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Do Restaurants Attract Theft?

What is it about restaurants that attracts thefts? Eater has taken to documenting the “Shit People Steal” from high-end restaurants. They’ve found that customers, encouraged by the cover of dim lighting and customer-service-friendly trust by waiters, love to pilfer small things like napkins, silverware and candlesticks. Such customers also might feel entitled to take things from a business they’re paying for goods and services, much as they do when they steal pillows or conditioner from hotels. Likewise, the AP just reported on a case of four young customers stealing a $127 painting from a Taco Bell in Ohio. (Though that seems a little more cumbersome.)

But the unique customer-restaurant relationship doesn’t explain a recent duo of a restaurantemployee-cum-art thief. In one, Mark Lugo, a former Per Se employee was found to have stolen a $200,000 Picasso drawing from a San Francisco gallery—and three $2000 bottles of Petrus from a New Jersey wine store. And it’s a well-known fact that one of the major costs for restaurants is food and drink lost to employee theft.

Maybe this raft of stories is a coincidence, or a marker of trends in the economy. But you don’t often see this sort of story popping up in bookstores. Could it be that there’s something about eateries that encourages people to surrender to their impulses? Or is it just the alcohol?

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