Some call it a mindless adolescent prank, an immature act of indiscretion, or even a teen "rite of passage": teenagers eating their fill in a crowded restaurant or diner, and leaving without paying for anything. It's often called "dine and dash" or "beating the bill" and it could wind up leaving the restaurant and wait staff in hot water with the management.
We set up our hidden cameras at the American Dream Diner in Orangeburg, N.Y. and hired three actors portraying hungry teens to take a bite out of the restaurant's profits. The waitress was also an actress, but the patrons in the dining room were real and about to witness the "dine and dash" first hand.
A Few Raised Eyebrows
After the teens ordered and ate their meals, one by one, we had them leave the restaurant without paying the bill. A few customers raised their eyebrows and some stared at the teens, but early on, our actors were able to make a clean getaway, leaving the waitress to deal with the aftermath.
We wondered, what would happen if that waitress was forced to reimburse the missed tab? To find out, we had another actor pose as the unforgiving restaurant manager who had no sympathy for our stiffed server, and that is when things got interesting.
'We're Gonna Pick Up Their Tab'
Again, we asked our actors to finish their meal and get up from the table one at a time. When all three had left the scene, two men at one table and a group of people at another made an agreement. The two tables decided to split the unpaid tab and save our waitress from further distress.
"We're gonna pick up their tab. We'll split it between the two of is -- it's a nonissue," one man said.
In fact, each time as the teens pulled the "dine and dash" over and over throughout the day, at least one customer was happily willing to pick up the tab, saving the waitress from digging into her own pocket.
Frank and Connie Krasinski were among those who offered to pay for the bill.
"Nobody's got money today and she was crying like she's going to lose her job," Frank said.
Connie pointed to her husband and said, "I'm out of work and he knows what it's like to be unemployed so we're going to help her out."
Late in the day, we decided to have our restaurant manager fire the waitress, in front of a room full of diners, after discovering she had let the teens get away without paying.
"I hate to do this in front of everyone, but Diana, you're done," the manager said.
Immediately, Jennifer Tyler jumped up, approached our manager, and pleaded for leniency.
"She gave me great service, and these three little punks skip out and you're going to take it out on her during the holiday season when people need their jobs? Have a conscience!" she said.
We let Tyler keep her money and informed her, it was all part of "What Would You Do?".
"I identified with her. I used to waitress," Tyler said. "It got me through college, and it's a really hard job, and people treat wait staff just, they actually, you know, they don't acknowledge them, or treat them very poorly at times."
Happy to Help
Throughout the day, we were impressed to see customers come to the rescue of the wait staff each time our teen delinquents skipped out. Occasionally, the diners even attempted to stop the teens from fleeing -- one customer even followed the teens out of the diner and blocked their car.
"I heard once, someone say this, and I think it's very true, that 'evil exists when good men fail to act,'" Jeff Hogue, who was among the customers who intervened, later told us. "You know, we can't just sit by and let that happen. We have to take a stand sometimes in life."
CLICK HERE to watch the scenario unfold on the latest full episode of "What Would You Do".