There's A New Restaurant Scam In NYC, According To TikTok

Though we'd like to think otherwise, the world is unfortunately rife with all kinds of scams. One of the latest scams seems to be targeting solo diners in New York City, taking advantage of their kindness toward strangers in need of a table.

One TikTok user shared her own near-experience with the scam, recounting how she had been dining alone at Nom Wah when another woman approached her. The woman had initially sat down in a section for parties of two or more, and because the restaurant was so busy, the staff had asked her to move. She then asked the TikTok user if they could share a table, so she could order a simple cup of tea.


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According to the TikTok user, a previous post (which appears to have been taken down since) warned diners against this very situation, prompting her to tell the woman they could share a table but not a bill. The woman then left without ordering, but in situations where an agreement is made to share the table and the bill, the scammer will rack up a tab and leave without paying.

Why does the bill-splitting scam work on diners?

As you might have guessed, the aforementioned scam plays on diners' kindness. After all, if approached by another lone diner looking for a place to sit, how many of us would politely agree to let them join us? For most people, it's far easier to say yes than to say no and risk a confrontation. Besides, it's unlikely anyone's first thought would be that they're about to be taken advantage of.

In the best case scenario, sharing the bill helps save the server time because one person pays (and temporarily indebts their dining companions, but that's for the group to figure out after the fact). However, when scammers request to share the bill, they have no intention of paying their share. Instead, they'll either pay a fraction of what they owe, or they'll make an excuse to leave suddenly, sticking their target with the entire bill. Sure, the scammer may not walk away with your money or personal information, but they've scored a full meal for free ... on your dime, that is.

Is NYC's restaurant scam the new dine-and-dash?

If the bill-splitting scam feels familiar, that's likely because it plays off the dine-and-dash scam. The latter involves a diner (or diners) ordering a meal, eating, and then leaving without paying, effectively cheating the restaurant out of money. This scam also affects servers, as it wastes their time and leaves them with no tip to show for it, not to mention putting them in a tight spot with management. Regardless, the scam mainly targets the restaurant, not an individual.

The bill-splitting scam, on the other hand, targets individuals the scammer deems vulnerable. Diners sitting alone are likely to have another seat they aren't using, and if they're reading or on their phone, what's the difference if someone quietly shares the table? Once the scammer has dashed, the individual may feel embarrassed and choose to pay the entirety of the bill without even mentioning the problem to the restaurant staff. To keep yourself safe, never share food at a restaurant, let alone a bill, with a complete stranger.