On a busy weekend in downtown St. John's, an empty table at a restaurant can sometimes be hard to find — especially at a popular spot like Mallard Cottage in Quidi Vidi Village.
So an unexpected number of empty tables led to the discovery that someone had made a rash of phony reservations.
"It's a nuisance more than anything," said Todd Perrin, owner of Mallard Cottage.
Perrin said when his staff looked through their bookings, they found that about 75 reservations were fakes. About 40 of the bookings were for Saturday night.
The clues were in the names — such as Frank Roosevelt and Jane Austen — and phone numbers that turned out to be for local pizza shops or grocery stores.
"You start reading through the email addresses and you can see that they were … you can tell that they all came from one mind. They were all kind of similar," said Perrin.
"It's the type of thing that, we have thousands of reservations on our system, but when you sit down critically and look at them when you have something like this flagged, then you can start to see a pattern."
Who has time for that?
Perrin said all those reservations were made in the same two-hour period on the same day, and the company that handles the online booking system for him is looking into it.
"Someone essentially sat down at their computer for two hours and just made a series of false reservations for whatever reason — I have no idea."
While this meant a few missed tables of business, Perrin said he's more annoyed for his potential customers.
"At Mallard Cottage we're eternal optimists so we always prepare to be busy, so we can manage that piece of it, that's not the big deal," Perrin told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.
"Honestly our biggest issue with it is that there's people that wanted to come to the restaurant that couldn't come, and that's really where we start with it.
"Obviously lost revenue is a thing, but there are people that want to get to the restaurant and they couldn't."
'They basically stole from us'
The incident has forced Perrin to change the company's policy around online booking, and now anyone trying to make a reservation online will have to put in a credit card number.
Not a big hassle, he said, but still an extra step.
The 75 or so fakes, at around $50 a head, could have meant a big deal for Mallard Cottage. Perrin said he hasn't gone as far to file a complaint to police.
"They basically stole from us, you can look at it that way. They stole seats in a restaurant — our money," he said.
"So they robbed us, but whatever, we're too busy running a restaurant to chase down idiots like this."