But while the now-notorious YouTubed "meatball gang" from Virgilio's may have scored some free eats, they're paying for them with humiliation in Internet perpetuity, and possible litigation if anyone reports daddy dasher and the tater tots to local authorities. Still, learning how to spot the eat-it-and-beat-it tables could be the best way to keep people honest, since tracking down non-payers and beating the food back out of them isn't a legal option.
Here are the top five classic chew-and-screw types:
5. Large parties that split checks at the end.
Restaurant staffers know what a huge pain it is to set up for, wait on and clean up after big parties -- thus the automatic gratuity that smart eateries slap on the bill. But that's not doing much good if some of the diners are balking at paying the bill altogether; larger groups are fertile ground for ticket-jumpers. The parties that wait until the end to mention that they need separate checks send the server scrambling to divide everything up, and the confusion creates the perfect opportunity for a few well-stuffed scammers to leave and stick the restaurant (or, in some cases, the server) with the check. Especially nefarious are Sunday church groups (apparently Jesus doesn't mind them stealing brunch) as well as prom and/or homecoming kids (usually too dumb to count change) and parties that start out with a few people and grow by adding friends until they take over half of the dining room. The poor server can barely keep up with whose stuff goes on what ticket, so it's not tough for a ditch bitch to gobble down some mozzarella sticks, then make a break for it.
4. People who are vastly under-dressed for the venue.
It sounds like a pretty heartless thing to stereotype people based on their appearance, but when you are a server whose paycheck is on the line, you really want to protect yourself from thievery in whatever way you can. If someone comes into a nice restaurant reeking of vegetable beef B.O. with a greasy, tangled mop and ratty, ill-fitting clothing (and isn't a hipster or one of the Olsen twins), then it's best to keep an eye out for missing salt and pepper shakers. If they order a grip of expensive appetizers and scarf them down like it was the last supper, barely touch their entrée and ask for it boxed, then order a dessert, you should trail them to the can unless you want to personally treat them to a free meal.
3. People who are way over-dressed for the restaurant. A common misconception is that if you look like you have money, then you do. If it seems like your single diner is trying too hard to impress you and everyone else in the room with her ostentatious handbag, oversized sunglasses and gaudy jewelry, remember that fake Tiffany jewelry and knockoff Armani shoes are actually cheap as hell and easy to get, and posers are self-entitled enough to imagine that they deserve to nip at caviar when they can't afford a bowl of Cheerios. Make sure they pay the check before they head out the door to smoke their Nat Sherman, because you may be reduced to smoking Basics if you have to foot the bill for their expensive dinner.
2. The noticeably anti-social diners.
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These persona non payers are gruff, even rude, and avoid making direct eye contact or even the briefest conversation in the hopes that their server will ignore them and make it a snap for them to silently ingest a steak dinner with all the trimmings, then ninja out the door before you realize they stole the raspberry cheesecake right from under your nose. This common scam works pretty well because servers generally don't like to try and make small talk with boorish people -- nobody does, really -- but keep one eye on them at all times, because the only thing worse than paying for a strangers' supper is ponying up for an asshole strangers' supper.
1. People who oink out, then complain and want their meal free.
These diners, usually families with kids, are the worst offenders of the bunch because instead of eating quietly while plotting their marathon-sprint escape, they savor every morsel of their gigantic meal and treat the server like a sippy-cup refilling slave for a couple of hours until, all of a sudden, in the last bite of the last dish, they discover the thorax of a deadly brown recluse spider. Or a hair, a bobby pin, a unicorn sticker, a fingernail or a fragment of something they are allergic to. Then they demand their entire tab be complimentary, and nothing less will be acceptable. Their subterfuge is obvious and their ability to bully restaurant staff into feeding them for free obviously honed over time and experience; these people should be forced to scrub the pots and pans for being manipulative crooks, and also for teaching their kids to behave like gastronomic pirates. The best thing to do with these pay-resistant diners is to not give them what they want.Teach them a lesson by making them pay their bill, and tell them if they want a free meal to go eat a sh*tburger.