You Won’t Believe Who Pays When You Dine & Dash

Say What!? 13

waitressWhat happens if you dine and dash? Not that YOU would ever! But when someone eats out and decides to skip out before paying the bill, the restaurant owner take the hit, right? Yeah... no. Not necessarily. Apparently some restaurant owners pass the loss on to the most "logical" responsible person, your waiter. That's right, sometimes servers' pay is docked when diners ditch the bill.

You may be wondering -- in what universe does that make any sense at all?!? It doesn't! Unless you think your wait staff should double as security. I believe that's the twisted logic at play here. If you're careless enough not to notice when your customers sneak out without paying you deserve to have your pay docked. Oh yeah, and apparently confronting the miscreants is also your job.

Recently a restaurant worker posted a rant on Reddit about being fired because she refused to cover the $96 tab left unpaid by some jerk diners. Apparently this common practice in the restaurant industry. And it's legal in some places -- and in others, restaurant owners ignore whatever laws exist. At any rate, many restaurants drill it into their employees' heads that they will be held responsible if diners skip the bill.

The thing is, margins at restaurants are teensy tiny to begin with, especially for independently-owned restaurants. When you skip your bill it hurts everyone in that small business. But I wonder if pranksters and cheapskates would think twice if they knew there was a possibility that the person who served them would also be paying their restaurant tab. You would hope -- but then, the kind of person who skips out on their bill is already a sociopath. So who knows.

Still, I like to have a little bit of faith in humanity and believe that maybe there would be a few people who would think twice before running if they knew what the consequences could be. But that aside, this is a crappy practice! I don't care how hard it its a restaurant, the server shouldn't have to cover the bill. That's outrageous.

Have you ever skipped out on a restaurant bill? Do you think this rule is fair?


Image via Emilio Labrador/Flickr

eating out, restaurants


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Elaine Cox

no its not fair but its not fair that the owners fit the bill either..the only fair thing is the person who eats then pays for what they eat

knitt... knittykitty99

This was the case at every restaurant I ever worked at.  The "logic" was that perhaps the waitperson could steal the money and then claim that it was a dine and dash, so the best policy was to put the waitstaff "in charge" of payment.

knitt... knittykitty99

I also worked at a place where waitstaff had to run checks thru a machine to see if they were good or not.  If the check was bad, and the customer got out of the restaurant before you returned the bad check to them and secured another form of payment, waitstaff paid for that too.

keelh... keelhaulrose

I would never dine  and dash. Someone is out the money, and I wouldn't feel good about that.

However, if you read the reddit, it appears that forcing servers to pay for dashed customers is illegal, at least in NYC where this is, but probably in most places. When you open a business you accept that loss will be part of that business, and you cannot pass it along to employees unless you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are the ones who caused the loss (and often even not then). There's a good chance that the restaurant in question will be paying for this incident.

jkp-buff jkp-buff

This was true everywhere I worked when I used to waitress. The idea is that the server is the "bank" for the duration of their shift. The server has to bring enough cash to give change to customers during their shift, and they process the payments all shift. Before they go home, they settle up with the manager and pay all the bills for the night, sometimes this also includes paying a percentage of your bar sales to the bartender as their tips and a percentage of your food sales to the food runner and hostess as their tips, and then whatever is left over is your tips. I've experienced shifts where if someone dined and dashed on a particularly slow night, I ended up owing money at the end of the shift, basically having paid for working that day instead of getting paid.

wamom223 wamom223

Every place I worked but one.  One place was a bar and I got stuck with a tab with no credit card and I heard the guy saying he was going to run out on his $200 tab so his parents wouldn't find out.   I ended up chasing him outside and because I just so happened to be parked behind him and had my keys I threatened to follow him home and tell his parents what he'd done.  The boss wasn't happy but I wasn't going to eat that bill.  I ended up leaving because they still tried to force me to take tabs without credit cards and I just didn't think that was fair.  You shouldn't have to run up hundreds of dollars on your tab with no collateral.  

Tyson Fricker

It's illegal and such business owners should be reported.

nonmember avatar waitress

It is illegal in most states, including where I live, for the servers to pay the tabs. It would be the same as having the cooks pay for the food they burn or mess up on, it would never happen! Thankfully in my 4 years of serving this has only happened twice and the restaurant paid, not me. Most restaurants do have walk-out policies in place. If a server has more than two walk-outs they will be fired because there is no way to "prove" the server isn't just taking the cash and saying it wasn't paid, and also it shows they aren't paying close enough attention to their tables.

Todd Vrancic

What?  You didn't know that restaurants held the servers responsible for dining and dashing?  Are you newly arrived to this country?  Yeah, the restaurants do that even if it is illegal, and the law doesn't do anything about it.

Anna Potts

ok....while they may try to make you pay its illegal! plain a simple...its called cost of doing business. company's or chains should have insurance just for that if not that's not your fault. and independant places can write it off as a tax deduction. as i can see im the only educated one here today.

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