Claim mum scammers fleeced hundreds
A Canberra restaurant manager has claimed he's been dudded out of hundreds of dollars by a family of scammers whose tactics shared similarities to a group that caused consternation across Brisbane last year.
Akshat Bhandari, the manager of the Outback Jacks Bar and Grill in Canberra's CBD told news.com.au he and his staff felt "intimidated" by the group who he alleged left his restaurant without paying for more than $200 of food.
It was only when Mr Bhandari called the police that the family, which included four adults, three screaming children and a baby, finally paid part of their bill.
He has now said he wants to warn other businesses in the capital that the marauding mums and dads could target them.
He likened the episode to an incident last March, in which a gang of mums were said to have targeted at least seven businesses in and around Brisbane's CBD ordering meals, "trashing" restaurants and then refusing to pay for their meals. Exasperated staff often let the group leave just to restore some peace.
Mr Bhandari has shown news.com.au CCTV footage which he said showed one mum planted a foreign object in her food as part of a ruse to not pay.
But ACT Police said that there is "no evidence" as yet to support the claim and they won't take action unless there is a spate of similar incidents.
'CREATED A SCENE'
Mr Bhandari said the group of six arrived about 6.15pm on Sunday.
"They had a lot of drinks, maybe eight to 12 Crown beers and three or four cocktails," the restaurateur said.
"The night started picking up and the entire place was full. After the mains arrived one woman said she had something in her salad.
"She spat it out and asked what it was. I told her it was a piece of rubber band but it was impossible to believe it came from our kitchen."
Mr Bhandari insisted he had been in the kitchen when the salad was being prepared and a rubber band could not have made it into the food.
"She cried and then she shouted 'you're not understanding what I'm saying, I'm pregnant'," he said.
"She said she was supposed to go for a scan. Then she went to the bathroom and said she'd vomited and said they weren't paying for a meal with a rubber band in it.
"Then the kids started creating a scene and crying and saying they wanted to go home."
By this point the bill had reached $355. Despite having doubts about the group's claims, Mr Bhandari said he offered to not include the affected meal and the husband's dish which brought the bill down $300.
But the family didn't want to pay a cent. The manager agreed to deduct the kids' meals too, which bought the tab down to $260. It still wasn't enough.
"I said, if someone else reports a rubber band in their food I will happily refund all the meals, but no one has and no one has in the four years of me being here," Mr Bhandari said.
"The husband kept eating all the time but said 'this is disgusting, is this how you treat a pregnant lady?'
"I asked him if he was so concerned about his (unborn) baby why did his wife have three cocktails?
"He just said it was her choice."
'TRYING TO MAKE THEM LEAVE'
Reaching the end of his tether, Mr Bhandari said he told the group things weren't adding up and he was calling the police. At this point he said the party agreed to pay $140, which covered the booze.
"I was trying to make them leave and get whatever money I can get," he said.
He then said he went around to every table and apologised for the ruckus: "A lot of customers took our side, they could see what was going on."
It was when he later checked the CCTV that he said he wondered if the family were up to something. He described seeing one of the women reaching down into her bag.
"She took something out from the bag, put it in her mouth, chewed it and then put it on a tissue and showed it to us," he said.
He said she appeared to mask placing the object, which he believed to be the rubber band, in her mouth.
News.com.au has seen the CCTV footage. While one of the women does appear to lean towards a bag, it's not clear from the footage exactly what her actions are or what she is holding.
Mr Bhandari said the similarities with a family in Brisbane is striking: "I thought this must be the same group of people as in Brisbane, they all had Irish accents.
"I want to warn other businesses to be very careful because if they're here on holiday this is what they are going to do."
In March, Queensland police said they suspected there had been multiple victims of a group of marauding mums that reportedly went on a scamming spree fraudulently receiving free meals, drinks and even cigarettes from restaurant and bar owners desperate to get rid of them.
In an angry Facebook post a restaurant owner in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley explained the modus operandi.
"They are a group of about seven - four children and three ladies - and they are unbelievably rude. They came in and totally destroyed the restaurant," the owner said.
"Halfway through the meal one lady started screaming that there was glass in her meal and that her mouth was bleeding.
"Upon inspection I knew that (the glass) had not come from our restaurant, but they were relentless.
"I was so scared and terrified of them that I made their meals and drinks free - around $180 (in) value.
Mr Bhandari said it was a tense evening.
"It was an intimidating situation, in my years running places something like this has never happened," he said.
"I blame myself, I should have looked at the footage straightaway."
An ACT Policing spokesman confirmed officers attended a restaurant at 11pm on 6 January in the CBD following a report of a theft.
"No evidence was available to support the allegation and, in the absence of any evidence, police advised the manager that he could pursue the matter via civil proceedings."
Mr Bhandari said police had not seen the CCTV footage when they visited and his now supplied them with the tape.