You may be able to relate to this if you've ever served a table in your life because you've probably had it happen to you too. If not, use it as a cautionary tale, if you've ever been guilty of a dine and dash or you're just new to the industry. I swear this story is absolutely true. I was working in a place in Downtown Big City. It was the day shift and I got a table of 4 Australians (I'm not saying anything about Aussies, it's just who these folks happened to be that day). They were on a bit of a daytime bender, and being a lover of afternoon binges myself, I felt an instant kinship (even if I knew that were Australian and were likely going to stiff me for a tip...that I AM saying about Aussies...sorry guys, but it's true).
They spent most of the afternoon drinking Stella's, ordering round after round. It got to be a game with us, they would shout "STELLA!!!" (like in the movie) every time they wanted more and "STELLA!" when I dropped them off to the table. Well, in Downtown Big City, there was a no smoking by-law and they would go out for cigarettes every 15 to 20 minutes or so. I thought everything was going well until they ran...they just RAN!!! I chased as best I could, but still having a full section in the bar, I had to give up the chase and head back (and let's face it, I smoke 2 packs a day and drink too much, so running is not my strong suit).
I reluctantly and angrily pay for their $120.00 bill and vow never to trust anyone again! I know some of you are saying "Hey! They can't make you do that! It's illegal to make servers pay for dine and dashes". I realize this, but majority of places will make you pay, it’s just the way it is, although this is changing. If you've ever wondered why and some even get angry when asked to leave a credit card with the server or bartender to run a tab...well now you know. Now my day is completely shot! I just bought a bunch of idiots their tab! AAAHHH, I'm so angry! The cook, because of an open kitchen, sees all of this, and suggests we go out for a couple of drinks after work to console me. "Sounds great" I say "I think I'll need it tonight..."
Well, the rest of the day passes by relatively uneventfully. I do my cash-out and the cook and I head out to the local industry watering hole a few blocks away. This is the kind of joint that's a hole really, full of service people. We're on our third or fourth beer, telling the bartender and other bar patrons my dine and dash story. Everyone shaking their heads in understanding, some throwing in stories of their own. The cook suddenly jumps out of his seat and runs out the door. "What the fuck?" Now, I should mention that this bar is on a busy Downtown Big City corner and has full windows all around, a great place to people watch. I hear that one word that brought a smile to my face (and still does)..."STELLA!!!". The cook had walked onto the small group of Australians and shouted "STELLA!" and foolishly they turned and shouted it right back at him! Obviously not recognizing him, but as soon as they saw me coming right behind him, their jaws dropped. I wish you could have seen their faces, it was priceless! We made them pay their bill in full and then the cook demanded that they tip me too!!! And they did!! I think they were just too stunned to do anything else. They were caught and they knew it. We both walked back into the bar to the sound of applause and cheers, we were heroes! Everyone had seen the whole thing happen. The cook and I proceeded to get plenty drunk, thanks to our new found money!
Some would say that it was about the money, or the principle of the whole thing. I think it's one of those stories that you just can't make up because it sounds too untrue. We were just at the right place, at the right time, telling the right story, to the right people to appreciate it! I hope you appreciate it too. The moral of the story?
1. never trust Australians drinking Stella's in the afternoon and
2. treat your cooks well...if you do, they'll always have your back.