According to Nation’s Restaurant News, the traditional dine-and-dash is flourishing in these recessionary times.
No mere adolescent prank, customers of all stripes are slipping out without paying, stiffing owners and servers at restaurants all along the dining scale. There are surreptitious walkouts, made easier by waitstaff cutbacks. Some customers will ring up a big bill and exit without signing the credit card receipt, leaving the restaurant with little proof when the charge is later contested. And of course there will always be diners who refuse to pay for the steak, already eaten but incorrectly prepared, or the wine that they drank but insist was inadequate.
Like a platinum AmEx with no limit.
There is an element of trust that is unique to the restaurant business. No collateral is given, no credit check is run, identification isn’t even demanded; yet a restaurant is willing to feed you in advance of payment with no chance of recovering the meal if the bill is unpaid. It basically extends instant credit to all its patrons.
Dine-and-dash and the law.
Failing to pay a bill is not normally a crime, but if the presumption is that the customer never intended to pay the check, it’s considered criminal fraud. And when the tab is high enough, it can be a felony. Some restaurant owners will deduct the loss from the server’s wages presumably to incent employees to police their customers. In fact this is a violation of federal labor laws.
When it pays to be a nobody.
In the annals of true crime, few are as idiotic and incomprehensible as the tales of the celebrity d-and-d. Maybe they think that it’s payment enough to grace us with their presence. Restaurant owners tend to see things differently. Celebrities who have been caught in the scam include run-in regular Jeremy Piven, lovin’ the free cheesecake Foxy Brown, is he broke or just drunk Dennis Rodman, left them holding the [grocery] bag Adam Sandler, and the crown-forfeiting Miss Teen Louisiana, who probably could have pulled it off in any of the other 49 states.
What would you do?
ABC News hired three actors to play hungry teens, and two more to portray a diner waitress and her manager. Each time the same scene was played out, there were a few stares and raised eyebrows, but otherwise none of the diner’s patrons reacted when the teenagers brazenly strolled out without picking up the check. But when the customers saw the waitress’s distress, there were repeated offers from other tables to pay the unpaid tab, and customers who were willing to speak on her defense to the manager.
Watch the full episode of What Would You Do? at ABC TV.
Read about the exploits of America’s most prodigious dine-and-dasher. By the time the police caught on and put an end to his crime spree, he had amassed an arrest record that ran 133 pages.