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What's the worst (or most flagrant) upsell you've been subjected to?


It doesn't happen as much as it used to , but I seem to remember a lot of games being played with $9 waters being poured very liberally once for us. The guy paying on our table just told the manager to take off the entire water tab, or he was going to crush the servers tip. The server had been really really pushy about it, so it was warranted though....

What's the worst you've had happen to you?

  1. quick question..did you drink it?

    8 Replies
    1. re: laur76

      we were drinking wine, and the server had gone around topping up every glass with the bottled water, and the water was all still on the table at the end of dinner, undrunk.

      1. re: AKR

        very legit to be PO'd then..very annoying

      2. re: laur76

        When DW and I are out with friends and they order cocktails, and since I do not drink wine or alcohol, I normally order a bottle of Pelligrino. That's "a" bottle of Pelligrino. Others order their Martinis, V&T's, Cosmos, etc. When the bottle of pelli comes, the waiter always pours everyone a glass without asking, just assumes. First point - did they give me part of my companions' cocktails? Nope, and that's clue number 1.

        75-90% of the time after "we" finish my first bottle the waiter assumes that it's OK to pop open bottle number 2. Did I order this? Nope. Then he starts pouring away. Does he just assume that my cmpanions want a second cocktail and bring without asking? Nope. So why does he feel it within his jurisdiction to bring something I did not order. AND EXPECT TO PAY FOR IT!!!

        At $10 per bottle, when the bill arrives, I check and if there is anything more than the 1 bottle I ordered, I ask for removal from the bill.

        When only with DW and I are eating alone and arrive at the table and there is a bottle of water already there, I normally just remove it and place it on the ground next to my chair. Although, I am getting to the point of just opening, pouring and telling the resto I thought it was complimentary since it was there when I arrived like the knives and forks and thank them. Wonder what they'd do?

        1. re: jfood

          I really like your logic!

          We had this happen at Perigee in Toronto. It’s a very small, very upscale tasting-menu only place, and to this day our most expensive dinner ever, due in no small part to our water bill. When we were seated, the waiter asked if we wanted “flat or sparkling water.” We’ve gotten this a couple of times since but this was the first time and we just assumed that flat was Canadian slang for “tap.” When he came out with the bottle of fancy water, we decided to just suck it up and then ask for tap water when we finished that bottle. It just didn’t seem worth it to make him take it back when we had ordered it, albeit unwittingly.

          The problem was that the bottle didn’t remain at our spot (we were dining at a counter that overlooks the open kitchen, not a table.) Instead he took it away and then just topped off our glasses periodically. At the end of the night, my husband was visibly shocked by the number of bottles we had apparently managed to polish off, and at what cost! (I asked for the details but he said ‘no use depressing you as well’!)

          We didn’t make any fuss at the time, since we had drunk it, but it was an expensive lesson and the bad feeling will almost certainly keep us from ever returning.

          1. re: jfood

            I do agree with you. and if you try the complimentary water trick, I'd love to know how it turns out..

            1. re: jfood

              Where on earth is serving San Pellegrino for $10 a bottle?! We serve small and large bottles where I work, and even the ones that serve four people are less than $5.

              1. re: Al_Pal

                I see that all the time in Manhattan, particularly at expensive, though not necessarily the best, Italian restaurants.

                1. re: Al_Pal

                  Like MM jfood has seen at NYC restos as well as those of "name" chef's.

            2. The waiters pushing the unpriced specials at Il Mulino comes to mind. Talk about sticker shock. I have not gone back but I think they may now give the prices of each special.

              1 Reply
              1. re: bobby06877

                well, they still weren't mentioning the prices of special desserts when I was at the Vegas one a year and half ago:


                $20 for a poached pear!

              2. Just happened this past weekend...mom and I were staying at a hotel and made the mistake of having breakfast in the dining room. As soon as we sat down the waitress offered us coffee and orange juice, without mentioning that one glass of juice cost $6.

                2 Replies
                1. re: SarahEats

                  Happens all the time at hotel restos. As soon as you sit down the waiter asks if s/he can bring some coffee and juice. Then they normally arrive with a small glass of $6 Tropicana. If they really want to make you feel good while they reach in ur wallet, they's bring it over in a red wine goblet.

                  Coffee is a must, but at $6 a glass pass on the OJ. ALWAYS LOOK AT THE MENU FIRST.

                  1. re: SarahEats

                    That’s happed to me after ordering an omelet...it’s the old...”And what kind of juice would you like? And white or brown toast?” Only to find each item is added separately to the bill.

                  2. We once went to an Eithopian restaurant and splurged on a $20 dollar "Califorina Red with rich undertones...." and out came a bottle of Charles Schwab. Yep, it was a 2 buck Chuck. We should of sent it back but it was the beginning of our relationship and so we sucked it up and drank it and laugh about it to this day.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: lbs

                      Just an fyi:

                      Charles Schwab is the founder of a successful brokerage firm. Charles SHAW is cheap wine that you can buy from Trader Joe's.

                      I'd be very suspicious of any restaurant that offerred you a bottle of Charles Schwab...

                      1. re: Humbucker

                        D'oh! Maybe I need some Charles Shaw!

                        1. re: Humbucker

                          Chuck Schwab gives good investment advice, but his wine is pure puke!

                      2. At a "Chinese" restaurant, our table of 6 got charged extra for asking for 2 forks, in addition to the gratis chopsticks.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Sweet. That is the best ever.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Wow. You win. Never in my wildest dreams could I have concocted such a way to upsell customers.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                So, here's a question: did you get to keep the forks or was the charge considered a 'fork rental fee'?
                                You do win...

                              2. I was at a restaurant that had a monthly wine special featured on their menu for $25.00 a bottle. My friend and I ordered the bottle, waited almost 20 minutes only for the waiter to come back and apologize that they were out of the feature (it was the 16th of the month!) In his hand he held a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino and said it would make a good substitute. Now I am no superbly knowledgeable wine lover, but I KNOW a Brunello, in a restaurant, is a bottle that you will pay upwards of $100.00 or more for, so I looked the server right in the eye and said "And we'll get this for the $25.00 cost right? Since the other one is out of stock?"

                                Well, he looked horrified, and stammered and cleared his throat about a hundred times, "Uh, um...well, I don't think so"

                                My friend and I stood up and walked out. What a joke!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: cooknKate

                                  Bravo to you and your friend! I hate the wine switch even more then the flat or sparkling routine.

                                2. Don't know if this counts:

                                  Went to a local, but a bit upscale for the island, restaurant in Vieques, Puerto Rico. Most of the entrees were in the $15-20 range. I was going to order something off the normal menu, but the server HIGHLY recommended the spiny lobster. I figured, eh--they come off the boats right across the street, it was the "low season" for tourists, and the town was tiny and very untouristy, so the price won't be too bad...

                                  Got the bill, and about passed out when I saw I had been charged $46!!!!!!!!!!

                                  It was really good, though, so I sucked it up. I didn't, after all, ask what the price was before I ordered!

                                  1. A few years ago, my husband and I were driving through Greenwich, CT and decided to stop for a late lunch. We went to a little cafe and sat outside, watching the world go by. We wanted a light meal, as we would be driving for several more hours, but the waiter kept suggesting cocktails, appetizers, soups, etc. when all we really wanted were sandwiches and a small salad. When our meal arrived, we noticed we had no water. I asked the waiter for some, and he replied "Perrier or Pellegrino?" My husband looked him in the eye and said "Will your tap water give me diarrhea?"
                                    We got tap water, and were not asked whether we wanted any dessert.

                                    13 Replies
                                    1. re: phofiend

                                      I think both sides go what they deserved.

                                      There are 2 long threads recently about the respective expectations from the waiter and the customer. One from the waiter is please do not be rude, and one from the customer is please do not upsell.

                                      Looks like the score is tied 1-1 in this case.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        I don't think his comment was rude. When a customer asks for water you can ask tap sparkling or bottled.....but to offer as the only two alternatives two bottled names is just plain wrong.

                                        1. re: JaneRI

                                          Well, I think using the word “diarrhea” in a place where other people are eating can never be considered appropriate. If he wanted to make the same point, he could certainly say “ Is there a health issue with the tap water?”

                                        2. re: jfood

                                          Well, yes. We got exactly what we deserved and paid for: tap water and no more rude upsell from the waiter. Nothing more, nothing less.

                                          1. re: phofiend

                                            But there is good uselling and bad upselling. Upselling bacon onto a cheeseburger is good upselling, perpertual bottled h2o is bad upselling.

                                            The is no such thing as good rude. The waiter may have been doing what he was told by the manager or trying to sell more (neither an acceptable situation) but the response was rude. It could have been handled better by saying, "i would only like tap water and I prefer if you did not ask again."

                                            1. re: jfood

                                              Or just plainly ask for tap water. No waiter as ever asked me again if I wanted bottled water after my initial statement of requesting tap water.

                                              And I agree that it's generally management that tells the waiters to use certain phrases. So one shouldn't really blame the waiter for this.

                                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                                tap water it is. easy to say. rolls off the tongue.
                                                let 'em (wait staff at some joints) semantically key stuff. we'll figure it out. not a big deal.

                                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                                  that's what jfood does all the time now. "mrs jfood will have a diet coke and tap water is fine with me." said once and done.

                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    i always tell them tap, and if they even raise an eyebrow (here in NYC) i say "i live here - it's good water"

                                          2. re: phofiend

                                            I've heard a couple magic phrases to get tap water when they ask that question. We usually say, "ice water." My favorite was one restaurant that asked if we wanted "still, sparkling, or The Mayor's." Thank you.

                                            1. re: phofiend

                                              "Will your tap water give me diarrhea?"

                                              I am DEFINITELY using that line whenever possible.

                                              Not exactly upsell, but I went to some chain place for lunch and the trainee waitress kept trying to sell the "onion loaf." They were apparently really proud of their onion loaf, some kinda batter dipped onion concoction packed into a loaf pan and deepfried. We asked for a minute to go over the menu. When she came back, she took our drink order and pushed the loaf again. When we got our drinks and ordered appetizers, she AGAIN tried to push the onion loaf, at which point my wife just snapped and yelled, "NO THANK YOU! We don't WANT the onion loaf!" The place was pretty empty, but the other couples nearby just looked at us kinda funny. Cracked me up.

                                              1. re: phofiend

                                                Phofiend, I just narrowly missed spewing a mouthful of water all over my keyboard. Thank you for the wet carpet and the giggle!

                                                I think it was such a forgivable question...

                                                1. re: Vetter

                                                  I think it was an excellent question. I only wish I were there to hear it.

                                                  Kudos, Phofiend.

                                              2. I won't say my experience was bad, but it happened at the Old Homestead in NYC where our waiter asked if we wanted 'Bread or garlic bread'. He said nothing more. So we opted for the garlic bread. A few minutes pass, no sign of any bread. Finally after fifteen minutes or so, this nicely arranged "tower" is placed before us at our table. It was the garlic bread we guessed. The garlic bread is sliced into 3" long by 1" high rectangular blocks and then stacked alternating colors (might have been pumpernickle as well) in a boxed formation one atop each other about six high. (Very much like building blocks, and remembering to alternate the seams as a bricklayer would do). Also, a melted cheese sauce was at its foundation and out the hollow middle of this bread tower was a pair of really long chives IIRC. Anything with height usually makes for a dramatic presentation.

                                                Long story short, we couldn't believe something like this could be free. We weren't really suspecting a completely "undisclosed" upsell. The bill arrives, garlic bread - just shy of ten dollars. I was so impressed by the taste and the presentation that I gladly paid it. Restaurants will prey on anyone, especially the unsuspecting.

                                                2 Replies
                                                  1. re: ricepad

                                                    Yup. I got the "skyscraper of bread" which some playfully refer to as Jenga Bread. It really was impressive, and I'd probably do it again. They leave the middle hollow though, unlike the game. It gives them a place to put the chives so they stick out of the top. (Maybe try fennel fronds too - very decorative).

                                                1. I chalk this up to my being an ignorant 20 year old American who didn't speak the language but, in Rome, my sister and I were apparently given a table in a prime location, with a table cloth and plenty of bread. I can't remember what else we were charged for but the upcharge was far more than the price of the entree. That topped off the day since most of our travelers checks and jewelry had been stolen the night before on the train. Not a great first impression of Rome!

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    this sort of tourist fleecing is a national sport in italy!

                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                      When we were in Rome a few years ago, we ordered a pizza for the two of us to share. Unsure of how big it would be, we asked if it would be enough for us. The waiter suggested an appetizer of meat and cheese, as the pizza was small, so we agreed. A huge platter of proscuitto, salami, provolone, roasted peppers came out, followed by a small pizza that definitely wouldn't have been enough for the two of us.

                                                      The shock was when the bill came. The pizza was about 5 euro, the meat and cheese... 60! Thank goodness the dollar was strong against the euro then. That lunch ended up being the most expensive meal we had there, and we ate very well every evening.

                                                      1. re: irishnyc

                                                        . This same scam almost happened to me in Rome, I asked about portion sizes and was told it would be much too small for an "American appetite", the server then suggested we get appetizers and immediately offered to bring out a meat and cheese plate. When I asked him how much is this appetizer.... he mumbled incoherently and swiftly walked away...I got up, walked over to the bar and register area, asked someone behind the counter how much it was and was told 60 €! I immediately walked over to the waiter, told him we would NOT be dining there and left immediately

                                                    2. My wife and I stopped in American Flatbread in Burlington Vt for a beer and a light lunch while on vacation. We already had a good breakfast, so we just needed a little something to tie us over until dinner. We ordered one salad ($8), which the waiter said was big enough for two and wanted to split a small pizza ($9). Well the waiter was trying to upsell us to the larger ($16 - $18) pie and after we explained it was just a light lunch, still kept trying to get us to order the large. He said that usually two people finish a large, and even pointed out a guy with his 5 yr. old that got a large pie. Turns out after the waiter left, the guy with the 5 yr old said he tried to order a small also and got upsold and had more pizza than he could finish. The food came and we didn't even finish the small pie after the huge salad and gave the waiter much less than my standard tip.

                                                      1. at a restaurant in lake tahoe (i'm pretty sure it was in a casino) our server greeted us at the table asking if we preferred sparkling or still water already holding an OPEN bottle of each. i would have considered getting sparkling water, but decided on ice water because i was so put off.

                                                        being a server and bartender who doesn't believe in "selling" water i thought it was pretty obnoxious.

                                                        1. The exact same thing with the water up sell happened to us 2 weeks ago at Vaticano Trattoria in Toronto. We were asked 4 times which bottle of water we wanted, Sparkling or Still. We politely stated each time that we did not want any water, we were fine with the wine we ordered. I later noticed that every other table around us had a large bottle on their table. Hmmm I wonder why? I appreciate that a restaurant carries bottled water for the times I do want to have some with my meal, I even appreciate being offered and don’t think that twice is too much. The blatant “up sell” is really off putting.

                                                          1. I have to say it's the Great Restaurant Water Ripoff. The worst was when we were up in the Eastern Sierra, we stopped at some random restaurant and they tried to sell us bottled water.

                                                            "Doesn't most of the bottled water in California come from right around here?"

                                                            "Yes, sir, from the springs in the Sierras."

                                                            "And where does your tap water come from?"

                                                            "I don't know."

                                                            "But I do... it comes from the Sierras just like Crystal Geyser and Arrowhead, so we'll have tap water, thanks."

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                              I once sold drinks at a public park. We'd recently shifted from Evian to a slightly lower scale brand. One guy threw a fit when he found out (despite the fact that we could sell 20 oz. bottles for the cost of a 12 oz. bottle of Evian) saying they weren't the same at ALL. All I could think was "What's the big deal? It's all the same water. Two hydrogen, one oxygen." Seriously, if your water is SO different, than I'd start wondering if it's really water.

                                                              1. re: Terrieltr

                                                                Well, it's probably not worth throwing a fit over bottled water, especially in a public park. (What, must the ice cream guy also have a specific brand of gelato as well?) So in that sense, the guy was being silly.

                                                                But it's not all the same. Evian, in particular, has a distinct flavor beyond regular water, to the point where I'll sometimes be in the mood for Evian, sometimes for plain old water.

                                                                Even if you remove Evian from the equation, all bottled waters are not the same. Some come from specific springs, others come from, well, the local river. Aquafina and Dasani, which are the waters of Pepsi and Coke, respectively, aren't even spring waters; they're both tap water that's been filtered and processed.

                                                                Anyhow, I'd raise my eyebrows at someone who claimed he could taste the difference among Poland Spring, Deer Park, Crystal Geyser, etc. etc., but they do taste different, and some are better than others.

                                                                1. re: Terrieltr

                                                                  I agree that a fit was completely uncalled for but bottled water is NOT just H2O. Evian is mineral water so it's H2O plus a lot of stuff. Filtered water is also not the same and it depends on the filter that is used in the process.

                                                                  There are slightly different tastes and in the same vein that people have a favorite wine, those of us who only drink water like some more than others.

                                                                  In a public park, I'd be looking for cold and lots.

                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                    I suppose, yes, they are different. It was just so odd to have the customer trying for an "upsell" such as it was.

                                                              2. At recent dinner at Olio e Limone in Santa Barbara. I was debating between the squid ink risotto or a special of the night, Dover Sole. I was leaning toward the squid ink until the waiter told me that the ink would stain my teeth black for the at last the next 24 hours. So, I ordered the sole (which was completely disappointing and I only finished 1/2) and had sticker shock when I saw the price was $44 (the mains were in the high 20's and the risotto something like $19-20). I usually ask what the price of specials are - but I figured from looking at the rest of the menu prices it would be $30 max. Wouldn't have been so terrible if it was actually a good dish -- but I certainly re-learned my lesson to ask for the price!!!

                                                                1. Bacco in New Orleans, one of the Brennans' family restaurants, used to do a yearly truffle dinner (still does?) We went one year for my husband's birthday, and I ordered the truffle pasta which was $18. The server (I KNEW this guy from another restaurant where I had worked -- I should have known better) said "do you want white truffles or black truffles?" I asked which was better and he said the white truffles, so I said ok. Turned out the cost of my pasta was $35. It was so intense I couldn't finish it but I took the rest home because I wasn't going to waste any of that. I think it was actually better reheated.

                                                                  Sarah C

                                                                  1. So I guess the big upsell item here is water. Your basic H2O.
                                                                    This begs the question. If you bring your own water, will there be a corking charge?? There's an upsell for ya.

                                                                    Not as good as the fork though. Wonder how much a knife would be.


                                                                    1. I know we have had a lot of water stories on this thread but where else could I share the mother of all water stories. Nice restaurant and I am not a rube but said still when I was asked if I wanted water. The cost--22 dollars for the bottle. My date took the bottle when we left and then gave me the "lovely 22 dollar vase!" Fortunately he had a sense of humor.

                                                                      1. Why does it cost 8 bucks for the chef to split a plate at a finer dining restaurant?

                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                        1. re: chica

                                                                          Sometimes (very rarely) if you split an entree they'll cut the main dish in half (the fish, the beef, etc) but give you full portions of whatever comes on the side (mashed potatoes, fries, vegetables). That, to me, justfies a larger split plate charge. Once I ate at an Italian place and our split plate looked like just as much pasta as everyone else's, and they charged us very little (can't remember if it was $2 or free). If only all restaurants were willing to do that.

                                                                          1. re: Pei

                                                                            Your one experience does justify a split charge, but like you admit, it's rare to get such a good deal. Moreover, it might've been free in your case.

                                                                            I've split plates before, and with that ridiculous charge, it's never been worth it, so I now end up just getting my own. In that case, their upsell effectively makes us spend even more.

                                                                            1. re: chica

                                                                              Ninety percent or more of the times I've split an entree, they've served full portions of the sides to both of us, and I can think of several occasions where the aggregate size of the halves of a split entree was larger than the whole entree ordered by others in our party.

                                                                            2. re: Pei

                                                                              Opposite of the upsell, I've had it where we'll get two apps and one entree and they'll cut the protein in half, give us each full sides and NOT charge! Doesn't happen often but it was a very nice surprise when it has happened.

                                                                            3. re: chica

                                                                              don't think I've personally encountered that high a split-plate charge before (most places I go don't go over $5) but on top of full-sides, a split plate also means having to wash double the china- and possibly silverware.

                                                                              Often my dining companion & I just sidestep this by ordering an appetizer and an entree have them both come out the same time so we can share.


                                                                              1. re: chica

                                                                                My experience is that a dish split by the restaurant is almost always a larger serving.

                                                                                1. re: chica

                                                                                  Because you're not just buying the food. You're buying the plating, the serving, the ambience, the attention, the dishware, and the chair.

                                                                                2. Last night we ordered a $150 bottle of wine (Masi Amarone '99) at the Waterfront Grill and the waiter brought us a bottle of Masi Amarone '99 which we thought was what we ordered. When we got the bill we found we had been charged $395 for the bottle. Turned out they had two different Masi Amarones and just brought out the more expensive one without confirming with us which one we wanted. The waiter offered to compensate us by taking our soup off the check, but we complained and the manager changed our bill to reflect the cheaper wine.

                                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: barleywino

                                                                                    And did you adjust the tip with this enormous guffaw, oops did I say guffaw, I should say "hide the banana"?

                                                                                    At a minimum, there would have been a big goose-egg tip on the price of the $150 wine.

                                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                                      If the waiter had taken the initiative and reduced the price we were charged on the wine to $150, we would have left him a big tip. But since he did not, and we had to escalate it ourselves to the manager to resolve this, we did not leave him an inflated tip.

                                                                                      1. re: barleywino

                                                                                        Why would you have "left him a big tip" if he corrected his own error. He tried to scam you with the larger bill.

                                                                                        In the Jfood Guide to Tipping, there is an inverse relationship to scam and tip. Once the waiter does a Major Scam, his tip takes a Major Dive.

                                                                                        In the situation you described, if he would have apologized profusely and you believed this was an honest error (I gotta bridge to sell you) then you are back at normal tip land. But his actions seem to be onerous and he may have gone to single-digit land on the food and zippo on the $150 wine with his refusal to correct his "error."

                                                                                        I get upset with $10 water this guy tried to take close to $200 out of your pocket. Nice goes out the window.

                                                                                        1. re: barleywino

                                                                                          Just curious... how did the waiter react when you "caught" him and what was the managers reaction/behavior during this incident? Also, how was the waiter after it was settled?

                                                                                          And I agree with jfood, if he had handled it properly in the first place, a decent/normal tip would have been appropriate but from the story you told, he should have gotten a very poor tip to drive home to him the error of his ways :-)

                                                                                          1. re: Michele4466

                                                                                            I don't know the restaurant in question and don't know what their policies are, but there are two things I would consideration in deciding whether or not to whack the tip.

                                                                                            If it was a situation where the waiter was aware the resto stocked two different Masis and simply assumed that the OP wanted the more expensive one, then that's a major no-no, and the tip gets whacked; however, if the waiter was not aware (maybe s/he was new, maybe the second Masi was a recent addition and management "forgot" to tell the waitstaff, maybe the wine steward slipped up and pulled the wrong bottle), I'd be inclined to cut the waiter some slack.

                                                                                            Also, I've worked in a restaurant where the only adjustment the waitstaff are allowed to make is to comp either one app or one dessert: any other adjustments have to be approved by the on-duty manager. And I know of several restaurants where the waitstaff can only make adjustments up to a certain dollar figure. If this place has a similar policy, you can hardly fault the waiter for not offering to do more than s/he's allowed to do.

                                                                                            I guess I'd decide on whether and how much to tip based on how the manager responded: if it was a genuine mistake, the manager shouldn't have any hesitation about removing the extra $245 once he was apprised of the situation, no arguments, no excuses, no ifs, ands, or buts. So if the manager is genuinely apolegetic and corrects the bill without argument, I wouldn't clip the waiter, but if I have to argue, even in the slightest, to get the entire difference wiped out ... BOOM! ... goes the tip.

                                                                                            (And, no, Mr. Manager, as a matter of fact, I DON'T care that you're out 245 bucks. I ordered a $150 bottle of wine, and YOUR waiter or wine steward or someone else on your staff screwed up by simply ASSUMING I wanted the $395 version instead of checking to confirm which one I was ordering. YOU screwed up, so it's YOUR problem, not mine.)

                                                                                            1. re: mclaugh

                                                                                              If if the waiter had all of the resrictions in place, or if he did not know about the two varieties, he should have told the table "let me speak with my manager". His offer to comp the soup was inappropriate and very unprofessional. Tip still whacked.

                                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                                I don't disagree that that's what the waiter "should" have done, but, speaking for myself, if I believe it was an honest mistake, I'm not going to whack the tipe if the problem is othwerwise resolved to my satisfaction.

                                                                                                1. re: mclaugh

                                                                                                  Yeah the manager was completely professional and comped us with no hesitation, the waiter did not come back to us after that. I was willing to consider being generous on the tip given that we did, after all, end up with an expensive bottle of wine at a cheaper (although still marked up) price.

                                                                                      2. re: barleywino

                                                                                        Reminds me of the time I ordered a Remy Martin at the end of the meal at a local Italian chain restaurant in Ohio called Carabbas. When the check came it was $25! Turns out they'd brought me some ultra-high-end Remy (Louis XIII or something like that), which I had not asked for, even though they had the basic Remy VSOP (which I was expecting) on the shelf. I complained and got the charge reduced to the VSOP level, about $8.

                                                                                        1. re: BobB

                                                                                          A glass of Louis XIII for $25 is a bargain - for $8 it is jawdropping. I sure hope you enjoyed it.

                                                                                          1. re: bodie

                                                                                            I surely did! But I just as surely did not order it, and was in fact somewhat flabbergasted to see they even had a bottle like that in a mid-price family-style chain restaurant.

                                                                                            Makes me wonder if they ordered it by mistake and were trying to unload the stuff.

                                                                                      3. 35.00 corkage fee in a place that has an extremely limited wine selection.

                                                                                        1. This may not be the worst, but it comes to my mind. This summer at the Pure pool at Caesars in Vegas, I asked for water and was automatically brought a single serving bottle (like 12 oz). I figured, oh well, but definitely became annoyed when I look around at the other sunbathers with their glasses of free ice water while my bill said $6! Caesars is great, but we certainly went to the other pools for the rest of our trip...

                                                                                          1. This is an extremely small offense compared to the other stories on here but it still irritated me because I know the server was being sneaky. We were in a steak place and had gone through the order process for what steak we wanted, how we wanted it cooked, and the starch and vegetable choice. Then she asked if we wanted the house salad or the caesar salad making it sound like just another choice and of course we weren't paying that much attention since salads usually come with a meal so she was able to get one over on us. Of course when the bill came, there was an extra charge for each of those salads but, it was not the amount of money that annoyed me. It was the way she did it.

                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Velma

                                                                                              I hate that too. "Would you like soup or salad?" as though that were part of the meal. Part of the reason I like Cafe Bizou -- they charge for salad, but it's just $1.

                                                                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                Part of the reason why "Upscale" Upsets me. Give me a good ole restaurant that cooks good food, no annoying "Presentation." The kind of place that wants you to enjoy your food. Not make a profit. The more I see of fine dining, the more the snobs can have it.


                                                                                                1. re: Davwud

                                                                                                  My friend just told me an extremely heartening story about a steakhouse in DC (Ray's). They don't even bother putting sides on the menu. Just steak the way you want it--really the way you want it, as in black and blue if that's what you want. And when the steaks came out, potatoes and spinach were sitting right there on the plate. That's right! Sides that come with your entree, no muss no fuss!

                                                                                                  1. re: Pei

                                                                                                    Pei, I've been to Ray's and that's exactly how it is! They also give you a bowl of spicy cashews on the table. They were also free. Best part was I got a really big NY Strip, it was about $30. I'm a very big eater (ate the whole cup of nuts, the soup, both sides, glass of wine) bust still couldn't finish half of the steak. To make it even better, when they boxed it up, they put in another side of potatoes and spinach! I guess that's why they have 1-2 hour waits starting at 6pm, and that's on a week day.

                                                                                                  2. re: Davwud

                                                                                                    (meant in reply to Davwud) Hate to be the one to break this to you, but even a "good ole restaurant" needs to make a profit... otherwise they'd be out of business. =)

                                                                                              2. I have never understood why an upscale restaurant would place its "goodwill" on the line for an extra $5-$10 in profit from the hard sell on bottled water. Surely the increased chance of a return visit is worth more than the profit on unwanted bottled water?

                                                                                                Restaurants should understand that good food and and an attractive dining room mean little if the customer leaves with a bad taste in their month due to agressive selling.

                                                                                                Makes no sense to me....

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: BarnNB

                                                                                                  I suspect that a lot of restaurants whose trade is mostly in tourists (in New York, Las Vegas, etc.) aren't really interested in return customers. 90% of their day in-day out customers won't be back in town for five-ten years. So they train their staffs in aggressive upselling techniques so that they can get every nickle when they have you in their clutches. The baseline idea, I think, is that these tourist are rubes, and over the span of their vacation, they've been scammed and overcharged all along--on hotels, entertainment, shopping.
                                                                                                  I know that if I even whiff the sort of water/wine scams shared here, not only won't I return, but I'll post on Chowhound, and probably complain to the restaurant in writing. I also know that a restaurant can't be looking for regulars if it treats its customers like that. And a restaurant w/out regulars sounds pretty bad to me.

                                                                                                  1. re: BarnNB

                                                                                                    It adds up. Where I work as a waiter, we sell 1 liter bottles of Fiji or San Pellegrino water for 8 bucks each. Your average table of four will go through two of them, 16 dollars total. This increases the tip on the table by close to three dollars. Do that twice a shift over a five day week and you've made an extra thirty bucks just by asking "Would you care for still, sparkling, or regular water, sir?"

                                                                                                    I'm reminded of the episode of Penn & Teller's Bull**** where they took on bottled water. They set up hidden cameras in a chichi LA restaurant, and had a "water steward" bring over these bottles of water supposedly from around the world. One was touted as Amazon water complete with a (fake) large spider in the bottle, another one was a French water called Pipi du Chien, there was a Mexican one called Agua del Culo... if you knew what they meant you'd have figured out something was up, but people were talking about the differences in the waters with the steward and how one was so much tastier than the other... The guy playing the wine steward had filled all the bottles from a hose in the back of the restaurant.

                                                                                                    Suffice it to say, I don't order bottled water in a restaurant ever.

                                                                                                  2. I had one waiter at one of my restaurants who was an idiot savant at upselling---the customers were never put off by him, maybe because his schtick was so unexpectedly over-the-top and yet...somehow funny. Every time this kid sold a filet or a strip, he was like "how'd you like to make that a surf and turf?"(definitely not on the menu). He would then turn evangelical and rhapsodize about the scallops, shrimp, whatever, and cobble together some Frankenmeal out of various unrelated sections of the menu. Customers actually felt they were being given extraordinarily solicitous (even personalized) service, but I finally had to explain to this kid that we weren't running a buffet and besides, the plates were starting to look like a--.

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: diropstim

                                                                                                      Ha! I bet the line cooks wanted to kill him.

                                                                                                      1. re: diropstim

                                                                                                        HAHA! That reminds me of when DH was a server in a steakhouse that had several hundred (or so it seemed) varieties of margarita. He would ask customers if they would enjoy a "steakarita," and when they said "ooh, what's that?" he would go on and on about the prime aged steak cooked over an open fire blended with top shelf tequila, lime and agave nectar, served frozen or on the rocks. . .wouldn't you know, more than one actually tried to order it! The one person woudl be embarrassed, but their companions would laugh their arses off, and he sailed off with a great tip and entertained customers. :-)

                                                                                                      2. Most of these posts are blaming the waiter, when I think the real culprit is the restaurant's management. Many waiters are forced by restaurant groups/management to do these things--I'm thinking the two open bottles (still and sparkling)scam in particular looks like a policy. I know of several accounts on service rant spots that elaborate on the push-or-be-fired tactics of several big restaurant groups. And come to think of it--who do you think makes the biggest profit on a pushed bottle of water/dish? The restaurant, not the waiter. In fact, the waiter's tip is at risk if he pushes.

                                                                                                        1. Recently: Table One in New Orleans - I ordered the foie gras app and they told me the chef reccomended a glass of Tokai with it, no problem, I said. I didn't care that they didn't tell me the price (it was a $20) but the serving size was just about a thimble-full. I felt resentful and ripped-off.

                                                                                                          All time: first trip to Europe with my parents as a teenager and we were at some old, old-school restaurant, where they began decanting a bottle of dusty, first growth bordeaux wine with some sort of old cranking device so as not to disrupt the sediments, very classically French.
                                                                                                          When the waiter exclaimed in his thickly accented englis that the *very special appetizer* was freshly picked wild morels, Mom just had to have some. I being a young pup at the time, had no idea what I was missing, However, it is a good thing I didn't yet have the taste for wild fungi because when the bill came, my father practically had a coronary! I will probably never know how many francs those damn things cost but I know that in the two decades since it was a family joke/cautionary tale. And in the subsequent 21 years since the incident, I've never seen mom order the morels, anywhere.

                                                                                                          1. In high school I remember my friends and I decided to go out for dinner before prom. We chose this really nice restaurant and as we all started ordering appetizers, the waiter stopped us and said "Oh, if you're all going to order an appetizer, it will be so much cheaper if you get our sampler platter" So we order it (Hey, saving money!) and it was this HUGE boat of food. I mean, it was delicious and full of amazing appetizers, but we didn't even put a dent in it (there were 8 of us too!).
                                                                                                            When the bill came, this boat of food cost over $100! We were all going to suck it up and pay, but one of the girls in the group went up to the manager, and said that the server misrepresented it and told us it would be cheaper and didn't appreciate that he took advantage of our table (woah!).
                                                                                                            The manager apologized, and discounted it to what it would have cost if we had all ordered appetizers separately (they were in the $6-8 range, so we ended up paying $75. What killed us was that we didn't expect the appetizers to cost more than the meal!

                                                                                                            1. It's not really a flagrant upsell, but I was kind of amused at C&O Trattoria's way of getting people to drink more of their house Chianti. As soon as the party is seated, they offer the table glasses of the House Chianti poured from a carafe. No one really expects the House Chianti at C&O to be expensive, so everyone drinks.

                                                                                                              Throughout the night, the entire restaurant sings "That's Amore" and the waitstaff toasts everyone in sight. More Chianti down the hatch!

                                                                                                              That carafe? $90 each. Ouch. But in the restaurant's defense, they didn't push it, and we never asked the price. Lesson learned!

                                                                                                              1. Sorry, but what is an "upsell"? And are you saying you expected you were getting free tap water and they just automatically served expensive bottled water without your permission and then charged you for it?

                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: niki rothman

                                                                                                                  "Upsell" is trying to get you to spend more than you intended/asked for. It could be overt ("Want to add a side of our fresh homemade guacamole?") or sneaky ("Sparkling or flat?" and not indicating that there's a major price difference between the two.)

                                                                                                                  The antidote to this is to always be vigilant when a server offers you something (or leaves it on the table) and ask about price nearly constantly. Some people consider that not to be an enjoyable way to spend an evening out. Others don't care.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Covert Ops

                                                                                                                    Actually, I had the “flat or sparkling” experience, and the problem there was that EITHER answer resulted in you buying expensive bottled water. As others have indicated, I think it is fine to offer expensive bottled water for those who want it, but framing the question in such a way, as opposed to say, “Still, sparkling, or ice water?” is obviously intended to prey on the ignorance or confusion of customers. I personally am one of those who find these annoying, and I don’t return to restaurants that do this sort of thing. An upsell in and of itself is not bad – after all, asking about dessert (and particularly, coming around with those enticing dessert carts/trays) is an “upsell.” I don’t mind being seduced, I just don’t want to feel like I’ve been conned.

                                                                                                                    1. re: meg944

                                                                                                                      when I get asked that, I always reply "regular tap" ~ they get the hint, I get no upsell charge on my bill.


                                                                                                                      1. re: AquaW

                                                                                                                        Yes, now we know better as well – but it was an expensive lesson.

                                                                                                                        1. re: meg944

                                                                                                                          yes, our stock reply at home is "toronto city tap, please!" with a big smile-
                                                                                                                          can't blame them for tryin'...

                                                                                                                2. Solo in a steak house the other night in Chicago and order a glass of sparkling water. Waiter brings over a mega bottle. I look at him and tell him I just wanted a glass and he responded that the small bottle barely filled a glass. So I told him in that case I'll just have the tap water. The service was outstanding for the rest of the meal so did not ding the tip.

                                                                                                                  1. I'm kind of over the snooty-patooty restaurants as well. "Excellent choice, ma'am" is like nails on a chalkboard to me. In case anyone ever feels inelegant odering tap water - in every restaurant I visited in Paris this summer, the French always had a carafe of water on the table (the tourists usually had the bottled water). "Un carafe d'eau" is all you need to say and no cost for the water. Not once did anyone try to suggest anything else.

                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: suse

                                                                                                                      If you Chowhounds every watch Tim Robbins in the wonderful Robert Altman film "The Player", Robbins' character orders a different, more obscure mineral water in each restaurant scene.
                                                                                                                      Remarkably, the restaurants always have the water mentioned and Robbins never, ever takes a sip of any of them throughout the film. (Robbins also only orders salads and never eats them either.)

                                                                                                                      1. re: suse

                                                                                                                        I remember that fondly too... you could sit down and say, "Un pichet de vin rouge et un pichet d'eau, s'il vous plait" and you'd get the house red and regular plain ol' tap water.

                                                                                                                      2. When Rudy Giuliani was mayor of NYC and the waiter came w/ his usual bottled-water offer we always ordered Giuliani water (tap). (It sounded right.). Now that Michael Bloomberg is mayor we just say tap water please.

                                                                                                                        1. Once we ordered a desert called a selection of six chocolates. Thought it sounded good. Until the waiter stopped by the table opened a box and left it on the table. In side were six different (thin) squares of chocolate.

                                                                                                                          Another time, different restaurant, they were offering a bowl of cherries for $25. Just raw cherries seeds and stems included no dipping sauce either. The waiter assured me that they were ‘really good’. I passed all the same.

                                                                                                                          1. Not too sure if things have changed since this is an old post. Here in where i reside, Singapore. Besides the Sparkling/Bottled trick, at certain food establishments, they actually charge for Tap Water(Boiled at best).

                                                                                                                            1. $9 fro WATER? What was it, special magic water collected from the tears of Unicorns by virgins and transported on the backs of of Oompah Loompahs?

                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                                                                                                I was right there with you until the "Oompah Loompahs..." Pushah... That's so 70s. Everyone nowadays knows virgins collect those unicorn tears but that the elixirs are then transported on the backs of house elves!

                                                                                                                                1. re: The Ranger

                                                                                                                                  Dobby!! that is why he looks so scraggly!

                                                                                                                                2. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                                                                                                  jfood has been upsold $10 pelligrino. the same bottle he buys at costco for 12.95 a case. and there ain't no Oompah Loompahs at Costco.

                                                                                                                                3. I was dining and a tipsy customer bumped my table resulting in red wine splashing on my shirt. I asked the server for an extra napkin, explaining the situation, and directions to the restroom so I could try to minimize the damage. The server asked if I'd like some club soda for the stain. Me - yes! Club soda delivered quickly, I dealt with the stain. Lovely dinner resumes.

                                                                                                                                  Charge for club soda appears on bill!

                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                    meatn3, you didn't pay for it, did you?

                                                                                                                                    1. re: dolores

                                                                                                                                      No, the manager was initially reluctant (you DID say you wanted the soda...) but once I mentioned that the soda was easier for them to absorb than a dry cleaning bill due to wobbly tables, too close of quarters and them allowing patrons to over indulge...

                                                                                                                                      Never did go back though. I could have understood it if it was simply due to their computer system - sometimes an order has to be entered in order to get the bartender to pull the drink. But that situation can easily be backed out by a manager. The fact that the manager was resistant and tried to twist it into me trying to cheaply evade a charge made me a bit cranky.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                        Amazing, isn't it meatn3, that managers like that still have jobs?

                                                                                                                                  2. Worst upsell for me was not in a restaurant, but in a produce market. I was at the cash register with my then 4 year old son. The grandmotherly older woman at the register asked my son if he'd like some candy. Of course he said yes...and she charged me for it!

                                                                                                                                    I was so shocked, I paid for it, and never went back. They went out of business a couple of years later.

                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: coney with everything

                                                                                                                                      That was just so wrong! It pains me to see any place go under, but if this was their idea of customer service it is better for all if they close.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                        Yeah, I was so excited to find an actual produce market close to home. I'm all for patronizing small nonchain operations, but that was just too much.

                                                                                                                                    2. My boss' boss came in from the east coast and wanted to discuss some business with me after work over drinks and appetizers. He wanted a margarita, so I took him to a higher end Mexican place I liked. This place has a pretty long list of margaritas and he was having trouble deciding, so the bartender suggested one which he ended up ordering. There was no price listed on the menu for that particular drink which should have been a HUGE red flag. The margarita came and he really didn't think it tasted that good. He then ordered the regular $5 margarita which he greatly preferred. When the check came, that single margarita was $75.

                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: LabRat

                                                                                                                                        >>that single margarita was $75.


                                                                                                                                        Did you pay it without a scene?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: dolores

                                                                                                                                          If that had happened when I was out with some friends I probably would have made a scene. But this was a business dinner that was being paid for on a corporate credit card, so if my boss who ordered the drink (and whose card was used to pay) didn't feel like making a scene I wasn't going to step in and do it either. Valuable lesson learned. If you don't know...ASK!

                                                                                                                                      2. In 2006 (2 years ago, this thread is an oldie) I was punched in at the Venetian in Las Vegas, which has a wonderful sushi restauarant. But they were celebrating in a big way the chinese "year of the dog". Simple truth: for centuries of war, japanese and chinese do not exchange Christmas cards. Consequently, I was almost alone at a great sushi bar: no chinese, no japanese. Pretty much me, the gringo. Chef asked me what I like, and I reeled off a long list, thinking we were searching for an intersection of what I like and what he had, fresh. Fast forward... sitting alone, I was delivered enough beautiful, delicious sashimi and sushi to feed a frathouse, for over $200. I blame myself for not confirming our communication, (or lack of) and it was delicious and three times what one person could possibly eat, but I felt there was an element of "upsell".

                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                          I don't think this counts as an upsell. Maybe just a misunderstanding. Usually when the sushi chef asks what I like, I take it to mean he's asking me what I want to eat. That was probably the case.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: PandanExpress

                                                                                                                                            I pretty much agree with you, and it was not at all a negative experience, but I expected the chef to bring the items discretely ( as in "one after another " not discreetly) as is fairly customary, and I can announce when I've had my fill, based on portion size, and my often rapacious hunger at a sushi bar.
                                                                                                                                            It all arrived on one tray, and clearly more than one person would eat. Again, no big deal.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                              Reminds me of my first visit to Rome some years ago. I was on my own on a business trip, and went to a restaurant that friends had recommended. I perused the menu, and ordered the antipasti assortment and osso buco. The waiter brings out several small plates - arancini, bruschetta, roasted peppers. Great, I'm thinking. Then he starts bringing more stuff - a bowl of meatballs, an entire dinner-plate serving of melon and prosciutto, a bowl of fava beans in tomato sauce - and it just doesn't stop.

                                                                                                                                              By the time he was done there were 17 (no exaggeration - seventeen!) plates of food on the table! I asked the waiter in my very rudimentary Italian, "Tutti - para uno?" "Si, tutti para uno" he replies. "No osso buco," I said. "No osso buco?" says the waiter, looking very sad. "No osso buco."

                                                                                                                                              On top of which neither water nor wine was available by the glass so I ended up ordering a full bottle of each.

                                                                                                                                              I did my best to finish what I could - the food was very good and quite inexpensive, especially considering the quantity. But I walked out of there more stuffed than I have ever been in my life, before or since. I walked along the Tiber for at least an hour before I dared to go back to my room and try to sleep.

                                                                                                                                        2. Perhaps it's because I work in the biz, but I've never been subjected to a glaring upsell. If someone recommends something and it appeals to me, I simply ask the price if I'm concerned. If not, buyer beware. There's no one to blame but myself.

                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                            That's what I do. many a time I've sat at a table of 6 or more and I'm the ONLY one to ask the price of the specials. I don't care if it is gauche, I'm not going to be thrown under the dining bus.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Scagnetti

                                                                                                                                              It's not like I go around asking the price of every little thing, but if some waiter tries to pimp the foie-truffle-lobster special on me, I'm definitely asking.

                                                                                                                                          2. Maybe not technically an upsell, but a pet-peeve of mine...At lunch in a popular Seattle resto I ordered a diet coke, which came in a highball glass filled with more ice than soda. I finished it and the waitress asked if I'd like more diet coke - I said sure figuring it would be a free refill. Oh no - the bill was $3.50 *each*. Now, this wouldn't bother me so much if I knew that I was buying a can or bottle or something...but it's irritating that there was no idication (not even a price for soda on the menu!) and each soda was small with lots of ice.

                                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: akq

                                                                                                                                              next time order a diet coke no ice and a separate glass of ice.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: akq

                                                                                                                                                I think the technical term for that is "rip-off"

                                                                                                                                                1. re: akq

                                                                                                                                                  I ate lunch with friends at a plantation in south Louisiana...they charged for refills without mentioning it. And each of us had a different style and size of glass that had nothing to do with what we were drinking?!?! It was weird.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: akq

                                                                                                                                                    My BIL has a better story than yours. He went out with his office for a Christmas dinner here at a restaurant in NJ. He (along with others), ordered a Coke. Then a few refills. The glasses were small, just as yours were, and full of mostly ice. Each refill was $5.00!!! Now that is a ripoff!

                                                                                                                                                  2. I lived in Singapore for about a year. Don't get me wrong!--It's a wonderful city, with wonderful people, and (happily) the most food-obsessed place I have ever been to, with some of the best food I have ever had.

                                                                                                                                                    There are two kinds of restaurants in Singapore--formal, enclosed restaurants and coffee shops. Coffee shops are open air dining establishments with incredibly cheap prices. The proprietors are desperate to find ways to increase the bill. Many are almost comical. I have been charged for the dried peas and peanuts which were brought to the table before we ever ordered, not at my request.

                                                                                                                                                    I have been charged for the paper napkins brought to the table at the beginning of the meal. I have been charged for the heated, wet white washclothes brought to the table at the end of the meal. It goes without saying that I have been charged for refills on sodas. When I thought it was a rip off, I was offended. But you know what? It is so common that you get used to it as the price of doing business. (And it doesn't hurt that the food is so inexpensive that it's almost embarrassing!)

                                                                                                                                                    1. Would an attempt to sell me a slice of rat-trap American cheese for$2.20 , in 1970 (when the price of an average house was $38,000) qualify? Scene: Al's Penn House restaurant, adjacent to UPenn campus. My freshmen group select Al's for dinner; he is featuring a $2.99 hamburger platter, with fries, yadda yadda. I order my special with cheese. Bill is $5.19, you pay when you get it. HUGE tussle. Al, the owner, an intimidating, corpulent guy, with finger stabbing at my face (and invading my personal space) argues that only the hamburger special was on sale, cheeseburger was regular price. He wouldn't let it go.
                                                                                                                                                      Peace-seeking person as I am, I was only 17 years old , and 80 pounds lighter in weight than Al, (but scored 1500 on my SAT's- momma didn't raise no stupid children), I slammed the plate of uneaten food on the floor and left, never to return. I hope Al learned a lesson.

                                                                                                                                                      20 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                        Highly doubtful that Al learned a lesson. But you obviously did.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                                          T'was not a proud moment, and still a bit haunting 38 years later, but yes, there was a lesson learned. Too off -topic and verbose to share here. Thanks for your listening ear, Servorg.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                          Rather than an upsell -- he didn't push the cheese on you, did he? -- wouldn't that come under the heading of not asking the price in advance, you should pay for what you got, yada yada?

                                                                                                                                                          No, I'm not disagreeing with what you did, I am just trying to be an advocate for the poor restaurant for once.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                            Wonderful story and this proves that 1500 on the SAT's does not always bring street smarts. This is what jfood would have done in his youth (what does a kid from NJ know) as well, but his dumb luck would have found Big Al's giant paw on his shoulder with the words, "you're gonna clean that up ain'tcha mr. college boy?"

                                                                                                                                                            BTW - "never to return" is the correct answer; throwing plate on the ground was an answer that cost you the 1600. :-))

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                              I'm glad to see that jfood has changed his mind, I too think a dining patron shouldn't always be at the mercy of an imperious restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: dolores

                                                                                                                                                                Yes, jfood has changed his mind, but not for the reason you stipulate:

                                                                                                                                                                In the 1970's he was a stupid, immature kid from the streets of ghetto NJ and would have pulled a childish stunt like he described above. He thought he knew everything, was impervious and always looked for the trick to make a buck and get out of his environment.

                                                                                                                                                                As he matured he grew to understand that the "us versus them" scenario, "my way or the highway" line in the sand, and the "how dare they" mentality is no way to go through life. Life is full of being reasonable, paying for what you receive in both goods and services, working on win-win siituations and enjoying life with friends and family, not looking at the world through "gotcha glasses" and demanding free everything. He can't even grasp this concept of an "imperious restaurant".

                                                                                                                                                                And if the cheese and burger event would occur today he would have learned a valuable lesson. Don't assume that you can make a change at no cost, he would pay the $5.19, enjoyed the burger and decide whether the cheese was worth $2.20 (and he knows the answer without much thought). If he decided it was, he would order it again, if not and the burger was good he would go back enjoy the burger, sans cheese, and pay the $2.95

                                                                                                                                                                Jfood agrees that the Veggo cheeseburger event is more suited for the "always ask" thread, but, hey a good cheeseburger is one of the great pleasures in life and upsell or ask, today jfood would NEVER throw one on the ground.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                  nice story.
                                                                                                                                                                  must be something in the water in new jersey. i was born in nyc and raised in the garden state. i didn't fully lose the attitude until after i graduated college and my uncle designated me for training (last of the draftees).

                                                                                                                                                                  that said, i sure do miss rutt's hut. new jersey's gift to hot dogs.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: steve h.

                                                                                                                                                                    now there's a perfect meal, some great NJ hot dogs and hamburgers. Sound like the menu is planned for this evening. Now if jfood can only figure out how to make Don's (Short Hills) Cole Slaw to put on the burger it could be a great night next to the pool.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                    So well put, jfood. Thank you.

                                                                                                                                                                    I've really become immune, so to speak, to upselling. I figure, they are trying to make money and, while it's sometimes annoying (i.e., Mr. Chow's - never my choice), I just ignore it and go on my merry way to enjoying the meal and the company. If there are specials that I'm interested in, I ask the price. If I'm feeling like sparkling water that day rather than tap, I'll order it and know that it may well cost me ten dollars. At the end of the day, we all have the ability to ask questions, make choices, choose whether to continue to patronize a restaurant, or not.

                                                                                                                                                                    We have an Italian place (Vico) that is a neighborhood favorite. Although it is expensive, and not the most amazing Italian food in the world, we like to go on occasion. We've learned not to order the expensive white wine by the glass while we're figuring out what bottle of red to order (I've seen the empty boxes of wine now on the sidewalk when walking the dog!), not to order the Pellegrino, to ask the prices of specials, that desserts usually aren't worth it there, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                      I wish I could "destoca el timbre" ; unring the bell. I never meant to whack the hornets' nest, as this thread has wandered.
                                                                                                                                                                      Respectfully to jfood, he embraces the consumer's posture/ obligation of having to "always ask".
                                                                                                                                                                      Is there no correspondent responisibility on the restauraunt's side to "tell" that that slice of cheese will cost you $2.20, in 1970 dollars?
                                                                                                                                                                      Cheese, Louise, splain it to me, Lucy...

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                        consider the bell unrung. it's just not a big deal.

                                                                                                                                                                        henry ford ll said, "never complain, never explain." pretty smart guy. i think he had the soul of a commodities trader.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                          Sorry V, but jfood should clear this a little.

                                                                                                                                                                          Jfood HATES upselling as he has stated on so many occasions, he also HATES how certain customers act in the face of adversity. He is NOT an advocate of the customer always has to ask, nor is he an advocate of the resto always has to tell.

                                                                                                                                                                          Your 220 cheese is probably an outlier in the equation. What the owner did was wrong but the reaction satisfied the first rule of physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

                                                                                                                                                                          Suppose the menu stated Hamburger Special...$2.95; Cheeseburger Special...$5.20, no substitutions. Is that enough? Still silly pricing but a tougher putt on the complaint.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                      thanks, jfood. The "attitude factor" cost me 73 points, a price to which I willingly accede in exchange for the latitude of flushing out scoundrels....

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                          what bothers jfood more is throwing a really good hamburger on the floor. and never piss off someone who can cook and eat you for lunch in the same meal.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                            jfood, in the intervening 38 years I have chronicled my bar fights (3 -0), and my underwater experiences, (as Steve H. posits above, we are guests in their home) on Chowhound. I choose my bar fights carefully: underwater I am an uninvited guest, and I try to be unobtrusive. And I feel more safe with large nurse sharks at 90 feet, than I feel with commodity traders ( I am one ) at sea level.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Veggo


                                                                                                                                                                              Remember nurse sharks are vegetarians and commodity traders are...well, you know that answer.

                                                                                                                                                                              The reason commodity traders can't die is because God doesn;t want them and the devil is afraid of them.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                Good Golly Miss Molly, if this site were food AND money, with my counsel over my 19 here months we would all be rich. So much low hanging fruit ripe for picking.
                                                                                                                                                                                Our economy is death by a thousand cuts. Watch; trust me once.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                        What held you back on the SATs?

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                          Girls and beer and golf. My siblings who did the 1600 and got the newspaper article? Dull as roadkill.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. Its NYC, 1982, a big downtown hotel and I, an out-of-towner, visiting on business, and hugely pregnant, am sitting down to breakfast before I head off to my meetings.

                                                                                                                                                                        I must have had 'sucker' written all over me...when I asked for the prunes (hey, its the iron pills you used to have to take when pregnant) listed on the menu as part of my 'continental' breakfast fruit choice, the waiter tells me they are out, but "we do have fresh figs".

                                                                                                                                                                        I am from so far out-of-town, Newfoundland, in fact, I didn't even know figs came fresh...I thought they were that dark brown filling in Newtons. But I figured, hey, they might do the trick.

                                                                                                                                                                        I got 3 on the plate, and they were OK, but sort of sticky and hard to eat.Not that big a deal.

                                                                                                                                                                        Then, I picked up my tab...I nearly had that baby right on the spot. My bill was $15...$12 of which was figs! I wasn't going to take that back to the office accountant: nobody is from THAT far out of town...and I did a "listen, buster" on that waiter that would have made my boss proud.

                                                                                                                                                                        I still look askance at fresh figs in the market...

                                                                                                                                                                        23 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: LJS

                                                                                                                                                                          Now that's an upsell! Good for you, LJS.

                                                                                                                                                                          Meanwhile, I can't give the things away from my tree. I hate figs.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: LJS

                                                                                                                                                                            I don't really see a problem here. The figs were offered and consumed. You never asked their price. You admitted to not knowing anything about figs, which was partially the reason this scenario happened. Sure, the waiter could've told you the price, but if you thought for one second a fresh, rare-ish fruit was of equal value as some cheap dried prunes, I've got a bridge for sale...

                                                                                                                                                                            I'd be annoyed, definitely, but more for my own naiveity and only partly at the waiter.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                              I think even the most jaded person would not expect 3 figs to cost 4 times more than the cost of the posted breakfast price, especially if they were offered as an apparent substitution for the prunes, which they were out of! This does not strike me as a situation where a person made an "oops" and forgot to ask the price; the suggestion by the waiter that figs were available without disclosing their exhorbitant price in relation to the rest of the meal was the epitome of the "upsale." I for one would have been outraged. Glad the OP confronted the waiter on the issue.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: DanaB

                                                                                                                                                                                I don't consider it a substitution.

                                                                                                                                                                                Per the OP, the waiter never said "in place of" or "instead of" or "substitute for". He simply said we have figs.

                                                                                                                                                                                Figs are expensive. The waiter knew that. He tried to sell them. He succeeded. The OP didn't ask the price. I don't see a problem.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                                  I didn't say it was a substitution, but it was presented to the OP as an *apparent* substitution. Her continental breakfast was $3 and *included* a fruit choice. They were out of the prunes she ordered. Knowing she ordered the continental breakfast, why on earth would the waiter suggest she order a fruit that was not included in the continental breakfast *without* disclosing there was an extra charge (especially when that extra charge would take her breakfast from $3 to $15)? I agree with jfood, the waiter's behavior went beyond "upsale" and bordered on bait and switch. I would have felt completely mislead and would have protested the exhorbitant charge.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: DanaB

                                                                                                                                                                                    See MMRuth's 5:10 post. What she said.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                                      Let's try this

                                                                                                                                                                                      Your resto offers an entree for $22 with wine A, B, or C as a pairing for an additional $8. The customer chooses A. And you are out of A. your server does not offer B or C and says, "we are out of A but might I recommend D?" Meal proceeds and the bill is received and the cost of the entree with D as the pairing is not $30 but $150?

                                                                                                                                                                                      Please tell jfood that you are not advocating the change from Chateau Bait to Chateau Switch is not, as they say a bait and switch.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                        J, baby, relax. It's Chow- we don't have to agree. I didn't find it to be a big deal. You did. It's cool.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                                          whoooooooooosh. jfood exhaling.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: DanaB

                                                                                                                                                                                      I totally miss the bit about the fruit being part of the continental breakfast, so, while I do think in other circumstances people should ask, I agree now that this did seem to be a bit of bait & switch.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: invinotheresverde


                                                                                                                                                                                  Let's look at the specifics of this bad behavior on the part of the server.

                                                                                                                                                                                  The keys words are " the waiter tells me they are out, but "we do have fresh figs"." The waiter should have offered an equivalent to the item, not something that would increase the cost of the bill 5-fold from $3 to $15. That borders on bait and switch.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                    I'm not sure why I feel this way, but I just think that people should ask what things cost if they are not don't know what it costs. That's not to say I've not been surprised myself on occasion (recent $37 lobster roll), but I always conclude that I should have asked. I assume that the restaurant assumes that if I'm concerned about cost, I'll ask.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Hotel dining rooms are notorious for being horribly expensive. Perhaps the waiter was just trying to be accommodating - out of prunes (assuming that is true), trying to come up with the next closest option (figs) and is used to patrons of the upscale hotel not being concerned with pricing (whether that is right or wrong).

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                      ahhh, hotel room service. now there's a topic for conversation.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: steve h.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Yes, and it's one of my favorite - though rare these days - indulgences.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                        Personally, I think what the waiter did in this situation is OK (prunes -- figs). Without knowing what the menu consisted of, it's probably the closest item that the restaurant had to prunes. I don't think the waiter was suggesting figs to pad the check. And it is ultimately the consumer who should ask about the price.

                                                                                                                                                                                        I do, however, have more of an issue when it comes to wine. Let's say I order a bottle of pinot for $30 and the restaurant is out of it and suggests another pinot without revealing the price. Check time comes and customer discovers that Bottle B is $300. While the customer probably should have asked, I think this is an instance that the waiter should have mentioned something, as there are probably other bottles of pinot in the range of $30 and $300. In instances like this, I think the waiter is definitely upselling to increase his tip.

                                                                                                                                                                                        And to address another poster where the response has already been deleted about having the waiter tell a customer the price of every single thing, a lot of people would take offense and be quite annoyed if every single price was spelled out for them, especially if it is on the menu. I can see some people thinking that the waiter thought they either couldn't afford the item or that the waiter was insulting his/her intelligence by having every single thing spelled out.

                                                                                                                                                                                        I agree with some of the posts on this thread about some of the upselling techniques crossing the line -- eg. automatically pouring a second or even third bottle of water without having the customer ask for it, being charged for two forks (though that's not upselling, IMO). But examples like the specials costing twice the price of the entree -- while it is nice if the waitstaff volunteers that info, one shouldn't expect it and always ask. The $75 maragarita story, though, is another thing. Wow! Fifteen times the cost of a regular margarita! As I'm not a tequila drinker, I don't know the costs.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                                                                          See my post above - I misread the issue of fruit being included in the breakfast.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                                                                            >>Personally, I think what the waiter did in this situation is OK (prunes -- figs). Without knowing what the menu consisted of, it's probably the closest item that the restaurant had to prunes. I don't think the waiter was suggesting figs to pad the check. And it is ultimately the consumer who should ask about the price.<<

                                                                                                                                                                                            If prunes were included in my $3 continental breakfast, but figs were not, and the figs cost 4 times the cost of the entire breakfast, and the waiter offers them as an alternative to the prunes without telling me it will quintuple my bill, do you still think it's an okay alternative?

                                                                                                                                                                                            I think the way they were presented to the customer is the problem here. If the OP had simply ordered prunes but the restaurant was out and so suggested figs instead, and the OP didn't ask the price, well, caveat emptor. However, the OP ordered a continental breakfast which included a fruit. She asked for prunes (included), was told they were out, and instead of offering other fruits that were also included, the waiter offered figs (not included) and didn't tell her it would be for a HUGE price increase.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I did the caculation on 1982 dollars for inflation, and this would be like ordering a continental breakfast that cost $6.76 in today's dollars, and having the fig "surcharge" be an additional $27.04 without being told.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I've said more than my .02 cents on this issue so I will be quiet now :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: DanaB

                                                                                                                                                                                              I understand now. Sorry, didn't see MMRuth's post above (I think we cross-posted) and didn't realize it was part of a set deal. I totally agree with that it was not right in this situation. My bad.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                          Why must the waiter recommend something equivalent and not something better? I disagree big time.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                                            because she ordered the continental breakfast in which several items are included. If it includes coffee and the resto is out of coffee should the offer irish coffee with vintage liquor at 5 times the price, if they are out of blueberry muffins and offer new zealand pecan muffins at five times the price?

                                                                                                                                                                                            People have to sleep at night and live with themselves, don;t they?

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                                              Its not that the waiter should recommend something equivalent, its the fact the waiter knew there was a big price gap between what the customer originally wanted and what he/she was offering. Usually as common sense, and for courtesy, the waiter should have mentioned this, but this is why its an "upsell"... because management encourages waiters not to tell, if customers don't ask (and most dont), since they may lose the opportunity to sell.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Cheez

                                                                                                                                                                                                I agree that it would've been courteous, but not necessary.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                                                  GOOD GOLLY, you folks sure got a lot of mileage out of my prune/fig bait and switch...I thought of it as a bit of a giggle and have told the story many times to younger pals and my own offspring as a cautionary tale. I was green as grass and yes, I probably should have asked...which is the moral of the story I passed along.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Just a PS: as I recall the waiter was most co-operative in adjusting the tab...we both knew he was just "trying it on for size", perhaps at the suggestion of management. And I tipped him accordingly.

                                                                                                                                                                                      3. In Hawaii my mom and I were charged $8 to split a $9 salad. There was no indication on the menu that a split charge would be added, nor did the waiter inform us.
                                                                                                                                                                                        When we brought it to the attention of the manager, he took the split charge off, but the experience was disconcerting anyway.

                                                                                                                                                                                        On the next visit to the same restaurant, I order a salad with seared tuna on top. When the server asked what I was having for my main, I informed her that I was only having the salad.
                                                                                                                                                                                        She told me the salad was not enough for a full meal and suggested I order the seared tuna dinner. I followed her advice only to see the salad delivered to another table a few moments later and realize that it was PLENTY big enough for an entree.
                                                                                                                                                                                        The difference in price: 18 for the salad 44 for the dinner.
                                                                                                                                                                                        we no longer go there when visiting the island.

                                                                                                                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: kmills9408

                                                                                                                                                                                          Any chance you could name the resto and save the rest of us from this scam?

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: kmills9408

                                                                                                                                                                                            Wowwwwwwwwwwwww, kmills9408. I have friends who have sworn off a restaurant I despise because of a $7.50 charge to split a dinner.

                                                                                                                                                                                            An EIGHT DOLLAR charge to split a SALAD?

                                                                                                                                                                                            I bet there will be lots of people cheering when this place goes out of business.

                                                                                                                                                                                            One question: WHY did you go back to this thieving place?

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: dolores

                                                                                                                                                                                              Ok, I will come clean and name the restaurant, even though I know I will surely receive criticism from those who have visited and not received the same treatment.
                                                                                                                                                                                              The restaurant is the Beach House on Kauai.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Before anyone gets incensed: I have many friends who have dined there without incident. I know the Beach House gets rave reviews on here and I agree that the food was very good.
                                                                                                                                                                                              Additionally, I have to believe that what happened to us were isolated incidents since, like I said, many friends have dined there without having similar problems and no such problems have been reported on this board.
                                                                                                                                                                                              That being said, we won’t return anytime soon.
                                                                                                                                                                                              I don’t wish for the Beach House to go out of business. I know many people love the place and, let’s be serious, the view cannot be beat.
                                                                                                                                                                                              However, I hope that the “trouble makers” we encountered are no longer working there.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Dolores: we returned after the initial incident because of all the good things we have heard about the place. Additionally, like I mentioned above, when we brought the split charge to the managers attention he apologetically and quickly removed the charge...but still...

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: kmills9408

                                                                                                                                                                                                I actually was just at the Beach House for drinks a couple of months ago. I can see how waiters who work at a place like that (extraordinary view, great reputation via word of mouth from visitors who might only go once during their one-time visit to Kauai), with a substantial tourist business, might fall into the habit of extorting their patrons, but it sucks nevertheless. Never a good practice, no matter how easy the "mark."

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: kmills9408

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks, kmills9408, for the additional info.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. I work in a chain restaurant which creates section assignments based on sales; you better believe I try to sell as many bottles of water, better types of liquor, soup/salad, etc. I make $2.13 an hour, usually receive voided checks because of tip declaration, and have to pay $4 for a gallon of gas just like you all do. I also pay my way through school. I don't strong-arm my tables into ordering pricier items and those who refuse my upsells aren't insulted.

                                                                                                                                                                                              My job is to make money and a $19.00 check on a two top doesn't pay my bills.

                                                                                                                                                                                              35 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Ette1010

                                                                                                                                                                                                How do you know they are not insulted? Maybe one of the posts above was written by one of your former customers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Ette1010

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Your need to make a living does not trump my right to go out to dinner to relax, have fun, and not be subjected to sales pressure pitches that are prompted by everything I order.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Ette1010

                                                                                                                                                                                                    A bit of a sales pitch is fine. Restaurants are there to make money. I think when most people get upset is when they feel ripped off by it - as when a bottle of water jacks their bill up by one-third because it is so over-priced or when the waiter offers a substitution (e.g. for a bottle of wine they are out of) that doubles the bill they anticipated.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Cachetes

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Probably everyone has their personal line where upselling is offensive. To me, the stories that stand out on this thread involve a) some level of deception, or b) server sounding like a broken record with the upselling, to the point where it's a serious interruption. If it's b) I figure it's my fault for choosing the type of restaurant where the server is required to do this. I feel for the server and leave the normal tip, but I don't go back.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      While living in Italy, I found that the bill-padding was almost a game and not limited to tourists. In many Italian bars and sandwich places, there is one price for food to go or eaten standing, another for eating at their tables. Which is fine as long as it's straightforward, but it isn't always. I went into a little local place late at night with a group of Italians. We purchased our after-dinner drinks and stood there drinking them. The owner waved us to the (all empty) tables and told us to sit down-- then trotted over with a bill for the upcharge for seating, He had certainly acted as if he was inviting us to sit at the table since it was empty.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: bibi rose

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Many European countries have laws requiring you to pay VAT if you sit down in a restaurant and eat a meal, but you will not be charged VAT if you get takeout. In Italy it seems like the distinction is definitely made once you sit in a seat, not the time when you actually eat the food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: bibi rose

                                                                                                                                                                                                          ""a) some level of deception"

                                                                                                                                                                                                          My best analogy for the upsell is this: if you buy a new car, and the saleperson asks if you want AC in it, do think it's going to be free? No! You ask how much!

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Being someone who upsells food, I must say this: if you don't ask the price, you've made a huge mistake. As Ette1010 said, the job of a server/salesperson is to sell. I would choose a specific item every time I worked food service, and push it. My sales were always great (usually half the people said yes). And I always got the compensation for it (cash bonus).

                                                                                                                                                                                                          That said, there are some salespeople who can't take no for an answer. That is COMPLETELY inappropriate. The salespeople should not offer the same item to the same customer twice if the customer has turned it down. That's just plain rude.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          But please, don't hate us cause we upsell! Go ahead and hate us if we're rude, but not because we're doing our jobs. PLEASE ASK HOW MUCH IT WILL BE. I'd much rather have someone say no to the price increase BEFORE the item was served to them. Then they have to get a manager and make a complaint on CHOWHOUND etc. Please don't be afraid to ask.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: miss_bennet

                                                                                                                                                                                                            >>""a) some level of deception"

                                                                                                                                                                                                            My best analogy for the upsell is this: if you buy a new car, and the saleperson asks if you want AC in it, do think it's going to be free? No! You ask how much!>>

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Sure. But by the same token, please don't use language that actively tricks the customer. Unfortunately we probably all have different lines where suggestion crosses over into deception. For me, that line is approximately at "Would you like still or sparkling water?"-- an alternative that leaves out tap water. Once you make the customer come up with the affordable option on his own, you're turning the transaction into a sparring match. Who needs that when trying to enjoy a meal? I don't necessarily *hate* you for doing that but I question the owner's/manager's judgment for encouraging it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: bibi rose

                                                                                                                                                                                                              The still/sparkling thing has been beat to death on this board, so I'll make this quick. Places that don't offer tap do so because it's implied; you know you can get it, so why offer it? It's obvious. It's akin to a guest choosing oil and vinegar instead of Blue Cheese dressing, kind of.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              In my opinion, if you're too delicate to choose tap water, there's something wrong in the greater scheme of things than your H2O for the evening. Why be intimidated by the waiter?!

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                                                                OK, well, I guess I've missed a lot of discussion on the still/sparkling thing. To me, that form of question sounds like it's intended to mislead by suggesting to the customer that only two alternatives exist.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: bibi rose

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  But there aren't only two options, and you know it! Even if it's meant to sound that way, the other option always exists. It's a constant. It drives me nuts when people are too intimidated to order what they want (not saying this is you).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  If you want tap water, order tap water.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    You've got the perspective of a seasoned waiter and savvy diner, but there are people who don't realize there's another option. Just like there are people who don't understand tipping or wine etiquette, etc. Generally, these people tend to be inexperienced diners. For some diners, going to an upscale or even not-so-upscale restaurant can be intimidating. I remember when I first went to a mid-range restaurant in my teens without my parents, I was a bit intimidated and felt like I didn't know what I was doing. And as I didn't have a huge amount of restaurant experience with my parents, I was even more clueless. I gradually learned the ropes and now know how to deal with restaurant situations. But there was a learning curve.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    And while it may not happen in your restaurant, there are restaurants out there where tap water is not an option.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I agree about rubes feeling SLIGHTLY intimidated, I guess, but I just don't understand why (although you're right-being in the industry has made me very aware). You're going to let some $2.63 per hour waiter judge you? Dining out is supposed to be fun, not scary. Relax and have a good time!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Also, in the US, I'd be curious to know where tap water is not an option (except during extreme times, like Katrina or drought).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      And, in those situations, you have to buy a bottle anyhow. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Two restaurants that I'm aware of in NYC are Una Pizza Napoletana and Sapori d'Ischia. They are not your "typical" NYC restaurants. Pizza Napoletana's hours are a bit odd -- only open from Thursday to Sunday. And Sapori's got this whole list they put on your table of things they will not do, including giving you tap water and having you order espresso with lemon peel.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I could be wrong, but I've read it's illegal not to serve tap water to anyone who requests it. Perhaps that varies from state to state?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I don't think you're wrong about that. But these two restaurants definitely don't serve tap water. The pizza place is very popular, and Sapori does OK as well, but not as well as Napoletana. Maybe they feel like they're above the law?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Maybe to some people, being intimidated is a factor here. To me, it's not. It's a rhetorical sleaze factor that becomes apparent in some servers' launguage.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You are right that if asked, "Do you want A or B?" most people should realize there are probably other options, if they think about it for a minute. However (again from my perspective) the form of the question is leading-- as is, in thise particular case, the possibility that some people will mistake "still water" for "tap (i.e. free) water." Respecting the fact that I seem to be out of the loop on the still/sparkling issue, is it really the case that waiters are not trained to put the question that way to lead people into buying water rather than getting tap? To go back to one of your analogies, do you actually say, "Would you like blue cheese or garlic dressing?" Or do you post that kind of question when it has an upselling potential?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In any case, the "A or B" form of question may not be sleazy in itself but I find that it's often combined with other forms of sleazy sales rhetoric.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: bibi rose

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            It may sound like I support the "sparkling or still" water waiters, but that isn't the case. At my work, our waiters are instructed to ask "sparkling, spring or tap?". I just think it's laughable to blame the waiter for charging you for something you ordered.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Buyer beware!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I think that the question "sparkling or still?" is also misleading - tap water *is* still, but that's not what they mean. If they said "sparkling or bottled still?" then they are guilty of the omission others have talked about. Why not ask if the table would like water and then mention that the resto also has "sparking or bottled water available"? The reason, it would seem to me, is that more people would just say no thank you to sparkling or bottled water if it's made clear that there is a free choice for tap water. The whole point to the server presenting only options A and (misleading) option B is that lots of people will choose one or the other option without realizing there's a charge or that another option exists.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: akq

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          If they don't realize there's another option, they're fools.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Guess the server can;t complain about "fools" not knowing better than leaving a 5% tip then.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Touche? You're kidding, right?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Seriously, leaving a waiter a 5% tip because you ordered something and had to pay for it? I can't stop laughing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                JFood, you order bottles of Pell frequently. You know they don't come free. Do you feel swindled when they show up on the bill? C'mon, you're better than this 5% tip business.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                As a side note, I don't really see what a 5% tip has to do with not ordering tap water, if that's what you want.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  of course Ms. I. Jfood wouldn;t because, as you said, he has data points. He was somewhat kidding you and commenting on your "fool" comment, you know the guy whose money is easily separated.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  But, if jfood thinks the server did subversive upselling, or jfood ordered his bottle of Pelly and then 3 showed up on the tab because the server took major liberties without jfood's permission? sure as shooting jfood would have a a word with the server first and possibly reduce the tip if his belly told him so.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  And if servers knowingly and willingly try not just to make the meal better by suggesting other items but only to pad the bill then jfood firmly believes that the customer can comment first and if all else fails, ding the tip.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "That dish comes with two vegetables, broccoli, corn, peas or squash?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  " I'll have the peas"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "And a baked potato?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "That would be nice."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Potato costs $5 and is not included in the entree price.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  As in most situations, communication and intent are something you sorta have to be there for.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    "But, if jfood thinks the server did subversive upselling, or jfood ordered his bottle of Pelly and then 3 showed up on the tab because the server took major liberties without jfood's permission? sure as shooting jfood would have a a word with the server first and possibly reduce the tip if his belly told him so. "

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Of course.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    You don't have to be a fool to find the upselling routine irritating. You certainly don't have to fall for it. On the contrary, possibly the more aware you are the more obnoxious it seems. That nonsense with the water, coming early in the meal, is a sign of what kind of place you are in-- and not a good one. Even more so,ham-fisted attempts to upsell you on wine like one described earlier in the thread. Some people, as noted upthread, can anticipate this experience at certain restaurants, allow for it and go with the flow. But again, you don't have to be an idiot not to like it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                "If they don't realize there's another option, they're fools."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I do hope that you are being flippant here. I realize you are an industry insider, and I am assuming you are saying this lightly, and would not actually treat your clients and customers this way.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The restaurant industry is part of the hospitality industry. This implies that customers are guests, and should be treated with some respect and courtesy. Sometimes, our guests are not fully aware of the situation, and in these instances, a polite informative helpful host is always appreciated.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                If I were a server, and I realized the customer did not realize there was an option other than bottled still or sparkling, I would not assume they were fools and leave them to be stuck with an unwanted bill at the end. I would discreetly let them know about the charges, and make them aware of the options, and try to make them comfortable. I would not make them feel like "rubes". The guests will appreciate the kind gesture, and your chance of getting a reasonable tip and repeat business increases. The best service I have received in restaurants has always been this way. I am made aware of specials of the day, but the prices are fairly and honestly presented. When I see this kind of honesty and discretion on the part of the restaurant staff, I am much more willing to open my wallet for the specials and the bottled water, and a nice tip. Mutual respect goes a long way.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                "Fool" is a harsh word. There are many reasons someone might be unfamiliar with certain customs. They might not have a lot of experience, or they might come from a different culture. To assume they are fools shows a lot of disdain. I don't now what kind of job you have, or the kind of experiences you've had, but to so quickly assume that they are all fools makes me wonder if you are still enjoying your work in the hospitality business.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: moh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Of course there are exceptions (foreigners, etc), but I stand by the fact that not knowing you can get plain tap water for free is ludicrous. Things cost money!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Also, there are many people who would be insulted if they were made aware the price of every little thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  How I treat my customers is no concern of yours; they love me. Even though I no longer wait tables, I'm constantly requested to stop at table after table to talk to my old regulars, which I do more than happily.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  When people ASSUME things are free, they're often in for serious sticker shock when the bill comes. Restaurants are in the business of making money.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    " When people ASSUME things are free, they're often in for serious sticker shock when the bill comes."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    There are plenty of things that are still "free" in restaurants, such as bread, butter, condiments, salt, pepper, amuse bouches, palate cleansers, soups or salads that come with the meal and are not charged separately. This may all change soon, but for now, there are plenty of items where an extra charge is not added on. Restaurants can be very confusing places. It is always pleasant when the staff help their clients navigate the peculiarities of that particular restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    "Also, there are many people who would be insulted if they were made aware the price of every little thing."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yes, this is true. But there are ways to let people know in a way that is discreet yet informative. My very favorite is when they say something like "Would you like still or sparkling? Here is our water list, and of course, tap is also available". They then subtly point to the prices to let you know there is a cost. Professional, discreet, respectful, tasteful. There, I am ordering sparkling, and tipping well. And looking forward to a wonderful evening, knowing I am being well taken care of.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: moh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ""Would you like still or sparkling? Here is our water list, and of course, tap is also available"."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Redundant. Of course tap water is available. You're wasting words (ie- time) pontificating.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Anyhow, this is pointless. I think having to explain tap water is available is silly. You obviously don't. You're not going to change my mind, nor I yours. I'll remain confident enough to order L'eau Providence if desired, offered or not.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Perhaps I wasn't clear before - when a waiter says "still" water, *you* assume he means bottled still water that the resto will charge you for...but that's not really clear. Tap water *is* still - so if a waiter asks me "sparkling or still?" and I say still, meaning, of course, free water without bubbles (because sparkling water is rarely free), but the waiter brings out a $9 bottle of still water (which I don't realize the charge for until the check arrives), why isn't that the waiter being underhanded? If the waiter were really trying to accruately describe the bottled water, wouldn't it be more clear to say "bottled" rather than using a descriptor that does not distinguish it in any way from the free tap water?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: akq

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "...when a waiter says "still" water, *you* assume he means bottled still water that the resto will charge you for..."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Yes, yes I do. Because 99.999999999% of the time, that's exactly what the waiter means.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I highly doubt the majority of people are confused by the "sparkling or still" verbiage. In this day and age, restaurants don't often carry JUST bottled sparkling water, so I can't fathom interpreting "sparkling or still" to mean "sparkling or tap". You really seem to be reaching/splitting hairs here to make your point. As a sidenote, I hear "sparkling or spring" much more than "still", anyhow.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          To me (and this is just my opinion- no need to agree), people who "accidentally" order bottled spring water and then complain they "didn't know" seem like they're trying to get something for nothing. I mean, you really think the water in the pretty glass bottle is going to be free (granted, it is at some UBER expensive places, but even then it's built into the cost of your meal)? It's common sense. Geez.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. re: bibi rose

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Two points:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1 - let us all hope that going out to dinner does not stoop to the angst of buying a car
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2 - jfood believes a better analogy to the car buying experience is "what color would you like, white black or bue" knowing full well the cost of blue is more

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        As others have stated, eating out should not be a sparring match or a series of gotchas on either the resto or the custo side. then it unfortunately becomes a lose-lose.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      4. re: miss_bennet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Well I am a bartender and when I make a drink such as a Gin and Tonic I will ask which Gin they prefer...and I tell them all the choices we have (Usually its, Q, Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray, Beefeater or the "well" which is usually Seagram’s or such.. I never ask "Q or Tanqueray 10?" or assume and charge them top shelf knowingly omitting the lower options. I usually always order top shelf myself, but I don’t want anyone to assume they know what I want. And never make a substitution without asking me first. I know I am there to make money for myself and my company, but not there to offend or peeve off a customer or making them feel ripped off.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Word of mouth is the best and worst advertisement, If a customer has a good experience he MIGHT tell someone, but if they feel they were ripped off, they will tell everyone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Bravo! An honest merchant will be noticed, and there are still a few Paul Revere's to spread the word.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I treat every customer as I want to be treated, and I treat every server as if I would want to be treated by a customer. It is just good sense, and good business.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. Just saw bottles of Heinz salad cream for sale at Kalustyan's here in New York. The labels advertised "Only 99p!" however the stockboys tried to scratch out that bit with marker so they could excuse Kalustyan's pricetag: $8.99 per bottle.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: JungMann

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    well - that's a little different

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    99p is a british price, so this item was imported. importing adds costs that have nothing to with the labeled price from its place of origin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Unless the salad cream flew first class on British Airways, an 404% markup on the USD equivalent price does not reflect the costs of importation. A larger bottle of the same product is $4.95 at another store in Manhattan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: JungMann


                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup = $6.00
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Bottle of Tabasco (small) = $4.50
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Packet of instant ramen noodles = $0.80

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          nuckin' futs. presumably locally produced foods are less expensive!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: JungMann

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          and a 200% markup is much better. the point is 99p doesn't take that into aqccount

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The other bottle is I mentioned at $4.95 was not the same specially priced item. In fact it is a larger bottle for less the price.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A bit like a lyric from La Cage Aux Folles" (the musical):

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "We import the drinks that you buy,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          so your Perrier is really Canada Dry"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        4. re: JungMann

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Kalustayan's is probably one of the most overpriced stores in NYC -- probably because they have a huge variety of products. It really is a unique store in Manhattan. I prefer to go to Jackson Heights, Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn or Flushing to get a lot of the stuff they sell. Just went to Patel Brothers last weekend and picked up a whole bunch of ingredients where I paid probably about half of what I would have at Kalustayan. But when I don't get a chance to travel to the outer boroughs (which can be often), I just suck it up and pay the fee.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: JungMann

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Yes, Kalystyan's is pretty ridiculous about price gouging. It annoys me so much that I've stopped going there unless the need is dire, indeed. For most basic items (grains, dals, spices), I buy at the smaller, less glitzy stores just a few doors south and north for much, much less.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            But of course nothing subway accessible beats Patel Bro's if you have time to get out to Jackson Heights. And nothing beats Edison, NJ if you're able to make the journey by car!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I was a tad (read: a lot) hungover on Sunday and decided to take a trip to Queens for some comfort food. While there I thought it might be a good idea to also buy some groceries and made my way to Patel Bros. Now I don't know if it was the hangover or the heat exhaustion, but it was more excitement than I've had on a Sunday afternoon in years! The turbaned men ramming eachothers' carts out of the way; the children screaming for Babu and the surly cashier who refused to ring up my chilies because I didn't spend enough money. It was like shopping in Lucknow!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              But to bring it back to topic: yes, Kalustyan's mark up borders on the offensive. I half imagine Mr. Kalustyan dressed as a Gilded Age Robber Baron, seated atop a silk pillow, twirling his handlebar mustache, smoking his hookah and laughing at those of us trapped into buying $16/lb muhammara and $8 bottles of developing nation salsas.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. My husband and I had a waitress at an upscale brasserie in Manhattan tell us that the appetizers we had chosen were not very good, and she recommended the fois gras mousse instead. When we asked how much that cost, she at first pretended not to know, and asked a busboy who was passing by. Surprize, surprize, it was $30.00, three times the cost of what we had chosen. When we declined the fois gras, she asked if we wanted the first apps we had chosen. I told her no, since she had said they were not very good. Embarrassed,she ended up bringing the original ones we ordered, and did not charge us for them. Unfortunately the entire meal was a series of mishaps...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: NJcook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Inquiring minds want to know! Was the appy any good? What was it? What were the other mishaps? What was the restaurant? Details please! TIA...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. I'd ordered a stirfry at a restaurant that came in regular and large portion size; the waitress didn't ask which I wanted (had she I would have picked the regular). When it arrived I thought it looked quite big but it was our first visit to that resto and I didn't know what the portion sizes were like. When the bill arrived, I realized she had given me the large size.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Jasz

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Here's a situation where a bad tip is warranted (perhaps a discussion with management, to boot).