Stiffed: Well-heeled patrons skipping out on restaurant checks

Jan. 13, 2011 at 3:04 PM ET

Oh, ick. Human beings have always been capable of some pretty slimy behavior, but a recent story out of New York is seriously disheartening -- in part because of the kinds of people who are being so slimy.

The New York Post just highlighted numerous accounts of older, well-heeled patrons -- including at least one millionaire -- who brazenly skip out on their restaurant checks. They’ve become highly skilled in the art of “dine and dash” -- also known, according to the article, as “lick and split” and “chew and screw.”

The number of people getting busted doing this has jumped nearly 20 percent in the past year, according to the New York Police Department. Of course, that statistic doesn’t include all the people who get away with it.

The ruses being used by well-dressed, professional-looking people know no bounds. Some step outside to smoke and then saunter off. Others pretend to be taking unruly children outside for a moment. Still others say with embarrassment that they’ve forgotten their wallets at home and promise to return right away -- and never do.

Especially slick patrons leave cell phones, purses, coats and credit cards at their tables -- but the items in question are often stolen, dead, maxed out or generally worthless. Another move: Disputing a whopping credit-card charge -- often over $1,000 or so -- after the fact. Restaurants often lose such battles and have to eat the bills.

The 50-something millionaire referenced in the article justified his actions thusly: “You know what? When I’m done with my meal and I’m ready to go, I walk out. And if the server isn’t paying attention, I walk away. If they’re interested in me or my money, they’ll pay attention.”

Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay. But here’s a quick question for you, millionaire: Where’s your moral compass?

Skipping out on a restaurant check may seem convenient, even clever, to some, but the consequences are painful for hardworking waiters and other restaurant employees who hustle and toil hour after hour on their feet. Most waiters rely on tips to supplement very low hourly wages, and they have to tip out hosts, bussers, runners and bartenders from the tip money they receive.

Read the full story for yourself and see what you think. If you have the stomach for it, that is.