My First Dine And Dash Experience

dine and dash in process

If there’s one thing restaurateurs hate more than cheap tipper – it’s the infernal dine and dash. Supposedly events of patrons ordering food and drinks while enjoying the ambiance, only to disappear before the bill comes is a regular occurrence in many restaurants. That’s news to me, because I’ve never seen or experienced such a thing, nor am I too familiar with the words “dine and dash”.

Enjoying a nice meal and dashing out on the bill is a regular occurrence to the restauranteurs – a shocking fact to me. In fact, many restaurants claim “Dine & Dash” incidents have spiked during the recession, and have held steadily since.

Earlier this week I was out with for dinner with some friends on a patio at a local restaurant. After nearly two hours of great company, laughs, a prime-rib steak for me and even desert (not a frequent occurrence), we paid our bill and headed outside towards our vehicles.

I was fortunate enough to have prime parking space that night in a restaurant that’s typically pretty busy. We hung around my car as we talked some more, and just before saying our goodbye’s, two women (slightly heavier sets) ran (or should I say dashed) by us and hopped into a parked car two parking spots down from where we were standing.

As they ran by, I commented, “WTF, did the place just get robbed? LOL” in a snarly sarcastic tone as I tried to gauge what all the buzz was about.

Only moments later when the waitress hopped the patio gate in distress did I realize that a dine and dash happened right in front of us. Seriously, who has the nerve to eat, drink and run off on the bill? Apparently two overweight 20-something year old’s have the nerve.

To make a long story short, the car with the two dashers jetted off through the parking lot, and the waitress came out, realized the getaway car, threw her flip-flops off and jetted across the parking lot in pursuit of the getaway car. Unfortunately, this story doesn’t have a happy ending (this is not Hollywood people!), the culprits got away, the waitress returned empty handed, angry and in tears as her co-workers greeted her while comforting her back inside.

waitress serving

Problem On The Rise

Eating in a restaurant and leaving without paying the tab — known in police terminology as “theft of service” — rose almost 20 percent since the recession hit in 2008. Unlike teenagers who make a run for the door when they realize their allowance won’t cover the slice of pizza, the older crowd is more calculated and deliberate. Some customers will ring up a big bill and exit as the server heads off to get the debit/credit machine; others will coordinate a group cigarette break even leaving a dummy cellphone, an old coat, or an empty purse at the table when they step out. Experts claim that for many of them it’s less about economics and more about an overblown sense of entitlement or the thrill of getting away with it.

Even celebs have been busted. In 2011, actor Gary Collins was arrested for allegedly skipping out on a $59.35 bill. The 72-year-old TV personality spent the night in jail before being released on $5,000 bail. Earlier this year, Dina (Lyndsey Lohan’s mom) or the white Oprah as referred by some, skipped out with her six guests on a $2,500 dinner bill.

Restaurants run on an unusually optimistic business model: they feed you in advance of payment with no chance of recovering the meal if the bill is unpaid. Everyone seems to be realizing the crack in the system and more are taking advantage of it planned and unplanned – singles, couples, families, professionals, young and old are dining and dashing.

The Cost

A growing number of restaurant patrons are eating meals and ducking out before paying – a move that’s illegal. Sadly, the waiter or waitress assigned to their table is getting stuck with the tab. Is that illegal as well or are restaurant owners simply cutting down on their liability through their servers? And maybe that was the reason why the young waitress ran out and tried to chase down culprits – clearly putting herself in a line of danger. 

The laws vary from one province or state to the next. Here in Ontario, it’s illegal for restaurant owners to place the financial liability on the server, yet I’m certain that there are many restaurants that have an agreement between the employer and the sever on who covers the tab in case of a dine and dash – the server.

In several instances, managers are unlikely unaware of the practice being illegal, and the formed contract for the employees who signed an agreement to cover unpaid bills is simply an illegal contract.

Dine-and-Dash and the Law

Simply failing to pay a bill when due is generally not a crime in most circumstances or jurisdictions. It is a contract debt, and the act is civil rather than criminal in nature. However, there are often laws that apply specifically to restaurants, hotels, and other circumstances, where the presumption is that the customer never intended to pay their bill and therefore obtained the valuable services under false pretenses, a form of criminal fraud.

So, next time you (or someone you know) think about dine and dashing, think again, it could land you some probation time, house arrest, expensive lawyer fees, lost time or even a little jail time. Running off on any amount of the bill is simply petty, cruel, and pretty sad.

Final Thoughts

Restaurants are the last existing people who issue instant credit. Anytime you sit down for dinner, you’re immediately granted an Visa with no limit. Patrons are given the benefit of the doubt to pay up for their meal, after enjoying great food and the restaurant ambiance.

Thinking about it briefly, restaurants are the only type of establishment that serves us before asking for money upfront. The only other type of business that works on a similar type of model are gas stations, yet there are fewer and fewer gas stations are moving away from allowing you to pump before paying.

In either case, there is an element of trust that is unique to the restaurant business, and it’s a civility that’s worth preserving. Unfortunately in today’s time, there’s an abundance of everything, and very little civility amongst each other. There are more and more people who run with the attitude, “I deserve this or that” and those who believe that they’re the exception to the rule. It’s only a matter of time before restaurants start taking upfront “holds” or “deposits” on our credit cards in order to preserve civility, so everyone can leave with a smile on their face at the end of the night.

Have you ever dine and dashed? Even by total accident? Do you know someone who has? What is your thought on the whole dine and dash subject?



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  1. I’ve never personally done a dine and dash but I have been quite tempted when it takes forever to get our bill. One time when out with ‘friends’ one of them drunkenly tried to sneak out without paying. Problem was that it was only him that left. So we ended up paying his bill ourselves and getting him to pay us back. Needless to say I didn’t hang out with that guy much anymore. It is brutal how waitresses often take the brunt of that loss for the restaurant.
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    • Back in my university days (decades ago) we’d hit a restaurant after the bar. And then we’d sometimes do a dine-and-dash with a difference. We’d all leave except one – that’s the fellow left with the bill. I wouldn’t dine and dash, but after a few beers in my younger days I would stick a buddy with the bill :).

      Unfortunately, more than once I was the one who looked around when they brought the bill over and realized ‘Hey, wait a second. where did everybody go? D’Oh!’. With friends like that, who needs enemies :).
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  2. I love the topics you cover. Especially when they have to do with restaurants! Surprisingly, I’ve never had a dine and dasher at any of the tables I’ve served, though I know people who have. It is surprisingly rare where I work. You’re absolutely right that there is a lot of trust based on patrons and to be honest, I’m surprised I haven’t experienced it. Gives me some faith in humanity :)
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    • Hi LF!
      How did your co-workers feel after the table they served was dined and dashed?
      Were they on the hook for the food bill?
      Glad you haven’t experienced this, it says a lot about you, and I’m certain your customers love you.

      • The server was baffled because the people had ordered appetizers and then they dashed before their meals. It worked out well because we got to eat the meal ;P She wasn’t on the hook for it, management just writes it off as a dine and dash. I am pretty sure servers can’t be charged for it, although of course with shoddy restaurant practices you never know, right?
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  3. I’ve never dined-and-dashed and I used to work at a restaurant so I know how much it screws over the servers. It’s absolutely horrible that somebody would do that to another person; of course they think they’re screwing over the restaurant but since they’re obviously low life scum they obviously don’t know they’re really hurting somebody that needs the money just as badly as they do.

    I do know somebody that was arrested 2 weeks ago for skipping out on a bill. His credit card bounced at Denny’s and he promised to come back and pay the bill in a few days. He claims he forgot about it, but an arrest warrant was issued, and he got picked up a few days later.
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    • Ha!
      That’s a funny story, funny how he “conveniently” forgot to come back and pay at Denny’s.
      Good for them for issuing an arrest warrant, he probably had to put down some money for bail too.
      Do you know what happened next?

  4. I heard about this in college about 40+ years ago. It seems this is more than a business dispute (contract debt). If you go into a restaurant with no intention of paying for the food, how is this a contract? It seems like a crime similar to a hold up.
    krantcents recently posted..Lunch with?My Profile

  5. I have heard of this but never seen this in action!

    Interesting numbers but this is probably in line of small theft and burglary.
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  6. Wow! What a story. I’ve never dined and dashed, but once my husband and I were eating at our favorite neighborhood Mediterranean joint. When it came time to pay we found out that their card machine was temporarily out of service. DH and I pretty much never carry cash so we apologized and said we would go get some. The ever-so-sweet proprietor told us not to worry about it, and that he’d cover it. He insisted. He gave us our meal for free! Granted, it was probably no more than $20 for a couple of falafel wraps and some mint tea.

    Now, hubs and I frequent the joint often and have taken just about every visitor to San Francisco to that little Mediterranean restaurant. The food’s great, the service always comes with a smile, and the card machine works now.

    • Hi Bethy!
      That’s what I call truly quality service. The server didn’t have to comp you for the meal, but realized that they were the ones who dropped the ball. Thanks for sharing a great story! Great humanity does exist after all!

  7. That is a pretty humorous opening image. I have never dined and dashed, but I will say it crossed my mind a few times in college. Then my instincts on right and wrong kicked in :-)
    Sean @ One Smart Dollar recently posted..Beginner’s Guide to Finance – Home MortgagesMy Profile

  8. Great post. I , too, have never done the d ‘n’ d or witnessed it in action. When the bill is taking FOREVER and I have to be somewhere, the thought is quite tempting. But I would never do that. I have such a guilty conscience. :)
    MakintheBacon$ recently posted..Remembering the DJ (Desk Jockey) DaysMy Profile

  9. I’ve never done it but I have walked out without eating on restaurants that take forever to serve me. Once, we went to a restaurant/jazz bar in Vancouver. We sat down and were informed that our bill would include a charge for the performance that night, regardless of whether we purchased dinner or not. Fine, whatever.

    We waited for 5 minutes then got menus. I asked for water.
    25 minutes later, no water. A server came to take drink orders. I ordered a drink and a snack and again asked for water.
    40 minutes later, no water, no drinks, no snack. Nothing. My bf and I walked out. We didn’t pay, but we never got our order either.
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    • Hi CF!
      I don’t blame you on that.
      Funny you mention that. I had something similar happen to me.
      We stopped by for a late night bite after the bar, and ordered food. 15 minutes later, no food yet. The place is semi-full, and a couple walks in, they know the owner/cook, they shake hands, and within five minutes they’re eating. At this point of time I was already fuming, so I said to the the people I was with (4 of us in total) – “We get up and leave when she’s about to bring the food out”. Another 25min passed by, the food started to come out, and just about when she was at our table we got up and exited. As the shocked waitress looked on, all I said “Seriously 40 minutes for a Shwarama?”

  10. I’ve never dine and dashed, but as some others have said I’ve been tempted to just walk out when the service is bad and the bill is slow in coming. I’ve never actually walked out though, I think I’d feel too bad for the wait staff I walked out on, even if their service wasn’t the best.

    Love the pic at the top!
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  11. i have never had a restaurant job, but experienced something similar all the time when I worked at a gas station as a teenager.. you’d be surprised how many cars try to steal gas..

    of course.. my manager had installed cameras and we reported every single person who did this to the police, who in turn, would add their license plates to their database…

    with the prevelance of guns in our society, however, i would be reluctant to try and stop a dine and dash OR a drive-off if i saw one in progress… people are crazy these days.
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    • I’m not surprised by gas stealing at all. Here where I live, there have been a few attendants over the past 5-6 years that were killed when trying to stop a gas stealing thief, they’re run down or an accident happens – over $50? It’s kinda sad actually.

  12. My wife and dash and dined on a couple of drinks once after waiting 40 minutes to have our order taken. They should almost have to make it like gas stations where you pay before eating.

  13. Never done it, seen it a few times … but mostly I wanted to comment and ask why you felt the need to point out repeatedly that the women you saw were “heavy set” and “overweight”. Neither of those points had anything to do with your story at all. All it did was imply that fat people go to restaurants to stuff their faces and skip out on the bill. Maybe next time you can leave the fat bashing out of it, ok?

    • Kara,
      I do see you point, and I suppose it didn’t have much to do with it in the end. However, at that given moment it was just funny.
      Next time I’ll leave it out :)

    • I agree, that commentary wasn’t necessary and it was insulting. How many of your readers might be heavyset?

      • Michelle!
        You’re the first one to comment on it.
        I don’t look at people’s pictures on who’s overweight or not. I recognized the point, now I’m dropping it, and lets move on. Thank you!

  14. I have heard of this and sometimes when out to dinner, people will joke about doing it but I have never done this horrible act. It’s hilarious that you witnessed this and it will probably happen again in my or your near future as a new recession is expected to occur here in the U.S. and it might trickle up to Canada.
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