The video, filmed in a bar in Russia, is just too good to be true: when a customer grabs her butt, a waitress smacks him in the face with a menu, knocking him to the ground. With more than 8 million YouTube views, the footage of the waitress’s spirited response is this week’s viral video. Dozens of media sources, in Russia and elsewhere, shared the video of the incident… without verifying it.

The video looks like it was filmed with a surveillance camera. The version that was shared most widely was uploaded to YouTube on May 22. While the scene seems to take place in a bar in Russia, neither the exact location nor the date are identified.

At the start of the footage, you see the waitress approaching a man seated at the bar. With a violent gesture, he appears to try to shove money into her bra. She pushes him away, causing him to tumble from his bar stool, but he leaps up to keep harassing her—going as far as grabbing her butt. The young woman’s reaction has garnered the praise of millions of internet users: she smacks him square in the face with the menu she’s carrying, knocking her aggressor to the ground, where he stays, seemingly dazed.

Dozens of media sources leapt on the video, including Mashable, the Huffington Post, the Mirror… and even Russian media sources like news agency Ria Novosti and the Moscow Times. Some journalists did admit that they "were unable to verify the content", and others mentioned doubts raised by certain internet users about the authenticity of the video. However, no one took the time to really investigate.

But when the Observers Team watched the video, we immediately thought the scene was just too good to be true. First of all, it’s perfectly packaged: all the action takes place within the camera frame, within the space of one minute. We don’t see what happens before or after the footage.

It’s also hard to believe some of the content. Could someone really be knocked to the floor and dazed after being smacked with a menu? Also, would a violent aggressor simply accept his humiliation at the hands of the waitress and leave the bar without a fight? He doesn’t get mad. Instead, he leaves the restaurant, tail between his legs.

These lingering questions got us wondering about the authenticity of the video. We decided to investigate. Our Russian-language journalist discovered that the same video had initially been published two days earlier on another YouTube account, but that version had not been shared nearly as many times. The caption of the original posting said that the scene was filmed in a bar in the Russian city of Kazan. It even gave the bar’s phone number. So, we gave them a ring.

"All of the people in the video are professional actors"

The number turned out to be that of Marcel Akhmetov, head of the communications and advertising company who created this staged scene for Caesar Café. That’s right: staged scene. It turns out publicists dreamed up this realistic video to con the media and get free advertising for the bar.

We knew that people like to watch fights. We came up with the idea of filming with a surveillance camera. All of the people in the video were professional actors. That said, the actress playing the waitress did have to hit the guy really hard to make it credible. She weighs 60 kilos while he only weighs 47, so the blow really hurt him. He was dizzy for the next hour. About twenty different local restaurants have already called to try and hire this waitress… even though she’s a professional actress! We were planning to unveil the secret in a few days.

If you need more proof to believe that the "badass waitress" video is a fake, here’s a colour screengrab of the scene given to us by the communications company, which proves that the video wasn’t filmed by a surveillance camera.

We also spoke to the manager of Caesar Café, Oleg Saoushin, who was thrilled with the buzz around the video.

"A well-known restaurant critic in Kazan said that there is no point in spending money on traditional advertising: you have to invent something different. We spent practically nothing on this video and I think that it will give the café a good image because the video has a very positive message."

This is far from the first time that advertisers have tried to dupe the media. Dozens of others have made attempts, to varying degrees of success. In 2010, Vodka Eristoff published a video showing a group of wolves crossing the parking lot of a Russian supermarket. The video was shared by several media sources who failed to verify it.

Post written with Julien Pain, Editor-in-Chief of the Observers (@JulienPain)and Polina Myakinchenko.