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To catch a thief ... restaurant pilferage ....


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I once went to a very exclusive resort in Boca Raton and saw some of the most frightening pilferings there. The most surprising thingg is that the average age of this resort was about 65 and over, and most people swank around in expensive labels, but there they are trying to walk out with plates, cocktail shakers and things (caviar sppons were all the rage). One grandma even tried to put the center peice vase (flowers and all) into her purse.

Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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On the way out of a restaurant, a former colleague snatched a lobster from the tank and stuffed it into his briefcase. I believe alcohol was involved.

This is hysterical! :laugh::laugh::laugh:

Even moreso if you read it too quickly as I did thereby thinking it said "stuffed it into his pants"...

Ouch.

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The weirdest thing I ever saw was banquet-serving at the yearly Cotton Ball at Francisco Grande in Casa Grande AZ, too many years to count. 2000 people, huge DRUNK once all the awards were done, and tables had 'high-dollar' table decorations provided by the "Cotton Wives" that august, moldy bunch of hypocrites (sorry, the opinions are mine, all my own, and anyone else who has worked with 'august bodies'). We were clearing the main table, and one of the head harpies had already claimed her centerpiece. We had left it, and were trying to get the kitchen back into repair. Pretty soon we heard some yellin' that was even louder than kitchen noises. Looking out the double doors, we see the wife havin' a knock-you-out with girlfriend of her husband over the centerpiece. And pretty soon, the men were in it, as well. Believe me when I say that it was very entertaining to see expensive Goldwater's couture getting ripped!! Ah, Memories...

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At one point, one of the restaurants I was responsible for used stainless Peugeot pepper mills which walked out the door nightly.

The worst case I ever heard about was written in the NYT a couple of years ago. Someone stole the faucet from the bathroom sink along with the doorknob hardware.

This said, I once aided my wife in stealing an ashtray from a cafe in Turkey. We did ask the manager if we could buy one and when he refused it became "mission impossible".

A great story that my grandmother used to tell was of an experience at the Plaza Hotel about 50 years ago. My Grandparents and there friends were very well off. The wives had been shopping and everyone was going to meet at the plaza for tea and fruit. The tables were set with crystal salt and pepper shakers and one of the women put the set in her purse. When the bill was presented there was a line item for the crystal ware....$80. The woman returned the shakers.

Best of all, I once visited the home of a former employee who not only had a full set of china and flatware but had turned our damask table linens into curtains.

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I guess my mom brought me up right, because I can't even fathom stealing anything from a restaurant, nor have I seen stuff stolen.

But my maid of "honor" at my wedding DID slink off with most of the centerpieces, which were meant for guests to take home. (Each place setting had a boxed truffle at it; there were 7 chocolate, and 1 key lime - coated in white chocolate, which was the "winner." She and her fiancé went around before the reception, opening the boxes to find out where the white truffles were, and then placed people they knew (or outright took away) at that place.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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It has just occured to me that perhaps restaurant pilerfage is to blame for one of my pet peeves.

I have frequently wondered why it is that waitstaff always swoop in the instant you have set down your fork on an empty plate, to evacuate the plates from the table -regardless of the fact that your dining companions are still eating.

Is it there a critical dish shortage?

Do they want to make things awkward for the slow eaters among us?

Is it just rudeness?

OR do they think I'll STEAL the dishes?

Robin Tyler McWaters

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I can honestly report that I have never taken anything from a restaurant that I wasn't supposed to take.

I did quip to friend on the opening of his reataurant that I was pleased that he selected the same Bernardaud china my wife and I chose. He remarked that he didn't recall ever seeing that china in our home -- to which I replied "no, but by the end of next week, you'll be able to!"

I recall an article some time ago on this subject. It reported that one of the Vegas restaurants (either Picasso or Renoir) had Lalique ashtrays at the beginning. $15,000 worth disppeared in the first several weeks the restaurant was open.

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I got curious once and followed a relatively new employee out to the garbage area. Suspicions confirmed - he was taking gallons of milk, OJ and similar staples out in garbage bags where he or a cohort would later pick them up from the dumpster. Turned out he was the member of a krishna like religious cult and this was the way the good folk of this particular sect begged for alms.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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I had never heard of people taking the cash tips off other tables before the waiters could get to them. :shock::shock::shock: If I ever saw someone doing this I would start screaming at them at the top of my lungs. That is low. Really, really low.

I think the whole problem of pilfering really does boil down to character. Just like the very rich society ladies who get busted for shoplifting at Bergdorf's. I worked for a nonprofit for three years where I came into contact with many of the so-called "pillars of the community" who were rich, powerful etc. Because most of them considered us, the peasants they worked with, to be about as intelligent as patio furniture they would sometimes get a little loose-lipped about their personal habits after a few drinks at the end of a charity event. I once sat and listened to an entire conversation about how one man's wife, having greatly admired the Frette sheets and fine crystal glasses and vases in a luxury hotel room they were staying in, broke into an adjoining room and stole everything that wasn't nailed down and some things that were. Then she found the maid's cart and stole more stuff off of it. She stole so much she had to ship everything home in a box, couldn't fit it in her suitcase. The man, who easily made $250K per year (which is a lot around here) was proud of his wife's grand larceny and thought it was quite funny. He thought it was even funnier that he and his wife would get compliments on their beautiful crystal and fine sheets when they had houseguests.

For some people, theft is a way of life. Sad but true. But after my very first experience with five-finger discount, an incident at age 5 in which I was marched back into the store and made to give back the candy bar I had stolen and give a full apology to the store manager and all the checkout clerks, I lost my taste for stealing. I guess maybe other people never had that same kind of correction at an early age.

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Observer UK article
yes, Sarah Roe, in my experience, and on the basis of your own description, you look (and act) precisely like the kind of woman who would steal a spoon from a fashionable restaurant. Fabulous clothes, a big old salary, a general sense of entitlement engendered by a glossy lifestyle and a spectacular expenses account: check, check and check again on the profile of your average flash restaurant accoutrement thief! And while I have no doubt that - as you insist - you're innocent of the crime, you should know that Celine is no kind of defence, lady. In fact, quite the opposite.
good article! :wink:

If you are, or have ever been, in the restaurant business, and this is more than just a little likely on eGullet, what is your take on people who are nattily attired and obviously able to purchase their own dining accoutrements, pilfering restaurant items? :huh:

What are they making off with? :rolleyes:

How do you handle it? :hmmm:

Have you ever noticed, as a diner in a fine establishment, someone pilfering something from their table? :rolleyes:

As to whether you yourself might have indulged in this practice, that shall remain confidential .. we are, after all, a discreet organization ... :laugh:

Does the fast food restaurant business count? My husband worked in a fried chicken place in high school. It was in a remodled gas station, so access to the restrooms was from the outside. When he went to the men's room at the end of his shift to clean it, he found that someone had unbolted and made off with the toilet.

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The stories I've heard/seen are mostly bar stories. I've heard of everything from bartenders bringing in their own bottles of the house vodka so they could give away free drinks to the regulars, bump their tips up tremendously and not have it look like it was missing from inventory, to a really enterprising bartender at a very busy nightclub that literally brought in his own cash register, and rang half of the nights receipts into that and then pocketed it because the management had no record of it. Pretty clever until he got caught and prosecuted. :rolleyes:

I've also heard about the boxes/bags/bottles of food disappearing into the trash and then getting fished out later. An old boss of mine busted some of the bussers and dishwashers doing this on camera. Also prosecuted.

The flip side of this can be amusing as well. I had an old boss that was certain that we were losing thousands of dollars a month on silverware getting carelessly tossed into the trash. When the magnetic topped trash cans didn't work he bought a metal detector. Problem was that every little speck of aluminum foil would set the thing off and some poor soul would have to dig through the trash with elbow high gloves on. That didn't last long once they realized the detector was way too sensitive. :laugh:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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The stories I've heard/seen are mostly bar stories.  I've heard of everything from bartenders bringing in their own bottles of the house vodka so they could give away free drinks to the regulars, bump their tips up tremendously and not have it look like it was missing from inventory, to a really enterprising bartender at a very busy nightclub that literally brought in his own cash register, and rang half of the nights receipts into that and then pocketed it because the management had no record of it.  Pretty clever until he got caught and prosecuted.  :rolleyes:

Way back when I did some time running the prepared foods sections of a regional supermarket and department store chain. Though I still suspect it might have been urban legend, there is the similar story of a supermarket manager who set up his own register in one of the checkout lanes. When they were busy he would step in to help out, open up his register, and pick up some spending money.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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For some people, theft is a way of life. Sad but true. But after my very first experience with five-finger discount, an incident at age 5 in which I was marched back into the store and made to give back the candy bar I had stolen and give a full apology to the store manager and all the checkout clerks, I lost my taste for stealing. I guess maybe other people never had that same kind of correction at an early age.

Ha, I did that to myself! At some ripe young age - I'll say I was around 9 - I STOLE A PIECE OF BUBBLEGUM from the local grocery store. Nobody suspected. It bothered me terribly, though, because I'd certainly had all the lessons taught to me, and was old enough to have a conscience (although obviously not old enough to have spine enough to fess up right then). Years later - let's say I was 13 - I slid 2 pennies to the checkout clerk without a word of explanation. She probably thought I was tipping her! :hmmm: At any rate, that blot on my soul was enough to put me on the straight and narrow.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I've had meat walk out the back door and end up at a VWF meat raffle more than once. The cops said they could do nothing about it.

There was this bartender who would bring in his own bottles of booze. This guy would do an extra $100 a night easy.

Then of course there's waitstaff who use the same ticket twice at brunch. Customer paid in cash? Just reuse the ticket and pocket the money. After all, brunch for two is the same as, duh, brunch for two!

Then there's those voids. At one pizza delivery place we used a triplicate system. One master on top, one label on the box, one label for the driver to turn in. On takeout orders, one of the managers used to write only on the label for the box. That was the customer's receipt. Then he'd just pocket the money. If there was a problem he would go ahead and fill in the other two copies and put the money back in the till.

Voids are so much easier to do these days with POS systems. Need an extra $18? Just void a ticket. Just don't do it too often, or do it often enough and the back office will think it's normal. If people ask, blame the kitchen. I used to get furious when I saw these voids come through on the printer. I knew there was nothing wrong with those plates so why? Pissed me off so much that I would go out and call out the server on the floor. The servers never understood. $18 on a $1000 night adds almost 2% to your food cost. Dang.. and people wonder why chefs are so emotional!

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A few years back I catered at a very well known, not to be named computer company. We used yards of festive cloth for decor on the buffet lines. (Under the chafers and platters, mind you.) After just a few weeks we had no cloths left and very few tongs. Also lost several platters. Wondered what could be happening. Then one day, one of the clean up crew walked in on a couple of the "guests" helping themselves to our decor.

Things got alot simpler on the buffet lines after that.

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I had a member of my own party pick up some or all of the cash tip we had left. We found out only because the server followed us outdoors and asked if something was wrong. This woman admitted she'd taken the money but tried to pretend it was by accident. She seemed to have a whole routine down for covering her a** when she was caught and I got the feeling she did this kind of thing a lot. Needless to say, my association with her was not long.

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I once aided my wife in stealing an ashtray from a cafe in Turkey.

You risked possible imprisonment in Turkey? Here's someone who never saw Midnight Express, I figure.

I've never, never stolen anything from a restaurant.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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my boyfriend has a collection of those little doodads you rest the chopstick tips on in asian restaurants

at first they were mostly polished stones but now i've noticed places getting really fancy with all sorts of cool little custom-made gizmos

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I have people nip off with the sterling tea strainers and sugar tongs. The servers stay very alert, and give the table a discreet onceover just before presenting the bill. If said strainers or tongs are missing, they are added quietly to the cheque (at a hefty price, I might add). The items usually reappear as if by magic, no one is humiliated publicly, and they beat a hasty retreat, never to be seen again.

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On the lighter side - my Grandma Lillie always helped herself to Sweet 'N Low packets. Not sugar, salt, pepper, or any other item -- just Sweet 'N Low (of course, this was before Equal, etc.). To this day, long after my dear Grandma has left us, recalling her furtively slipping little pink packets into her purse never fails to make us chuckle.

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" 

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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My dear Aunt Edith (who husband was my namesake) would always sneak back after everyone had left the booth to remove part of the tip until she felt what was left was appropriate. Once we discovered this practice we would have to make sure someone else would hide in the restaurant behind her to replace the missing portion of the tip.

Of course, she and her husband were both children/adolescents of the depression. When they both passed away and the task of cleaning their home fell to my parents and family we discovered huge boxes of Postal Service issue toilet paper, mail straps, and other govt. sundries in the basement, bags of sugar and flour stashed everywhere (including in the oven, how odd), and just the general appearance that they had not seen fit to throw anything away in the past thirty years.

Of course, some of this turned out to be cool, such as a collection of every single Playboy Magazine from the 60s or so until the early 90s, multiple jugs of moonshine, and a complete collection of original Elvis LPs.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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