Many restaurateurs would identify with Sam Mercurio, co-owner of Domenico’s on California’s Monterey Bay. He’d see lost customers milling on the wharf outside his waterside establishment as they waited for a table at the nearby Old Fisherman’s Grotto, pagers in hand. So he decided to mount a conversion effort.
People with names on the Grotto’s wait list were invited to take a table immediately at Domenico’s. Mercurio would apparently escort them himself to a seat, and even offered to take care of their pagers. Then someone would go outside and fling the devices into the water.
Grotto owner Chris Shake must have lost enough business and pagers to suspect something was amiss. Surmising the problem, he hired divers to scour the bay’s floor. They found 10 of his pagers a stone’s throw, quite literally, from Domenico's and a few other restaurants on the popular Fisherman’s Wharf.
The police were alerted. Two undercover cops agreed to pose as Grotto customers who were waiting for a table. Sure enough, Mercurio reportedly invited them into his place and offered to return their pager. But Shake never saw it again.
Mercurio was charged with petty theft, a misdemeanor to which he pleaded not guilty. Shake told the media he would file a lawsuit to recover the $3,000 he lost in pilfered pagers.
But there’s a happy ending to the story. Local media reported yesterday that Mercurio apologized to Shake, shook his hand, and offered to pay nearly $7,000 for the estimated 40 pagers that the Grotto had lost. The charges were dropped.
“We’ll work it out,” Mercurio told KSBW, a local TV station. “Everything will be fine.”