A man in Perth has allegedly left a series of businesses out of pocket after executing a number of “eat and run” scams, claiming he will return to pay his bill the next day but never showing up.
The situation was first brought to light by Perth bar and grill The Local Shack, who posted on Facebook warning fellow businesses in the area about the customer.
The business said it had “no choice” but to resort to social media, explaining that the man ate a $150 meal and then told the business he had forgotten his wallet. He said he would return the next day to pay and that the waitress could take a photo of him to ensure he would return, reports The ABC.
“As our manager was calling police (upon our instructions) – he left. We are a small family business and need this to be shared to catch this guy and pass on details to police,” the business posted on Facebook.
“It has now come to light, through the help of other businesses – he has done this to at least six other businesses in Perth. We are taking everything to the police in hopes he will be put back in jail – where he belongs.”
Head of operations at The Local Shack Chloe Debono told The ABC that due to the business agreeing to take his details to ensure he returned to pay for the meal, the issue was no longer criminal but a civil matter.
“It’s not theft because we have taken his details as surety and we have arranged for him to come the following day to pay for his meal and he has not turned up,” Debono told the ABC.
“It falls under contractual law; it is no longer criminal because it’s a contractual agreement where we have taken an assurance.”
Debono told the ABC it was the “perfect scam”, and urged businesses in future to just call the police. Up to 25 businesses in Perth have said they were hit by what is believed to be the same customer.
Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell told SmartCompany that scams like these can “absolutely impact” a business’ profitability in the same way shoplifting would.
“I know lots of cafes and restaurants where the profitability of the day might not be more than a couple of hundred bucks. You’d hope it’s more than that, but it’s often not,” Carnell says.
Because cafes and restaurants can often be left with only a couple of hundred dollars’ profit at the end of the day, Carnell says businesses need to put processes in place to minimise the risks of customers not paying up, and should also be warning others in their community if they do get hit with someone “dining and dashing”.
“Get the message out to cafes or whatever in the area,” she says.
Finally, while SMEs can often be friendly or casual in their dealings with customers, the best rule of thumb is not to offer concessions on payment to customers you don’t know.
“If you’ve never seen someone before, it’s not a good look [for them to ask to pay later]. If it’s a regular, you’d probably take a risk, but if you’ve never seen them before, you probably wouldn’t.”
SmartCompany was unable to contact the customer and The Local Shack did not respond to request for comment prior to publication.