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Money Moral Dilemma: Should we return to the restaurant to pay after being evacuated from it?

MSE_Kelvin MSE Staff Posts: 307
Sixth Anniversary 10 Posts Photogenic Name Dropper
MSE Staff
edited 12 September at 5:52PM in Going out deals
This week's MoneySaver who wants advice asks...

My husband and I were having lunch at a restaurant that's part of a small chain when the fire alarm went off. The staff asked everyone to evacuate, then to vacate the area so the fire brigade had access. We later learned it was a false alarm, and I said we should return to pay our bill. My husband thinks there's no need, as we weren't asked to do so at the time, we didn't get to finish our food and drinks, and the service was poor, so the staff wouldn't be missing out on a tip. Who's right?

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  • RS156
    RS156 Forumite Posts: 5
    First Post
    Yes, you shoukd have returned or discussed it with the staff before leaving the evacuated group. I wouldn't expect they would ask you to cover the bill, but it seems bold to assume you can just eat and drink what you did for free.
  • Skier_G
    Skier_G Forumite Posts: 3
    Ninth Anniversary First Post Combo Breaker
    I would say somewhere in the middle would be appropriate. Not being asked to pay in the middle of a fire alarm evacuation is not a reason for not paying for what you received. Figure out what you think is the value of what you had and send it to the restaurant.
  • Bonnypitlad
    Bonnypitlad Forumite Posts: 71
    Third Anniversary 10 Posts
    It would not have been appropriate for the restaurant to instruct you to evacuate and to ask you to pay at the same time.
    An incident like this would be very expensive for the restaurant 
    If you were not enjoying your meal you probably wouldn’t eat there again.
    If it happened to me and I was unable to finish my meal I think I would offer 50% of the estimated bill by mailing a cheque to the restaurant 
    The decision is yours
  • Ed264
    Ed264 Forumite Posts: 80
    10 Posts First Anniversary
    I think your husband is wrong. If you weren't happy with the food and the service, you should have complained at the time - before the fire alarm went off. Go back, be honest and pay what is reasonably owing to them. And you'll probably walk away happy that you'd done so.
  • ambioni
    ambioni Forumite Posts: 104
    Eighth Anniversary 10 Posts Combo Breaker
    At the end of the day it is still theft to walk off without paying, whether the goods are food served to you or items you've picked up from a shop shelf. The decent thing to do would be to pay the bill, or at least a proportion of it. The restaurant's insurance may or may not cover such losses and clearly they were trying to keep you safe by evacuating. I started wondering if this is similar to a fire alarm and evacuation happening in a shop with everyone asked to leave immediately (and still carrying your unpaid-for goods). Would you just walk off home and not think of paying in that case too?
  • bikaga
    bikaga Forumite Posts: 131
    Part of the Furniture 100 Posts
    I'd go back and give them part of the money if you've had something to eat or drink even if you didn't finish it. They'll still have bought the ingredients and cooked and served it, even if you didn't like the service. Obviously depends - if you've only had a bite and not had a drink then I wouldn't give as much as if I'd been 2/3 through a meal and a bottle of wine ;)
  • spyros_455
    spyros_455 Forumite Posts: 3
    First Anniversary First Post
    The fact that you didn't finish your meal and drinks definitely means you shouldn't pay the full price.

    The disruption you had is also a disruption of the service. When you go to a restaurant to eat you expect to have your hour or so to eat uninterrupted. Being interrupted and asked to leave means you shouldn't pay in my opinion. You didn't sign up for only eating half of your food and getting kicked out.

    So, overall, I think it's completely morally acceptable to not pay. Legally, I believe it's also fine to not pay. If the restaurant wanted you to cover full price and claim the cost against you, it would be difficult for them.

    In addition, you said the service was poor anyway.

    Overall, I'd say don't pay.

    But, if you didn't mind the disruption and want to pay what you consider to be the fair cost (e.g. around half of your meal if you ate around half), then go ahead.
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