Monday, 1 June 2015

Leave a restaurant without paying

I have never left a restaurant without paying. I'm a pretty honest kind of guy. I drank underage as a teenager but I think that's about the only remotely illegal thing I ever did before the Year31Project came along. Since then I have done a couple of things that are a little on the risqué side of things. If not particularly illegal. I tried my hand at graffiti (with great success), I hitchhiked home 200 miles from Walthamstow to Wales (pretty successfully) and I attempted to shoplift (with more mixed results). But I'm not planning on going much further than that. I don't fancy doing jail time (as easy as it may sometimes appears to be). I enjoy my freedom too much.

So running out of a restaurant without paying is something I have never done before but also not necessarily something I had planned to do for the Year31Project. But then sometimes an opportunity presents itself to you and you have a decision to make. In this case, do I stay and pay or do I leave out the side door without anybody noticing?

So let me set the scene. I was in Wales visiting my family and friends after being given a surprise week off work and I had spent the day playing with my niece on her 10ft trampoline. It was a Friday evening and we - me, my older sister and niece, and my younger sister and her husband - decide to go up to the local pub for something to eat.

We're quite lucky to have a nice local with a big restaurant area just up the road.

The decor is a little questionable, they turned the place into a western themed restaurant a few years back and it's the only pub I've ever been kicked out of, but the food is good. I ordered the prawns to start and the lamb shank for my main. Both of which were very nice, especially the lamb. I also had a couple of soft drinks - I gave up drinking alcohol two years ago - and altogether it came to £21.55 which is reasonable if not exactly cheap.

Soon after we had eaten, my cousin and her boyfriend met us for a drink. It was nice to see them. Unfortunately I don't get to see them very often - as I don't get to go to Wales as much as I would like - and so I was glad that they could come. Not long after they arrived my older sister had to leave to take my niece to bed. She's only seven and so it was getting a little late for her.

As my sister left, she paid for her and my nieces meals and then soon after my brother in law went to the bar and paid for his and my younger sisters meals, leaving only mine to be paid. When he came back to the table he gave me a little strip of paper with the remaining items that needed to be paid. I could have gone to the bar there and then to pay but there didn't seem to be much of a rush, so we carried on talking and I thought I'd just pay as we left.

At around midnight we decided to call it a night and that's when I thought: there's no staff left. Everyone but the barmaid have left for the night. So who's here to make sure that I pay? I could easily have slipped out the side door without the barmaid even seeing me, plus I was pretty sure that she was completely clueless to the fact that I even had any food. I could easily walk out without paying and nobody would be any the wiser ( at least not until they totalled up the tills at the end of the night).

As I stated earlier. I have never left a restaurant without paying before but here I am with the perfect opportunity to do so, a great chance to do something for the first time and yet there are a couple of good reasons not to do it.

1. The service was good. They did make one small mistake. Originally when our food came out my younger sister was given a steak that was well done, when she had ordered it to be cooked medium rare. However, they soon rectified the problem. When my sister told the waiter, the meal - the whole meal, even the parts she had already eaten - was replaced. Plus on top of that they even gave her a free dessert.

2. It is very close - walking distance - to my parents house, as well as both of my sisters houses and so we need to be able to show our faces in there again. I think if you're going to do a runner without paying the bill, maybe do it somewhere you're not planning on going back to? At least not in a hurry. Give them time to forget your face first.

3. I don't want to be like this family who were shamed by a restaurant on Facebook.

And so there you have it:

Either because I'm too moral or I was too scared - I'll let you decide which - I went to the bar, queued up and paid the barmaid, who was - as I had thought - completely oblivious to the fact that I even owed them a penny.

Did I do the right thing? What would you have done?