A restaurant table is a good place to be had. The latest in low-tech scams happened last month in Hoboken, NJ, when a man appeared tableside to collect cash after diners had received their bills. He took their money and walked out the door. Pretty clever.
Why didn’t the customers question the new face? I can answer that, as one who visits restaurants some 200+ days a year. Sometimes we just don’t pay attention to who’s serving us. We’re seated by a host, served water by a busboy, solicited by a sommelier, finally the waiter comes, and sometimes we’re greeted by a manager. The meal might be a business meeting which demands our attention more than faces.
Last week, I had a long, late lunch at Postrio in Las Vegas. When our waiter’s shift ended, she did what customer service people call a “warm hand-off:” she introduced us to the waiter who would continue with us. She could have just left, and when the replacement waiter showed up, we’d have just accepted him.
So the Hoboken bogus waiter simply took advantage of our innate trust. He manipulated his victims by presenting himself as the person they expected; he didn’t even have to say anything. Hand out, money in, bye-bye.
So what did the restaurant do when the customers told the real waiter that they’d already paid someone else? Management did not make them pay again. Which invents an entirely new scam: diners claiming they already paid the bill (even though they haven’t). Perhaps the bogus waiter plans that as his next trick.
In the case of the bogus waiter, the victims were not out-of-pocket due to the goodwill of the restaurant management. Other potential losses while dining out:
…¢Your phone or other valuables can be sneakily swiped from the table top.
…¢Your bag or briefcase can be snatched.
…¢Your purse can be swiped right off your lap.