After entering a restaurant and sitting down, the server promptly came to the table to take my group's order. After taking the order the server then asked us to pay in advance. Wow, really? Why are we being asked to pay before we get our food? Was there something I was missing? In the years I have eaten out, never have I been asked to pay for my meal in advance. Now to be fair, it was 2 in the morning, in a somewhat sketchy part of Oakland's Jack London Square. Since curious minds want to know, I started doing some research.
Apparently, there has been a resurgence of a phenomenon simply know as "Dine and Dash!" Yes, Dine and Dash if you have never heard of it (you may have heard of it in a different form: dine and ditch, lick and split, chew and screw, eat and fleet, and many other names depending where in the country you live.) Basically, it is when either an individual or a group of people enter a restaurant and order food with no real intent on paying for the meal(s); they eat, then when the server is preoccupied, they leave without paying the bill.
I personally know of one who did a Dine and Dash in Daly City California at a Denny's, and got caught. He had to pay restitution and do community service; not to mention now he has a criminal record. But that person will remain nameless (no need to check it was not me!)
I have checked with numerous servers and restaurant owners who say there has been an increase in so called Dine and Dash events, although there has been a slight uptick in people who willfully enter a restaurant with absolutely no money and order food. Here is the difference: Dine and Dashers often have enough money to pay for the meal, but they choose not to. Too often it is alcohol induced courage, or just plain stupidity. Instant idiot just add alcohol.
What I found out with some restaurants is, rather than make its customers pay in advance, like the one I visited on Oakland's Jack London Square, they actually have workers secretly record the license plates of people they suspect are going to try and skip out without paying for a meal the server who has been doing this for a while knows what to look for. Now the majority of Dine and Dash incidents seem to occur during the cloak of darkness; however, I am hearing more and more that some are now happening in broad daylight.
Even actors have been accused ordering food, eating and not paying. Actor Gary Collins, who according to published reports, skipped out on a $60 tab and ended up being arrested but later the restaurant claimed it was just a misunderstanding. Now I know some people think, "Hey, that's what restaurants have insurance for." Well I hate to break this to you, but in almost every case the server you stiffed has to foot the bill: usually out of his or her wages or tips, which usually is not that much.
But get this: the people committing Dine and Dash crimes are not bound by any racial groups, but by age. The majority of people doing this appear to be young diners over the age of 21 probably because they can legally drink, although I'm sure you can find just people of different ages doing it. Although I was not able to find any real statistics on how much is lost annually to these incidents, any loss incurred as a result of this form of fraud to too high and affects everyone. I'm just saying!
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Just remember, try to help someone this week. Donate food to your local food bank or make a momentary contribution to a homeless shelter in your neighbourhood. Whatever you do this week, take time out to make a difference.