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Alleged Scam Artist Takes To Austin Restaurants

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Seven restaurants weigh in on the comings and goings of one Shane Whitaker.

Via 313
Via 313
Via 313/Facebook

Numerous Austin restaurants say that they've been approached by someone who demands refunds for purchases that couldn’t be verified, as pointed out to Eater by a tipster. According to seven various local owners and managers, the accused, Shane Whitaker, often threatens to take these matters to Yelp, with one restaurant going so far as to file a police report. For these restaurants below, there was no proof of Whitaker’s Yelp reviews. Eater reached out to Whitaker for a comment via email (the number published by Rockaway Beach ATX in June was disconnected), but hasn't heard back. Below, read the various accounts as told to Eater:

He caused a big scene, started swearing, and stormed off

James Rohr, general manager of Via 313
On June 7, Whitaker called the Violet Crown trailer to complain and request a cash refund because he didn’t receive the correct pizza "that he still had it in his fridge." The call came in ten days after the alleged order infraction. Manager James Rohr texted Whitaker saying that he would reach out in the morning, but Whitaker called him back immediately. He said he had been trying to get his money back for a while, and threatened to go to the Better Business Bureau and post about it on Yelp. When Rohr tried to get more details from him about the order, "his story started to change," he said. There was no receipt, "and [he] couldn’t tell me the specific day or time." Without that, Rohr couldn’t do anything and told him as much. Whitaker then "started swearing at me and hung up." Whitaker came back on June 29, claiming that he overheard the staff saying defamatory things about him during a phone order, and wanted another cash refund. The manager on the scene knew about the previous incident, and told him to leave before he called the cops. "He caused a big scene, started swearing, and stormed off," Rohr said, who filed a report with the Austin Police Department.

Whitaker 'got pretty rude,' Schrader said, 'saying that I am calling him a liar.'

Steve Schrader, owner of Hi Hat Public House
In mid-June, Whitaker called Hi Hat with a complaint: he said he was a regular — nb: the staff didn’t recognize him — and he had an issue with the four portobello burgers he had ordered for takeout with some out-of-town friends. When he got home, he said he found cheese on the burgers, despite his explicit request for no cheese. And he wanted a refund. Schrader checked the restaurant's system for record of the purchase and found nothing. He responded that without a receipt and no records, he couldn’t help him. Whitaker "got pretty rude," Schrader said, "saying that I am calling him a liar." Then Whitaker threatened to post about this on Yelp.

Harlan Scott, director of operations at Parkside Projects and Parkside
"Oh, this guy calls every 6 months or so over the years," Scott said, though he can’t confirm it’s been Whitaker every time. The recent story he received was that Whitaker was "offended by gay slurs shouted by other customers," so he wanted to get his money back in cash. When Parkside checked the records, he couldn’t find Whitaker and told him so. "He hems and haws and threatens to Yelp, and he never hear from him," Scott said.

Whitaker called again five weeks ago and management remembered a customer that looked like him at the time he claimed to be at Parkside. Whitaker described his table, and the order sounded realistic. Scott said that while he couldn't give him cash, he could give him "VIP treatment at a discounted price at Parkside anytime he wanted." He emailed Whitaker about this, but never heard back from him.

Justin Malone, managing partner at Waller Creek Pub House On Wednesday, July 8, Whitaker called Waller Creek Pub House and said that he experienced bad service on Saturday, July 4. He claimed that a "drunk customer said anti-gay slurs directed at him from one of my employees," Malone described. He wanted to get his money back for the four drinks he bought and asked to speak to a manager.

Corey Rockaway, co-owner of Rockaway Beach ATX
Last year, Whitaker told Rockaway Beach management that a "rude" female staffer didn’t fulfill his complete order, so he wanted a refund for the entire meal, retailed at just under $50."We’ve heard he’s done it mostly to food trailers and small restaurants," Rockaway said. It happened with his next-door-neighbor Cow Bells Burgers, which doesn’t have a female employee on staff. Rockaway posted about it on Twitter to warn other places.

Cat Ramirez, manager of Benji’s Cantina
When Whitaker approached Benji’s Cantina, Ramirez was worried that "the whole thing seemed kinda fishy." He said that his $60 to-go order was wrong and wanted cash. "There was much animosity from him until he realized I was remaining calm" she said. "Then he began complimenting our professionalism."

Cody Symington, owner of Cenote
Whitaker tried his scam three times with Cenote. He said he ordered three chicken

I knew it was bogus.

Caesar salads a week ago in October that made his group sick. He didn’t have a receipt, and Symington checked the point of sale records and couldn’t find it. "At that point," he said, "I knew it was bogus." When he told him there was no proof of the purchase, Whitaker "became irate and said he’d be in touch with the owner," which Symington is, "and he would ruin us on Yelp and hung up." He attempted the same with fish tacos two more times.

Update, July 15: More restaurants reached out to share their stories:

Austin Winstanley, owner of El Arroyo
At El Arroyo a few weeks ago, Whitaker wanted a refund of around $60 from a purchase he claimed happened a day or two earlier. When they refused after there was no receipt, he called the manager a liar.

Samantha Perez, store manager of The Tavern
Whitaker claimed that he called The Tavern, but the staff laughed and hung up on him, "which is why he was so irate," Perez said. He said he placed to-go orders for burgers that were incorrect. He told them that "he took pictures, but deleted them because he couldn't get a hold of a manager for a whole week," she described. He spoke to a new manager who gave him the refund because "he cursed her out and threatened to Yelp. He tried again six weeks later, but the manager refused. "He cussed her out," she said, "and hung up." The Tavern, along with sister restaurant El Arroyo, filed a police report.

Taylor Harrison, assistant manager of Roppolo's
Harrison said that Whitaker has attempted to get money from all locations of Roppolo's, using "the same 'my order was wrong, I need cash'" story. The pizzeria posted his name and phone number so the employees don't pick up when he calls.

These restaurants wanted to share their stories in the hopes that it would so some part to stop future events of this nature. To that end, if you're a restaurant owner who has had a similar experience, please email us through the tipline or drop a comment below.

Cenoté

1010 E Cesar Chavez Street, Austin, TX 78702

Waller Creek Pub House

603 Sabine St, Austin, TX 78701

Rockaway Beach Subs & Shaved Ice

311 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Benji's Cantina [CLOSED]

716 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78701 (512) 476-8226 Visit Website

Parkside

2135 North Willis Boulevard, , OR 97217 (503) 719-6826 Visit Website

Hi Hat Public House

2121 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702 (512) 848-2628 Visit Website

Via 313 [Rainey]

61 Rainey Street, Austin, Texas 78701 (512) 609-9405 Visit Website

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