Cafe's and restaurant owners are warned not to accept "assurances" to pay from customers claiming to have left their wallets or purse at home.
The warning came from Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell, following a 'dine and dash' spree in Perth.
A Manager of Perth bar and grill, The Local Shack, took to social media after being stung for more than $150 by a customer who claimed to have forgotten his wallet.
The Facebook post said: "As our manager was calling police (upon our instructions) - he left. We are a small family business and need this to be shared to catch this guy and pass on details to police.
"It has now come to light, through the help of other businesses - he has done this to at least 6 other businesses in Perth."
The ABC reported that the man said he would return the next day to pay and that the waitress could take a photo of him to ensure he would return.
Head of operations at The Local Shack, Chloe Debono, told The ABC that due to the business agreeing to take his details to ensure he returned to pay for the meal, the issue was no longer criminal but a civil matter.
“It’s not theft because we have taken his details as surety and we have arranged for him to come the following day to pay for his meal and he has not turned up,” Debono told the ABC.
“It falls under contractual law; it is no longer criminal because it’s a contractual agreement where we have taken an assurance.”
Ms Carnell told SmartCompany that scams like these can “absolutely impact” a business’ profitability in the same way shoplifting would.
“I know lots of cafes and restaurants where the profitability of the day might not be more than a couple of hundred bucks. You’d hope it’s more than that, but it’s often not,” she said.
Because cafes and restaurants can often be left with only a couple of hundred dollars’ profit at the end of the day, Ms Carnell says businesses need to put processes in place to minimise the risks of customers not paying up, and should also be warning others in their community if they do get hit with someone “dining and dashing”.
“If you’ve never seen someone before, it’s not a good look [for them to ask to pay later]. If it’s a regular, you’d probably take a risk, but if you’ve never seen them before, you probably wouldn’t," he said.