Revenge of the Restaurant

Spare yourself the public shaming, and pay for your damn meal.

Published November 13, 2023

According to the National Restaurant Association, 1/3 of new restaurants won’t last their first year. The ones who do make it have to deal with low profit margins, and trouble finding and keeping staff. The staff that does stay are overworked and underpaid.

So consider the recent case in Spain, where a man was caught trying to avoid paying his restaurant bill by faking a heart attack. The seemingly well-to-do customer ordered a pricy meal of seafood risotto, and downed it with two whiskeys. When he got up to leave, the staff stopped him to ask if he was gonna, you know, give them $37.

At first, the customer tried to tell them that he would go to his hotel and return with the payment, but they weren’t having that, so the client put on “a theatrical display,” faking a heart attack, pretending to faint, and slumping down to the floor. The customer asked for an ambulance, but instead, workers called the police – who recognized him as the man who had fleeced 19 other establishments the exact same way, after ordering steak, seafood, and various whiskeys.

The dude spent six weeks in jail, but sadly, he’s just a small part of a long tradition of people scamming restaurants.

The old pluck-and-plate

Apparently 2017 was a golden era for the “hair in my food” scam. In March, in Australia, a customer reached into her hair, yanked a couple of strands out, then furiously mixed them into the remaining pasta on her plate. When she called the staff over, they called her out and told her that they knew the blond strands came from her own head. The client proceeded to throw a tantrum, threatening to put a terrible review online, but the restaurant staff stood firm. 

In the days that followed she followed through on her Yelp threat – and the restaurant responded by putting the video on social media. Well-played!

Later that year, a couple tried the same stunt back in Mother England, and were similarly caught out immediately, albeit without the public shaming this time. If you have trouble with the “don’t be a dick to restaurants” rule, at least maybe you can remember “there are cameras everywhere”?

The even older dine-and-dash

Yes, sigh, dine-and-dash is on the rise too, with a Houston funeral party recently walking out on a $542 tab, and a Florida restaurateur starting a little cottage industry of shame-shame videos with weirdly high production values.

It’s worth the effort: The restaurants have to eat the whole cost, or, in some cases, the server has to pay up for the disappearing act, as long as the deduction doesn’t bring their earnings below minimum wage (and lest you forget, the federal minimum wage for tipped waitstaff is a measly $2.13). 

Criminal charges for committing an act of dine-and-dash vary from state to state. In California, you could be fined up to $1,000 and/or sentenced to 6 months in county jail. In Ohio, Florida and New York you would be charged with a misdemeanor. In Mississippi, you could be charged with a felony if the bill is more than $25.  Is it worth it? We think not.

In addition to dining and dashing (pathetic), putting hair strands in food (gross), and faking medical emergencies (wtf), also on the menu are credit card fraud and discount fraud (falsely claiming eligibility, or using counterfeit coupons). Sadly, restaurants have to deal with a table d’hôte of fraud on a regular basis… so yeah, get out there and support your local establishment right now! And pay! And tip!