Honey, Was That PotBelly's Sandwich $4.23 Or $858,432?

Sorry PotBelly Sandwich Works customers, you can’t order the Chicken Salad Sandwich unless you qualify for a mortgage. Ashley’s husband thought his usual lunchtime meal cost $4.23, but, as his wife discovered when trying to pay their credit card bill, the sandwich actually costs $858,432.06.

Ashley writes:

My husband works in downtown Minneapolis and has the annoying habit of putting small purchases on his credit card (under $5.00). He patronizes a chain here called PotBelly Sandwich Works, never spending more than $4.50 a pop. Last week I was paying our credit card bill online and noticed we had pending charges of $858,432.06. Yes–almost a million dollars. Needless to say, our credit limit is about $825,000 less than that. We called Chase and were told that the pending charges were indeed correct but that the charge had been rejected. When the rep told us the charge was made by PotBelly, I couldn’t help but laugh. There was a charge that same day from PotBelly for $4.23 because my husband had purchased a sandwich, but that was it. The fraud rep said that because the charge was rejected, not to worry about it, but that it wouldn’t disappear from our pending column unless PotBelly reversed the charge. There was no mention from the fraud department of canceling our cards and issuing us new ones. When my husband went to PotBelly the next day, they could give us no information. I can’t imagine them reversing an $858,000 charge anyway, especially without a receipt (given this was done after my husband had left the premises.) My husband works in IT for a large corporation and thinks this is nothing but a system glitch and doesn’t think it’s worth pursuing because the charge was rejected.

My question is: what is our next step and what should we be worried about? It sounds as if someone didn’t close out a ticket and just kept charging my husband’s card. However, there’s no way in hell this Potbelly does $858,000 in business in a day–or even a year, I imagine. Anyone who wanted to commit fraud wouldn’t, I presume, be so dumb as to charge nearly a million bucks on a personal credit card. The charge is bound to be rejected. I am also disturbed that we did not receive a call from Chase when this charge was put through, but that’s a minor quibble at this point. Any advice would be much appreciated.

Ashley is covered under the Fair Credit Billing Act, which protects against incorrect charges. The FTC has instructions for formally disputing the charge, but we wouldn’t fret. Chase rejected the charge, and even if they hadn’t, it wouldn’t be a tough charge to reverse. Sure, her husband may have eaten the sandwich, but PotBelly’s still hasn’t delivered the pool, tennis court, or the several cars that had to have been promised as side dishes.


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  1. SomeoneGNU says:

    Maybe your husband is just hiding those 200,000 sandwiches he purchased for the wild party he had? It is a shame you don’t have the receipt/slip as I’d be interested to see if it had the right amount or if the glitch happened somewhere else.

    • racermd says:

      @SomeoneGNU: Are you referring to a wild party – a party in which things may get out of hand – or a Wild party – a party with a Minnesota Wild (our hometown hockey team) theme?

      Could go either way on that…

  2. timmus says:

    That’s incredible that the restaurant can even skate through with a charge that high. If I tried this with our merchant account, it would almost definitely be suspended. I’d like to find out who they’re banking with.

  3. mugsywwiii says:

    t snds s f smn ddn’t cls t tckt nd jst kpt chrgng my hsbnd’s crd.

    t dsn’t snd t ll lk tht hppnd. mn rlly, hw cld y vn thnk tht hppnd? Tht’s jst stpd.

    • mugsywwiii says:

      Her husband sounds like a smart, reasonable guy on the other hand.

    • mugsywwiii says:

      Apparently a moderator thinks is IS plausible that a restaurant would leave a ticket open and charge $858k to it in a day? Hah! Sorry if I call a spade a spade – the idea that something like that would happen is laughable.

    • MustyBuckets says:

      @mugsywwiii: I’m sure it was your tone, not your statement. What probably happened is that the cashier typed in the wrong number to start with tied and failed to delete it, then typed in the correct one and processed it. A simple mistake.

    • I hate to point this out, but according to that screen cap, this happened over two months ago if the next statement date was 8/2/08. Shouldn’t this have been resolved by now? If it hasn’t, I think THEN there’s a problem. Is there a copy of the husbands receipt, either his own copy, or the one he signed which shows the amount? I think this story has some questions to be answered before we all pass judgment on either party.

      I think what happened is this store has a credit system which is not attached to the register. So the person enters the amount in a terminal, then tells the register it was paid with a CC. Looks like the person before had a 8.58 charge, and the person didn’t hit enter. When this ladies husband came through, they punched in his amount, then swiped his card, which pushed the other card out of the buffer, and charged the whole shebang to his card.

    • jonworld says:

      @pete: That and the whole Internet Explorer thing. Go Firefox!

    • or, maybe he bought a Potbelly sandwich that had more than just meat and cheese…
      (c’mon guys, like that weeds episode? and the Headcheese sandwiches?)

  4. deadandy says:

    As a follow-up question, why are people OK with paying interest on sandwiches from PotBelly?

    • SomeoneGNU says:


      Could be a responsible consumer who uses a credit card and pays the balance every month. Nice way to earn rewards or even 1% discount across the board.

    • mugsywwiii says:

      I wouldn’t assume he’s paying interest on it. Many people use their credit cards for rewards and convenience and pay it off every month. Spending and paying off $3500 in a month is kind of high for an IT worker, but entirely plausible.

    • tom2133 says:

      @deadandy: I am what the credit card companies don’t like: someone who pays off his card purchases like these monthly. I have an airline card from Chase, and that allows me to get miles on my purchases. So he pays $5 for a sandwich, pays off his sandwiches at the end of the month, and gets some miles. That is my theory.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      @deadandy: To those who think the OP is paying off the card every month, you might note the “balance last statement” amount of over $2k.

      • joe714 says:

        @GearheadGeek: What says he’s not revolving 2k a month through the card? The balance last statement field doesn’t mean what you seem to think it does.

        • GearheadGeek says:

          @joe714: d’oh… quite right. The same amount is in the field corresponding to the location of the “last payment amount” in the lefthand column, so they did in fact pay off the entire balance from the previous month and they’ve cranked $3500 through the card in one month (the current month.)

      • iamlost26 says:

        @GearheadGeek: That means how much he owed at the end of the last statement period. It doesn’t count payments made this month to last month’s balance. I bank with Chase, and I’ve never paid a dime of interest, and that “Balance last statement” field always has at least $2000 in it.

        For a couple who shares a credit card, I don’t think $2000/month is a lot at all.

    • acknight says:

      @deadandy: Do you pay interest on pending charges? I don’t…

  5. snazz says:

    i hate to think that pot belly was charged the merchant fee on that authorization, usually around 3%… my company is still charged the authorization fee even if a charge is declined or not approved.

  6. SuperiorInky says:

    I think the real question here is did that sandwich taste like a million dollars?

  7. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    I had a similar problem with my Chase account but not as $ large. The bank cannot do anything while it is “pending” and have to wait until it posts. In my case, and most likely in your case, the “pending” will not post but will just disappear as if it never existed. Take screen shots and just wait it out.

  8. preservationgal says:

    That looks like a cashier error to me.

    The food-service place I work at has a system where you have to hit “enter” after the dollar amount before scanning a card, otherwise it asks you if you want to charge the credit card number’s worth of money to the card as a “tip”.
    At that point I always say “NO”, cancel the transaction and scan the card a second time for the correct amount of the tab. It’s an error I make at least once a shift, but I always catch the error before it gets past my terminal.

    • jrockway says:

      @preservationgal: I think Potbelly has a more complicated credit-card processing system than smaller merchants. They have touch-screen terminals that afford the person operating the machine little room for error. Touch sandwich name, swipe the card, done.

      This was probably a software error.

  9. I hate to sound like a jerk pointing this out, but according to that screen cap, this happened over two months ago, if the next statement date was 8/2/08. Shouldn’t this have been resolved by now? If it hasn’t, I think THEN there’s a problem. Is there a copy of the husbands receipt/charge, either his own copy, or the one he signed which shows the amount? I think this story has some questions to be answered before we all pass judgment on either party, store or customer.

    I think what happened is this store has a credit system which is not attached/joined to the register. So the person enters the amount in a terminal, then tells the register it was paid with a CC. Looks like the person before had a 8.58 charge, and the cashier didn’t hit enter. When the husband came through, they punched in his amount, then swiped his card, which pushed the other card out of the memory, and charged the whole thing to his card.

  10. homerjay says:

    Come on! Give PotBelly’s a break! They CLEARLY got the numbers 4, 2, and 3 in there. What more could you expect??

  11. OminousG says:

    The charge looks like its the combo of several small order, 1 for 8.58 and 1 for 4.23.

    Hasn’t consumerist run a couple of stories already about fast food joints bunching in bad numbers and locking families out of their savings for a weekend cause of the tiem it takes to reverse these charges?

  12. OminousG says:

    damnit, this place really needs an edit button :(

  13. azntg says:

    Even though the charge didn’t go through, just imagine… At $858,432, that better be one BIG and TASTY sandwich!

  14. pete says:

    The real crime here is the OP using Norton Internet Security.
    Biggest pile of app crap out there.

  15. Jbondkicks says:

    Apparently they weren’t referring to color when they mentioned the sandwich’s ruby red tomatoes and golden bun.

  16. maztec says:

    I personally like that according to Norton Internet Security there is no Fraud here. Good to know!

  17. Sjixxxy says:

    And here I thought I had it bad when I got charged $4004.00 for a single beer this june.

  18. TreyWaters says:

    Similar thing happened to me once. I charged around $35 for some stuff, and my CC got charged around $150. Took my receipt and copy of my statement into the store.

    Turned out their system rolls up charges and bulk sends them to their CC processor. Somehow I got charged for the roll-up amount. The store took a few hours to research the issue, but found it. They refunded the full amount and offered not to charge me the original amount due to the trouble.

  19. Athenor says:

    I’ve seen this happen before at my place of work. In my coworker’s case, it glitched reading a UPC, and prompted for a price. Now, that isn’t supposed to happen, so the coworker kept scanning, thinking it was fine.

    The next UPC she entered was processed as the price of the previous item. Thus, the maximum we could charge was put on the bill. Thankfully we caught it early and tried to figure out wha the hell happened (a damaged UPC). But I can see this happening. In this case, my guess is that the credit card number was entered as the price of the item.

  20. BillyShears says:

    And here I was all annoyed that this past summer a local burger place charged me twice for the same meal at the same time.

    That one was a little weird to get out of; the burger place basically told me to take a hike, but Amex saw that short of it being a qunatum burger, two charges at the same exact time for the same price on the same day at the same location was a little more than unusual.

  21. RobinB says:

    Wow, and I thought getting charged $1004 for a Beanie Baby was bad.

  22. failurate says:

    The husband’s receipt, if he still has it, would show $4.23. I doubt the cashier gave him the $850,000 one. Signatures are not required to request money from a credit card. Not sure what the point of the signature process is anymore.

    • mugsywwiii says:

      If the card issuer wanted verification of the transaction, I’m sure they would expect to see a signature (or the CVV code for a remote transaction). No proof, no sale.

  23. AlphaWolf says:

    “My husband works in downtown Minneapolis and has the annoying habit of putting small purchases on his credit card”

    Can you imagine what the mess would have been if he put the purchase on his debit card? I need more annoying habits like this.

    • azntg says:

      @AlphaWolf: Very well said.

    • Green Goth Brit Chick - AlternatEve says:

      @AlphaWolf: Oh god I would love to hear what my local cashier would make of me having a charge on my account like that… Other than “You promised if you won the lottery you’d let me open your mega-interest account!”

    • sventurata says:

      @AlphaWolf: Debit cards don’t have “pending” charges – instantaneous fund transfer. There’d be no mess… not that there’s much here beyond an amusing typo/anecdote, that is. Hey, if she doesn’t want the rational, intelligent husband, send him my way!

  24. EdnaLegume says:

    i’m now no longer going to complain when my credit union calls for charges on my credit card they feel are questionable. I am never anything but thankful to them, but admittedly I get annoyed having to “yes mom, it’s FINE”… them.

    i’d not be satisfied until it was case closed… done deal off my account.

    at 15.99% I hope they’re paying off those pot belly’s each month.

  25. PercyChuggs Was Found At JFK Airport says:

    I’ve been to PotBelly before (the one in Eagan), it was ok. A bit small for the price, but it was decent. Certainly not worth nearly 900K, but what food is? Ok, the old Insider Pizza from Pizza Hut was…but that’s it.

  26. NinoCairns says:

    In short: an authorization request above 50.000 must always be done by phone from the merchant to the creditcard issuer, it may not be approved through swiping it through the machine.

    The merchant could send it without electronic authorization (sales slip) if the amount is lower then his floor limit (but there are no such merchants with such floor limits so it would be denied as well..)

    The electronic request should and would simply be denied and therefor should not be ‘pending’ either.

    Such request happen fairly often, most of the times consumers will never hear or see anything of it.

    These are standard rules for Mastercard and Visa.

  27. Rachacha says:

    From the article: “Anyone who wanted to commit fraud wouldn’t, I presume, be so dumb as to charge nearly a million bucks on a personal credit card. The charge is bound to be rejected.”

    I one worked with someone who’s wife worked in a restaurant. She wanted to know what her cerdit limit was so she would swipe her card through the credit card machine and put in a $1000 transaction. She kept this up until she received a signal that the limit had been reached. When the husband found out and was upset about it, her response was that she didn’t “purchase” anything, so she didn’t think that the charge would go through. So yes, people can be that dumb :-)

    I am surprised that no one has yet commented on the “NO FRAUD DETECTED” at the top of the page with the bright green background. One would think that an $800K charge on a card with a limit of $24K might trigger a fraud alert.

  28. allthoseships says:

    you’d think that when they tried to close out that night & the totals were WAAAAAY off, that someone would try to figure out what happened. so maybe it wasn’t something that they were able to catch in the store, but something with the VISA system they use?

  29. LordofthePing says:

    Sounds like they scanned a bar code or, as others have noted, typed in $8.58 and $4.32 as one number. But that doesnt explain why it actually showed up on their credit.

  30. SinisterMatt says:

    What a “wreck” of a problem. Pun intended.

    (For those who are lost by my comment, Potbelly’s has a sandwich called “A Wreck.” It’s basically a sandwich with 5 or 6 types of meat on it. Good Stuff).

    What I want to know is why the manager didn’t catch this when they counted the drawer down. Suddenly the drawer was $850,000 over? Who robbed the bank?


  31. I love how, on the screenshot, some waste-of-space Norton product decrees that there is “No fraud detected!”

    Talk about a context error…

  32. ZandraCachai says:

    Last month at a pizza joint my wife and I patronize regularly, the waitress rang up $24.50.00 instead of the correct $24.50 charge. She was mortified. The manager instantly reversed the charge — which Bank of America declined anyway. In the end, no harm and no foul. There was no intent to defraud, just a plain mistake — and one we’ll forgive because both the waitress and the owner are neighbors and we like them a lot. Not that this keeps us from ribbing them a little….

  33. attercob says:

    An amusing story. Chase sux imo. I have a Chase credit card and have never bothered to cancel it, but I don’t use it either. The customer service is so bad compared to other cards (ie Amex) that it’s a joke. Just file an official dispute for the $800K charge.

  34. ShaswatiHaeru says:

    Just a thought: Most of the retail CC systems I’ve used normally ask for a confirmation of the last 5 digits of the credit card number. Perhaps this number was inserted accidentally as the amount, and the user did not press Enter or Ok to proceed, and then continued on to enter the amount. This would easily allow for an 8-digit amount (5 digits for credit card verification, 3 digits for actual amount).

    Just a thought. Then of course, somehow the transaction was not properly cancelled, so it shows up as an on-hold amount.

    It’d be really interesting to see what the last 5 digits of the credit card are. My guess would be the card ends in xxx8 5843 (+/- a few digits on the end). There might be other “pending charges” that would affect the total number…

  35. hwyengr says:

    If there’s a sandwich joint I’d be okay with spending 800k at, it’s Potbelly. Turkey provolone on wheat, easy on the mayo, no pickle, no oil, please. And an Oreo shake.

    I miss Chicago.

  36. SiyaSimpson says:

    i think you may have wrote the figures charged down wrong, should be $4.23 & $858,423, or $4.32 Or $858,432, but not $4.23 Or $858,432.

    the final 3 digits of 423 should be the same, as that would be where the error was made, someone previously was charged 8.58 and it wasnt cleared, and then the following charge of 4.23/4.32 was inputed and entered therefore creating this hideous bill.

  37. GrosvenorBon Jovi says:

    My understanding of how the process works in the credit card industry, it wasn’t actually a purchase, that’s why it had an easier time getting through.

    Because the food industry often has tips, the way they do it, the restaurant scans the credit card with the amount of the bill, and the credit card company puts a hold on the amount (a pending transaction). The customer is then given the choice of adding a tip (a step that would be skipped through at an order at the counter). At that point, then the transaction goes through the final approval process.

    Here, odds are the error was caught right after doing the hold, but for whatever reason, the cashier didn’t know how to reverse it, and instead cancelled it and started over.

    I am surprised that chase approved a hold on an amount that far exceeded their credit limit, since it’s also normal that while the amount is being held, it can’t be used for other things.

  38. For a sandwich shop, they should have safeguards in place for charging amounts over $1,000. This is similar to the GoDaddy post, there should be some warning device in place on the machines. It’s a SANDWICH SHOP. Chances are, even if someone came in with their ENTIRE family, they wouldn’t charge over $500. It’s SANDWICHES. In that case, the machines should prompt the amount invalid or let them know amounts in excess of $1,000 require two charges ($1,200 total bill, 1 charge for $1,000, another for $200) Then the customer clearly sees 2 receipts, and signs for both. Most people only glance at 1 receipt, 2 receipts catches attention.

    As for just a system glitch afterwards… where I used to work, our credit card machine printed a monthly statement of how many charges were placed, and I balanced that with the end of the month statements on the computer. Wouldn’t the book keeper for this sandwich shop SEEN this error? If I was the book keeper, I would of immediately contacted the credit card company and set things right.

    I know, I’m probably WAAAAY off keel here, but I’ve seen companies place safeguards like this before. Unfortunately, the bigger the company, the less personalized help you get anymore.

  39. springboks says:

    Again, the importance of actually looking at the sales receipt before signing it. Give it a glance even when merchants say “Oh that purchase is under $25 no signature”. Take a gander at the numbers. Double swipes are also bad news. I’ve had that happen to me at Wal-Mart! Getting double charged for the same amount.

    My guess is 8.58 was already on the screen (from a pervious purchases). Potbelly staff member punches in 4.32(I would do this too @ $8 an hour at the end of a 10 hour shift). Ashleys husband hungrily scarfs down sandwich (I’ve also done this when I am running around, food is so secondary when you’re doing other things).

    Honest mistake on both sides.

  40. superhumanben says:

    Ew Norton Toolbar!

  41. or, maybe he bought a Potbelly sandwich that had more than just meat and cheese…
    (c’mon guys, like that weeds episode? and the Headcheese sandwiches?)

  42. MauriceOryx says:

    Geez, quit trying to get out of paying your bills!
    If the computer says you owe a million dollars then sell your house, cars and children to pay it off.
    I say haul these sandwich-eating scoff-laws to debtor’s prison.

  43. WrightRhea says:

    Working at a company that frequently has to deal with these kinds of situations on cards, I can say that she has nothing to worry about. The fact that the charge is Pending shows that it was canceled before the store closed for the night. They obviously saw that there’d been a mistake, called their CC company, and get it taken care of. The pending charge will remain there as a token of their typo, but no money was transferred in the process, and nor will any be.

  44. ekdikeo says:

    probably “8-5-8” were the menu options the employee had to use to get to the function on their computer to charge .. ie, it was probably already on the “process charge” screen, but the person making the transaction didn’t look,a nd just hit the buttons they would normally hit to get there from the “main” screen.

    At least, that’s what I’d guess.

  45. AnnataVatia says:

    I’m the OP, and I submitted this to Consumerist back in August when it happened. It’s just being posted now, probably because I couldn’t get a line-item shot of the PotBelly charge from Chase, since it was a rejected charge. This still hasn’t been resolved because no one at Potbelly will respond to our calls and when my husband goes into the store during the day to check with a manager, the manager is never there. Nothing’s come of this, but it’s still annoying.