MEMPHIS (WMC-TV) - Here's proof how customers who "dine-and-dash" hurt more than just the restaurants they rip off.
Action News 5 has received five complaints -- four in the last week -- about the Happy Mexican's credit/debit card policy at its Downtown and Primacy Parkway locations.
Owner Larry Gonzalez acknowledged his policy requires large parties (six or more) to surrender a credit/debit card and the driver's license of the card-holder before they're seated.
If they don't give up the cards, they're asked to leave.
"I have many customers eat, then leave without paying, and that's why I have the policy," Gonzalez said on the phone after declining an on-camera interview. "I have to protect my business."
"If you don't trust me, then why should I trust you with something more extremely valuable?" asked Sherita Lee of Whitehaven. Lee said she and five of her friends left the Happy Mexican's 2nd Street location after Gonzalez's staff demanded a credit card and ID before seating them.
"Your biggest loss is a $25 meal if someone walked out. My biggest loss could be my identity theft," Lee said.
Gonzalez refused to say how many customers have ditched him or to reveal his dollar losses.
"I have nothing to say to you, sir," he said.
Jeff Horton, network security consultant and owner of One Point Solutions Group, LLC, in Germantown, TN (http://www.onepointsg.com/), said credit card payment companies require restaurants to meet payment card industry standards -- or PCI compliance standards -- for protecting customers' personal information.
"(Restaurants) have to have procedures, training -- even pieces of paper that have confidential information on them -- that has to be locked away somewhere. It can't be in an area that is publicly accessible," Horton said.
He added, "If somebody is taking your information, and it's not locked up in a safe, or it's not being guarded, then they can't be in compliance."
Gonzalez would not assure Action News 5 that his policy adheres to PCI compliance standards.
"I have nothing else to say," he said, concluding the call.
"I did not think it would be a good practice for me to leave my credit card or any of my friends to leave their credit card," said Lee.
The Memphis-Shelby County Health Department ordered Little Caesar's Pizza, 4290 Summer Ave., to shut down and make repairs after it failed its Sept. 13 inspection with a 69:
"excessive food/debris on ceiling, floor and fancovers"
"mildew/debris on walls"
"dirty cardboard used to line floor inside walk-in cooler"
"waste water (sewage) backing up in front prep area"
A manager who would only identify himself as "Jeremy" was uncooperative. The store was open Sept. 29 when we called. He would neither comment about the violations nor confirm that the store closed temporarily to make the repairs.
Memphis-Shelby County Health Department Environmentalist Sheila Holman confirmed "Jeremy" and his staff did not repair the critical violations. She said Little Caesar's will retain its 69 grade.
Logan's Roadhouse, 7755 Winchester, passed its Sept. 14 inspection with a 71, but earned a food permit suspension notice:
"waste water leaking (from) handsink by charcoal grill"
Inspector used the word DIRTY 21 times to describe store conditions
"Basically, a seal had cracked (in our plumbing)," said Manager Kevin Smith. "As a matter of fact, the plumber is out here right now.
"It has been taken care of, and they are coming out to re-inspect next week."
Marisco's El Quetzal, 5855 Winchester, passed inspection with a 71 Sept. 15, but it also earned a food permit suspension notice:
"roach crawling on wall behind prep table"
"roach crawling on wall in hallway"
"uncovered food items in walk-in cooler"
Holman confirmed Marisco's El Quetzal exterminated the roaches, covered the food items and scored an 85 on its follow-up.
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