This is one of those local stories I like to highlight just in case it gives others around the country some ideas of how to get along in the world a bit better. In Mansfield, Texas, there’s a small restaurant called Our Place. (I know… it already sounds like the introduction to a fairy tale. Sorry.) Like any eatery, they run into the occasional problem of petty theft in the form of people opting for “dine and dash” (leaving without paying their bill) or in some cases, customers stealing tips left for the wait staff by the previous diners. The problem is that calling the cops over such incidents can be a big waste of time as they generally have bigger fish to fry. (Pun intended.)
The owners of Our Place came up with a novel solution. They installed security cameras inside and out at their restaurant. When someone is seen stealing, they post the video on their facebook page and publicize it locally. And that’s what happened recently when a young girl stole a tip from a waitress, apparently with the knowledge and consent of her parents. (CBS Dallas-Fort Worth)
Surveillance video shows a young girl pick up a five dollar bill, as a hostess seats her family at their table Monday morning.
“When the little girl took the money, she showed her parents,” said Our Place Restaurant owner, Benji Arslanovski. “If my son did that and it’s not my money, I’d give him a look and he’d put it down, so I was waiting for that look. And, it didn’t happen.”
Instead, a camera caught the girl slip it under her menu…
A review of security footage showed the girl pocketing the money.
Within hours of posting the video to Facebook, Arslanovski says the girl’s mother was back with the money.
This video from the local CBS outlet has their report and the video of the crime taking place. Judge for yourself, but it looks to me as if the parents were just fine with her hiding and then pocketing the tip money. (Apologies if there’s an advertisement in front of it.)
So here’s the question being debated in the local community. Is the restaurant “shaming” the customers who are caught on camera stealing? I’d say obviously yes. But perhaps this is the final proof we need to establish that maybe all shaming isn’t really bad. If the thing you’re being shamed for is a crime, shouldn’t you be ashamed?
The other point is that the restaurant owner goes on to make the claim that what he’s doing is not only effective, but it’s “kinder than the alternative.” In six out of the eight cases they’ve discovered and published to social media thus far the perpetrators came back and paid for the stolen meal or returned the pilfered tips. After doing so, the videos were taken down from Facebook and the perpetrators never had to deal with the cops.
So is that a kinder way to handle it? Is this a form of “social justice” (or perhaps social media justice) that actually works and something that we can all get behind? Or is it unfair to the thieves to call them out for the local Facebook community to see? If nothing else, it’s saving the cops some time so they don’t have to chase down five, ten or twenty dollar crimes.
Personally, I have to give it a thumbs up. There are folks complaining, but if you’re actually guilty of stealing some working class person’s tip money you probably deserve a little shaming.