Editor’s Viewpoint: Non-Paying Customers – Don’t Get Me Started!

barWe have a story on our website which made my blood boil, and took me back to the days when I had my restaurant here in Bournemouth.

The curse of the diners who leave without paying the bill.

It didn’t happen too often – my restaurant was a cellar restaurant with only two exits, one was via the entrance and the other was a fire escape. Two occasions spring to mind, one was a young couple on a very busy summer Saturday evening, who “really pushed the boat out” with food and wine, only to sneak out the fire escape. I remember the bill being over £125, and bear in mind this was in the early 90s.

After a few expletives, and wishes of what I would have done to them have I caught them, I fitted an alarm on the fire escape, which, when triggered rang a bell in the kitchen, and flashed a light in the bar. After this there were one or two who said they had mistakenly opened the fire door, but no one left again via that route without paying.

The other example was a cold wet miserable midweek January evening, when a thirty something couple paid £98 cheque supported by a £100 cheque guarantee card.

Five days later, the cheque was returned to refer to drawer, with an explanation that the transaction was fraudulent, since the cheque and card owners cheque book and card had been stolen previously.

Anyone who knows what business is like on a wet miserable January evening will know that it can be pretty “grim”, so for that evening all my hard work and running around was rewarded with a loss.

I challenged the bank who were pretty indifferent, so I took them to court, basing my claim on the fact that they had not informed me the cheque book and cheque guarantee card had been stolen, and that the only reason I accepted the cheque was because the issuing bank had given a guarantee that the card (cheque guarantee card) that the cheque would be honoured. I stated that without this bank guarantee I would not have taken the cheque, and as they had a duty to inform retailers of any misuse, I felt that I should not bear the financial penalty for their guarantees.

A little bit of to-ing and fro-ing, and on the day of the court case, the issuing bank rang me up to say that they would honour the cheque and payment costs. These were the days long before the internet and online banking etc so I asked them to fax a letter confirming and told them that I would inform the court! Victory for the little man!!!!!

I noted that many of the people in the survey said that the reason they left without paying the bill was “waiting too long for it to come”. Utter nonsense, of course. Leaving anywhere without paying for the goods or services you have obtained without giving a valid reason for entering into any discussion as to why is theft.

Nowadays we have the ability through technology to identify and the ability on social media to “shame” those who steal. However, I wish it was like that when I was trading!

In fact, a bit of research I did revealed that two diners who left a casual dining restaurant in Manchester were caught when police took the straws from the drinks they were drinking from and matched them to DNA, resulting in both men being arrested and charged.

Boy, have times changed since my day!

Peter Adams
Editor of CLH News