Five Legitimate Reasons Not to Pay Your Restaurant Bill

Categories: Top Five

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If a wild deer comes crashing into the restaurant, it's probably best to leave.
As I child I remember catching the tail end of a conversation between my parents and one of their friends about a particularly wretched dining experience: "...so I just walked out and left them the bill."

Weren't you worried about getting arrested?, I remember thinking. Well, the short answer was "no," because this gentleman was quite a confident barrister (cough, asshole lawyer) and enjoyed going head to head with law enforcement.

I never found out his exact justification for stiffing the restaurant, but ever since I've contemplated why one might walk out on the bill. Here are my five legitimate reasons:

5. Natural/Man-Made Disaster Strikes.

The trattoria's roof collapses in the middle of your secondi. A fire starts in the kitchen, flooding the dining room with smoke. Two men fighting crash through the window of the bistro and land on your table. It's okay to leave.

4. Exceedingly Long Wait Time Between Courses.

At 6:45 p.m. you received your appetizers and ordered main courses; at 8:15 p.m., there's still nary an entree in sight. Repeated petitions to your server yield nothing but vague excuses ("They should be out any minute"). Get the fuck out before you die of hunger.

3. Serious Harm to Your Person/Property.

All was fine and dandy until a food runner spilled spaghetti all over your wife's white new white Miu Miu clutch. Or the cocktail waitress served that boiling hot toddy...all over your grandmother's lap. The restaurant should comp the check and maybe even pay your dry-cleaning/hospital bill.

2. Abysmal Service.

I'm talking treatment that engenders severe mental distress, gut-wrenching nausea, or worse. Racial epithets, sexual harassment, and extremely inappropriate jokes (e.g., "Are you fat or just pregnant?") all fall into this category. You definitely are not required to compensate a restaurant for making you feel very, very uncomfortable even if they do feed you.

1. Food Served Really Does Not Match Food Described.

You order "duck breast with raspberry coulis and garlic polenta"; you receive a shriveled chicken leg with grape jelly and watery grits. If the server/manager/chef refuses to correct the entree or offer a suitable replacement, you refuse the bill.



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20 comments
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trisch
trisch

But if a fire starts in the kitchen and the restaurant still manages to provide a good experience, tip big! We were having dinner during a family vacation when the fryer caught fire while they were preparing the fried chicken my sister had ordered. Two fire trucks and a couple of announcements by the GM later, our waiter presented my sister with a beautiful plate of pan-fried chicken that she pronounced to be stunningly delicious.

Maggie
Maggie

When I was in Granada we saw a waiter chase a couple down the streets for not leaving money or not leaving enough money. We probably should have left without paying, too: later that night/morning we discovered we had gotten food poisoning from that establishment. Ugh. Too bad you usually don't know until after you paid that you've been poisoned.

MadMac
MadMac

My original comment (withdrawn) was intended as humor. Number 2 was in reference the corresponding line in the article and was intended as commentary on bad service exhibited in the establishment I named.

Ali
Ali

That sure is a lot of sass for a comment no one understands.

Joanna O'Leary
Joanna O'Leary

uh, what? Sorry, I am not comprehending your #2. Seems like there should be an intro paragraph.

rgwalt
rgwalt

I was at El Ray on Washington last night.  Their heater was broken and it had to be 45F inside.  I could see my breath.  All their customers were bundled up, shivering while eating their tortilla soup.  It was like a meat locker in there...  I could have climbed into the rotisserie with the chickens.  It took them 15 minutes to get my to-go order ready, too.  Unfortunately I had paid for my food when I ordered, otherwise I would have left.

MadMac
MadMac

I would've bailed anyway. There is simply no excuse for this. Close the doors and file a claim with the insurance company. If I gotta work this hard (to stay cool/warm/nonviolent) I might as well keep my money in my pocket, stay home and cook.

The Marlboro Woman
The Marlboro Woman

The number one excuse should be Mal-Functioning Air Conditioning.  This has become a chronic situation in Houston as many establishments (The Fountainview Cafe) either fail to maintain aging units or deliberately jack up the thermostat to keep operating costs down.  If I have to sweat while I eat, I'm leaving.

Bruce R
Bruce R

Take your coat off, if you can.

MadMac
MadMac

Is there anything else we can do to make YOUR dining experience more comfortable there, Chef Bruce?

Bruce R
Bruce R

I don't want your share.

MadMac
MadMac

Great, you can have my share of it. If I'm paying I expect comfort. I'm funny like that.

Bruce R
Bruce R

Nope, but I'm not the one bitching.  I don't bitch about the temperature not being exactly as I like it.  I'm pretty agreeable that way.  Hell, I'll even eat at icehouse bars in August.  And if I sweat while I'm eating, I don't feel that I deserve to leave without paying as Marlboro Woman does.

The Marlboro Woman
The Marlboro Woman

I don't own one.  Who needs a coat in Houston?

MadMac
MadMac

How dare you contradict a travel guide writen by people who don't live here! Who do you think you are, a local?

The Marlboro Woman
The Marlboro Woman

Frigid a/c?  Please share.  I'd love to find a restaurant where the a/c works adequately.  

Bruce R
Bruce R

I wore one today.  And it's supposed to go down to 31 tonight.  That's coat weather.

I find that if anything, Houston restaurants keep the air too cool in the hot months.  One piece of advice that Lonely Planet gives for those visiting Houston is to bring a sweater, even in the summer.  Because of the frigid AC.

jmills
jmills

what about so drunk you forgot?

phaedracook
phaedracook

In that case, you get to do the Drive of Shame to the restaurant the next day to pay your bill + 50% tip.

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