questionswhat really happens at a restaurant if you cannot…


Never happened to me though I am curious. My bet is probably call the cops unless its a small town where everyone knows everyone so you can't really run away.

EDIT: I mean they already hire dish washers why would they need you to wash them unless someones sick that day. You know that would be kinda convenient. lol


I don't know about you guys, but they usually call the attack dogs on me.


They serve you up the next day as a pot roast of burrito filling.


You 'go to the bathroom' and stick your date with the bill.


I've actually been in the forgot-the-wallet scenario. I think most restaurants will be OK with you running home to fetch some money provided you leave someone or something there while you do it. In my case, I happened to be only a quarter mile from home so I just (quite literally) ran back for my wallet while my girlfriend discussed the desert options with the waiter. And yes, I had explained to them the situation before I bolted out of there.

As for arrest, at least in my understanding, for something to be a crime it should require either intent or gross negligence. This isn't deliberate theft of services/goods we're talking about here, so it should be purely civil. (Course, that said, the modern-day urge to always have someone to string up for anything going wrong may have altered that yardstick by now ... so definitely do not take anything I've said here as legal advice, especially since I don't even play a lawyer on TV, much less actually exist as one.)


When my brother, sister & I were young, my folks used to frequently take us to this great Chinese restaurant in Rhode Island named "The Pagoda Inn." We asked our favorite waitress this very question. She didn't miss a beat and said "Mommy & Daddy will have to stay here to wash all the dishes & clean up, and you & I will go to the movies!"

We were disappointed when Dad always said he had plenty of money for the dinner tab.


@psaux: I don't think they will arrest you per say but more like be a mediator and make sure the restaurant gets their money by x amount of time. Actually hold on goes to bug lawyer friend on steam bahhh he's not there. I'll bug him when he's back from church.

But yeah if you have something/someone to leave then yeah that's understandable to. But I was thinking just oh hey guys ill be back in 30 mins and just leave without anything to force you to come back earlier.

Anywho I'll post back later with more information if I get any.


I've wondered about that too. Once DH & I went to a Chinese restaurant (not the Pagoda Inn, but not too far Swansea, Ma!) and after ordering realized that each of us thought the other had money. We were able to call back the waiter in time to say we had to run to an ATM before eating!


If you can't pay your bill just order a couple of the more extravagant desserts on the menu and when the waiter is gone to the kitchen to get them, walk out as if you know what you're doing.


If you leave without paying your bill your server has to pay it. My son has worked in several restaurants and this has been policy at all of them. This is (I'm assuming) so I dishonest server doesn't pocket the money and blame the customer for not paying.

If you honestly forgot your wallet I'm sure the restaurant would allow you to leave and come back with money, but please come back! Those servers don't get paid that well.


@psaux: If you intentionally do this, the criminal charge is "defrauding an innkeeper" and is just as much a crime as shoplifting. Of course, an honest mistake can happen to anyone.


@psaux: So you left your girlfriend as collateral? That's a good one.


Happened to my dad once. They trusted him to come back with his wallet. I would guess different restaurants have different policies though. I doubt anyone would call the cops on an honest mistake, though. Probably just take down your info


@cengland0: I've done that too (left my girlfriend as collateral), when I ran to the ATM after the restaurant didn't take credit. The owner ended up noticing and saying to my gf, "Oh you could have gone with him."


@ohcheri, that's against the law. There is no way an employer can hold the actions of a customer against the employee.

"Dine and Dash" is a part of the business but if it happens to a particular employee an inordinate amount of time they shouldn't be surprised if their sections/hours seem to get smaller and smaller. Forgotten wallet/maxed credit card/etc. also happens all the time. Leave your drivers license and come back with cash. (If you get pulled over in that amount of time well it's just not your day is it?)


Great question! Something I had been curious about as well!


@misry: It isn't so much that it's against the law (making the server pay for meals that the diner has ducked out on paying). It still happens (and I might add that I couldn't find a statute that said it was or was not against the law, and I looked). When you are employed, you prefer to remain employed. Often, the choice is to pay the tab, or be fired for not being able to spot the little thieves ahead of time.

Here's an interesting discussion I found while searching for relevant law:

I did see evidence that it's illegal in Canada.

Here's some suggestion that it is not legal:

Please remember, folks, that it's still quite possible that your server will pay, legal or not.


@lavikinga: Perhaps you can answer a question that has been bothering me for a week now. I went to tell a friend about this great buffet place in Rhode Island that I went to frequently when living in Connecticut. One could order 5 lobsters if they wanted. Driving me nuts that I cannot think of it. Does this by any chance ring a bell with you?


I had this happen at a McD's drive thru where I went to pay, realized I forgot my wallet. To my dismay and embarrassment, the person at the pay window said, "we recognize you. just come back next time with the money." I did of course the following day, and it wasn't a big deal, although they seemed shocked that I did.

At that point I realized that I was there often enough to be considered a "regular"...not a good thing.


I am a police detective in a mid size town and we have a major university in our jurisdiction. The students use a popular diner near campus to play dine and dash a lot. Since this was starting to be an intentional thing we started arresting them. They were charged with retail fraud (shoplifting) and it put an end to the dine and dashers. Now the mom and pop who go in and realize after ordering they forgot their wallet, that is a different story. Give the waitress and or manager your info, plate number etc. and come back and pay later. If you don't come back and pay in a timely manner call the police to resolve it. Same goes for gas drive offs.


@misry: Not against the law that I'm aware of. There have been a lot of folks who've worked differenct places tell me the same thing. You run, the employee picks up the tab. If it were illegal, it would have been stopped by now with some class action suit.


@misry: I work in a large chain resturant in MN and I can tell you that it's illegal for them to hold your drivers license as collateral. We have a state university less than a mile away and so from midnight to 6am have a policy of holding a major credit card or requireing pre-payment. In the past when it first went into effect it was policy to hold a drivers license but there was a legal issue that arose, at which point it was changed to the current policy.

As a manager I've addressed this issue on many occasions and circumstances. There is no set-in-stone action in the case of not having payment. Some resolutions that have occurred have been one member of a party fetching money, having to call Mom to bring money, or a friend paying for them. The only time I would call the police for non-payment would be a loud, angry, or violent customer who wouldn't accept any offered ways of resolving the situation. Walkouts are a loss to the house and closely monitored by our GM.


Look up "defrauding an innkeeper" It usually falls under this, in VA, if you just completely try to up and leave. You can also sometimes arrange to be billed later, or, as another member said, you can leave someone at the restaurant to go grab some money. It really does depend on the situation. Overall, I'd recommend not doing it :)


It seems a lot of people here are taking the question the wrong way. The original poster asked about "cannot," not "will not." The latter being hugely different given intent. Granted, it gets messy in that, from the restaurant's side, they may not be sure which it is. That's why it's all the more important to make sure they have a reason to trust you. Even if they don't ask for collateral, unless you're a really regular customer, it'd definitely be a smart move to discuss it with them and find some way for them to have increased faith that you will return. Also, if you're going to be driving, you really shouldn't be /deliberately/ going without your license, so I would hand them pretty much anything else. A cell phone might be a good choice. Even the more basic ones these days would have a hardware resale value in excess of the check for a lot of meals, and they'd probably be comfortable with the idea of you being too attached to it to ditch it.


When I was younger and a waiter in Illinois, I had a couple leave without paying. It was a Friday night, I had a huge, busy section, and even though it had never happened to me before, the manager made me pay for the meal out of my tips. $55 out the door. Fortunately for me, they realized the mistake and came in the next night and payed me back. The wife made her husband give me a $25 tip once she found out I had to pay the tab myself! In that instance it worked out fine, but I have known others who had to swallow the loss.


I traveled a bit. It was common to dine out 2-3 times daily for weeks each year. I've been caught without a payment a few times. A few times it was because we realized too late a place didn't take a CC.

Each time we made a point of alerting the proprietor and explaining. I can't recall anyone that got angry. They understood and were helpful. Leaving a business card was sufficient guarantee we'd return with payment. Once I was even told not to worry about the bill (we made sure we paid later, with a handsome tip).

The folks that dine-and-dash have affected everyone's opinion and viewpoint. Proprietors are justifiably angry with them because there is a clear intent to defraud. When you know someone was out to "steal a meal", calling the cops seems a reasonable choice. On the other hand, a customer's honesty makes their promise to return more trustworthy.

Maybe I just have an honest face, but most people are understanding.

But owners making staff responsible for customers is wrong!


@klozitshoper: I'm thinking it might have been Custy's. The original Custy's burned down awhile ago but it seems they have reopened and are charging quite a bit of money for their all-you-can-eat seafood buffet.


@lavikinga: Just an observer on this topic, but $79.99? I assume that is per person...I couldn't eat that much in 5-6 meals!


@jsimsace: [gasp] I'm either too old or too untraveled to handle $80 for a buffet, even if it does include all the lobster and steak I can eat.


@ohcheri @shrdlu @misry

About the whole "against the law" part of the employee being forced to pick up the depends on the state's laws and terms of employment. (Even though it is a federal blanket of Dept of Labor) I know this one first hand in my state, as I've had to go on record for the state's Wage and Labor Board. In this state it isn't against the law to give the server a choice, pay or get fired. Though if you force the server to pay for services rendered that tends to break the state's labor policy. It's a fine line filled with grey, depending on how good your lawyer is. Since it varies state-to-state and most people think employers can make you pay, or are scared to lose their jobs, it is common practice. Though it isn't right.


@jsimsace: agreed! I can't believe it's $80 that seems insane. I can't imagine they get much business.


@jsimsace: I KNOW! Pretty outrageous for a buffet, isn't it? Of course, there are people who could get their money's worth.
I am pretty sure my folks would've frequented Custy's when my Dad was stationed at Quonset Point back in 1969-70, but back then my Dad really pinched the pennies. I doubt the prices were quite so expensive relative to the times.


Interesting question - I did know that many places force the server to pay for a dine and dash but I never really thought about what happens when you honestly can't pay (by accident).

I just can't understand people with the mindset to purposefully con a restaurant. Like this first one:


@misry: Regarding leaving your drivers license, that might be difficult if you forgot your wallet. I keep my drivers license in my wallet.

@psaux: yes the intent of the question was if it was an accident that you couldn't pay -- not that you intentionally left the establishment without paying (dine and dash). That's just wrong! Anyone that does it purposely should be prosecuted appropriately.


@lavikinga: Gosh yes, Thanks. I never went as even back in the day (70's) I could not afford it at about $35 or $50. Today at any price I just could not eat that much. However, I knew several people with whom I worked (guys actually) who adored the place. Thanks for the menu and website. However, not on my agenda for next time I fly into PVD.


I have had this happen a couple of times, but the restaurant was complicit. I pay everything with credit cards and rarely carry cash. I have had several instances where the credit card logos were in the window, but when it came time to pay the restaurant wasn't taking credit cards, or not that particular card, or the credit card machine was broken or once while we were eating the electricity went out. In all cases the restaurant just said, "come back and pay tomorrow", and I did.