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Walking out

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If you are so angry or upset about something that happens in a restaurant, can you just storm out without paying, or do you have to just pay for what you have eaten up to that point? I started wondering because there can be many things that would cause a person to want to leave ASAP such as terrible service, seeing a roach, or in-edible food.

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  1. i have never been driven to "storm out". the two times i have *left* was because of horrible service, i paid for what i'd already had (both times, just a glass of wine), spoke to a manager and left.

    i've been in the industry many years, and can't recall anybody just up and leaving in a fit.

    1. Agreed w/ PP. I don't think you should ever just leave without paying for what you've consumed. The only time I have ever left a restaurant. (Gina Marie's in Eastchester) we demanded the bill for what we had, they tried to serve us our dinner (2 hours after ordering and after disgusting apps) and we still paid almost $200 for the wine and apps.

      1 Reply
      1. re: SweetPea914

        As a server, the only time I've ever had customers leave was when their entrees took too long. They paid for their drinks, but, sadly, they left not even a penny tip, even though they gave me no indication that they were on a tight schedule and I had given them excellent service up to that point. I think it depends on the circumstances, but I'd say leaving with no communication is pretty bad. SweetPea, just curious -- did you tip on your wine and apps? Was the server complicit/at fault in the poor timing?

      2. In most restaurants the servers are expected to tip out to bartenders, hostesses, bussers, etc. for every single check/table. More often than not, the tip share is taken automatically from the amount of the check. So, if you walk out and the house comps the whole meal, the server will actually be paying for you to have eaten there. Same goes if you pay for your meal but still the server. If your problem isn't the servers fault, I can't see that as fair. IF, in fact, it is the servers fault, I do believe you should speak up to management ASAP, not just walk out.

        Also, depending on your juridiction, simply walking out on a check can be considered theft, or defrauding a shopkeeper. Imagine trying to explain to the cops that you saw a roach or that the service was awful... it's probably the same excuse people whose main goal is to dine and dash use. So, speak up, and any reputable place should help you out.

        21 Replies
        1. re: Azizeh Barjesteh

          if the house eats the check, or a portion of it, it's no longer part of that server's sales. they do NOT tip out on it.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            That's 100% false.

            I have never once seen a restaurant subtract sales from a server due to guests leaving without paying. In fact, the server usually has to pay the house the difference if the guest (intentionally or not) doesn't leave enough money.

            1. re: invinotheresverde

              invino-your experience mirrors mine. I've seen servers charged for walkouts a number of times.

              1. re: nc213

                ditto, invino and nc -- hotoynoodle is incorrect: at 75 % of the restos I've worked at, I've been responsible for walk outs or shorted checks, regardless of the reason -- not only tipping out on them, but paying for the lack.

              2. re: invinotheresverde

                yes most places make the server pay for a walkout-- this can be a problem in places where people do intentional dine & dash, or in pub-type places, where sometimes a patron will have one too many beers and dip on their (hefty) tab. the servers in these places develop hawk eyes, particularly patio servers. in the case of food, if the dishes have not actually been fired, the mgmt may take them off the bill, esp if there was a kitchen-related delay and the customers walked due to time constraints. i felt bad for a new server i once worked with who was taken advantage of by 2 big parties walking out on tabs on a busier-than-hell saturday night. the tips he made didn't cover the tabs, and he'd only brought cabfare with him, so he paid that and then had to write a check to the establishment-- after working a full shift. he was a sweet kid and he got downright mean to customers for a while after that.

                1. re: soupkitten

                  This practice is illegal in most jurisdictions. An employer cannot hold an employee financially responsible for the actions of a third party for the illegal acts of that third party. Any one who has ever been fired for refusing to pay a patrons's bill would have a cause of action against employer.

                  If the diner held the place up after eating and cleared out the cash drawer, would the employee be liable for that theft as well or just his bill's portion? There is no difference.

                  1. re: FrankJBN

                    you're right--it's illegal, but that doesn't stop it from happening.

                    Yes, you could take them to court if they fire you, but they likely won't fire you. Instead, they'll refuse to pay you they next time you're owed tips. Failing that, they will simply stop scheduling you, or cut your schedule so drastically that you can't earn enough to get by. Once you're cut down to one or two shifts a week, you'll find a new job in a hurry.

                    Many servers simply can't afford to argue too much with management, and many can't afford a wage a lawsuit. it's far cheaper to pay for the walkout.

                    1. re: nc213

                      thanks nc213-- to be fair, the establishment is covering it's own butt by being harsh to waitstaff-- discouraging walkouts at all costs, no mercy shown, eliminates that one dishonest server out of 50 who uses the following technique to "skim": rings up a $20 cocktail tab (or food, but cocktails are quicker, less chance to get caught), sells the drinks for cash, then claims that it was a walkout & that they didn't get paid-- in this instance, the establishment would eat the bill, the labor, the overhead, the insurance, etc, while the server would pocket the $20-- over the course of a year a dishonest server can "skim" a pretty little pile of cash, tax-free. it's something mgrs have to really watch out for when a server develops a rash of walkouts.

                      1. re: soupkitten

                        anyone can steal from any company in any industry. if proper management is in place they would know what's going on in the restaurant and catch on very quickly if an employee is stealing.

                        also- depending on the POS system, all voids and promos can be still included in the server's total sales, so the server would have to still tip out on the things that are taken off bills.

                        1. re: excuse me miss

                          i agree with you, not trying to describe the vast majority of servers. 95%, in my experience, of servers are honest. just telling the other side for the benefit of people like Frank who may not realize why restaurants have policies like making servers pay for walkouts. as a bt for 10 years, smart enough to take senior positions but not management ones, i can also say from experience that not every little place even uses a computerized POS system like aloha or micros, a lot of nightclubs and live music operations still operate on cash with cocktail servers-- & i've seen dishonest servers learn how to exploit cash tabs on older micros systems too. you see the newest POS systems in chain places and newer restaurants, but the indies may be operating on 20 year old or older stuff. only saying that over 10 years, i've seen cheating a few times.

                          the establishment can make your server pay for your walkout. the establishment can even make her/him pay for a drink that is accidentally dropped, spilled or mistakenly ordered, which i've seen happen too. i'd walk out of a restaurant were i to receive no service as well, but it's more complicated once you've ordered from a server. leaving money for anything you've been served (bevs, apps, etc) is a good idea, because you can be arrested for stealing from a restaurant. premeditated dine and dash is reprehensible, and the server, not the restaurant, will get the brunt of it, so "screw 'em, it was just a chain," something i've heard teenagers say, is not an excuse.

                    2. re: FrankJBN

                      Yes, it is highly illegal.

                      When I was in college I worked for Outback Steakhouse and the proprieter had in place that if we didn't charge for the item (accidently left it off the bill), we paid for the item.

                      I called the EEOC and that practice soon changed.

                      1. re: FrankJBN

                        Where can I find this information?

                        1. re: FrankJBN

                          i hate to be a stickler. The only place that i know for a fact that this is illegal (the restaurant making a server pay for a skipped tab) is certain parts of California and a couple regions in New York, there are probably other smaller jurisdictions around America but i don't know of those. I DO know that in the majority of the United States this is not illegal at all. It is a simple question of presidence. Think of the resteraunt as being blind to the inner workings of the business and its only concern is making money, all it knows is what is in the paperwork at the end of the day. The only two ways for the server to NOT have to pay for a skipped check is if A) they have proof (which is usually only needed if the server takes his/her place of employment to court after such an event) via witnesses, video surveillance, calling the police or trying to catch the patrons to get them to pay. B) if the employer is kind hearted, which hardly happens in a place where the main goal is to make money. Basically anytime in any type of business that has a cash register and it comes up short for the day or period, the person manning that register is legally and financially responsible through the contract of employment before the person was hired.

                          Its Unfair, but not Illegal

                        2. re: soupkitten

                          The waiter had the option of "walking out" also and not reimbursing the restaurant.

                          1. re: tom porc

                            Do you mean quitting? Because if you quit or walk out in the middle of a shift, you're not going to get your tips for that night. So the "option" would be to be unemployed and lose a night's pay? And you're comparing that to the diner's "option" to steal food and service by leaving without paying a bill? The two don't seem comparable to me.

                            1. re: nc213

                              You misunderstood. In Soupkitten's story the waiter had to pay for the 2 large parties that left without paying. He didnt make enough in tips to reimburse the owner and had to write a check. So he lost the night's pay anyway. She didnt say the amount owed but if it was hundreds of dollars he may have had to work a couple of days more to make up for it. Therefore, he had the option of "walking out" and saving himself the money. Yes, he would be unemployed but if that restaurant has 2 non paying patrons in one night it is possible it will happen to him again. Perhaps, the restaurant and him were not a good match.

                              1. re: nc213

                                That's also probably illegal, at least in CA.

                          2. re: invinotheresverde

                            you're all misunderstanding what i wrote. "if the house eats the check" -- meaning if the house doesn't hold the server responsible, same as if you don't like your fish and i take it off the bill. it's not part of the server's sales any longer. ok?

                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                              I believe that's illegal in California.

                              1. re: xanadude

                                It's the server's choice-pay it or get written up. After a couple of these, they are fired.

                                1. re: snowwhitekitty

                                  And when the employer is reported to the state labor board in most states, the employee is reinstated at full pay for the period that they were off work.

                        3. One who eats and walks away without paying because of any of your 3 "things" is a thief. Period.
                          If you test drive a Lexus, should you be able to keep it because the car salesman had bad breath?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Veggo

                            In my history I did walk out of a restaurant, but I had not drunk nor eaten anything. At a restaurant in Quechee VT several years ago - Rosalie's on Rt. 4 W to be exact.
                            Bloody Mary arrived table side in a visibly dirty glass with a celery stalk which had rows of soil quite noticable. Roast beef sandwich had 2 rather grey, crispy slices of meat, 1 lettuce leaf on 2 very stale slices of bread. I left without notice. Waitress followed me out into the parking lot with another plate of food. I declined. Two weeks later the joint was closed. I really do not think I owed them anything.

                          2. if you have ordered food and eaten it, you have to pay for it. You could speak with a manager or an owner and refuse to pay, but simply walking out is stealing.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: nc213

                              Once in a near empty restaurant our waiter brought me a water, my wife a pop, and the free bread basket. We ordered two hot sandwiches. He then disappeared. We waited about 40 minutes, he never came back, no refills, no it'll be out soon. We up and left. I left $2 on the table for the pop. Didn't feel bad about it at all.

                              1. re: Rick

                                That's how I handle situations like that. Drop some cash on the table to cover the drinks, etc. and walk. Places with that poor management/training/hiring don't notice anyway until you're long gone.

                                I'll try to work out bad food with the manager, but I have no desire to do my own busing/serving/refill's etc.

                            2. The only time I've ever walked out of a restaurant was because we'd been sitting there for ages and we hadn't got any service at all, even a drink! I almost left a couple of other times but the food showed up at the last minute (I'm always thinking 'give them five minutes more, because I really don't want to make a fuss!) But if I DID have to get up and leave I'd grab the waiter and get the check, or leave the money for the drinks on the table...

                              1. My husband and I walked out of a restaurant the other night after he was served a beer that made him instantly sick, and I was served wine in a glass with lipstick all over it, and DH's beer was replaced with wine in an also lipstick stained glass. (I did post about it on the Outer Boros board, but but it was deleted for whatever reason.)

                                We had already ordered food, but had not been served yet. The only thing consumed was the one sip of bad beer. We told the waiter why we were leaving, and tipped him (although I felt he should have noticed lipstick on the glasses). I was terrified to eat anything that came out of the kitchen.

                                1. me and a couple friends walked out a restaurant one time. the hostess had sat us down and told us our server would be with us shortly. waited for over 10 mins and we got up and left because a server never came. there was no excuse for it since there was no one in the restaurant, we were pretty much the first customers there for dinner. there might have been one other party of like 4 in there before us but no one else.

                                  1. That would be against the law: if they get your license plate or some other ID the cops can come to your house and arrest you, if the restaurant requests.

                                    1. I have "walked out" before a meal due to not having a server come up to our table for 10-15 mins after being seated. I have also "walked out" after having drinks served(then being ignored, or forgotten about by a server), I do leave money for the drinks before leaving.

                                      I do not talk to managers when I leave, I am not looking for a comp, & a restaurant that messed up doesnt deserve my input/feedback regarding terrible service. They have already wasted enough of my time at this point.

                                      If you walk out without paying for items you have consumed, I believe that is against the law.

                                      1. Different states and possibly/probably municipalities have laws about this and I'm sure it varies to some extent, but barring something like your roach or spoiled food (or unreplaced obviously wrong food like a well-done steak when you ordered rare), if you order it and they can't reasonably cancel it, you bought it. But if you've ordered a 5 course meal and and then wait half an hour after the first course only to be told it will be another half hour because they kitchen screwed up, I would not expect to be charged for the full meal if/when I demanded a check immediately out of annoyance, for example....

                                        1. Only did this twice in my life... first time was with a group of 8, about an hour after ordering when we realized all the tables who had been seated before us still hadn't received apps -- a rumour was floating around the dining area that the chef had decided not to show up that day.

                                          Second time was with a few friends, when the bill came about 45 minutes after being seated, listing all the items whe had ordered... only problem was we were never served any of the ordered items (even drinks). When we asked when the food would be coming out, we were told we had already been served and to pay up before the cops were called. When we stood, or rather sat, our ground, the cops were called... after explaining the situation, the police seemed to support the business but allowed us to leave without paying a dime.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: S U

                                            wow- that is so "twilight zone"

                                            was it not obvious by the state of your table that you hadn't been served- ie: fresh cutlery, folded clean napkins, no drink glasses, etc?

                                            1. re: S U

                                              That is so bizarre. I would be looking for the hidden camera.

                                              I've only walked out once before when my husband and I were seated and then...nothing happened for 20 minutes. No drinks, no service, no nothing. Other tables were looking confused too, but there were two waiters just chatting up at the front. We just decided it would be downhill from there and just left. Never went back.

                                              1. re: stolenchange

                                                Have done this too; once, in a hip, downtown Manhattan espresso cafe: approached the counter, waited for the server to stop chatting and notice us, and then started started counting down until he did. When he finally looked up at us, we turned and left. Of course, this option is always handy at Starbucks, after first guesstimating wait to be served from the back of a glacially slow line.

                                                1. re: stolenchange

                                                  A few years ago, we were at a restaurant, sitting there. For nearly half an hour. And we were hungry. No one came.

                                                  Finally, we got up to leave. On our way out the door, we passed by the manager or someone who pretended to be very concerned and sent us a free appetizer. I still wasn't overwhelmed.

                                              2. I would say it really depends on what type of bad service you're receiving. If a waiter or waitress is rude or they're ignoring you, if you were to stick around, you should get something comped at least. The one time I've left a restaurant (not my doing actually...my dad was pissed off and made us come with him) we didn't pay...I felt terrible about it, but the waitress really didn't deserve a good tip either. I wanted to pay for the food too but I was stuck in an uncomfortable situation.

                                                1. I never walked out of a restaurant before, but a group of us once almost walked out of a catered event (wedding reception). That wasn't illegal or anything, after all we weren't paying for it. But the bride and groom would have had to pay regardless of whether any guests were there.

                                                  No, it had nothing to do with food. It was 105 that day in Marin County, and both the wedding church and the reception hall were not air conditioned (not uncommon in that area; most days air conditioning is not needed. 105 was no doubt a record heat.) Anyway, the catering staff had been strictly instructed not to serve anyone ANYTHING until the bride and groom arrived. OK, fine, except the bride and groom are back at the church taking pictures. For over an hour. And the one water fountain in the reception hall was broken. And the instructions to serve NOTHING apparently extended to cold water. Many people left. Finally (right about the time I was walking out, with the intention of detouring at the church and letting the poor couple know how their guests were being treated) the bride's uncle jumped over the bar, literally pushed away the bartender, and started breaking out the beer and ice for water. What a mess.

                                                  1. I've walked out twice. #1 was because we waited 25 minutes without getting a menu (got up after 15 min. & asked a random waiter for one; was told "yes, I'll tell your waiter;" still no action). On our way out the mgr & hostess intercepted us, very concerned -- I think they thought we were dine-&-dashing, but turned apologetic when we esplained. I eventually went back, but not for over 10 years.
                                                    #2 was with a group: We were too many to share a table in the "pub" section where the happy-hour prices were, & had to sit in the "real restaurant" section. One of us asked for the happy hour discount, which was for the pub only; waitress was new, went to ask the manager, who came over & said no, that was only for the pub. My friend said "Well ____ [popular waiter who no longer worked there] used to do this for us all the time." Manager's smile iced over and we were told it was impossible. Friend said (after mgr. was gone) "well if they won't give us our discount, let's leave," and everyone went with him. I thought management was in the right, but shut my mouth & went along. Still feel twinges of embarrassment about that...

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: misterbrucie

                                                      hhmm....makes you wonder if said popular waiter got fired for bending the rules....

                                                      (did you think about breaking up into two tables?)

                                                    2. New Year's Eve, maybe 30 years ago, party of 10, seated at 9PM, order taken at 9:15. Salads came at around 10PM. Entrees began arriving at 11:30. 4 or 5 were the wrong entree, 3 or 4 were ice cold, the remaining were MIA altogether. We all left enough to cover our estimate of what we'd been served, plus something for the servers (not their fault) and told the hostess we were leaving. Went to one of the couples' homes for scrambled eggs. The resto did not attempt to stop us.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Midlife

                                                        At a Brazilian churrascaria at $22 per person fixed price deal. One of the men serving the meat did not have the cutting board completely on the table and it flipped off spilling blood from the rare beef all over my leg and shoe. Guy picks the cutting board up off the floor and proceeds to continue cutting with the intent to serve me the meat from the board. I told him to stop, but he didn't understand that I wasn't interested in eating off the floor essentially. I figured if he didn't understand that, I didn't want to know what went on in the kitchen. Short answer, we paid for one person instead of two, a decision I regretted immediately. I wished I had walked and if pursued, call the health department.

                                                      2. A brilliant way to get your message of dissatisfaction across --

                                                        http://bestpicever.com/pic-765-Great-...

                                                        1. Don't know about the USA, but in Canada, you can be charged under the criminal code if you just storm out without paying for what you ordered and ate, even if the service was terrible or you saw a roach. If the food was inedible presumably you didn't eat it.

                                                          1. Pretty simple rule of thumb, you eat it you pay for it unless the MOD or theowner tells you otherwise. Dine and dash is reprehensible.

                                                            Only once did jfood come close, and it was a few weeks ago. Dining with friends, one of the party was feeling ill from something in the food (some allergy to hot peppers). Jfood told the server the situation and asked for the check and ill-member went outside for some air. 10 minutes passed, then 15 passed. jfood approached the hostess and told her the situation and told her that the server had 2 minutes to bring the check or the jfoods needed to leave and would return the next day to pay. Jfood checked outside and ill-member was better so went back inside, received and paid and moved on. If no check came, the 4-top would have needed to leave but would have returned the next day to pay.

                                                            Once again full disclosure and conversation is required, but dine and dash is dispicable.

                                                            1. An interesting moral debate…there were two time in my life that I “walked” out of a restaurant. I do not think it is the right thing to do…not paying for food ordered/eaten in a restaurant. I’m the person who if she notices that she’s been undercharged will say something (happened recently in the North End of Boston…I could have had a free $30 bottle of olive oil…but that would have been wrong and the guy was so appreciative he made me an espresso). Ok, so the first time was over 20 years ago. Some friends and I dined at a place, can’t remember the name and the service was beyond slow. Once we were finished, we wanted to pay the check and leave. This was not to be easy. After waiting for over a half hour, I attempted to find the waitress and get the check. She said she will get it right away. More time elapsed, again asked for the check. An hour after we finished, I went up to the hostess where the cash register was and asked to pay our bill. I knew exactly what we had and wanted to pay. She said she could not do that without our waitress who appeared to either have left or taken a long break. After waiting further and even trying to give the hostess cash…we left without paying. So stupid.
                                                              The second time was at a pizza place in the North End. My husband and I went for lunch. We were the first people to arrive and promptly ordered 2 sodas and a cheese pizza. We sat at our table, chatting and drinking our sodas as the pizzeria filled up. We noticed a lot of people getting their pizza, eating it and leaving. My husband on more than one occasion asked the waitress for our pizza. She promised that it would be right out. More waiting…and hour passed. My husband was losing patience. I was trying to ignore the wait and be entertaining. He was not amused, but hungry. He finally got up and walked out. I stood there for a minute trying to decide what I should do. I put down a few dollars for the soda’s and walked out. I felt that since we never got the pizza(which we tried to get), we didn’t owe them for it.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: Pawsinhand

                                                                "An hour after we finished, I went up to the hostess where the cash register was and asked to pay our bill. I knew exactly what we had and wanted to pay. She said she could not do that without our waitress who appeared to either have left or taken a long break. After waiting further and even trying to give the hostess cash…we left without paying."

                                                                I guess if a place doesnt' want your money that badly, you really don't have much choice but to go along with them...How funny. Wonder how many customers that hostess let leave with all their money,and whether the manager eventually let her leave too.

                                                                1. re: Pawsinhand

                                                                  I once was so infuriated with the service and meal that I was able to collect enough cash to pay for the meal. I did not want to wait any more just so I could put it on a credit card. I just dropped the cash on the table and walked out when no one else would take my money (without intervention from our horrible waiter). They did not stop me.

                                                                2. I have never walked out of a resturant because of bad service, but because we realized we were at the wrong resturant. It was our frist Valentines Day, we had just started dating, and I was in the mood for sushi. Unfortunately it was late and we were exhausted from working late. Right next door to the sushi place is a similarly decorated Chinese resturant. We drank some water and ate some crunchy noodles before getting our menus. When we got the menus we realized our mistake, my future-husband was still trying to impress me so we left. He appologized, left $5 and went to the sushi place next door. Later on we found out it really wasn't such a big deal since both resturants have the same owner. We still get a laugh about that.

                                                                  1. I worked in a restaurant as a waitress, where we had to pay for our dine and dash out of our tips. Also had to tip the hostess, bar, barback and kitchen on walkouts. After my second dine and dash, I did my own walk out and called the labour board on the restaurant. I also called Employment Insurance and complained about unauthorized payroll deductions and not receiving my gratuities.
                                                                    If you have a problem with any aspect of the restaurant please do not blame the server! We are making (in Ontario) 5.95 an hour. Please don't think that we are always taking home big money, sometimes we go home with very little. Sometimes we work in a place where other waitresses steal our tips, or a manager can move tables to cover losses and we don't even see our tips. The way the restaurant is run is not our fault. Take it up with the manager and refuse to pay so he will understand what the problem is. If I am in the wrong as a server I am the first to say I am sorry. But if I work in an understaffed, poorly managed restaurant, please do not walk out on your bill.
                                                                    The place I worked at I was running out in the parking lot chasing people. It was completely rediculous. After I quit, someone actually got ran over in the parking lot at this restaurant and died. (Not for not paying their bill but it was scary still)

                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Cookiepants

                                                                      I did speak to my friend who is a police officer about whether or not you can be charged with this. Apparently as a server I had the right to charge the person if I could catch them. I think restaurants rarely press charges though?
                                                                      I wonder what the charge would read: Theft by Consumption?

                                                                      1. re: Cookiepants

                                                                        The charge would be theft of goods and services. If you eat a restaurant's food and then leave without paying you are stealing their goods and services.

                                                                        1. re: nc213

                                                                          I feel it is okay to leave without paying for drinks if the restaurant is responsible for not serving your food. They are taking up your time and should pay for that.

                                                                          Twice I've walked out before being served food. The first was at a sit-down restaurant during lunch. After a long wait, the server took my drink order and then served my soda and said he would be right back for my food order. 20 minutes later, when my lunch hour was just about over, I walked out. I don't remember if I left any money for the soda, but honestly I don't think they deserved it for taking up my lunch hour. I wound up getting a candy bar at the store in my office building and eating it at my desk. I wrote a letter to the management explaining the situation, and they graciously sent me a gift certificate with profound apologies.

                                                                          The other time was at Johnny Rockets. I sat at the counter and ordered a soda, burger, and fries. About ten minutes later, the server said they were out of burgers, but my fries would be ready momentarily. I told him to forget the fries as I was leaving. He said he would be right back for my check, but I left without paying for the 4-5 sips of soda I consumed.

                                                                          1. re: brandygirl

                                                                            sounds reasonable to me. I have no problem walking out if a resto makes a few blunders and if they think it's theft, there welcome to call the cops. I've only done it 2 or 3 times in my life, service has to be VERY poor.

                                                                            1. re: rednyellow

                                                                              they don't "think" it's theft; it is theft. If you consume food and drink and leave without paying for it without discussing the matter with a manager or owner, you are stealing. Poor service is not an excuse for stealing.

                                                                              you say "there welcome to call the cops," but what good would that do if you've already left the building?

                                                                              1. re: nc213

                                                                                I am a restauranteur and I have always made it my personal mission to make "intentional" problem customers accountable to their actions. It's easy, it's called fraud (usually under $1000). If you don't appreciate the wait or the quality or the service - then tell someone! If you don't explain why it IS that you're leaving then one may assume that you are stealing the goods and services that you have already received.

                                                                                Don't get me wrong - at all the restaurants that I have run there have been 99.9999% happy customers. That's what gives me the fuel to continue in this industry, happy people are my job satisfaction!

                                                                                The occasional jerk that waits in line and says it's OK that it's going to be a 1/2 hour, gets to his/her table early in 15 min and raises hell that his/her meal isn't on the table in 14 min 59 sec!! People in the industry know this jerk. They know, no matter how clearly you phrased "30 minutes for your table", that this jerk thought it was a guarantee on food time even before they ordered. This jerk can be talked down from his anger of feeling slighted. He/she just needs to hear the same information that he/she was told at least 10 times before in their experience, again. It's the OTHER jerk that is the problem.

                                                                                If you are in a big rush, if you are EXTREMELY hungry, if you aren't feeling well, or if ,... anything else, then please understand: If you are on a deadline, make others aware of it. Specifics, please. Otherwise, I'll catch you in the parking lot (again) and you're not going to like being in jail with the other grifters.

                                                                                1. re: nc213

                                                                                  I have consumed food and drink, and left without paying or discussing with a manager, and don't consider it theft. Here is what happened: Twenty of us at a group work lunch, (that I was hosting on behalf of my employer) with constant service problems of the type to make one feel like one is in the twilight zone.

                                                                                  However, we did get food (eventually) and did eat it. At the end of the meal, we asked for the check.Waited ten minutes. Asked again, and this time I told the server that we needed it right away as we had a meeting to go to (the reason for the group lunch was a pre-meeting get-together).Waited another ten minutes. Asked again, server said she'd go figure out the delay. Server came back perhaps five minutes after THAT and said she couldn't give us check right away because the manager had left the restaurant, she didn't know when he'd be back, and the computerized cash register was broken and she couldn't print out a bill and didn't know how much we owed. Since the restaurant was in a hotel, I asked if someone from the hotel front desk staff could figure it out. Server told me they were separate operations and she couldn't talk to the hotel manager. Fine, I said, get out a pencil and paper, and a menu, and we will tell you what we ordered and tally it up. No, she said, I can't do that, it is against the rules not to use the machine. She again asked me to please wait, as she was sure the manager would be back very soon. Asked her how soon very soon was, and she shrugged, 'another ten minutes maybe?'.

                                                                                  I handed her my business card, told her that I couldn't wait any longer for a bill, and that the manager should call me that afternoon at my business number to let me know how much the bill was so that I could pay and arrange to get the receipt my employer would require for reimbursement.

                                                                                  In fact, the manager didn't ever call me, but he did send a letter a day later apologizing for the poor service, telling me that the entire lunch for all twenty of us was on the hotel/restaurant, and expressing his hope that my employer and I would return there for our next business lunch. (As if.)

                                                                                  Now, he could have called the cops I suppose, since he had my name, address, phone number, email and fax, but I don't see how anyone could claim that it is theft to leave without paying when the restaurant refuses to give you a bill to pay!

                                                                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                    S

                                                                                    As jfood was reading the thread he kept thinking "leave your name and number, please." And sure enough, that was the punch line. Nicely done. You did the right thing and the hotel called your bet by also doing a very nice gesture.

                                                                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                      I guess he could have called the cops, but especially at hotel restaurants, business diners are the customer base.

                                                                                      It would have to be a pretty black and white scenario (equivalent to a pure dine-and-dash) before I would consider suing or pressing charges against my customers. A disappointed client is a problem, but a disappointed client who you pressed charges against is a walking, talking, emailing negative advertising campaign.

                                                                                      Oh, and I've walked a couple times. I pay for food consumed but service related or major kitchen problems means no tip. It's the waiter's job to make sure I get the food and level of service I'm paying for.

                                                                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                        I wouldn't consider that theft--you provided him valid contact information and said that you would pay the bill later. You clearly made an offer of payment.

                                                                              2. re: Cookiepants

                                                                                In Ontario, the charges would read fraud under the Criminal Code of Canada:
                                                                                364. (1) Every one who fraudulently obtains food ... at any place that is in the business of providing those things is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
                                                                                (2) In proceedings under this section, evidence that the accused obtained food ... at a place that is in the business of providing those things and did not pay for it and ... (d) absconded or surreptitiously left the premises ...
                                                                                is, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, proof of fraud.

                                                                                But I expect it's very rarely used. In Canada restaurants don't press charges, the police lay charges. Although I expect they never need to - if it happened, and the people were identified, being contacted by the police would likely be enough to make them pay up. If they're not identified (as in your typical dine and dash) it's a moot point.

                                                                                1. re: Cookiepants

                                                                                  not sure about canada, but several restaurants i worked at took walkouts to court. & police would be called for walkouts. one (bar) actually had a "wall of shame" in the kitchen with police photos-- do not serve.

                                                                              3. I'm neither a police officer, district attorney, or lawyer but I think if you order something and leave without paying, that's theft.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: filth

                                                                                  neither am I but surely if you order something in a restaurant and they don't supply it in good time or something is very wrong with it then they haven't fulfilled their side of the contract.

                                                                                2. Never walked out fully.

                                                                                  Got my pop, waited, 20 minutes, no service, left money on the table for the pop, left.

                                                                                  Another place took 45 minutes to cook my food after ordering, but I just went up to the register and said I had to go and could I please get it for take-out instead. The girl was very apologetic and knocked 5% off my bill. I was not the only patron suffering from kitchen slowness that night, and about a month later the place was closed.

                                                                                  But I don't think I would leave without paying at least what I had consumed. Of course, tempers do flare up more when you're hungry...

                                                                                  1. Walked out of a restaurant in Wilmington VT. Three of us were seated by the co-owner/hostess/waitress and were left there for about 10 minutes. We called her over so we could order drinks and she took our order and we waited another 15 minutes before getting up and leaving. It wasn't that she was over-worked, only 3 other tables were being served. As we were leaving, she came over and asked if anything was wrong. This was after about 25 minutes of ignoring us and we told her she seemed to have too much business to serve us and we left.

                                                                                    1. I've walked out of restaurants before ordering, once because of the ridiculous amount of time I wasted waiting for someone to take my order while sitting in an otherwise half empty place, another time for a 'tourist menu' being forced upon me without my asking for one (I had no trouble reading the menu as it was intended), and once for my SO and I being asked to share a table with a stranger on Valentine's evening when there were plenty of other free tables. But I would never walk out of a restaurant without paying for what I've ordered, no matter how bad the service is. I can usually tell as soon as I walk in the door if dining somewhere is going to be worth my time (and money).

                                                                                      1. We walked out of a place a couple of nights ago, but not for lack of trying to pay. Despite the small size (Only about 10 tables, plus a bar), the waiter managed to lose my credit card between the table and the kitchen. After disappearing for 15 minutes, he came back and told he he had lost it, but was trying to find it. We gave him another 10 minutes, then headed out. We let them know on the way out we were leaving, would cancel the card, and dinner was on them.

                                                                                        They called later to tell us they found the card. I haven't gone back to retrieve it. And this was my birthday dinner on top of it!

                                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Pylon

                                                                                          I understand why you would cancel the card. I don't understand why this scenario frees you from the obligation to pay for your meal.

                                                                                          1. re: HDinCentralME

                                                                                            How would they pay without their credit card?

                                                                                            1. re: snowwhitekitty

                                                                                              Cash, check, etc.

                                                                                              Pylon still owes for the meal. He could easily leave his contact information and make arrangements to return w/ cash, check, other card...rather than simply saying "tough luck" and walking out.

                                                                                              Should the resto compensate Pylon in some way for the inconvenience and time spent? Yes, of course. But that is a separate issue from "tough luck, dinner's on you, see ya".

                                                                                              1. re: HDinCentralME

                                                                                                No, you're right. We've had our cc lost at a restaurant before but it was after it was charged. As a server, I have no clue how you manage that between the table and the computer.

                                                                                                1. re: snowwhitekitty

                                                                                                  I do...someone has taken it to a back room to try and get some kind of copy or write down the info for fraudulent purposes.....

                                                                                                  1. re: janetofreno

                                                                                                    Though I can't swear on a stack of bibles that the restaurant didn't fail to return my credit card, it came up missing shortly after eating out and using my Mastercard. I had to use my MC since they didn't take Am-X. It sticks out because I seldom use my MC, and only when I have to.
                                                                                                    Within days of the occasion, several thousand dollars was charged to the CC at Best Buy (locally). Until I saw my CC bill I didn't realize that card was missing.

                                                                                                    Has anyone had the restaurant fail to return their card and had to ask for it back?

                                                                                                    1. re: Scargod

                                                                                                      i've had servers drop cc's in some pretty bizarre places. the cc can easily slip and fall out of the check presenter and they may not notice, especailly if they're rushing around. not every dropped card means imminent fraud.

                                                                                                      it's quite possible "you" (general you, please, not the above posters) mislaid it while putting it back in your pocket/wallet/purse.

                                                                                        2. I can recall leaving a place at breakfast one time. They opened at 9:00 and we were waiting when the doors opened. Our server gave us coffee and told us that the breakfast chef had just arrived and was getting the grill warmed up. At 9:30, the grill was still being warmed up so my husband had some kind of discussion with the server out of my earshot and we moved on.

                                                                                          1. My family walked out of a Denny's in Philadephia in the late 80s. It had been something like 25-30 minutes and we hadn't even gotten the drink order to the table yet, or a food order placed.

                                                                                            I was much amused to later see Denny's as the object of a racial discrimination suit. We're white; and the rest of the patrons that night were white, black, and had origins in many other parts of the world, and minority and majority alike, we all seemed to get uniformly terrible service from that restaurant that night. As we walked out, the black family that had come in at the same time we did and was still waiting still hadn't gotten their drinks either.

                                                                                            1. A few years ago we went to a cafe for breakfast. I absolutely loved this place because their hot chocolate and hot cocoa (signature beverages IMO) made me think of a passage in the book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” describing how the chocolate was churned by waterfall making it light and frothy. Then Willie Wonka dips a mug into the river and gives it to Charlie to drink. But I digress ...

                                                                                              The restaurant opened at 9am. We arrived a few minutes after that and found a couple of parties waiting on the outside patio rubbing their hands and stamping their feet because it was so cold. We could see the staff scrambling around inside trying to get ready to open. Someone came to the door and explained that they were a little late in opening and they would let us in soon. We stood around for about 20 minutes before they opened their doors, meanwhile a several more parties were gathering outside.

                                                                                              When we were finally seated our food server took our order. It took 20 minutes to get our hot chocolate and hot cocoa. We asked about our order and the food server apologized for the delay. She explained that some of the kitchen staff had forgotten that Daylight Savings had started and as a result, did not show up on time. We had been watching the head chef running back and forth between the dining room and kitchen with a cell phone stuck to his ear, apparently trying to get people to come in ASAP.

                                                                                              We spent the next 20 minutes sipping our beverages. A busboy took our dirty cups and asked if there would be anything else! We said “yes, we'd like our breakfast AND our food server”. He left with our cups and our food server showed up. She apologized and said our order would be up in ten minutes. How could that be, when we ordered 40 minutes ago and other tables who were seated well after us had been served. She offered more apologies and hurried off.

                                                                                              At this point I'd had enough and lost my appetite. The busboy came to fill our water glasses again. We handed him a $1 and left. Haven't been back since. Ironically, we were standing outside deciding where else we might go and saw our food server carrying two breakfasts to our empty table.

                                                                                              From time to time, I would wistfully think about their hot chocolate. But they have a recipe for it posted on their website so I can make it whenever the mood strikes me. As for their current menu, it has changed since we were last there. What they serve now you can get pretty much anywhere else.

                                                                                              1. I have been on three sides of the coin. As a server, I have tried to be on top of things so if there is something wrong, I want to know about it so I could do something helpful and at least try get a tip out of you...as a manager, I would want to make it "right" so you would come back or at least not spread bad press. I have comped entire meals cause one patron was very unhappy in a party. As a patron I have been BSed by the best and worse, but will always bring a problem to someones attention before just walking out even if they are uninterested, they better know why I am doing what I am. I would pay for what I consume and expect that if I didn't eat it, I wouild not pay. On the other hand, if someone cleaned their plate and then complained, I would be skeptical and maybe not be so nice.

                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: EmileJ

                                                                                                  That's the one that drives me nuts!
                                                                                                  "My food was horrible."
                                                                                                  "But you ate it."
                                                                                                  "I was hungry."
                                                                                                  "Would you like an alternative?"
                                                                                                  "No, I'm not hungry anymore."
                                                                                                  "?!?"

                                                                                                  1. re: miss_bennet

                                                                                                    Makes sense to me. I've eaten the whole meal when it was wrong, not horrible, just not as ordered when I was very hungry, short on time and the waiter never came by in time to ask. After I was done, the waiter finally came by to drop off the check. I told him that the meal was wrong. I didn't expect a comp because I ate it all, but I told him so hopefully in the future things will be correct.

                                                                                                    1. re: miss_bennet

                                                                                                      I've had this happen to me - the food was horrible, but the waiter evaporated into thin air and my blood sugar plummeted. I scarfed down the bad food because I had to fuel the machine. Some 40 minutes later the waiter reappeared. It has happened on more than one occasion, but never at the same place twice.

                                                                                                      I didn't complain; I just didn't go back. They won't believe my complaint when I've hoovered the plate clean.

                                                                                                  2. There have been very few times in my life where the food was SO horrible/the service SO excruciatingly bad (or some other equally bad thing happening like the OP's example of seeing a roach - gag) that I really felt like storming out. I have never actually done so either, but my family and I had a very bad experience at a restaurant in Chincoteague VA last summer. We should have walked out immediately because on entering, the place reeked of a nasty cleaning fluid. Under any other circumstances I would have insisted we leave, but my husband was a little cranky after a long drive and I decided the best course of action right at the moment was to keep the ol' lip zipped. Bad decision - and something I will never make the mistake of doing again. The place was a total disaster. The service was beyond slow, and when our disgusting food finally arrived, mine had a big old hair in it. I put down my fork, showed my husband and announced that we were leaving. I got up, found our waitress, quietly explained the issues that we had, that we were not paying for the food we hadn't touched, but would of course pay for the little bit of food we had (unfortunately) already consumed, and our drinks. A few minutes later she came back to our table and told us it was on the house. I said thanks and we left. We quickly found a cute little sandwich place down the street and while we were eating my husband actually had the nerve to ask me if I had put the hair in the food!!! (I had apparently been making my feelings about the place very clear prior to the hair incident even though I thought I was doing such a good job of hiding my dismay...) I couldn't believe it. I said "you have known me for almost 18 yrs - have I EVER even come CLOSE to doing something like that??!?" And then I pointed out that given the general scuminess of the place, I wasn't at all surprised to find a hair in my food and had actually been thinking to myself as I watched the hairy people in the kitchen working over the grill etc. that it would be a miracle if there WASN"T any hair in our food. We ended up joking about the place the rest of our vacation but I swear every time we drove by it I actually got a liitle queasy. Can't believe anyone actually eats at that place.

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                      We're heading to Chincoteague in a month or so - care to share the name of the place so we can be sure to avoid?
                                                                                                      Thanks.

                                                                                                      1. re: Leronis

                                                                                                        I don't know why I didn't include the name in the first place. It's been a couple of years now and I don't remember. But I do remember that as we came over the bridge onto the island we made a left and it was only a couple of blocks up on the left, if that. It's a restaurant and lounge, with pretty big windows in the front. It's very dingy inside with a lot of booths. IT might have been called Don's seafood and Chattie's lounge but I wouldn't swear that was the place. Sorry I couldn't be of more help. If I track down the name, I will post it.

                                                                                                    2. One of my, "I just had to walk out" tales:

                                                                                                      It was late night on one of the few chilly nights here in South Florida, and a friend and I ducked into The News Cafe on South Beach for a cup of hot chocolate. We were seated at a window table-- right at the window - -our table abutted the glass and the window was to each of our sides. We placed our order.. and it arrived within a normal time.

                                                                                                      Our server placed the cups of hot chocolate - still bubbling hot in front of us.. and just as we both ascertained that they were too hot to drink............ a man came flying across our table and smashed right into the glass -- he'd been sucker punched by the manager (part of being thrown out for who knows what). Our hot chocolate went flying (we hadn't even had a sip), and we jumped up and out of the way. Then we stood back, watched them clean the guy from our table, and waited.

                                                                                                      We waited some more. No one (we were two women) even bothered to ask us if we were okay (I wasn't, I found out when I got home that I had a bruise on my side). So I looked at my friend and told her to get her purse, that we were leaving. We got our purses and as we started to walk to the door, our server ran up to us with the check.. he tried to hand it to me.

                                                                                                      I looked him in the eye and said "I certainly hope that's not my check" and I walked past him.

                                                                                                      I did call the restaurant the next day to notify them about what happened -- and explain that I felt that the entire situation was outrageous -- they didn't seem very concerned -- and did not offer me ANYTHING at all in the way of "we're sorry that happened".

                                                                                                      I've never given the owner a dime of my money since then -- at any of the number of restaurants he's owned here in Miami.

                                                                                                      1. I have left a restraunt without paying on only one occasion....

                                                                                                        One Sunday morning I went for brunch with my same-sex partner to a local cafe. This place is notorious in Montreal for a "Breakfast Nazi" - rough with customers and waitstaff alike - who was the wife in a husband-and-wife team of owners. I had never had any issues with her personally, although I had witnessed a few tirades against the staff. The food is actually fairly decent there and the spot remains popular.

                                                                                                        As we entered we were greeted and quickly ushered to the only available table in the place. A waitress arrived and poured us each coffee. We then asked to see the menu. The waitress then went to a small table where many menus were placed. As she picked up the menus the owner came over and told her that distributing the menus was her (the owners) job and that SHE would decide when we could see the menu. After a few minutes (without seeing menus) I tried to catch the owners eye to see if I could get menus. Alas she did not acknowledge my presence. I subsequently went myself to get the menus from the small table (there were plenty of menus available). After a few minutes the owner noticed we had menus and came to take them away from us. She then started to ask us "where did you get menus? I didn't say you could have menus." She also started to yell at the poor server who had given us coffee. She also told me that I was a "troublemaker"

                                                                                                        At that point, more-or-less stunned, we just got up and walked out. As we left the owner then had the chutzpah to demand we actually PAY for the coffee that had been served to us. We simply ignored her until she said that she would call the police if we did not pay. At that point I turned around and told her that she should just go ahead and do that and walked out, never to return.

                                                                                                        To this day I have no idea why this woman did what she did. I don't think it was a discrimination issue, I just think she's got some kind of personality disorder. But I do know that I feel no guilt whatsoever about walking out on $2.50 worth of coffee given the treatment received.

                                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: buspirone

                                                                                                          That's actually quite funny in a psychotic kinda way! Since we visit Montreal frequently, care to let me know what part of town that it's in, so we can avoid it?

                                                                                                          1. re: KevinB

                                                                                                            NDG along Sherbrooke St.

                                                                                                            1. re: buspirone

                                                                                                              Cosmos?

                                                                                                              No need to be coy we're here to inform and help each other avoid these bad situations

                                                                                                              1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                i hate to slightly change the subject... but i am a server and i have been having a hard time at my restaurant... does anyone know if it is illegal to charge the server for items broken by mistake? or for items accidentally added to the tab or accidentally forgotten on the tab? Also should the server have to pay for the item that the customer doesn't like? I have been working there for 2 years now and this is the crap i have to put up with =(

                                                                                                                if you know, please tell me where i can find it and SEEK JUSTICE!

                                                                                                                1. re: sugarjoiko

                                                                                                                  it depends where you live. call your local labor board.

                                                                                                                  here, it's illegal to charge servers for breakage, but we can charge them if they screw up a bill. not, however, if the customer doesn't like the dish.

                                                                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                    okay thankyou so much for your advice! i truly appreciate it (^_^)
                                                                                                                    but i have one more question? what about... say for instance, a customer orders a teriyaki chicken plate (i work at a japanese restaurant lol), but i accidentally press the wrong item... such as teriyaki beef instead? I don't bring the dish out to the customer, and the food is NOT touched... However, the kitchen has already completed the dish... Should I pay for that entire entree as well? Or shouldn't they be able to take it back?

                                                                                                                    Also, there are cases where if we order beer? but the bartender is busy? we will personally retrieve the beer and serve it... however, if we or the bartender forget to remove the ticket, and the bartender opens another beer, we are forced to pay for that beer... Because it has been "opened"

                                                                                                                    I apologize if I'm complaining too much... But We're not bad servers at my job... Our service is very good actually... But i just believe we are held accountable for way too many things =(

                                                                                                                    1. re: sugarjoiko

                                                                                                                      Lastly:
                                                                                                                      If a customer decides to alter ingredients in an item on the menu... such as... If one orders a california roll... But decides to add "tuna" and "creamcheese" inside... The server prepares the modified meal but forgets to charge the customer for the extra convenience... Should these charges be taken out of our CHECKS???

                                                                                                                      (AND DONT FORGET TO MENTION... we get NO benefits... the largest discount we can get on food ordered there is 15%... (and thats if we're on the clock!) off the clock is 10%... and this discount can't even be added to our family's bill? (if we eat together as one) they will only discount the food that the employee ate)

                                                                                                                      is that messed up or what?

                                                                                                                      1. re: sugarjoiko

                                                                                                                        sugar,

                                                                                                                        i don't know how long the mods will leave these posts up, because it's not really on-topic for the thread.

                                                                                                                        it does depend where you live, and these things may also be a manager's or owner's discretion. if your boss is a hard-case, which is how it sounds, they can charge you (at least in my state) if YOU cost the restaurant money.

                                                                                                                        maybe find a nicer boss, lol.

                                                                                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                          In Oregon it is against labor law to take anything out of a workers pay without their written consent. Charging them for walkouts, order mistakes etc is illegal.

                                                                                                                2. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                  The Oxford (I had forgotten about this post).

                                                                                                          2. My family and I went to a popular restaurant during one of their promotions. The waitress came up to take our drink order and then we were passed off to another waitress which I was glad because the waitress was nasty, she yelled at me for putting my purse on the chair next to me, because of the promotion the restaurant added extra tables so the next table was less than a foot from our table. Everyone got a free stack of pancakes. We also ordered meals as well. The pancakes came out immediately so we ate them as an appetizer, but when the meals came out they were not cooked, half frozen. Apparently the cooks were too busy making pancakes to properly cook the other orders. We could have gotten sick. We waited ages and the server never arrived to check on us. Eventually the server came and we explained that the food was inedible. We waited another 20 minutes to get the bill, despite the uncooked food, we were still charged a ridiculous amount for drinks even though we were not given refills promptly and the soda was flat. Then I had to wait in a long line at the entrance to pay the bill, there was about 50 people crowded in the small entrance waiting to pay their bills and waiting to be seated. I just left. I should not have been charged at all for poor service and raw food. The food was not eaten and the soda was not drinkable. I realize I should have paid for what we drank, but after that miserable experience I wanted out of there.

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: AliceTH80

                                                                                                              that's why I never go to restaurants on "free food" days. ;)

                                                                                                              1. re: AliceTH80

                                                                                                                this sounds like an absolute shitshow, but you should have at least left some money on the table or flagged somebody down.

                                                                                                                you DID eat the pancakes.

                                                                                                                i avoid any kind of promotional things like this.