Tuesday, July 13, 2010

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch

I have written before about how con artists have tried to take advantage of True Thai. That telephone scam was not typical of the usual stings that criminals use to take advantage of busy restaurants, however. What happened the other night is much more common.

We were very busy. This is an important detail. Con artists rarely come in when business is slow because they don't want you to have any time to figure out what is going on. What was going on the other night was a that a couple came in and immediately told me how often they'd been been in and wasn't it time for us to give them a free meal?

A free meal? As a restaurant owner who has not raised her already cheap prices in over five years, I could not believe their chutzpah. But, as I mentioned, it was very busy, and because they were very loud and blocking the cash register I sighed and told the host to tell their server to give them a free meatless entree.

A cheap way of dealing with a problem, right? Wrong. After they left the server told me they only ordered the one "free" dish between the two of them, and then insisted on extra rice for free. The menu states that extra rice is $1.50 but these two "customers" didn't even want to pay for extra rice! The server gave them extra rice rather than waste her time running to ask me what to do.

OK, so True Thai was out a cheap entree and some extra rice. Did this couple really eat for free? No, not if you count their tip. If you count their tip, they ate at True Thai for 16¢!

I am not insensitive to the economy. I understand that some people really have no money. That's why so much food from True Thai ends up on the tables of poor families in St. Paul, where I work for the Ramsey County Dept. of Public Health. True Thai Restaurant also made donations to several dozen local charities last year. I cannot think of a single charity we turned down.

But I guarantee I will be turning down the next couple who come in asking for a free meal. My friends who heard this story told me that there is a famous American acronym: TANSTAAFL. It stands for There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

True Thai's new motto is TANSTAASFL: There Ain't No Such Thing As A Second Free Lunch.

We're still working on the concept.