HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >


Stealing stuff from Bay Area restaurants

  • j

I'm writing a story for Diablo Magazine and wondering if anyone out there can help me out. I'm writing about customers taking off with items from restaurants--salt and pepper shakers, ashtrays, table ornaments, wine bottles, paintings, etc. Has anyone ever ran off with a little "souvenir" from a local restaurant?

Thanks, Jon

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. If you can get the people who are assigned to special events at Farallon to talk to you, they can tell you about how they decorate their private dining room for xmas every year and within days (or sometimes a single dinner) every ornament has been stolen.

    This is about as extreme as I have ever heard as far as patron pilfering.

    Of course, there is the occasional person who walks out without paying the bill, the ultimate act of theft that a diner can commit, I suppose. And those who don't tip could be seen as darn near stealing the service of the wait staff.

    Good luck with the article. Be sure to credit chowhound.com in it or the harpies will flame you for sure.

    1. People steal paintings from restaurants?

      Probably not a lot of ashtrays these days. I do miss the matchbooks (not the cigarettes), but that's marketing rather than kleptomania.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Windy

        Believe it or not, but people really do steal paintings, and prints, and other decor elements from restaurants...the bathrooms are the most popular pilfering spots, apparently. Who are these people???

        1. re: Jon

          Probably the same people that read Chowhound and do not bother to pay for the subscription!

        2. re: Windy

          I take you read (or got your article idea from) that article that recently ran in the New York Times?

        3. For purposes of this one thread, users are invited to use an alternative nametag if they'd like to make sordid confessions without disclosing their usual names (switching of nametags under other cicrcumstances is against our rules)

          2 Replies
          1. re: The Chowhound Team

            Well, I do have a nice collection of shrimp cocktail forks I have taken from various restaurants. Also I can't seem to resist those cute soup spoons - we call them "shovel spoons". I have not taken anything for years and my husband used to think it was awful. Just the forks and spoons - I con't imagine how you could steal something as big as a painting - but don't tell me! Would hate to acquire that habit.

            1. re: Ashamed

              Sorry to come into this topic so late in the venue, but for one, isn't this the wrong topic for this spot (??) and two, how can anyone find this a serious topic of interest?

              Would you steal something from your friends home after dinner? How about a nice all cotton, hand-woven, naturally died napkin from Crate & Barrel? What the hell? To be honest, most folks should do a cruise through a restaurant supple store (most are open to the public) to see what these "had to have" items cost.

              All jollies & fun aside, this is industry. This is truth in business & pleasure. All that amounts to who's at each end & we really should think about that at least a little. It adds up.

          2. I like to collect glasses from Brew Pubs, particularly with their logo on it. The irony is, the last one I snagged was subsequently stolen from me...

            1. I am quite experienced at taking salt and pepper shakers from restaurants. I have a collection from about 20 different places at home. I can't help it, particularly if they're interesting shakers. I've even gotten my friends in on helping me swipe them sometimes.

              We try to be covert, maybe sneaking one shaker into one person's pocket at a time. Once, at a place in Palo Alto, my partner had snagged the salt shaker from the table, then went to use the restroom. While he was gone, the waiter came up and asked if we were missing a salt shaker -- I almost pissed my pants, convinced we were caught and would spend the next 10 years in the slammer. Thankfully, he just apologized and replaced it. Then we sneakily took the pepper shaker.

              I also have been known to take some of those little bowls used for serving grated cheese, sauces, etc. in.

              Oh, and we did take a nice steak knife from someplace once.

              In the rest of my life, I'm not a kleptomaniac. Truly. It's just a restaurant thing.

              1 Reply
              1. re: NoOneYouKnow

                Trust me on this...when one "liberates" something from a restaurant, more often than not the waitstaff are well aware of it. If you think for a minute that that waiter didn't know you stole the shaker, you are amusingly naive.

              2. When I was 6 years old, I accidentally stole a napkin from the Wah Kee in Manhattan. I wasn't sure where to put it so it'd be out of the way, so I stuffed it in my pocket. I realized it was still there about halfway across the GW bridge. As soon as we got home I stuffed it into the bottom of the deepest drawer I had. I lived in mortal terror for weeks afterward, convinced that the FBI was going to come for me.

                I know it's not exactly responsive, but I am glad to get that off my chest. ;-)

                1. Once i stole two really great steak knives from Rocco's seafood grill.
                  I traditionally like to take the little plastic trays that say "thankyou" from the chinese restaurants.
                  Sometimes i take the "specials" card displays from tables, cuase they make great photograph displays.
                  Sometimes i also take the little tiny sauce cups at dim sum houses, since they are great for mixing your soy suace in for when you make sushi at home.
                  There used to be a restaurant in Kenmore square in Boston, called Charlies and it was cafeteria style and i ate there once a week during my freshmen year in college and stole the plate and silver ware i used and brought it home for my own personal use. (i still have coffee mugs from there)

                  now that i got that all off my chest, i feel so much lighter and freer....
                  what a release.
                  thank you for your time.

                  1. My partner's cousin from out of town did the favor of embarrassing us by stealing a bread dish from our neighborhood restaurant we were beginning to warm up to. I was so embarrassed I haven't been back, which actually doesn't make a lot of sense, since if I wanted to undo the damage I would go and spend more money....go figure. Some relatives you just can't take anywhere!!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: zapoid
                      Shepherd B. Goode

                      I once took an out-of-town guest to Yoshi's on Claremont. I'd been hangin there for a while; it was my neighborhood bar, I knew all the servers, and the tips & treats were mutually gratifying. After we left, my friend proudly displayed a sake flask, two cups, and two little sauce dishes. I was horribly embarassed and pretty pissed off; her response was, "Oh, you're such a chump." The beginning of a beautiful end to a friendship...

                      Didn't stop me hangin at Yoshi's, though--the remodel did that.

                    2. r
                      Rochelle McCune

                      I have never been to a place that did not let me buy the items described in the posts below and have had some restaurants give them to me when I offered to buy them.

                      I am only interested in "logo items". I consider it ridiculous to steal crap you can buy at any restaurant supply.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Rochelle McCune

                        Not speaking to you, Rochelle...this is to the thread (inspired by the mini-flame war we deleted in response to your posting):

                        Please everyone, let's stick close to topic and NOT delve into philosophical issues, ethics, child-rearing, corporate corruption, who it's "OK" to steal from, etc etc ad infinitum. It's off-topic and will only spark tedious debates and anger.

                        A number of people are perking up to confess certain in-restaurant behavior. Many thousands of users are NOT contributing to the discussion because they'd never dream in a thousand years of stealing anything, and thus don't have anything interesting to add to the thread ("I don't steal stuff" not being a particularly scintillating contribution). The former are highly unlikely to be "rehabilitated" by tsk tsking from the latter. Rochelle's made an excellent, highly on-topic point. Let's leave it at that and not widen the issue.

                        Thanks for your cooperation.

                      2. Mr. Steinberg-
                        You have a renowned ballet company struggling to stay alive in your community and you decide to write about this kind of thing? That's a journalist for you.

                        Tsk Tsk,

                        1. w
                          Wish to Remain Anonymous

                          I have one Tequila shot glass from Josecho's in Queretarao in Mexico which I offerd to buy, but which was offered by the owner as a gift. I have never stolen anything from a restaurant. Nor, to my knowledge, have any of my relatives. I am puzzled that anyone would want to write an article about petty thievery and kleptomainia by affluent folks who were obviously asleep when their parents discussed the difference between wrong and right.

                          1. You louts who walk with restaurant miscellania are actually a budget line right next to breakage. Rest assured that your antics are not without consequences. My friend Bob's second cousin was married to a restauranteur who was so hurt by this phenomenon that he resorted to hot glue to solve the problem. After he installed the now widely popular video surveilance light fixtures, he started hauling offenders into the mop closet where he hot glued there fingers to the stolen loot. In some instances he super heated the booty and branded them with it. This is not an urban ledgend, because I like practically knew someone who heard it fourth hand. kg

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: karma cowboy
                              lout (misdemeanor division)

                              I used to keep on my dining room table one of those plastic cards with pretty pictures of sushi from a Japanese restaurant. Eye-catching and a conversation piece. But they're given to the restaurants gratis by food and liquor distributors, so as thieves go I suppose I'm strictly small fry.

                            2. Um. As an adult I have a very prickly conscience and don't steal nuthin because I can't enjoy ill-gotten goods. But as a saucy college girl a group of friends and I "liberated" a painted portrait of Sonny from the Florida chain Sonny's Real Pit Bar-B-Que, after which we called the restaurant and demanded a ransom of 3 orders of baby back ribs. The employees laughed like apes at our antics, tho they didn't promise the ribs -- a few days later we wrapped the portrait beautifully and sent it back UPS. Fun!

                              1 Reply
                              1. 1.
                                i waited in an upscale place in marin where we were required to wear tuxedo-style uniforms and with that i used to purchase little penguin shaped pens at aaahs! for my customers to sign their credit card slips. these would often get stolen and i would simply re-write their tab to include $10 "pen" fee. this never came back to haunt me. *the pens were only about $2

                                my brother-in-law regularly steals menus from all over and i think he is up to some obnoxios amout like over a thousand.

                                in a drunken stooper i stole some very nice full size copper salt and pepper shakers from a steak house in vegas.

                                1. Back when I used to smoke I used to take an occasional ashtray. I also used to snag fancy belgian beer glasses and logo pint glasses from pubs but, I found out that if you ask for one they will usually give you one or more. Now I have a great collection from just asking.

                                  When I was 16/17 my friends and I stole an asteroids table version video game from the game lounge of a local Ground Round. We actually got stopped by the cops as we walked down the road. We told them that we were taking it from one friends house to another. We sold the game a year or so later on to a local bar for $500. We also took the petty cash box from there a few times.

                                  About 20 years ago I took a drawing from a wall in a restaurant, it had the $20 price tag on the back from some garage sale. When I got it home I checked it out and saw that it looked like an old fashioned hand done book illumination. I went back the next day and grabbed the other matching one. I sold them a few years later at auction in England. They went for 11,000 pounds!!! About $14,000 at that time. They were from the 14th century. I felt very, very guilty. (But enjoyed spending the money)

                                  I then had ten years of terrible luck, pain, and despair, and now I have developed what I call instant karma. If I do anything bad it comes back to me within minutes, sometimes seconds and whacks me in the face. Hard! Ten times worse than whatever I did. I try to be a good boy now.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: gute hero

                                    . . . then it is past due for a tune up.

                                    1. re: Bay Gelldawg

                                      Bay you missed it(surprisingly.) Can't you see the tongue placed firmly in the cheek of that post! I'm sorry to see we've given Mr.Steinberg so much fuel for his fodder! Blech.........

                                  2. I had the pleasure of eating at Gary Danko with a small group of people and a very wealthy woman with us stole a roll of toilet paper from the bathroom. It was wrapped in special gold "Gary Danko" logo paper. That is by far the best "stealing" story I have.....