The "Chew And Screw" Is On The Rise

The recession has given rise to a weird trend: otherwise-respectable adults skipping out on the check at nice restaurants.

We're going to have to take the New York Post's word for this trend — apparently up 20% in New York in the past year — because it strains credulity. Are these people also lifting Bonne Bell lip gloss after their five-fingered meals? But apparently it's for real — know alternately as and, grossly, as "theft of service", "lick and split" and, grossly, as "the chew and screw" — and the perpetrators are crafty.

"There's this one guy straight out of Brooks Brothers with the bow tie, the suspenders, the little turned-up moustache like the Monopoly guy [sitting] at the bar drinking martinis," recalls Charles Milite, co-owner of Union Square hot spot Coffee Shop. "He had five of them and said, ‘I can't believe this - I forgot my wallet! This is so embarrassing. I live right across the park. I'll be right back.' Then he didn't come back, and I found out he's done that four or five other times."

Even more appalling?

We've had husbands and wives and entire families do it," says Michael Carpiniello, owner of SoHo's South Houston restaurant, who says he encounters dine-and-dashers about once a month. "The kids go outside to play, the mom goes out to get them and suddenly it's like, ‘Where did everyone go?'

While there's something raffishly Paper Moon-esque about the family partners in crime, basically it's the worst thing we've heard of since that father-son team beat up that old man in a supermarket parking lot. Other times, scammers will leave a stolen phone or coat at the table to make it seem like they're just stepping out for a cigarette. Others will leave a card with a bartender — then cancel it. Another method is simply to complain after the fact and try to brazen out some freebies.

Anyone who's worked in the service industry has seen some shady behavior — not to mention seen how it screwed over everyone from bar-backs to hostesses. Most of us also know on what a tight margin small business-owners operate. So this? Awful. Besides, most waitstaff are happy to comp friends when they can— one of the perks of the job — and the upside is, in those cases you can actually go back to the restaurant. As in most things in life, treating people well instead of screwing them over has better long-term results.

Hey, What The Check?! [NY Post]

[Image via Shutterstock]