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Jul 14, 2006 01:56 AM

Bottled Water on the Table - Misleading Freebie?

In another thread the topic of bottled water already on the table upon arrival was brought up so i thought this might make a good thread topic.

I have noticed that there have been a number of retaurants that now particpate in the practice of having a large bottle of water on the table upon seating. The waiter arrives and immediately asks if he can pour the bottle around. No mention of either cost or no-charge. The bill arrives and the waiter's "generosity" is included in the bill at $7-10.

The first time this happend to me i was surprised, thinking it was a free thank you for coming (probably rose colored glasses on my part). I now always turn down the offer. Tap is fine with me.

Has this happened with anyone else and did it bother you? I chucked it up to experience.

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  1. Places that come with charges already attached are not revisited by me. Unless special circumstances like a large group or something like that. It irritates the crap out of me.


    4 Replies
    1. re: Davwud

      Stay away from Hong Kong. It seems like every blasted restaurant has a tiny dish of boiled peanuts on the table when you sit down which you have to pay for whether you eat them or not. Ditto the tea.

      1. re: Gary Soup

        I don't recall being charged for peanuts (I guess I just didn't pay enough for meals), but the tea charge is prevalent even in "dim sum palaces" outside of HK.

        1. re: Blueicus

          Yeah, it's pretty common in dim sum places in the Bay Area. I think of it mostly as a cover charge, because dim sum tabs can be so low.

          My parents tell the story about how once many years ago, they went into a Chinese restaurant just for tea and a plate of almond cookies after a movie. When they got the bill, the only charge was for the cookies (a nominal amount at that, 50 cents, IIRC). They felt kind of guilty about this, but the waiter said with a shrug that they don't charge for tea. My father has always wondered what would have happened if they'd just gone in and asked for tea!

          1. re: Blueicus

            It may be because I tended to gravitate towards little Shanghainese restatuarants (the only ones where I had a chance of surmounting the language barrier). The boiled peanuts are a Shanghai tradition, but charging for them is not. The bulk of my time spent in Hong Kong was in 1997, and maybe things have changed.

      2. Bottled water is a huge ripoff that restaurants just love. Living in SF, our water is outstanding and is rated that way. I need no bottled stuff. If you are a bottle water person and are complaining about the price of gasoling just stop and figure how much that water is costing you per gallon.

        1. An article in Food Arts some time ago touted the bottled water ploy (either already on the table or plugged by the server) as one of the highest profit centers a restaurant can have. I was surprised that Urasawa here in LA, at $250 pp before tax, tip and drink, will not serve a glass of regular, old Beverly Hills water but will serve only bottled water at $12 a pop. We bring our own wine (no corkage) but I've been tempted to go to the men's room and take a drink in my hands from the sink.

          6 Replies
          1. re: TomSwift

            You should bring one of those collapsible cups and fill it with water in the bathroom, then bring it back to your table!! I would love to see the looks on their faces!

            1. re: Katie Nell

              They'll charge you "corkage" for using that cup.

              1. re: Katie Nell

                That's not a bad idea, I'll do it next time with a real glass. Alas, they'll probably charge me $12 for some ice.

                1. re: TomSwift

                  Report back if you do... should be a good experiment! ;-)

                  1. re: Katie Nell

                    Of course I'll report. And a further refinement - I'll bring my own ice in a baggie in the insulated bag in which we carry the wine. Urasawa-san may have astonishing food but he can't outfox this Hound when it comes to a glass of water.

              2. It hasn't happened to me because I am aware of this practice ahead of time. So I always ask for tap water. I'll think twice about returning to a place which did not inform me of charge for this.

                1. I haven't seen that practice in San Francisco (although I don't eat out at fancy places that much, so I can't say it never happens). Of course it's a huge profit center -- they mark it up more than wine, and they don't have any of the same costs associated with it (special glassware, special storage, maintaining a wine list, training staff or hiring a sommelier, and investment in buying an array of wines and maintaining a "backstock" of bottles they may not sell for months).