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Apr 29 2012

Stealing from restaurants

An article by someone who works in the restaurant business points out that rich people seem to have no qualms about taking stuff from restaurants.

Depending upon the sporting season, people especially enjoy stealing empty pint glasses with Patriots, Red Sox and Bruins’ logos, dirty silverware, cloth napkins (I recently waited on a table of refined women from which all four napkins disappeared. I hope the subtle forest green linen matches the trim on the coffee cups and saucers on the snootiest lady’s bridge table at the weekly game), wicker bread baskets and the little individually wrapped butter patties, massive handfuls of mints on the way out, the bowl the mints were displayed in, votive candles in the glass holders from the Dollar Store, fancy soap in the restroom, framed art off the walls, knickknacks placed on shelves, and literally anything that isn’t nailed down.

She adds, “Revoltingly, I’ve seen people take forgotten leftovers belonging to complete strangers boldly off a table that had yet to be cleared.”

Why do some well-to-do people behave in such ways? Mind you, these are not poor people stealing out of need. They are just either extraordinarily cheap or weird. I doubt that they walk off with small items when they eat at a friend’s home.

It may be that they think that they are paying too much for their meal, that they are being ripped off somehow, and thus feel entitled to even the score.

Of course the food in restaurants costs a lot more than the sum of its ingredients and the labor involved in making it. You are also paying for all that goes into creating the ambiance that goes into making rich people feel that they are being pampered. That takes a bit of money too.

In my opinion, the worst people are those who stiff the wait staff.

Everyone in the business has a story about the guy who graciously threw down a stack of bills after a great meal, only to have half of them picked up by his wife or girlfriend when he goes to the bathroom. I’ve seen secretaries scratch out, lower, and falsely initial credit card tips, and have overheard people say, “Oh, don’t leave that much, they make a fortune.” This kind of theft isn’t for material gain or simple sport, it’s just mean spirited and petty.

Not only should one always tip the wait staff appropriately, one should also treat courteously all those in the hospitality business who are required to be nice to strangers as part of their job. Because of their powerlessness, they often have to put up with utterly obnoxious people who take advantage of the fact that they can’t respond in kind. Treating them well is the least one can do.

Humorist Dave Barry once gave this useful piece of advice: Beware of people who are nice to you but rude to the wait staff. They are not nice people.

28 comments

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  1. 1
    Kylie Sturgess

    I concluded one guy (who had irritated the heck out of me anyway and even bullied a friend) as a complete write-off after he took out the additional bills left as a tip and openly pocketed them during someone’s birthday dinner at a restaurant. Mind, tipping isn’t the norm in my country, but to deprive someone of a few dollars after great service just due to greed – and someone else’s celebration – was the last straw.

  2. 2
    'Tis Himself

    I work at a casino which has over 20 food and beverage outlets. Few items get taken from the fast food outlets. But we’ve had to do away with things like silver napkin rings in the upscale restaurants because too many of them were walking out the door.

  3. 3
    Aquaria

    Why do some well-to-do people behave in such ways? Mind you, these are not poor people stealing out of need. They are just either extraordinarily cheap or weird. I doubt that they walk off with small items when they eat at a friend’s home.

    They do it because restaurant owners are so cowardly–er, scared of losing the rich scumbags’ business that they don’t do what they would to an ordinary person who robbed them: Call the cops on the thieving scumbags.

    These restaurants usually have the names of these people and also their license plate numbers. They would be a fucking breeze to find. Call the cops, give them the description, offense, and so on. But the cops are never called. Because the restaurants would lose their posh clientele, and they know it. So they let themselves be robbed without consequence, and then have the nerve to whine about it?

    Sorry, but I have very little sympathy for these restaurants. They courted the business of these scumbags, they kowtow to the turds to the point that they don’t call the cops on the obvious thieves amongst their customers, and they want my sympathy?

    You must be joking.

  4. 4
    jws1

    @#2: Yeah, serves ‘em right! They got what was comin’ to ‘em! If they don’t like the consequences of their actions, then they shouldn’t court danger like that. I’m sure you’d have the same opinion if someone were to leave their doors unlocked only to come home to a burglerized (sp?) house. Right? Because it’s their fault that they courted danger like that. And to be consistent, let’s apply your angry thinking to the women’s health conversation: they courted danger, they should live with the consequences, right?

    Did that hit a little too close to home?

  5. 5
    Jon Rowe

    From personal experience, a possible motive is an alcohol induced goof. However, my friends and I left those days behind in our 20s.

  6. 6
    Henry Gale

    I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie Reservoir Dogs, but the character played by Steve Buscemi makes a pretty good argument against tipping :D

    Language advisory:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-qV9wVGb38

    I’ve started looking for more food establishments where their staff is paid a fair wage and tipping is discouraged.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/12/magazine/12tipping-t.html?pagewanted=all

    but sadly the trend isn’t catching on.

    I used to be a terrific tipper until speaking with a friend how was a bartender. Her sense of tipping being an obligation really put me off. She spoke of how if someone didn’t tip her on their first drink she put them at the bottom of the list.

  7. 7
    Mano Singham

    I too hate the practice of tipping and would prefer a situation where people are paid well for their work so that tipping becomes unnecessary. But the sad truth is that wait staff are paid sub-minimum wages in this country with the expectation that they make it up in tips. I cannot in good conscience deprive someone who needs the money today in order to influence changes in social policy tomorrow.

  8. 8
    amhovgaard

    How do you think these people got so rich? Being greedy, cheap, stingy and not burdened by morals/a conscience/concern for other people really helps.

  9. 9
    machintelligence

    jws1 @ 4
    You missed the home and appear to have landed in the wrong thread.

  10. 10
    David Hart

    I was in Japan recently, where I discovered that tipping is not just not done, it’s something of a social faux pas. Presumably they have reasonable rates of pay for waiters there.

    Everywhere else – I suppose until restaurants start to do this voluntarily, the thing to do is ask when you make a reservation what they pay their waiters, and say that you’d rather eat at a place that pays a decent wage than one where they need to rely on charity.

    It may not make you very popular, but it might have a long-term positive effect.

  11. 11
    N. Nescio

    I used to work in high-end fine dining. Like James Beard Award winning fine dining. The highest maintenance guests who were also cheap tippers were the absolute WORST people in the world. Sure our food and wine were expensive, but the professional waitstaff worked their asses off to make sure they did their jobs well and contributed to the overall feeling of pampering and luxury that make fine dining an experience, and not just dinner.

    Something the people who stiffed their servers never realized: professional servers have a terrific memory for people who fuck them over. Further, we had a software-based reservation system that permitted us to keep notes on each and every guest who ever made a reservation with us. Usually it was used to track things like allergies, food aversions, seating preferences, pet peeves, and whatever else we could use to help somebody have an even better experience the next time they dined with us.

    It was also used to track people who were cheap tippers (20% is the norm, anything below 12% or so got you a red flag), stiffed their servers entirely, or were just generally assholes to everybody who had to deal with them. Since the phone number they made reservations with was logged and tied to their file, as soon as they called we knew exactly who they were before the reservationist even picked up the phone.

    It’s funny how many times they’d call only to find we were “fully booked” or “didn’t have a table available at that time”. If they made it past that by arriving without a reservation during service, they got the newest and least experienced staff to wait on them, guided by a front server who knew how to deal with them.

    And that’s only the front of house. The kitchen was tipped the wink as well, and you’d better believe that they got the oldest and slightly dubious cuts of protein instead of the nice fresh stuff we’d cut just 30 minutes before service began. We never messed with the food beyond that (we had the fear of Chef in us), but it sure was satisfying to serve that ‘save for well done’ cut of ribeye as a med-rare to the guy who likes to scream at and humiliate staff because it makes him feel big and important. Blew my mind to see that people thought shelling out $300 for dinner for two was license to treat professional service staff like personal slaves.

    Long story short? Don’t fuck with the people who feed you. We know how to fuck you right back AND take your money at the same time.

  12. 12
    N. Nescio

    It won’t change anything, actually.

    The person who takes your call will say something professional and non-committal, hang up the phone, and move on to take reservations from people who don’t mind paying for good service.

    I personally took at least one of those calls every month or so, and believe me, it doesn’t do anything but make us roll our eyes.

  13. 13
    Didaktylos

    How does the saying go? – The true measure of a person’s character is revealed in the way the treat people when the only restraint upon them, de facto or de jure is their own conscience.

  14. 14
    Michael Brew

    I, too, rather dislike the practice of tipping (and I was in the service industry for a few years). As a server, I always felt a little shame every time I took that two or three dollars someone tossed on the table. As a customer, I just hate doing math.

  15. 15
    Forbidden Snowflake

    people who don’t mind paying for good service.

    The customers are paying for the service no matter what the arrangement is; the service is just either included or not included in the price of the dinner. Framing the question as if people who would prefer to see waiters get stable salaries just don’t want to pay is rather dishonest.

  16. 16
    'Tis Himself

    What are you talking about?

  17. 17
    smrnda

    The rich steal from workers every single day – plenty of rich people upset that their pay might not climb by 50% every year don’t think of fighting minimum wage increases tooth and nail and it’s doubtless that they can really be unaware of how difficult it is to live on minimum wage.

    Basically, to rich people, they are the only ones who count. The rest of everybody else are just lowly insects who should be glad that they don’t get exterminated and that our rich overlords keep us around to eke out a pittance doing their dirty work. They view the world as ‘theirs’ and everybody else is ‘on their property.’

    They probably see not-tipping as a means of stealing from workers that they do not have the ability to steal from directly by wages.

  18. 18
    Art

    I don’t know how many wealthy people have told me they “don’t pay retail”. Implicit in this is a mindset that they are special, don’t pay what others do, and that they are entitled to pay less than others.

    Many of these same people feel the need to demand extra service, special handling, and will resort to theft if all else fails to make the total cost they pay for any set level of service less than what others do. It is releveling in service to their ego and desire to be special.

  19. 19
    'Tis Himself

    All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

  20. 20
    tuibguy

    I think it is okay to tell people who “don’t pay retail” that you “don’t sell wholesale.”

  21. 21
    Tim

    For those interested in more inside perspectives on being a wait staff, I would recommend:

    http://waiterrant.net/

    I found Waiter Rant (the book) to be an interesting read.

  22. 22
    Scott

    I used to deliver pizza, and the worst tippers were always the wealthier people. I once got only a 50-cent tip from a minister on a $30 order teo days before Christmas (which is a different issue entirely). The best tips were usually from the average- to lower-income people. One person who lived in low-income housing gave me a $20 tip. I told her she must have made a mistake. She said no, she had just won $1000 on the lottery and wanted to spread the wealth around a bit.

  23. 23
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    Think they meant Aquaria’s response #3, not your #2.

  24. 24
    James

    I have eaten at a few establishments where all gratuity (regardless of size of party) is 15% and automatically calculated as part of the bill. Additional tip can be left if the service was exceptional. However, to give less of a tip you need to request to speak with the manager. I think that this is a good system. If there really is a problem with the server the manager should know.

  25. 25
    jamessweet

    I’m not at all surprised about the theme pint glasses. Although I have never engaged in such theft myself, some people very close to me have indulged in it from time to time. Really, my motivation for refraining is less ethical and more practical: I know of at least one bar that switched to chinsy plastic pint glasses because they got tired of the glass ones being stolen. NOOOooooooo….!!!!!

  26. 26
    itzac

    I think you’ve hit on a general human tendency to value what you bring to the table over what everyone else has to offer. For me it’s most prominent on both sides of labour disputes. Management wants to drive wages down to zero because apparently without labour the machines will continue to run themselves. Labour wants higher wages at all costs because, I guess, the facilities come for free.

    I’m exaggerating a little, obviously, but these disputes seem always to come down to a lack of shared purpose. Or at least a failure to recognize common interests.

    /ramble.

  27. 27
    Leni

    I love the religious people who leave the fake money with the Jesus propaganda on the other side. Assholes!

    Invariably they have 3+ kids, make a huge mess, order the cheapest crap (partly because kids don’t really eat that much, I’ll give them that), and require the most attention. And then leave you religious crap like that’s going to pay your rent. Ugh.

    I worked at a Thai restaurant for a few years and I can not tell you glad I was that American kids, in general, want nothing to do with anything that isn’t pizza, cheeseburgers, or mac-n-cheese. These families would come in, find out there was no children’s menu and walk right back out. That was possibly the most gratifying part about working there.

  28. 28
    itzac

    I wish there was place you could go to buy branded glasses.

    This leads to an interesting story. I like Hoegaarden and I wanted one of their distinctive glasses. When I asked a bar tender on a quiet night if he knew of any place I could get one legitimately, the manager, who I didn’t realize was sitting right next to me, told the bar tender to give me one off the shelf. It’s remarkable what you can get if you just ask nicely.

  1. 29
    Restaurants: High End and Heavy End « blueollie

    [...] This surprises me: but some high end restaurants suffer from petty theft by their customers! You might surf to Mano Singham’s blog to read the comments; some are funny. [...]

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