Dine and dash
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A dine and dash is a form of theft by fraud, in which a patron orders and consumes food and beverages from a restaurant or similar establishment with intent of not paying. The act may involve the customer leaving the restaurant with the intent of evading payment, or less commonly, of the patron eating the food and then stating that they do not have any money.
There are numerous slang variations for this act, including "dine and ditch", "eat and run", "chew and screw", "eat it and beat it", "eat it and street it", "lick it and split it", "book it and hook it", "stow it and blow it", "doing a runner", "beating the check" or "sip and skip".
Simply failing to pay a bill when due is generally not a crime in most circumstances or jurisdictions. It is a contract debt, and the act is civil rather than criminal in nature. However, there are often laws that apply specifically to restaurants, hotels, and other circumstances, where the presumption is that the customer intended to never pay their bill in advance and therefore obtained the valuable services under false pretenses, is a form of criminal fraud. In certain states, dining and dashing is not labelled as a criminal issue. For example, in California, it is considered a petty theft, while in Mississippi, it is a felony offense if you refuse to pay a bill over $25.00 (By Ineedhelp! in Forum Criminal Charges. "Expert Law." Legal Help RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Sept. 2016.).
Often, the establishment may make their employees pay the cost of customer theft to give them an incentive to police their customers. They may do so explicitly by deducting unpaid meals from wages or tips, or implicitly through an end-of-shift reconciliation system whereby the server is expected to provide enough cash and credit card receipts to cover the cost of their customers' meals, and keeps any surplus as tips. This is an illegal form of wage theft, and if the server is held responsible for tabs that are not paid, the employer is liable for paying the server back his or her stolen wages. It is illegal, for example, for an establishment to require an employee to pay for an unpaid tab, but it is often a serious offense to have someone walk out on their check. The server must decide whether to pay the tab and keep his or her job, or not pay and risk losing it.
Some restaurants, lodging, or taxicab services may be forced to compensate for the unpaid bill by increasing prices to cover the loss. In turn, this will make it more difficult to attract customers, and may harm their reputation.
Some restaurants and cafes face large volumes of dine and dash food theft problems, which affect the daily profits. To combat this, in some restaurants people have to pay before the meal is served, or put down deposits.
- Schultz, Connie (December 15, 2009). "The costs of getting stiffed shouldn't be the server's to pay". Cleveland Live.
- "Payment of Wages". Ontario Ministry of Labor. November 2009.
- British Columbia Ministry of Labour and Citizens' Services (2005). "Interpretation Guidelines Manual: British Columbia Employment Standards Act and Regulations".
- U.S. Department of Labor (2009). "Fact Sheet #16: Deductions From Wages for Uniforms and Other Facilities Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)" (PDF).
- "Deductions that are not allowed" (PDF). Government of Alberta. September 2011.