go.

  7. cookmefud says:

    no. it probably adds up to a bit over a couple dollars per night when you think about it. consider 300 tabs being opened…that’s what, 3 dollars?

  8. SOhp101 says:

    @dugn: Read the article, please. He/she did wait to see if it was just pending or an actual transaction.

    But like everyone else said, there’s usually a flat initial charge, so by not teaching their employees how to properly authorize a transaction, they’re losing out on quite a bit of money for something so easily fixable.

  9. RagingTowers says:

    @dugn: “No story here, move along folks!”

    I love how this person acts like they are the editor or someone even remotely in power of anything.

  10. icntdrv says:

    The merchant is usually charged a $0.15 transaction fee plus about 3% of the total for each transaction. In this case, the microbrewery lost about $0.14 for processing the charge.

    Methinks it is a case of simple incompetence of an employee.

  11. Jon Parker says:

    @RagingTowers: And can’t spell “confirmation.”

  12. bostonmike says:

    Our merchant account had a straight percentage fee for over 10 years (on the order of 3%), but almost every other merchant account I’ve seen numbers for has had a fixed fee per charge plus a percentage. The fixed fee has ranged from $0.05 to $0.25, and the percentage has ranged from just under 2% to just over 5%.

  13. chicagojohn says:

    did anyone think of actually calling the restaurant and asking?

    Nope, that would require real work…
    and when someone does call them, the writer can have a follow up post

    Does Consumerist have a “pay per post” payment scheme for writers?

  14. The Raging Server says:

    Where I work, a lot of the cocktail servers don’t feel comfortable actually holding on to a credit card while our guests roam, bowl or play games, so they’ll authorize the card for $0.00 and we have the numbers saved in the system in case some jerk tries to pull a “Drunk and Dash” or “Dine and Dash”. If the transaction doesn’t get finalized with an actual amount, then it doesn’t hold anything from an account.

    I hold no such fears, and would rather hold on to a credit card just like most bartenders do. I don’t have a personal need for anyone’s card numbers being that I value my freedom too much, and I’ve never lost a card in 12 years of serving.

    I think the author would do well to contact the restaurant and ask about it, but there’s really no reason to make a big stink over a penny.

  15. leprofie says:

    It seems like a “pay per post” for the comments section!

  16. leprofie says:

    It looks more like Consumerist has a “pay per post” payment scheme for comments

  17. Scuba Steve says:

    @chicagojohn: That would cost more than the charge!

  18. Murph1908 says:


    Does Consumerist have a “pay per post” payment scheme for writers?

    Actually, I think they do. Though I don’t think this is some grand scheme of Theresa’s to get you to click through a second article.

  19. Murph1908 says:

    Needed to clarify myself. I think they have a ‘pay per read’ system.

  20. I guess this is just one more reason to live in the ass end of nowhere; all the bars around here let me open a tab by saying, “Can I open a tab?” and don’t make me, like, give them money or a credit card until the end of the night. Even places I’ve never been before.

    (Of course I’ve lived places where they make you do what the OP did and I don’t object to the practice; I just didn’t realize I don’t have to do that anymore until I thought about it. :) )

  21. Machete_Bear says:

    Anyone else read “Gordon Biersch Pinches Your Penis” at a glance?

  22. Bladefist says:

    they make amazing beer, try the hefeweizen. Due to this, I give them a complete pass. Actually I give them a pass to just about anything.

  23. FreemanB says:

    I’ve seen a few restaurants do this when someone paid with a gift card. If there was only a little money left on the gift card after paying the bill, the restaurant would charge a single penny to your credit card, then bring you the receipt so that you could add a tip to it. At some restaurants, I’ve had to ask that they do something like this, since I didn’t want to stiff the wait staff. At others, they would do it automatically. More than likely, it was on the receipt at the time of purchase, but it went unnoticed.

    As others have stated, the restaurant loses much more than it gains from the transaction, so they don’t stand to benefit from the extra penny.

  24. UX4themasses says:

    @Machete_Bear: No

    @Icepagoda: It’s a sad state of affairs when the first thing I noticed is the CircuitCity charge too.

    I would assume this was an employee error. I thought the credit card tab system worked in the same way at gas stations (you are opening a tab for gas). The company puts an authorization hold on $1 (in this case).

  25. jdame says:

    I work on point of sale systems and have a good guess that the penny not being returned has to do with the way that the pos system Gordon Biersch calculates purchases.

  26. mduser says:

    @Machete_Bear: Freudian slip? ;-)

  27. disavow says:

    @Bladefist-미국사람: I just noticed their Walnut Street location for the first time ever yesterday. Will have to check them out sometime; thanks for the FYI.

  28. just consider the penny to be your “dealing with the kiddies at Tysons Corner” surcharge

  29. Nenne says:

    @icntdrv: Agreed, sounds like someone didn’t know how to correctly take off the credit card without charging anything.

  30. RumorsDaily says:


  31. ilikemoney says:

    -“Maybe I’m not explaining this right. Um, the 7-Eleven, right? You take a penny from the tray.”
    -“From the crippled children?”
    -“No, that’s the jar. I’m talking about the tray, the pennies for everybody.”

  32. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    @Jerkwheat: LOL! Tysons needs to be charging more than a penny in that case..

  33. @Icepagoda: He didn’t spend $1.00 at Circuit City. The transaction is pending. It’s probably something that hasn’t shipped yet and the $1.00 charge is a hold because they don’t charge you until the item ships out. When it ships out, the correct charge will take its place.

  34. TheDude06 says:

    AFAIK gawker pays bloggers per page view per post

  35. mcs328 says:

    Microcenter did this to me. They gave me a coupon for 2 free DS games if I bought a Nintendo DS as part of their Christmas 2007 special. When I went to check out my free game a month later, they charged me a penny even though the coupon says it’s free. I understand they need to scan it for inventory purposes but I gave them the penny because they insisted on it. Not worth my time to fight over it.

  36. That70sHeidi says:

    @Machete_Bear: Absolutely! Hence the click-through ;)

  37. Beerad says:

    Ummm, isn’t it likely that this was just a test transaction to make sure the CC was valid before the bar let the OP put 500 bucks worth of booze on his tab only to find that his card wouldn’t take the charge? Or is there some reason why this wouldn’t be the case?

    Yeah, it’s kinda funny and/or dumb that they didn’t put the cent back on there but meh.

  38. dugn says:

    @SOhp101: Uh. Read the article. Still had the same comment. Be nice.

  39. bluewyvern says:

    I’m just amused by the tiny amounts of all those other transactions. I’m imagining a baby credit card with a $10.00 credit limit.