It’s Not Bribery, It’s Palm Greasing

I just read this nonsense about Jason Sheehan being accused of bribing a waiter with $50 for a table at some restaurant, in some city other than Philadelphia. Apparently, this is worthy of national news—or at least the food blog version of national news. Jason went on to issue a denial of the horrendous charges, but wait a second, it’s not bribery, and it’s not wrong.

The first time I “bribed” my way into a restaurant was at El Vez (cue all the Starr haters). I was there within days of its openings with some friends. There were six of us total, we waited, and waited, and waited for a table for an hour and a half. Which means mean we drank, and drank, and drank some more at the bar. Six people sucking down $12 margaritas on a Saturday night. You do the math.

After we finally got to our table and ate, our check showed that we’d spent more on pre-dinner drinks under the rotating lowrider than we did on the dinner itself. The next time I showed up at El Vez—again, there were six of us—I asked each person in our group for $5, collecting $25. I then pulled a crisp $20 from my wallet, folded it, palmed it the way they do in the movies, and had a little handshake with the host in the front of the room. We got a table five minutes later—a good table at that—and saved more than $100. And oh yeah, your math is right, I did pocket the extra five.

This isn’t wrong. It’s the service industry, not the federal government. The guy in front of me who waited for a table for 30 minutes didn’t have some inalienable right to that table. He was just a poor schmuck who didn’t know any better.

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  • Steve

    WHO CARES!!!!!!!!! Why does Foobooz suck so much since merging with Philadelphia Mag???

  • You waited a hour and a half for a table at El Vez?

  • Tex

    This is now two posts about something that you say is not newsworthy. Well done.

  • Lame

    So Victor steals from his friends, thinks its cool and then calls some guy a “poor schmuck” because he didn’t bribe (it is bribing) the host. This guy is the worst.

  • rory

    wait, so it’s perfectly cool to pay to skip people in a line? that’s fine? because that’s what you just said.

    Personally, I think it’s a terrible aspect of the service industry. just because something happens with frequency doesn’t mean it is right.

    Would it be ok by you for a restaurant to set up an auction for seats? I think that’s a horrible way of apportioning tables, but at least it’d be above board. What you’re describing is *EXACTLY* what a bribe is by definition–paying someone in authority for favored service. Just because it’s standard (debateable), doesn’t mean it isn’t a bribe. Is it not a bribe in, say, Ecuador (8th most corrupt country according to NGOs) to bribe a police officer into not giving you a ticket? Really?


  • Jen B.

    Way to make yourself look like a douche.

  • Lord Chesterfield

    You’re right, no one has an inalienable right to a table, but they should be able to have the reasonable expectation when waiting at a restaurant that they will be accommodated in a fair manner, or else why would any of us bother going out and waiting? Frankly, I’m shocked a “crisp $20” got you anywhere, but I bet you thought it was a representation of your limitless magnanimity; and hey, you earned that extra $5 from your pals. At least Sheehan (allegedly, of course) had the class to offer $50.

    Weren’t you the one that reported “Operation Maker’s Mark?”

    You seem to have something in common with the establishments you investigated, and that is the view that people at restaurants are poor schmucks who deserve to get taken for not knowing any better.

    Of course, I have a hard time believing that this episode ever transpired… I can’t believe that anyone waited 1.5 hrs to go to El Vez, and then went back and paid their way in… You probably got played, your table was likely next up and the host just pocketed the $ anyway.

    Next time you try it, listen carefully and maybe you’ll hear what the rest of us poor schmuck diners are calling you behind your back.

  • Cleevus

    Victor also lies. He would NEVER give someone money for something that is inherently free. He’s WAY too cheap.

  • King Friday

    Even if Victor had not misquoted me in the past, I would still think this story is bullshit.

  • PK Ribs

    These commenters are shocked, SHOCKED!, that people slip the host money to be moved up in the line? Are you guys also surprised that if you tip your bartender big, he’ll serve you faster next time you want to order? Idiots.

  • Stephen

    “Victor also lies. He would NEVER give someone money for something that is inherently free. He’s WAY too cheap.”

    Cleevus – You forgot that he said that he collected $25 from his friends and pocketed $5 for himself….so in fact, he is not only a cheap liar, he’s also a theif.

  • rory

    PK Ribs–not shocked that it happens, but shocked someone would think this was somehow not bribery just because it’s common. (also shocked people think it has much success–any place that might get said bribes also is likely to have competent host/hostesses…the type who can make you think they’re giving special service when they aren’t and vice versa)

  • Victor Fiorillo

    And now from the archives, Esquire’s “$20 Theory of the Universe” by Tom Chiarella.

  • Lord Chesterfield

    Nice link, I always love reading “MAN MAGAZINE” articles about how REAL MEN MASTER THE UNIVERSE. What kind of kinky stuff do you think that author was into that he needed a hustler and a quart of milk in the middle of the night? Mommy issues I bet. I think the moral of that story, and of the one above… is that a fool and his money are soon parted.

  • King Friday

    You misquoted me in your “Fruit Flies and Feces” post. I was the sous chef that supposedly said that shrimp veins are common on New Orleans plates and therefore implying that I was trying to bullshit the customer into believing that shrimp veins made the dish more authentic. The truth is I told your server that it’s not typical to devein a shrimp that small in New Orleans, Philly, Texas, Florida or anywhere else I’ve ever been. I do understand that this conversation took place through a third party but that does not excuse you from verifying the facts before you print one of your idiotic posts. The only reason you’ve never been sued for libel is that noone takes you seriously.
    P.S. Not exactly classy or professional of you to email me.

  • Below Me

    Way to back up your shitty article with one that is almost just as shitty. The author of that dick shriveling men’s mag article describes a woman’s dress as “hard-on quality” and orders milk and a Hustler to his hotel room, but at least he doesn’t con his friends out of money and brag about it. I don’t know how either of you have jobs.

  • Zeus Dish

    Departed this website soon after Philly Mag took over, so pardon me catching up on old news… between his recent El Vez post and this one, what a jackass this guy is.