This counterfeit note hangs in our office as a reminder. A reminder to pay attention. When we played the tape back and saw the guy who passed it, it was actually kind of funny. He stepped up to the register and sheepishly placed his order. After fishing out his wallet and removing the bill with the fragility of Ming dynasty pottery his look and mannerisms were those of a person who wasn’t confident the ruse would work. In fact, it seemed like he expected to be caught. When our cashier marked it with one of those little pens (which doesn’t mean squat) you could tell he was sweating, holding his breath. But after it was placed in the till and he got back over $35 in change, the rush of tranquility washing over him was palpable through the TV monitor. He gleefully took his change. He made small talk with the staff while he waited on his food. The smug SOB even had the nerve to sit in the dining room to leisurely enjoy the meal. A buddy joined him and we watched them dine, grinning and licking their fingers until their bellies were full. They eventually got up to leave, getting a free refill on the way out. Maybe they turned and waved “bye” to the screw. I don’t remember.
It won’t be the first or the last time that has happened to a restaurant. We shared the story with our bank and they told us even with their $3000 money counters equipped with the latest technology they still get burned occasionally. The “last fool” holding the bill loses, they said.
We’ve dealt with quick-change cons and guests stealing the tip jar or walking away with unpaid carry-out orders. These are people off the street so it goes without saying your own employees can have the stickiest fingers of them all. Everyone has experienced this and if someone says “It won’t/hasn’t happened to me” they’re obviously an absentee owner. We strongly encourage team training, action plans and a robust security and surveillance system. It’s definitely worth the time and effort.
On the flip side, these shenanigans aren’t limited to customers. Operators can be notorious for scam tactics. Probably not the first I experienced but the most glaring was at a bar in New York. Hanging out with some natives, the night led us to what could be explained easiest as one of those “semi-private” clubs. We were somewhere deep in The Bronx at a nondescript building. A 350 pound, 6’5″ guy stood outside the front door eyeballing and patting everyone down before they entered. There was no back-talk because it appeared he could easily snap any one of us in half. He happened to know the people I was with so after introductions and them telling him I was “ok” we slapped five before he gave me the biggest and most painful bear-hug I ever experienced, nearly lifting me off my feet. “Welcome brother. Have a good time.”
The club was a dark, smoky, labyrinth filled with the requisite music and fashion of the early 90’s. Shockingly beautiful women of what I guessed to be of some Latin-Caribbean blend tended the bar while kung fu movies played silently on TV’s hanging here and there. A really funky, weird place tinged with a hint of danger could describe it. It was late fall or winter because I ordered a scotch. Scotch being my winter drink of choice. They had the usual blends which was fine so I asked for a Johnny Walker Black, rocks. After taking a sip and nearly spitting it out I immediately realized what I was served wasn’t scotch at all but a cheap-ass bourbon inside of a Johnny Walker bottle. With tip I think I was out about 10 bucks for that drink. Pissed, I gave the bartender a dirty look and started to complain but she ignored me as she scurried about serving the crowd. Reminding myself I was an outsider and the big man at the door looking like he could snap a neck with a thumb and forefinger I took the loss and stuck with Heinekens for the remainder of the evening. I mentioned the incident to my friends later and they laughed saying, “man always order a beer in those joints.” Oh well, live and learn.
It happens everywhere. I mentioned scotch was my winter drink. Well in the summer it’s Bombay Sapphire and grapefruit juice. One time after ordering it at a bar here in Indy what I received was gin but not the high-powered brand I’m familiar with, rather some rot gut swill again being poured from a top shelf bottle. At least the drinks are cheaper here.
Stories abound about restaurant kitchens passing off low-grade foodstuffs as premium items and retail brands cleverly reducing portion and packaging sizes. And surely everybody remembers the pig anus rumor surrounding calamari from a few years back?
Foodservice is unnerving, fun, frustrating, painful, and hilarious all at the same time. It’s never boring that’s for sure.
Sweet & Sour Sauce
1/2 C bitter orange marmalade
1/2 C peach jam
1T freshly grated horseradish
1t dry English mustard
1t cider vinegar
3T fresh orange juice
salt & pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and let stand 15 minutes