You have no doubt heard of the phenomenon of the people who ‘dine and dash’. These are people who eat in a restaurant and then leave without paying. The usual perpetrators are small groups of young men. Why they do it is unclear, since usually it is not because they are hungry and lack money for food. Maybe they treat it as a lark. This is a despicable practice, especially since some restaurants dock the server for the amount of the unpaid bill. Given that servers get paid less than the minimum wage, this seems particularly outrageous.
Now comes along this story of a man who has combined the dine and dash strategy with online dating.
Marjorie Moon’s date had warned her he was “big into food.” So when Paul Guadalupe Gonzales ordered a second round of lobster tails during their dinner at an upscale steakhouse in Glendale, California, she wasn’t too alarmed.
“I thought for a little guy, man, you sure do eat a lot,” Moon recalled of the May 2016 date.
Sure, there were a couple of minor red flags. He’d laid it on a bit thick during their meal at Lawry’s The Prime Rib, repeatedly gushing about her good looks and even telling their waitress what a lucky guy he was.
But she realized his worst flaw too late: Gonzales loves food, but he wants it for free. As the pair, who had met on a dating app, waited for their soufflé dessert, Gonzales stepped out to make a phone call and never returned, leaving Moon with their $250 bill.
She felt as deflated as the lonely soufflé sitting on their table.
“I just wanted to get home, you know, lick my wounds, so I paid the bill and I left,” Moon said.
She’s hardly the only victim of Gonzales’ alleged dine-and-dash scheme. The serial dater-and-ditcher was arrested over the weekend after multiple women came forward to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office with their horror stories, saying the 45-year-old went to dinner with them and disappeared before the bill came. All told, he allegedly conned them out of a combined $950.
Why he drags unwitting strangers into this scheme is not clear, unless he gets some kind of perverse pleasure from humiliating his dates in addition to leaving them to pay the bill.
There is no question that he is a jerk. But while I am glad he was caught, I was surprised at the severity of the sentence he faces. His bail was set at $315,000 and he could face up to 13 years in prison. That seems like a lot for what is petty larceny. But the US legal system is bizarre, with minor offenses often resulting in large bail amounts and prison time while people who swindle others on a grand scale, even depriving people of their life savings, get much less severe punishments.