“My Plates Or Yours?”

It’s certainly no big secret out there that stealing goes on in bars (an understatement right there with “Sweets can be fattening!”), from bartenders running their contracts with friends who in turn leave a gaudy tip, to the kitchen staff and waiters backing up the truck. And it’s not because they’re bad people or what I’d call out-and-out thieves, often they feel, in some state of delusion, that because they’re part of the place the place is theirs. To do what they want with it. As I say, delusional.

When I first started out in this business as a waiter in a midtown joint, I “stole” myself (I’m not happy to to report) but in my case not out of greed but because I had to. Or at least, being young and naive, I thought I had to. I feared if I played it straight down the middle I’d get in Dutch with the old guys, those waiters with whom I pooled tips, who’d have pegged me a goddam “house man” therefore a threat. Which wouldn’t have been a good thing! So right or wrong a Serpico I wasn’t, I didn’t play the honest cop, I played this game of quid pro quo as directed. Meaning, to ensure a major gratuity from a select group of customers who had been earmarked, I wrote up their checks totaling nowhere near what they should’ve been. And when I didn’t, which actually happened a time or three for whatever the reason was, the receiver of that honest tab made sure he complained about it. “Hey, Joey, what the fuck’s with the new kid? Didn’t you pull him aside and tell him who I am?” Then he’d leave a ten percent tip to make his point. Ah, the good old days!

So in keeping with the theme of bar theft but to lighten the mood considerably, I thought I’d share with you two of my favorites on the subject…

The “steak” out...

This first event took place in the old Mama Leone’s (the place I wrote about here) as told to me by Aldo, Mama’s grand nephew. And it goes to show the cure can be worse than the malady.

Back in its heyday, with over a hundred waiters on the floor and God knows how many people in the kitchen, you can imagine how big their inventory was and how hard it must’ve been for them to keep tabs on it. Especially, of all things, the shrimp for shrimp cocktail. Because every week there were cases of it missing, hundreds of pounds at a time, and no one knew just how the hell this was happening. Until one day, Aldo’s Uncle Gene who was the manager and who’d finally had enough of this, decided to call his contact down at the precinct house. That night, and for a quite a few nights thereafter, two big Irish cops came in and hung out “undercover”, posing as new customers while trying to solve this. But whether these thieves were just too crafty or these cops were just too inept, things didn’t move as quickly as Gene had expected. Not by a long shot. And now the pasta and steak inventory were a problem. Not to mention the Chianti! For these cops thought they’d hit the mother lode here as they ate and drank like kings, sometimes three times a shift, and to Uncle Gene who was witness to this the means soon sorely failed to justify the ends. So he had to pull the plug on it. And I tell you this story just for the way he did it. For when Gene got on the phone that night and called the precinct to cancel this two man stakeout (or should I say “pig out”?), the words he used in doing so were the following. “Do me a favor, will ya? Get these bums outta here. All things considered I’d rather get robbed!”

The Stigmata…

In a restaurant near where I last worked, a very upscale steak house, two geniuses who worked as porters had their eyes on a side of beef for stealing. So one night (why am I picturing Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall here?) when all the customers had paid and left, Leo and Huntz seized their prey and hid it until the coast was clear for the walk-out. Coast being clear when the manager made his exit. Well, shortly after the stashing was done the manager emerged from his office, but instead of heading for the door as usual he made his way to the can for a final pit stop. Only to notice as he sat there thinking, which all great can sitters do, drops of blood suddenly appearing on his thighs. Am I bleeding from the fucking forehead? he thought. Do I have that thing called Stigmata? Why are these drops of blood hitting my legs??? Til he finally looked up and saw the source of the drip. He then climbed up onto the toilet seat (pants not at half-mast I hope) removed the blood-drenched ceiling panel and there was Leo and Huntz’s ill gotten gains. The meat was quickly returned to the cooler and Leo and Huntz were quickly shown to the door. They had no beef!

See ya’ next time, dear reader, and if you have a similar bar story feel free to add it.

19 Responses to ““My Plates Or Yours?””

  1. 1 Uncle Vinny June 24, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Holy cats, Scrib. You never cease to amaze!

  2. 2 Comradde PhysioProffe June 24, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    HAHAHAHAH! I love the Mama Leone’s punchline!!!

  3. 3 scribbler50 June 24, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Uncle Vinny: You’re way too kind but I’ll take it, Vinny, thanks.

    Comrade: Isn’t that the best???

  4. 4 Irishirritant June 26, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Thanks for taking time from your busy schedule, of relaxing I hope, to provide us with some summer reading. Watching the lads hump a side of beef into a ceiling and the discussion that went along with it might have been fun as well.

  5. 5 physiobabe June 26, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Love it, love it, love it! Don’t say away so long next time, ok?

    Ciao for now šŸ˜‰

  6. 6 scribbler50 June 26, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    Irish: A scene it would’ve been indeed watching them hoist and stash that side of beef, that’s why I’m picturing Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall! Or to update the reference… “Dumb and Dumber”!
    Thanks, man.

    physiobabe: Thank ya’, thank ya’ thank ya’! I’ll do my best, ok?
    Ciao, bela mia. šŸ™‚

  7. 7 marty wombacher (@martywombacher) June 27, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Ha ha ha! Great stories and I loved the “no beef” tag at the end! Wonderful writing as always!

  8. 8 Freddy June 27, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Dude, this experience pretty much mimics mine verbatim (the theft issues). It’s a fine line we walk. Great write-up.

  9. 9 scribbler50 June 27, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Marty: Thanks, my man, glad you “had no beef” with my ending! šŸ™‚

    Freddy: It is a fine line but one I’ll never cross again, the last time I crossed it was a long time ago. Meanwhile, fellow pourer, since you’ve changed your format over there (smartly, by the way) I couldn’t find out where to leave a comment. Is it my ineptitude which is highly possible or did you drop that feature altogether from your site?

  10. 10 Chris June 28, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Good one scrib, I once worked in a grocery store in not such a good part of town, was quite common for people to steal meat. One time we had a large woman in a dress waddling more than she should have been. She got almost out the door before I guess her thighs couldn’t clench the roast in between her legs which she dropped from beneath the dress and ran off. Good stuff. Hope you are having a good summer.

  11. 11 scribbler50 June 29, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Chris: Jeezuzz, what a visual! Though I sympathize with her situation in that she was forced to steal for food, I question highly her modus operandi. In fact it’s hilarious. She had to have looked like a penguin who, when the roast hit the floor, left the place with “happy feet”!
    Thanks, Chris, and yes I’m enjoying my summer.

  12. 12 Anonymoustache June 30, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Great stuff, bro…”All things considered Iā€™d rather get robbed…” is just an all-time classic line! Truth is often stranger and funnier than fiction, huh?
    BTW, did anyone ever figure out what happened to hundreds of pounds of shrimp every week??!!

  13. 13 scribbler50 July 2, 2012 at 8:08 am

    Anonymoustache: To use the present day vernacular the “case went cold” and the culprits were never plucked from the massive staff. However once the word had gotten around that cops were called in (and then called out!) paranoia set in and the stealing stopped. So they did serve a purpose albeit an expensive one.

  14. 14 Peter VE July 2, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    My first job was as dishwasher in a “theme” restaurant. At that time (mid 70s), the canned whipped cream was powered by nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas. The whipped cream had a disconcerting habit of going flat while stored. The management eventually added a locked cage in the walkin to protect it, with a consequent reduction in sudden fits of giggling amongst certain staff members.

  15. 15 scribbler50 July 3, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Peter VE: Hah! Now that’s a new one in the annals of restaurant piracy. But talk about a buzz kill… what could be better than a work environment rife with gales of laughter? Nothin’ I know!
    Thanks, Peter.

  16. 16 Dr. Isis July 17, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Adorable, Scribbly-poo! Adorabe!

  17. 17 scribbler50 July 17, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Isis: Thanks loads… er-ah… Isy-poo! šŸ™‚

    Hey, long time no hear, dear friend, welcome back to the bar, I’ve been holding your seat. Dirty Martini, right???

  18. 18 Jennifer August 16, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Hey!?! What’s a person got to do to get a drink around here??

    Hope all is well, Scribbler. Someone was talking about haunted bars the other evening and you popped into my mind. I wonder if the ghosts are happy with all of the changes…

  19. 19 scribbler50 August 16, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Jennifer: Hey there, friend, thanks for stopping by. I’d be happy to make you that drink but I happen to be hobbled right now with a bad knee. Actually a good knee, I just had an operation and got a new one. A partial knee replacement is what it’s called. Most painful in the rehab but looking forward to how I’ll feel when it’s over.

    As for the ghosts, I hope they’re causing endless havoc with those heartless bastards that took over our bar.

    Thanks again for stopping by and I hope you’re having a good summer, Jennifer.

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