Anyone who has ever worked in the service industry has probably been conned. A Runner. Dine and Dash. I forgot my wallet. It’s as old as Prozzies. I worked in pubs and restaurants in the day time to feed my more powerful desire to perform Stand Up Comedy in the evenings. My experiences were not exempt. What people don’t realise is that the server/bartender is responsible to cover the lost money. Yes, it does.
I only had it happen a couple of times, almost all in one pub I worked at on The Danforth in Toronto. The pub, long-standing, was across the street from: A funeral Home (The bereaved are awesome customers) A half-way house (Not so much, what with the crack smoking in the bathrooms and all, a Beer store and a Senior’s care centre.
You tend to be aware that being scammed is a common thing and try to be aware. My first at said pub was a guy who looked homeless, had a suit jacket on with jeans, shoes that were too big and no socks. He had a cell phone but it looked more like a Fisher Price Walkie-Talkie. He was my only customer that day, but even though I was sceptical, you can’t just ask someone to ‘see the money first’, even though I have done just that.
Six pints in, he went out for a smoke, Thrift store jacket still on the back of his bar stool, never to be seen agin. Not, that is, when I saw him a few months later in Honest Ed’s, and he ran like a bomb had gone off. My boss, the owner, who had actually been in the pub that morning, saw the guy and I asked if he looked a bit shady and he said, No. He did, however, later, offer to pay half the tab.
My best one though, the pure scam, was on New Years Eve Day, at least ten, twelve years ago, crazy cold and shed-loads of snow hammering down, not a soul in the place all day. The cook and I spent most of the morning hanging decorations and doing all the necessary prep work for the evening. I had made a total of twenty dollars in tips when a young, handsome ginger man entered in the early hours of the afternoon, stamping the snow off his boots and claiming, ‘You have a customer by default’.
He told me straight away he’d locked his keys, wallet, phone in his car and had called road service but due to weather, had a bit of a wait. I immediately asked him (smiling) how he planned to pay for things if he wasn’t in possession of his wallet and he very charmingly assured me all would be well. Yes, I was suspicious, but he didn’t look like he lived across the street in the Crack House and I just poured him a pint. Yes, I did ask him how he called the road services and he said a passer-by borrowed him his phone. Kindness of strangers.
He was very kind, attractive, very chatty. Asked about me, the pub, talked about himself in great detail, name, house, job, girlfriend, address, blah blah blah. It was dead quiet, had been all day so quite frankly, I was just happy for the company. He went out to smoke several times, but right in front of the door where I could see him. He was overall, lovely. I never really let my guard down, but he seemed very genuine. He didn’t run up much of a tab, two premium pints and a Caesar salad.
After about two hours and several ‘checks’ on the car he wanted to try the road service again. He asked for the phone book and it was at this moment all the flags started to go up. He looked up the number and then wrote it down and asked me to dial it. I said, no, it’s fine, come behind the bar and use the phone. He refused. He held the receiver and had me dial. Now. Now all the flags and alarm bells were going off. It was like the past two hours flashed before my eyes, looking for the flaws and loopholes. I dialled, he had a conversation, then hung up, claimed they had been and gone and then said he had to go.
He gave me his phone number, which I absolutely assumed was a pizza parlour and then he thanked me profusely and took his leave. But, wait. The final step, the piece de resistance and likely part of the entire bet or challenge, he asked me if I could lend him some money for a cab. He promised he would be right back. I was already full aware I’d spent the afternoon being ass-fucked without lube, so when he offered me his coat as collateral, (Minus 18 with wind and hammering snow) I turned around and grabbed the only money I had made all day. A twenty dollar bill and handed it to him.
I’ve thought about that day over the years. I went through the emotions of it fairly quickly. I wasn’t even terribly upset about it all, mostly because he worked so hard for forty dollars. I hope he thinks of me. And Karma.
A few months after this, I had a busy day and a couple I had served for several hours asked for their bill, and then proclaimed they didn’t have their wallet. Oddly, I didn’t hear alarm bells, I said fine, I paid their bill of just over fifty dollars and didn’t give it another fought. Money is just a means, isn’t it. And to lose one’s self in it, well. Anyhow, I had a few days off and came in to work to fine a card with a hundred dollars in it and a lovely note saying, ‘Thank You for trusting us’.
You kinda have to.