Monday, March 30, 2015

Stolen Tips, Dine and Dash, Counterfeit Money: O.C. Restaurant Workers Confront Crime on Front Lines

This is mind-boggling.

Sure glad I don't have to deal with it, but then, I'm sad that these folks do.

At the O.C. Register, "Pilfered tips, dine and dash, fake cash: It's tough out on the restaurant front lines":
For workers on the front lines of Orange County’s bustling hospitality industry, things can get downright inhospitable. Even dangerous.

Kerry Soderstrom, a former waitress at a bar in downtown Huntington Beach, recalls the trio – two men and a woman in their 20s – who caught her eye one night. She had a feeling they were getting ready to skip out on their $50 food and booze bill.

Sure enough, when Soderstrom was busy helping another customer, they bolted. She gave chase and confronted them in a darkened parking garage.

“I felt panic and an instant need to catch them to avoid having to be held personally responsible for their bill with the bar,” said Soderstrom, who now works at an investment bank. “At the time I really didn’t consider the danger of actually pursuing them into the parking structure, which looking back now it could have been very dangerous.”

That turned out to be the case a week ago for a 28-year-old waitress at the Mexico Lindo restaurant in Anaheim. When she confronted four people who left without paying, they ran over her legs with their car and fled, according to Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputies.

Rowshaid Pellum, 24, of Cerritos, along with Santeea Ralph, 23; Markeisha Williams, 18; and Shyteice Miles, 19, all of Long Beach, have been arrested in connection with the incident.

Also last week, Francisco Cardenas, 26, pleaded guilty to felony assault and misdemeanor petty theft for attacking a 55-year-old retired police officer after trying to grab a tip jar at a Starbucks in Huntington Beach.

Dine-and-dash crime isn’t that common in Orange County, service workers say. But when it happens, police and other officials say, wait staff should avoid heroics and report the theft to police.

“They should never chase after someone else,” said Russ Bendel, president of the Orange County Restaurant Association and owner of the Vine restaurant in San Clemente. “It’s better to bite the bullet.”

The problem, though, is that though it’s illegal for restaurant operators to withhold tips from servers to cover dine-and-dash bills, the practice is still fairly common, said Maria Myotte, a spokeswoman for Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, which represents 13,000 hospitality workers nationwide.

“A lot of servers get negative paychecks,” she said. “The environment is such that it’s their personal responsibility for that money.”

Tip jars have become ubiquitous at checkout counters, making easy targets for thieves looking to grab some quick cash.

In the case of the attempted Starbucks theft on March 7, Scott Fahey was placing money in the tip jar at a walk-up window at Brookhurst and Adams Avenue in Huntington Beach when Cardenas rode up on a bicycle and tried to grab the container.

Fahey, 55, refused to release the jar, which held three $1 bills and change. He said Cardenas punched him and bashed him in the head with a metal sign. Cardenas fled when Fahey reached for his Glock 26 and warned Cardenas he would shoot...
It's bad all over, dang.

Keep reading.