The closest I’ve ever gotten to dining and dashing was in the pick ’n’ mix aisle of Tesco. I still remember locking eyes with a fellow customer as I took a piece of fudge, untwisted the wrapper and inhaled it – before covering the evidence in my palm in what felt like one incredibly slick move for a seven-year-old.
As the cost of living continues to keep most of us at arm’s length, my childhood sleight of hand has now become “du jour”, and more people than ever are getting in on the criminal act. Shoplifting is now at such high levels that it has been dubbed an “epidemic”, with thefts having doubled in the past three years, reaching 8 million in 2022 and costing retailers £953m, according to the British Retail Consortium.
A government survey from 2021 found that “food and groceries” were the most commonly stolen items (39 per cent compared with 33 per cent in 2018), and now the trend is transferring to restaurants themselves, with customers increasingly “dining and dashing” or doing a runner, as it was once “fondly” called when I worked in the service industry, confirming what I’d always suspected: people really are the worst.