It's called a Moonlight Flit: the crime of fleeing without paying. Usually it's done by financially strapped, but plausible-seeming, folk exiting through the window at 3am, hoping their landlady won't hear.
But few flitters operate on such a scale as the Saudi Princess Maha Al-Sudairi, ex-wife of the Saudi Crown Prince. She had been staying at the Shangri-La hotel in Paris since 23 December, with an entourage of 60 servants. The hotel had started asking awkward questions about payment. So on Friday she did a bunk without paying the £5m bill. Her servants were loading luggage into limousines at 3.30am when they were nabbed by hotel staff – but because the Princess is protected by diplomatic immunity, they couldn't press charges. She's now in another hotel, owned by her friend, the Emir of Qatar.
The Princess has set the bar high, but evidence shows "doing a runner" is on the increase. Last year the New York Post reported a 20 per cent rise in people leaving a restaurant without paying, a crime made easier by diners stepping outside for a cigarette – like the well-dressed couple who took a cigarette break outside L'Autre Pied in London and fled, leaving an unpaid bill of £572. A similar "dine and dash" was reported at the Sea Glass restaurant in Melbourne, where five people who ran up a bill for A$520 (£330) were later identified by their Facebook profiles.
Melbourne saw the most extreme bit of bill-dodging last week. Four men entered the Vue du Monde restaurant on the 55th floor of the Rialto Tower. They ordered four cocktails, drank them, went to the balcony and jumped. The parachutes concealed under their suits opened and a getaway car sped them to safety. Jeez, mate. How much do they charge for cocktails?