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"Sharing Fee" Told Afterwards

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boltnut55 Apr 21, 2007 08:17 PM

Tonight, DH, DD, and I went out to dinner in a nice Italian restaurant in a hotel (but no associated with the hotel). DD is 9. I'm trying to lose weight but wanted to enjoy a nice meal without overeating, and you know how restaurant meals are large enough for 2-3 diners, right? Well, we ordered two regular entrees and 1 iced tea; this is what we normally do no matter where we are - we share with DD so that we don't overeat (cuz I can eat my meal AND some). We don't drink alcohol and again, in keeping with trying to lose weight, didn't want added calories from ordering soda, hence iced tea, which my DH doesn't drink. Our waiter was efficient but was not especially friendly (not surly, but used no more words than he had to). The food was great; my pasta had about 50 small tortellinis (as an example of the large entrees).

At the end of the meal, I hand him my Entertainment card - for those who are groaning, let me just say that we always tip on the full amount and then some. He takes the card and says, "there's a $6 sharing fee." While he was gone to get our check, DH and I discussed this "sharing fee," so when he came back, I asked if this was disclosed on the menu. He said, "It's not, but it is our policy. For pasta, we charge $6 and for steaks, we charge $10. There's nothing I can do about it." I replied, "It would have been good to know ahead of time because we could have ordered her something instead." He said, "oh" and did look surprised as if he hadn't thought of that. BTW, a grill cheese (yes, Italian!) was $8. Oh, and he didn't split the order - he gave us an extra plate (that cost $6 to wash, I guess).

We tipped our normal, based on the total AFTER deducting out the fee. We thought about not leaving as much for tip, but my daughter said, "no... we asked for more bread two times!" And in case it matters, we were there for no more than 1 hour, and there was no other diners waiting for a table.

What are your thoughts on what, if anything, I should have/could have done about this fee? We're not going back. My DH is a little upset... he told me to remember to post on Chowhounds! He thinks the waiter added it after seeing the Entertainment card (possible, since he said it right after he took my card); I thought he might have forgotten to say anything when I said my DD wasn't ordering anything. Thanks for your feedback.

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    stjamesb1 RE: boltnut55 Apr 21, 2007 08:44 PM

    As someone who have worked in the industry before, I can understand why the waiter had formed certain opinions of your party, especially if you were sharing with a 9 yr old and asked for bread twice. May be the sharing fee is at the discretion of the wait staff and he exercises this whenever he sees fit, granted that this fee should be been more prominently advertised. Incidentally, we almost always ordered an appertizer seperately for our 3 yrs old. Often, an appertizer is less than or same as the sharing fee. I supposed that you could have spoken up to the management about the sharing fee and they may or may not take it off for you, but either way, you are not going back there any way, right?

    6 Replies
    1. re: stjamesb1
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      hilltowner RE: stjamesb1 Apr 21, 2007 09:28 PM

      As a long term industry worker myself, I too, can understand why the waiter formed certain opinions of the party, but that does not excuse the behavior. Either you do have a sharing fee or you do not have a sharing fee. If you do, it should either be on the menu, verbally given as needed, or ideally, both. Otherwise, it's just plain sneaky. I don't care who the customers are, or what warning signs were raised. You can't have policies that are at the servers discretion. Especially ones that are not stated. One thing I have learned is that people will always surprise you. You have no way of knowing how they will treat you in the end, unless you treat them right in the beginning.

      Frankly, I think you should have definitely brought it up with management. If the server had simply forgotten to mention it when you ordered, he would not have conveniently remembered when you gave your entertainment card. Maybe, he just had a hard time telling you about the policy. Maybe he hates it, but knew that he had to tell you sometime, but the fact is, if it is a policy, you should have been warned at least when you ordered.

      1. re: hilltowner
        t
        taco_belle RE: hilltowner Apr 22, 2007 09:03 AM

        What does the waiter's forming an opinion about the customer have to
        do with whether the restaurant tries to exact an otherwise undisclosed
        sharing fee?

        1. re: taco_belle
          hannaone RE: taco_belle Apr 28, 2007 12:10 AM

          First of all I need to say that the rest/server in question was in the wrong. All fees and charges need to be disclosed prior to the customer ordering.

          As far as opinion forming and Entertainment book coupons/cards -

          The intent behind a restaurant agreeing to being included in the book is to gain exposure and attract new customers. A secondary goal is to assist the community in that much of the funds raised through sales of these books go to worthy causes such as school activities. I did that with my rest. The first and second year that I participated saw many new customers come in, some of which became regulars.
          The third year I began noticing a new class of diner showing up, the "coupon diner". The coupon diner does not eat out unless they have a coupon/card. The coupon diner NEVER orders anything other than what is covered on the coupon - no drinks, no appetizer, no extra of any kind unless it is free. The coupon diner invariably leaves no or little tip, regardless of the service they receive. The coupon diner trades coupons they do not use with other book holders to get more coupons for places they like. The coupon diner rarely introduces others to the rest. All in all a very losing proposition for the restaurant owner and servers.
          This class of diner became so prevalent that I completely withdrew from all coupon programs and turned to other methods to help support local schools, clubs, and organizations.

          Before any flames start - This does not justify bad treatment or lower service. It does not justify hidden fees and policies. NOT ALL coupon users are "coupon diners". But it does explain why sometimes an opinion is formed.

          1. re: hannaone
            b
            boltnut55 RE: hannaone May 1, 2007 10:11 PM

            That's really interesting that you saw a pattern of the Entertainment book users. Hmmm, maybe in the beginning, it was more the charity-minded (specifically those with more money) folks who knew about the book, and then later it was found out by more the bargain hunters. Anyway, yes, I agree... I do understand why coupon users aren't always looked upon favorably... I guess deep inside, I just wished it didn't happen.

            I've bought the book for many years... maybe 20? Just seems like a really long time. Especially when I just starting working and then immediately bought a house (great idea thinking back, but at the time... there were many times when we only had money for mortgage and gas and sometimes had to go back to our parents' houses for rations!), my husband or another friend and I would use the card/coupon just as you mentioned (two of the cheapest entrees, water only), but we always tipped accordingly (OK, maybe the first year I only tipped on the actual bill and didn't add back in the deducted meal because I didn't know better, but I did quickly after reading it on the coupon/book). Now we order however we feel like, which sometimes just ends up the old way.

            By the way, the other day we went to Peter's Cafe in Millbrae and asked for a plate for my DD just in case she wanted to eat (she had already had dinner earlier). The server smiled and said, "of course." My DH tipped a couple dollars more just because of that! :-) We always get good consistent efficient service there.

            1. re: boltnut55
              hannaone RE: boltnut55 May 2, 2007 03:24 AM

              It wasn't just the entertainment book users, and not every user was the type of diner I described. We participated in several school and charity coupon books also. The "coupon diners" would collect coupons from everyone they knew whether they themselves bought the book or not. I even had one party try to present three different coupons from different offers, as well as the E book coupon. They were extremely upset when I told them I could accept only one coupon.
              I always gave everyone the same service regardless. I just wanted to explain in my earlier post why some people do form an opinion.

      2. re: stjamesb1
        hotoynoodle RE: stjamesb1 Apr 23, 2007 07:21 AM

        restaurant veteran here too. surcharges are not at the *discretion* of the waitstaff. either it's house policy or it's not. if i were his manager, i would have fired him.

        to the op:
        i would definitely have asked to see a manager, explained the situation and if not offered to have it removed from the bill, refused to pay the sharing fee.

        tell your friends. and don't go back. bad word-of-mouth can kill a place. most times, deservedly so.

      3. ccbweb RE: boltnut55 Apr 21, 2007 11:07 PM

        If it wasn't printed on the menu or posted somewhere, and especially if it wasn't printed _and_the server didn't say anything when you ordered, I'd have definitely said something to the manager about it. Policies that aren't posted aren't actual policies that customers can work with.

        I agree about not going back, it sounds like a sketchy sort of thing. And a $10 "sharing" fee for a steak is absurd regardless.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ccbweb
          Axalady RE: ccbweb Apr 22, 2007 06:14 AM

          How about the name of this particular restaurant so other's don't get caught in the same trap? My husband and I use Entertainment cards when we can, but I have always shown it when the server first comes to the table. I used one to take my Mom out to lunch one day and the waitress spieled off a bunch of menu items that weren't included. When I pointed out to her the coupon clearly stated the items were included she checked with her manager and when she returned and told us it's their policy, so we ordered accordingly. I always show any gift cards/coupons before we order. Saves potential hassels and misunderstandings later. As far as the sharing fee goes, that's ridiculous. My husband and I share appetizers all the time and we've never been charged a sharing fee. If it wasn't clearly noted on the menu I'd have protested.

        2. h
          HDinCentralME RE: boltnut55 Apr 22, 2007 06:19 AM

          Fees *must* be disclosed up front so that you can plan your meal accordingly. It should at least have been printed on the menu but ideally also disclosed by the server. You cannot be held responsible for additional charges you are not made aware of.

          You had/have every right to address this w/ mgmt.

          Assuming you resolve the fee issue satisfactorily (and I don't think it is too late) why wouldn't you go back (as you indicated that you enjoyed the food)?

          2 Replies
          1. re: HDinCentralME
            LindaWhit RE: HDinCentralME Apr 22, 2007 07:33 AM

            "Fees *must* be disclosed up front so that you can plan your meal accordingly. It should at least have been printed on the menu but ideally also disclosed by the server. You cannot be held responsible for additional charges you are not made aware of."
            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            I completely agree with this. They cannot tack on a fee without having previously disclosed it to you - restaurant policy or not. When the three of you were sitting there and you only ordered 2 entrees, the waiter should have immediately understood that you were sharing - and disclosed the sharing fee *at that time* -- NOT when you paid the bill. The fact that their "policy" is not even on their menu, as stated by the waiter, makes this very suspect. How can they charge you for something they haven't told you about ahead of time?

            A call to the restaurant management, even a day after the fact, should resolve it.

            1. re: LindaWhit
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              Leonardo RE: LindaWhit Apr 22, 2007 08:45 AM

              Agree completely with the above. I would have demanded to see the manager, and have said "I don't care what your 'policy' is. It's not on the menu nor was it told to us. We're not paying it."

              And yes, I would've taken some out of the tip.

              I'm confused as to why you don't say what place this is.

          2. andytee RE: boltnut55 Apr 22, 2007 09:16 AM

            I wouldn't have paid it.

            You can't be charged for something you didn't have a chance to agree to. If it were on the menu and you missed it, that is one thing. If its not there, they have no business charging it. Especially if they didn't plate it as two smaller entrees.

            The "nothing I can do about it" is a load of hooey. Restaurants have great discretion in what they charge for and what they comp. If he had to talk to a floor manager to do it, that is easy to do.

            Next thing you know they will try and charge you for taking a bite of someone else's dish.

            1. w
              wayne keyser RE: boltnut55 Apr 22, 2007 08:59 PM

              I don't think the fee should just not be counted in computing the tip - I think it should be deducted from the tip.

              1. n
                nosh RE: boltnut55 Apr 22, 2007 09:17 PM

                Some places just do it right, and others don't get it. I recently posted an extremely favorable review of Sasse's, in Fort Myers, Florida. They charge a $6 fee for sharing entrees, and it is clearly written on the menu. And for their portions and price point, it is entirely reasonable. Their salads are meant to be shared, can feed three or four, and are not subject to the fee. Their entrees are easily enough for two to split or for one person to eat and have enough left over for another meal -- hence the charge. Otherwise almost all knowledgeable customers would share an entree and there goes any profit and ultimately the business. I have also experienced them waiving the charge for larger parties eating many courses or if feeding a small child is involved.

                5 Replies
                1. re: nosh
                  andytee RE: nosh Apr 22, 2007 09:26 PM

                  Yes, if it's stated in advance, you can like it or not, but it's only fair to pay it. In this case it wasn't stated up front.

                  Personally, I can see this as justified in a high end place if they re-plate an order as two portions, but I think it is a little awkward to charge for an extra plate. When I eat out with the SO or family, we will often eat half of what is on our plate and then swap to share. Charging for this would be nuts.

                  In any case, its a fine line with some grey area for sure, but there is no way that it's appropriate to charge someone a spit fee they weren't told about in advance.

                  1. re: andytee
                    ccbweb RE: andytee Apr 22, 2007 10:14 PM

                    I agree, if its on the menu then its fair game. You can, ultimately, choose to order differently or leave the establishment altogther. I would be fairly upset, though, if I were expected to pay a fee and all I got was an extra plate set on the table. A fee should be for split plates, nor not at all.

                    1. re: andytee
                      n
                      nosh RE: andytee Apr 23, 2007 01:20 AM

                      My favorite dining companion and I like to swap plates about midway through the meal, too. But we find exchanging the plates ourselves is a bit awkward and gauche, especially in more elegant places. So we normally call over the server (and assistant) and have them execute the replacement. They hardly ever seem to mind.

                      1. re: nosh
                        andytee RE: nosh Apr 23, 2007 06:31 AM

                        by "execute the replacement" do you mean pick up a plate and move it to the other side of the table after it is halfway eaten? hardly seems necessary.

                        anyhow, i've swapped places with dining companions in some pretty formal places and never felt awkward or gauche, how different is that than passing a bread basket to the other end of the table? another method sometimes employed is to pass a bread plate to someone else and have it returned with a bite or two of their entree.

                        1. re: nosh
                          hotoynoodle RE: nosh Apr 23, 2007 07:23 AM

                          i've been that server, and honestly, they're faking not minding. you passing plates discreetly is no different than passing the salt. as a diner, the fewer hands touching my plate the happier i am.

                    2. amyzan RE: boltnut55 Apr 22, 2007 11:05 PM

                      I think a call to the state attorney general's office is in order. This can't be legal.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: amyzan
                        jnstarla RE: amyzan Apr 23, 2007 05:25 AM

                        I would so love to hear the conversation you have with the state attorney general's office about your $6 sharing fee. It's $6, come on.

                        1. re: jnstarla
                          LindaWhit RE: jnstarla Apr 23, 2007 07:19 AM

                          Perhaps a letter to the Better Business Bureau would be more appropriate. Yes, it's only $6.00 - however it was charged after the fact, when the diners hadn't been told about it, and were told it wasn't on the menu. That, to me, is illegal, and it should be brought to the attention of someone. If it is NOT the "restaurant's policy", as stated by the waiter, than he lied and should be fired for it.

                          I really wish the OP would let us know if they had any conversation with the restaurant's manager the next day, or has done anything else about it.

                          1. re: jnstarla
                            amyzan RE: jnstarla Apr 23, 2007 09:54 AM

                            The amount of the charge doesn't matter as much as the principle. Policies like this have to be disclosed to be legal.

                            1. re: jnstarla
                              amyzan RE: jnstarla Apr 23, 2007 12:14 PM

                              I've been thinking about this, and I don't think I was clear in my original post. I'm not saying I'd file a complaint with the attorney general, but rather ask what recourse to take, because surely this isn't a legal practice? and yes, Linda, it'd be good to know if the BBB has a record on this restaurant. If they don't, it might be worth the OP's time to start one.

                          2. b
                            boltnut55 RE: boltnut55 Apr 23, 2007 05:54 PM

                            Ok, everyone! Thanks for all your comments so far. Every so often, especially since I have access to the internet and LOTS of opinions, I need confirmation of my reasonableness before I go the next step. I called this morning and asked for the manager but was told that he will be in tomorrow morning, so I will call back tomorrow.

                            What do I want to get out of the conversation? I want to let him know about what the waiter did and why it was wrong. I will explain how I normally tip (in case that was the concern) and that the purpose of being on the Entertainment book is to attract new customers - if they love the place, they will come back without a coupon. I am assuming that he will be on the side of the waiter because he's the manager, and it's his or the owner's policy - on the check, there was a line item that stated "Sharing Fee" with the charge next to it, so it's not like the waiter disguised it as something else. We were upset, so we paid in cash and didn't take the receipt with us (so no proof of what we paid unless the restaurant keeps track). I will also tell him that I think he may have already added on a tip (based on my calculations and what I read on yelp.com about this restaurant) - so we may have double tipped and want to look at the check again I guess at lease, I'd want my $6 and extra tip back, right?

                            Anything else you would do/say? Especially if his reaction is, "that's our policy." Obviously, it'll go a lot better if the manager says, "I can't believe my server did that. I will credit you in cash right away!" But I doubt that's the way it's going to go. I anticipate his thinking is that three people came in, ordered two entree and 1 drink, and gave them an Entertainment card, so he's losing money and needs to add to his bottom line.

                            Thanks again. BTW, I will name the restaurant after my conversation with the manager... I just didn't feel right doing it at the time I posted a couple nights ago.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: boltnut55
                              m
                              mojoeater RE: boltnut55 Apr 23, 2007 05:59 PM

                              You probably won't get the 'extra tip' back since you paid in cash and have no receipt. But he might give you the $6.

                              1. re: boltnut55
                                LindaWhit RE: boltnut55 Apr 23, 2007 07:16 PM

                                "Anything else you would do/say? Especially if his reaction is, "that's our policy." "
                                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                If it was an UNSTATED policy until the bill came, I still have to believe that was illegal, and he should definitely refund your $6.00. And if the waiter added on a tip prior to you adding on a tip, that is an insult to injury as well!

                                1. re: boltnut55
                                  hotoynoodle RE: boltnut55 Apr 24, 2007 06:38 AM

                                  your tipping habits are irrelevant here. since you paid in cash, i doubt you'll get a refund since there is no record or proof of what you left.

                                  if there was a line on the tab for "sharing fee" is it possible you missed this on the menu?

                                  you can ask him to fax a copy of your bill to examine, although cash payment tabs don't always get saved.

                                  1. re: hotoynoodle
                                    b
                                    boltnut55 RE: hotoynoodle Apr 24, 2007 11:03 AM

                                    Nope... we saw a gratuity fee of 10% for 5 or more in a party, but no split order fee or sharing fee. The waiter also said that "it's not on the menu, but it is our policy" and then quoted the whole $6 for pasta and $10 for steaks thing. I live about 15 minutes maximum from the restaurant, so I'd be happy to go in person to examine the receipt cuz it's less about the money but more about the principle and the feeling afterwards of getting ripped off. OK, time to make the call... and I'll report in whenever I'm done. Thanks again, everyone.

                                    1. re: boltnut55
                                      l
                                      lebelage RE: boltnut55 Apr 24, 2007 11:56 AM

                                      While it was wrong of the waiter to not mention the policy when you ordered and the policy certainly should've been on the menu I doubt you will get your money back.

                                      Nor do I necessarily think you should. Try returning something anywhere without a receipt/proof of purchase... it doesn't happen. Since you don't have any proof of your meal or of being charged this fee it just isn't reasonable to expect the place to hand out free cash.

                                      How many restaurants get people claiming something but not having a receipt? Well.. in my time in the industry I have had 9, yes 9 people call wanting something from me with no proof of having dined- and yes, claiming to have dined on a day we were closed or for lunch when we weren't serving lunch.

                                      Should good customer service dictate that you are always given the benefit of the doubt? Well, in the eyes of the restaurant you don't spend much, use coupons, bring in children you don't order a seperate menu item for and are a complainer- in general, not a good bet for benefit of the doubt (I am not personally attacking you I am stating objectively how managers approach this from a "minimizing loss" standpoint).

                                      As to those who believe that nasty words should be spread around by people who have a single bad experience at a restaurant. Seriously... destroying a person's business over $6 or the like? Do you think even a total jerk deserves to lose their livelihood over $6? ...and when people slander restaurants and the business goes under it isn't just the "bad" employees and "bad" managers who lose their jobs.

                                      Really... does everyone working at a Home Depot deserve to lose their jobs because of a bad customer service choice by one or two people? What is it about our industry that inspires such bitterness and animosity in the consumer?

                                      1. re: lebelage
                                        d
                                        Devourer RE: lebelage Apr 24, 2007 12:30 PM

                                        A total jerk who is in the SERVICE industry may well deserve to lose their livelihood over $6. It's not the money, really, it's the way you treat your customers. I've had people try and cheat me for as little as 50 cents and it still left me with a bad feeling. There are so many restaurants out there... why go to one that's going to charge you a "sharing" fee that's not on the menu and not disclosed when you order? What else might they come up with when you don't order enough to make your server happy? A bread and water fee?

                                        If a restaurant gets good word of mouth business, I think it's only fair that the negatives get told as well. If i'm going to recommend a restaurant to friends, i'm going to make sure they know if there are charges that I consider unreasonable. It's part of the total experience, and a perfectly valid consideration when making a choice in restaurants. Why go to the place that tries to sneak in hidden charges when you can get food from someone nicer? The restaurant manager/owner doesn't deserve to have business... it's something they need to earn. Same with anyone else in the service industry.

                                        1. re: lebelage
                                          ccbweb RE: lebelage Apr 24, 2007 12:36 PM

                                          The $6 woldn't bother me by itself if I were the diner/OP. But, any business, I don't care what it is, that starts adding unlisted charges after I've already used the service in question is one that I'm not going to be happy with. The issue I have is that the charge wasn't listed. If I'm at my doctor's office and they start adding unlisted charges at the end of the visit and say "oh, we don't post it or tell anyone ahead of time, but its our policy" I'm not going to be happy. If Home Depot says after installing my sink "oh, we have this list of charges that we don't post anywhere but now you owe us this amount instead of what was listed ahead of time" I'm not going to be happy. Further, especially in this case, the OP hasn't listed the name of the restaurant in question and is waiting to identify it, if at all, until after they speak to the manager/owner. The fact of a fee is one thing, not listing it so that people can't make informed decisions is quite another, regardless of industry.

                                          1. re: lebelage
                                            b
                                            boltnut55 RE: lebelage Apr 24, 2007 12:43 PM

                                            Apparently the owner/manager won't be in until later this afternoon, even though another person I spoke to said she saw him - gives me a great comfy feeling on how the conversation is going to go. I acknowledge what you've said (such as what we look like to a restaurant and whether to disclose the name of the restaurant over $6 - which is why I haven't yet) and to ensure I don't get my hopes up high, what you said IS what I'm expecting as the result. Someone else I spoke to said there have been MANY similar complaints (she's affliated with them, not an anonymous person on the internet). More to come.

                                            1. re: boltnut55
                                              QueenB RE: boltnut55 Apr 24, 2007 01:31 PM

                                              Since you live so close, you should drive over there and chat in person. At least, that's what I would do.

                                    2. r
                                      ricepad RE: boltnut55 Apr 24, 2007 01:17 PM

                                      You could have asked to see somebody who COULD do something about it, and refused to pay it on principle.

                                      You are not being unreasonable, and I totally understand that it is not about the $6. Considering that you don't have the receipt, tho, the manager may feel less inclined to offer you a refund, and instead offer you something else...say, comped appetizers on a return trip. S/he should want to make things right with you, but since you can't prove you were actually there (ie no receipt), the 'make up' gesture will likely be in the form of a discount as opposed to a refund.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: ricepad
                                        l
                                        Leonardo RE: ricepad Apr 24, 2007 02:14 PM

                                        Agree with all the above except Lebelage. Without a receipt, it is unreasonable to expect a cash refund. A corresponding gift certificate is in order.

                                      2. jfood RE: boltnut55 Apr 25, 2007 12:11 PM

                                        Two similar concepts on two threads.

                                        Let’s get the easy part of this discussion off the table. There is NEVER an acceptable situation in which a server charges for something that is not disclosed on the menu.

                                        That being said, the first discussion in this case was the OP speaking to the server, who seemed to have a less than adequate attitude. The next discussion should have been with the manager. The OP had an interesting situation in that there was a precocious 9-year old. If you do not want to have this discussion in front of the little one, ask the SO to meet you at the car. Then discuss with the manager. If that leads to no results, then obviously this is a no-return scenario. Would I reduce the tip to the server? Probably, it was the server’s responsibility to inform the table of the split fee and given the attitude described, probably not a big tip to start.

                                        Now to the interesting part:

                                        I think there is a difference in splitting an order and sharing an order. The former is performed in the kitchen and the latter is performed at the table. I think there is a big difference between the two. Rare have I seen the food presented in a split order not be greater than a single entrée. The kitchen delivers more food and performs more tasks, so Jfood has no problem with a split fee for this service.

                                        On the other side of the coin, when a resto delivers a single plate of food and an extra dish and the custom “slides” some of the food from one plate to the other, a share fee seems unreasonable, but if properly documented on the menu, that’s the policy and order accordingly. If the server assists in the sliding of food at the table then this is an added service and the server’s tip should increase.

                                        The latter seems to be the case in the OP’s description of the sandwich. But let’s place a slightly different scenario on the table. If the resto charges $9 for a full sandwich and $5 for a half and the custos order a full sandwich (which is usually cut in half) and an extra plate, should it be charged the $9 for the whole or 2 * $5 = $10 for the two halves? Good business sense would indicate charge the custom $9, serve a good sandwich and you will have a return custom, charge the 2 * $5 and ill-will will be created and you will probably lose that custom and several of the custo’s friends.

                                        1. b
                                          boltnut55 RE: boltnut55 Apr 25, 2007 02:09 PM

                                          RESULTS - finally. First of all, thanks for your input. As I mentioned earlier, I just wanted confirmation I was on the right track. This is also a lesson for me. If I had only said something to the manager (who is the owner, by the way), this would have caused me so much angst, and y'all wouldn't have had to listen to me vent. I didn't say anything at the time because I was in shock and didn't know how to quickly respond. I also want to make sure I was being reasonable. And it was very quiet there, so I didn't want to make a scene (thanks, jfood, for giving me an idea for next time)... I'm no good with face-to-face "confrontation" - it makes me clammy and stressed. Below is going to be long because I want to cover everything.

                                          I didn't mean to hold everyone in suspense, but I had a hard time getting the opportunity to speak with the owner. I had called and asked for the manager on Monday but was told he wouldn't back until 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday. I called around 10:30 and was told that he wasn't in but to call back at 1:00 p.m. This restaurant leases from a hotel, so I called the hotel and spoke to someone there who said that they have received complaints about various problems, including hidden fees. This person also mentioned that the owner WAS in. I was told to let the manager of the hotel know of the situation. I left a message, and he graciously called me back but told me that any compensation would have to be done through the restaurant owner. I got a hold of the owner/manager at 1:15, but he told me he had to leave and would call me back at 2:30. He didn't. I called him back this morning, and he told me that someone tossed out the note in which he wrote my number.

                                          I was actually very surprised that he took the time to hear my vent without getting defensive. He did acknowledge that there are many reasons why people don't each order something, that he's done the same, that it is the customers' decision on what they want to do, and that his server should have told me about the fee first. He said it is their policy to charge a "split plate" fee but that they haven't made the changes on the menu yet (I didn't lecture him about not charging unless it's on the menu - I'm sure he knows that). I explained that I could have ordered a meal for my daughter if I knew ahead of time. I also told him that I may have been charged for the tip already and want to hear the itemized bill. FYI - I know they have records because in my work, about once a month, I call up restaurants to verify what someone has eaten (I'm a recruiter, and our company doesn't pay for alcohol. Candidates are supposed to include their itemized receipts, so when they don't, I call the restaurant). He said he would call me back by tomorrow (Thursday), but he called back within an hour.

                                          He read me the receipt, and I wasn't charged the tip twice, so I told him that I want to drive over and get my $6 back and asked him what time he was going to be there - from yesterday's and this morning's conversation, I knew he was going to be in and out. He said "6:00." I paused and said, "Can I come in 30 minutes instead?" because I'm feeling that he's purposely picking an inconvenient time (I'd be cooking dinner and there's a lot more traffic!), and he said it was fine. I drove there. He got up right away from the bar and came over. I introduced myself, and he handed me a wad of $1 bills. I asked him to explain what he means by the "split plate charge" in case I came again. He explained that it meant an extra plate, NOT asking the kitchen to do it like we all seem to agree. As I went out the door, I looked through my "wad" of bills, and there was only 5 ones, but that's my fault for not checking before I walked away from him. I didn't check because I assumed that he wouldn't short change me (maybe an honest mistake, maybe not), and I wasn't going in there again to ask for my $1. It's not about the money (although it paid for my lunch - burrito take out). I totally feel MUCH better now, like totally at peace, which was why I said in my opening paragraph of making sure next time I deal with something head on instead of letting it stew.

                                          To answer some of the comments/questions above: with an E coupon, I leave it on the table. With the card, the book tells us to give it to the server at the end; however, I think I will leave the card out as well. One of my friends actually gives a speech, "I'm using the E card/coupon this evening, but I will tip on the full amount." I think I won't resort the speech yet.

                                          I'm totally one of those who doesn't dress up unless I have to (you can't tell anything about my net worth by the way I look because I've never placed emphasis on that, and yes, I know that's not how our society works. But when I hear people say to me, "you are the nicest person I've come across in your position/field/company/neighborhood/____" that's good enough for me. One time someone said I was the nicest person he's ever met who had a relative buried in Cypress Lawn! - we were talking to different gravestone companies). I am also one of those who will surprise you. I take the time to write the "your employee was great" letters, tip appropriately, tell others about a good place, etc. I think it's a vicious cycle for a server to make assumptions about my ordering habits, potential lack of tipping, and treat me accordingly, because it is a self-fulfiling prophecy.

                                          I probably wouldn't go back because I can get good food elsewhere; plus really, the next time I go there, I'm still going to order the same way (two entrees, three people), just no E card... so I'll still be charged a sharing fee, especially now that I know. Being on a diet, I don't want all that extra food even to take home. They are a member of the BBB and has had one customer complaint that was resolved. I'm not going to file, since my situation is technically resolved. Regarding the name of the place, I've really strugged with this, but because all that I've said is true, and because they will continue to charge the fee that's not on their menu, I will. It's Ristorante Portofino in Pacifica - great view, large portions, good food, you know the rest.

                                          Thanks for your interest in my saga, by the way. I really didn't expect all of that.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: boltnut55
                                            LindaWhit RE: boltnut55 Apr 25, 2007 04:08 PM

                                            BN55, glad it was finally resolved. And after doing a quick search for Ristorante Portofino's reviews, sounds like the horrible management and surly waitstaff aren't worth any more trouble or any more of your time.

                                            I still cannot believe that they were actually charging you for an EXTRA PLATE vs. them splitting the entree in the kitchen. And I doubt it was an "honest mistake" that he didn't give you the full $6.00 back. This entire place sounds like one to be avoided at all costs!

                                            1. re: boltnut55
                                              jfood RE: boltnut55 Apr 25, 2007 05:24 PM

                                              B

                                              Wonderful story and to say you do not like confrontation yet drove to the resto is a great story. And like others before and after me on this thread there is NO WAY the missing buck was an honest mistake. There are so many nouns to describe that goniff, and you did the correct thing, forgetaboutit.

                                              That $1 will be one of the biggest money losing stunts the manager ever did as the chow-web spreads on this resto.

                                              Thanks for checking back in.

                                              1. re: boltnut55
                                                enbell RE: boltnut55 Apr 25, 2007 07:29 PM

                                                I have awaited the resolution of this probably more than I should have. Nonetheless, I applaud you for being so level-headed and for your ability to clearly articulate the problem with the manager. I, like you, tend to get flustered in the moment, so your making this public actually provided an excellent learning opportunity for me. Thank you. I would also like to add that many others (ESPECIALLY JFOOD, geez your wisdom astounds me!) also provided points of view that I may never have considered. I stumbled onto these boards purely by chance not too long ago, and never would have expected for such a "life lesson" to take place!
                                                EB

                                                1. re: boltnut55
                                                  t
                                                  tom porc RE: boltnut55 Apr 27, 2007 01:24 AM

                                                  Great experience! You were brave!

                                                  Portofino probably has an undisclosed $1 fee for "returns."

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