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Nov 27, 2006 01:48 PM

Restaurant charging for items and not telling you

I went to a cute little restaurant for lunch with my husband. We ordered sandwiches and they came with chips. I asked if I could substitute a salad for the chips. The waitress said that it was no problem.

Sandwiches were great and service was great too. My husband's chips were sad and so was my salad, but at least I was eating a sad salad and not sad chips.

We got the bill and I noticed that I was charged $3 for the salad! I went over to the waitress and explained that I had asked to substitute. She said that OF COURSE it wasn't the same price. I said that she had not told me that, and if she had I would not have done it. As the sandwiches were $5, a small bowl of iceberg, carrot and hard tomato was hardly worth $3.

She went to talk to the manager and, while I was waiting, another waitress said "well, if it were me then I would charge for it". I did not respond and our waitress came back and the manager had taken the salad off of the bill. This still does not make me happy about them trying to charge for things when they do not inform you.

Anyone else run into unknown charges?

Dictionary: SUBSTITUTE: to take the place of; replace

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  1. One of my pet peeves: restaurants opening new bottles of mineral water without asking, then charging for then. As happened recently in NYC, at English is Italian.

    2 Replies
    1. re: andreas

      Samething happened at Telepan in NYC. Our water bill was $40.
      I couldn't ask the waiter to stop bringing the water as I was with my in laws. Maybe they knew and took advantage of it.
      I was pretty upset.

      1. re: Monica

        I am going to Telepan tomorrow. Do you mean that you were not asked the usual "Tap or bottle water," and they just brought over the mineral water and started pouring w/o even asking?

    2. If the restaurant normally charges for a side salad (as is common), then I would not have assumed it would be no charge. Given the request for substitution, the server should have told you, but I as a customer would probably not have assumed in this particular situation. So some shared responsibility here.

      1. I'd usually ask if there was a fee with substitution, or just assume so. But $3 for a side salad? Talk about price gouging.
        I wish they wouldn't make the substitution fees so much - I think an extra dollar for a side salad is reasonable, but I wish they wouldn't charge $2-3.

        1. I was annoyed to be charged for chutney, pickle and raita at an Indian restaurant. It wasn't the money, it was the feeling of being manipulated by the waiter who had offered them to me without mentioning that they were extra.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Glencora

            I have never been to an Indian restaurant (NYC, upscale or downscale) that did not have a clearly labeled area of the menu "Condiments" or something to that effect, indicating the prices for the items you describe: chutney, pickle and raita. Only thing that is free is the papadum and trio of sauces it comes with.

            1. re: chow_gal

              Often in the less-expensive places, the meal comes with the condiments on a divided tray along with the curry or whatever. If it doesn't then, yes, it's listed on the menu. Not in this case, though. That's why I was annoyed.

          2. Go into any restaurant in Italy and you'll be smacked with a bread charge the second your butt hits the seat and the bread hits the table... you just have to know.

            I agree that $3 for the typical sad side salad is a ripoff, though now you know next time to ask "can I substitute a salad for free".

            5 Replies
            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              Sometimes restaurants in Italy smack you with a charge for being American.


              And I agree that the extra charge was unwarranted. And stupid. Why alienate a potential future customer who might return every week just to make $3?

              1. re: Brian S

                That happens in Barcelona too... there would be two menus -- one in Catalan and Castilian, and one in English and, often, French or German. There was more than one occasion where the English version had different prices (and the items were in a different order to "throw" people).

                I caused a scene in one place where it was particularly blatant (on La Rambla, of course)... caused the scene in Catalan, which shocked the waitstaff, who expected the fat American to whine in English rather than demanding the complaints book in Catalan.

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  Funny, reading this I have to think back about my trips abroad. I do not recall having any problems but that could just be naivete on my part. In Italy, I was there with friends who were visiting their relatives so many times, we were with locals but in other places, countries and times when we were on our own, it never occurred to me to worry about this "game".

                  Did you ever ask for both menus to compare? Glad to hear you made a "stink", something I would do and my husband would cringe. :-)

                  1. re: Michele4466

                    I did. The complaints book is a surprisingly powerful thing in Spain. If you write a complaint in the complaints book, they have three days to follow up and make it right, because when the government inspectors come they have to be able to show them the action taken... so usually when you demand "las hojas de reclamaciĆ³n" or "els fulls de reclamaciĆ³" they know you're serious and just stop dinking around with you, rather than have to bother with the officials.

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      Wow, I will have to remember this for future vacays...