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Feb 28, 2007 11:14 AM

The Water Trick [split from LA]

the water trick has got to go, it is true. i'm wondering whether
it is simply best to stay home from now on.

food shouldn't be about business

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  1. I'd nominally agree that food shouldn't be about business, but then medicine shouldn't be about business either, and you don't see doctors running around with nurses salaries.

    1. what's the "water trick"? this is fascinating

      4 Replies
      1. re: thegrifter

        It comes in many forms.

        It usually starts when you or someone in your party says, "Oh, I'll just have water." Sometimes they ask whether you want sparkling or still -- this is your big tipoff here -- and sometimes they just come back with a giant bottle of extremely expensive water, already opened.

        The next part of the trick -- and jfood has written at length about this in another topic -- is where they then pour the water for everyone at the table, which often requires another bottle, depending on the size of the group.

        Then, if you're really not on the ball, they'll keep filling up the glasses throughout the meal, using new bottles of water. In the case of Acqua Panna (a popular brand for the Great Restaurant Water Rip-off because it comes in fancy glass bottles that look good), the cost to the restaurant is somewhere around $1-$2 a litre, and they often sell it for $6, $8 or even $10 a litre.

        So the original person, who really just wanted a glass of Colorado River Special on the rocks, ends up being the cause of a $20, $30 or more markup on the bill.

        You end up having to be ridiculously vehement and say, "A glass of TAP water, please," and then as often as not you end up having to chase down waitstaff for refills.

        Also, a big part of the GRWR is the bottle of water on each table as you sit down. Open it at your own peril -- it's probably even more ridiculously marked up than if the waiter brought it over.

        This happens in France too, but you can get round it there by saying "un pichet d'eau" (a pitcher of water), or "de l'eau du robinet" (tap water).

        Because Mrs Ubergeek doesn't drink wine, beer or soda, this is probably the negative thing we most often have to deal with. I've had to have "discussions" with managers, and the giant bottle -- unless Mrs Ubergeek SPECIFICALLY ordered a bottle of water -- gets sent back. If they opened it, too bad for them, let them use it in soup.

        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          Which is why I LOVED it when our waiter at La Campania (Waltham, MA) on Saturday night asked if we wanted tap or sparkling. BIG thumbs up for him. We chose the tap, and it was refreshed on a regular basis from a pitcher of water.

          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            I feel like the anti-Gunga Din, and thanks DU, as my twin brother of different mothers states so eloquently.

            One additional way they entrap you in the GRWR and I thank many CH'ers for correcting my NJ'ism is to change the order protocol. If you want to avoid the large bottle of sparkling water for $10 when you order a drink or coke for your companion and use the words "...and a sparkling water for me" is to change the word "sparkling" to "club soda". This has worked quite nicely recently and seems to carry the appropriate message.

            Or you can do the obvious and order a glass of ice water.

            1. re: jfood

              Good gravy!

              Even asking for water has become complicated.

        2. unfortunately restaurants are a business,and they make lots of money on bottled water -- mark-up can be 8 or 9 times. ordering tap water is easy enough and you bypass the nonsense.

          1. I really have to ask- what is embarassing about ordering "tap water"?

            6 Replies
              1. re: pesto

                Actually, I normally don't feel embarrassed about ordering it at all. The other weekend, though, I had the experience of having our server make a very big deal of us ordering tap rather than bottled. When I asked for it she was like, "oh, TAP?!?" and then she made a point at least twice afterwards of stopping by our table to say, "your TAP water will be right over." I guess I'm not the one that should be embarrassed, but it definitely was bizarre.

                1. re: mollyomormon

                  That has happened to us. Being from New Jersey, I am not one to sit idly by while someone attempts to embarrass me -- so the last time it happened, the waitress also brought my steak, which was overcooked (no doubt while the grill station was filling my TAP water). I said, "Oh, I ordered MEDIUM RARE, could you take it to the kitchen and ask them to cook me a MEDIUM RARE steak like I asked you?"

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    Another Jersey Boy! We seemed to have assembled unwittingly on this board.
                    When I travel people can can always tell I am from Jersey. I wonder what gives me away?
                    Recently I had to return my entree TWICE to the kitchen. I even sent back the water ... it wasnt hot for my cup of tea.

                  2. re: mollyomormon

                    I hope you reduced her tip and told her why!

                    1. re: mollyomormon

                      This happened to me once as well and annoyed me to no end. My dining companions told me to leave it alone, but the next time she came around and emphasized "TAP", I politely informed her that I worked for the Division of Water Quality as a public health inspector, and was responsible for setting the highest standards of water quality. She was pretty damn nervous for the remainder of our dinner, and I noticed the service markedly improved. I need to do this more often.

                2. I completely understand that a restaurant is a business. But in a world in which I feel that I have to constantly be on guard to avoid being ripped off, scammed or otherwise stolen from, it would be nice to know that when I went out to eat, I could, theoretically now, relax, shed the armour and unwind a little. But apparently, this is not so, and even when I am going out to a nice restaurant to enjoy myself with my friends & family I must still be totally on guard against this dog-eat-dog way of thinking.

                  So I can understand the original poster's musing "i'm wondering whether it is simply best to stay home from now on."

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: flourgirl

                    FG, please go out, enjoy and be in charge. Remember you are the customer and spending your hard earned dollars. That's a choice you made, similar to the app, entree and dessert. Waiter doesn't like it, too bad. Doesn't like everyone at the table ordering the house salad and inexpensive pasta, tough. Coffee without dessert, get over it. Attitude translates into less tip.

                    If the waiter pulls that "Tap Crap" leave less of a tip and make sure you tell the manager on the way out that you experienced rude behavior by the waiter. Then when the waiter complains to the manager he can give him feedback and explain that the rolling eyes, the emphasis on "tap" was the reason and that he should manage that in the future.

                    I only drink coffee and water 24/7, no soda, no wine, no liquor. I have my own well plus the 6-gallon Poland Springs bottle on top of the dispenser. I apologize to NOONE on ordering water in a resto.

                    1. re: jfood

                      oh don't worry - I am very good at being in charge :).

                      And I was being somewhat facetious in my comments to make a point. That it just can be exhausting sometimes to always have to be on guard for this kind of garbage - and I have to add, if any restaurant we patronize regularly tried to pull something like this, I wouldn't go back again. There is something extremely off-putting about being viewed as "prey" as opposed to a "customer".

                      1. re: flourgirl

                        See, I think like that about banks, car salesmen, and the MaryKay lady -or your cable/internet provider...
                        I really don't understand why everyone gets so worked up about the "up sell"-It's a fact of life now for almost everything we do. Why do restaurants, and specifically the server, get such a bad rap?

                        1. re: troutpoint

                          IMO, upselling is when I ask for water and they say "Would you like to try ?" and I have the opportunity to say "No, thank you."

                          Asking for water and then being handed an already-opened bottle of isn't upselling, it's slamming.

                          Upselling is just good business - lots of people say "OK, sure."
                          Slamming is bad business. In fact it's illegal in some industries.

                          1. re: jzerocsk

                            I guess I am used to being asked "sparkling or still" or "bottled or tap" and being able to make the distinction myself. Although, I have to say, if I order water and want tap, I say so right up front. Especially if I notice lots of bottles around, or bottles on the table.

                            1. re: jzerocsk

                              Thanks, jzerocsk. That's it exactly.

                              Troutpoint, I understand that restaurants are businesses, and I am not so unsophisticated that I don't get the difference between upselling and trying to take advantage of customers who may be reluctant to fight back when a restaurant attempts to victimize them with some of the maneuvers described on this thread. That type of behavior on the part of a restaurant and it's employees is despicable.

                        2. re: jfood

                          For me, it's not about having to apologize, it's about having one more thing that I have to remember is now a freaking "special request". I have to remember to ask NOT to have lemon in my water, which I find ridiculous. Now we also have to make a point of explicitly requesting tap water. The default should be the simplest version, then add on's special requests.

                          Thankfully, this trend has not hit North Carolina yet, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn't, because I don't know that I could remain civil if such bs were pulled on me.

                          It's not the one little thing, it's the constant barage of many many many little things.

                          1. re: abowes

                            Thank you. The lemon thing drives me crazy. It makes my water taste like bad lemonade. I usually forget to say no lemon and end up trying to fish the lemon out of the water with a salad fork.

                            1. re: bonmann

                              Fruit water belongs in spas, not in restaurants.