HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Bill came- items were more expensive then they were on the menu

  • e

This morning i went to this little cafe with my boyfriend. I go there in the morning for a cap to go, which is $1.75. We got the menus and ordered 2 coffees ($1 each). If it matters this was in Brooklyn in a place a block or two from our house. We also got a muffin and egg sandwich. The food came out on the cold side and there was no cheese on the sandwich like we had specified. Whatever, we ordered two more coffees. I am completely aware that many places charge for an extra cup and was not surprised when four coffees showed up on the bill. I was surprised that the coffees were each $1.75. I mentioned to the waiter that the menu clearly states that they are $1 and he sent the owner over. The owner explained that they changed the prices and have not updated the menu. I explained to him that i ordered off the menu according to prices on it and expect to be charged that price. He changed them to $1.50 each. We paid it, left a generous tip (it was not the waiters fault, or was it) and left. I like the place but do not think I will go back. Now don't get me wrong the coffee was worth $1.75 and i would not have complained if the bill had not said $1, It is the principle.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Simple! The owner is wrong. You are not a psychic or clairvoyent!

    10 Replies
    1. re: Midlife

      I would have paid $1. The menu is their representation, you ordered based on that representation. That adds up to a binding contract.
      Legalities aside, from a customer service aspect the owner was just stupid. Why risk offending and losing a customer over a couple of dollars? I surely wouldn't return.

      Separate issue: why did you give a generous tip and reward bad service, mispricing aside? The food was cold and you didn't get cheese as requested. The waiter is your advocate in the kitchen and failed at that. I would have left 10%. This kind of overtipping is what leads to more lousy service and entitlement attitude that I find increasingly common.

        1. re: Leonardo

          You are right. Since the waiter had to go get the owner blah blah blah I felt he spent extra time, but now i am just making excuses. I get take out coffee in the morning and did not want them to think i was complaining about the price and being cheap. I thought if i left a bad tip the owner would assume i did it to punish the waiter for the increased price, not the lack of cheese. The total bill was so small that it is sometimes easy to add in an extra dollar or two without thinking about it. I do agree with you and won't do this again :)

          1. re: Leonardo

            You have NO IDEA if they got bad service. Was it the waiter's fault that there was no cheese? You have no idea. Was it the waiter's fault that the food was cold? You have no idea. Did the waiter cooperate in the customer's attempts to correct her (or his, don't want to make assumptions) situation? Again, you have no idea. It's not always the waiter's fault. Sometimes it is, yes, but not always.
            That said, I absolutely agree that the OP should have stood her/his ground and paid only the dollar per cup, no more, but you know what? The owner probably would have taken the difference out of the waiter's tip anyway.

            1. re: ctscorp

              Sorry, I don't buy that. Part of a server's job is making sure I'm aware of any changes to the menu, be it a dish that isn't available that day or what the soup of the day is or the fact that the prices have increased by nearly 100%.

              In this case, I'd have tipped the 10% minimum without a second thought, not even considering all the other issues the OP experienced. That's some seriously bad service.

              1. re: tartiflette

                I just have a problem with the assumptions. It is entirely possible that the server didn't know abtout the price increases, or, worse, that the server was told by the manager/owner to not tell people about the price increases. Since the owner/manager has already proven himself to be a jerk, why does any onus now rest on the server? I think a lot depends on the server's demeanor during the whole debacle, something into which we haven't the slightest insight. But as a server who has "eaten" the errors of my kitchen, receiving no/less tip for a problem no one ever told me about, I have to defend against the idea that the server should suffer for the manager/owner or chef's shortcomings. Tip the server, complain to the manager.

                1. re: ctscorp

                  "or, worse, that the server was told by the manager/owner to not tell people about the price increases. "

                  I'm sorry but if you're lying to the customers, even if its to appease your boss, you become responsible for their displeasure at the result. The choices when faced with such an instruction are to refuse, find a new job, or accept the consequences (i.e., that some people may be pissed and not tip you). Saying that the waiter wouldn't be responsible for lying if someone else told him to is ridiculous.

              2. re: ctscorp

                Uh, dude, the server's job is to (1) take the customer's order to the kitchen and (2) bring the food that was ordered from the kitchen to the table. If the server isn't responsible for checking to see if there's cheese on the sandwich, who is? The dishwasher? This server screwed up on (2). If that isn't bad service, what is?

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  agreed. even if the order is entered the way the customer requested it and it's the kitchen that screws up in the preparation, it's the server's responsibility to check it to make sure it's correct before delivering it to the table.

                  and i hate to say it, edbk, but the owner totally screwed you. the menu misrepresented the actual prices, and you should have only paid what was listed. if it was me, i wouldn't spend another dime there, ever. i'd rather give my business to an establishment run by an ethical proprietor.

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    It is the server's responsibility to check the order, yes, but short of opening up the sandwich, I don't see how he'd see the cheese. Do you want him to touch your food to that extent? Opening the sandwich, lifting up the egg? No. So the customer says there's no cheese, the server gets the sandwich fixed. A separate issue from the fact that the owner's a jerk.
                    And please don't call me dude.

            2. you absolutely are right. not only is that appalling, but is unethical if not completely illegal. you could probably report them- but the poor things are obviously hurting financially if this is how they're operating their business.

              i worked in a resto that had a few typos on the wine list- for example a $100 bottle was missing a zero so it said $10. but we knew about the typo and the onus was on the server (me) to tell the customer that beforehand.

              1. I doubt he would accept the reverse-
                perhaps you should pay $2.50 for your egg sandwich instead of whatever because it didn't have cheese and it was cold. Event though the menu said $4 or whatever.
                Isnt' it funny how he is willing to quibble over .75 and risk losing your future business?

                2 Replies
                1. re: stellamystar

                  I agree and still I don't understand how taking 25c a cup off was some sort of peace offering. I would've told him to take 75c off or don't bother. What's the point??

                  Also, if you change your prices, how hard is it to change them on the menu. You can over write with a pen, put in an updated insert or simply an insert that warns you ahead of time that the prices reflected in the menu have been changed.


                  1. re: Davwud

                    >Also, if you change your prices, how hard is it to change them on the menu.
                    somewhat amusingly, "menu costs" is actually a term of art in economics:

                    allegedly coined by the notorious stanley fischer:

                2. wow they put the prices up before changing the menus? How silly of the owner - if you need to put your prices up then get the new menus done first. He should have honoured the menu prices you were given.

                  1. I don't understand. Why did you pay the owner's $1.50 when the menu said $1.00?

                    The situation is the same in a store that hasn't changed its prices (always up of course) and tries to charge a higher price at a register. They have to give you the item for the price posted, if there is one.

                    1. Think of this as a very inexpensive lesson about the ethics of your neighborhood resto. Knowing that they'll cheat on posted prices would make me very uninterested in finding out what else they'll cheat on, especially since the second part of your learning experience was the cold food served without the expected cheese (that you specifically ordered). Move on, edbk. This place does not deserve your time or patronage.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Sherri

                        Where I live, there are very, very few places to eat a decent lunch within walking distance of my job. I take the bus so driving to other locations only happens if a group lunch takes place and someone with a car goes.

                        There are basically about 5 places I enjoy eating and I either bring my lunch or rotate going to one of the 5. Of the 5, two have very good food, the rest are mediocre.

                        In the case of restaurant #1, we were constantly getting wrong orders every time we ordered takeout (our department often has someone going out and offering to pick up/bring back for others). It got to the point where we were checking and and checking each order to the point of opening the wrapper in sandwiches to see if, indeed, they had left off the onion like it was requested on the ticket. We only kept going to this place because it has good food and like I said, we have very few choices. I wrote a letter to the manager explaining how much we wanted to give her more regular business but we were really getting fed up with how at least 1 thing is always wrong with our orders. She actually called me, offered to buy my lunch the next time I came in, and when me and a few others came in she talked to us about the challenges she's been facing in getting good help, how they're making some staff changes and how it would help her if we'd actually keep on her and let her know how things are going whenever we see her when we picked up orders.

                        Since then we have had almost no errors. She knows almost everyone in my department and happily greets us by name. Sometimes when we bring in other/new people, she throws in something free like a small side of fruit salad or slaw, and always thanks us that we keep coming back. When she added some new items to the menu, she actually came out to us in line to have us taste a couple of samples and now we eat those too.

                        In the case of the 2nd very good restaurant, it's almost the opposite. The owners are foreign, not sure what nationality but English is not their first language. The wife takes people's orders as they approach the counter (it's all food that's already prepared, regularly refreshed from the kitchen in the back). We are equally regulars at this place, they see our faces all the time. I've called her out several times for doing things that are shady to me. Examples

                        If the special is cauliflower curry and I order it, she uses her spoon to purposely go all over the big dish to avoid giving me cauliflower and instead give me potatoes, which are cheapter.

                        I plan to get a spinach pie. As I approach the front of the line, I see the pieces of pie going down to 1; the last piece looks pretty sad and old. The guy from the back brings up a new tray just as it gets close to my time to order and I'm excited I'll be getting the newer/fresher piece. She takes the old tray out with the 1 piece in it and puts it in the corner in the back of the room on top of a stack of dirty/empty trays. I order the spinach pie and she actually goes back to the back of the room to retrieve the old piece! I protest, and she insists it is perfectly fine and I have to really firmly now state that I do not want that piece and will not accept it, and that I want a new piece. She gives it to me and then shorts me on the potatoes that go with it.

                        The special I most often get contains a kabob and a salad with a free pita. If you get the kabob and rice it's actually more. If you get the kabob with sauce on it, it's more. I prefer it with the salad and no sauce. I know it's only a quarter difference but every time I get this special, I tell the husband what I got (he operates the cash register), he asks me if I got sauce and I say no, and he rings it up at the higher price as if I got sauce or rice. Every time we go through this, and I say, "I thought the platter with salad was X price" and he says, every time, "no, it's Y price." Then I point to the menu board behind him where it says X price and he gives it to me for that price. Why do I have to do this every single time?

                        I periodically get so mad at these people that I vow never to go back there, but I get tired of visiting the other 4 restaurants over and over and always end up going back. I think #1 is the right way to handle it and #2 is obviously the wrong way. I don't understand why someone would operate the way restaurant #2 does.

                        1. re: rockandroller1

                          Well at least restaurant #1 has encouraged you to speak up when there are problems -- clearly that manager is a winner, whether or not her current restaurant is. Have you considered talking to the owners at #2? I guess its harder because its the owners themselves who have done the offensive things, but any time people are forced to recognize you as a person I think you tend to get better service.

                          1. re: rockandroller1

                            Important life lesson: never get into a pissing contest with a skunk (i.e. restaurant #2). You already know what they're like. If you choose to continue to patronize them, why would you expect resto #2 to change?

                            1. re: Sherri

                              Resto #2 sounds like the OP's subject place. Very funny that one poster suggest the OP contact "corporate HQ" to complain, not noting that the owner himself is the problem. Generally I expect mom/pop shops to be more responsive & caring but that is not always the case.

                              1. re: Sherri

                                Excellent point. Some years ago a Chinese restaurant opened in my neighborhood shopping center, a two-minute drive/short walk from my home. The food was good. But after three times in a row of them making an "addition error" on my take-out check--each time a couple dollars in their favor--I just decided to pretend the place hadn't opened after all.

                              2. re: rockandroller1

                                "I don't understand why someone would operate the way restaurant #2 does."

                                Nor do I, rockandroller1. It's not the case with your lunch places, but with so many restaurants in Westchester, why ARE there still restaurants with an attitude?

                                I don't get it.

                            2. The owner is totally wrong in this situation. This has never happened to me, until last night when I went to a new restaurant in Manhattan and was charged $2 more for the tuna than the menu price. I wanted to wait and clear up the charge, but we'd suffered long enough at the restaurant, so my fiance said he'd give me the $2 if we could just leave.

                              1. Wow. I don't think I would've paid it. And I would have to say that the waiter is partly to blame, because until the menus are updated, I think staff should explaining that prices have gone up. I don't think you should ever put price raises into effect until the menu is updated, though. I wonder if there isn't even a law against it- I know that a major supermarket chain where I live has gotten into lots of trouble for having one price on the shelf and charging another price at the register.

                                1. There's no way in hell I would have paid a penny more than $1 for those coffees. DH would have been mortified at the hell I would have raised.

                                  1. Boy, would I have thrown a hissy fit! Charge me too much for coffee because you are too cheap to get new menus, and then give me a cold egg muffin without cheese . . . I would have been ranting and raving. You do not mess with my food or my pocketbook! I am not very large but I can get really ugly when stuff like that happens! And it is scary ;-)

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: danhole

                                      I am sorry about the cold, cheese-less sandwich. At least you like the coffee (enough to pay more than the specified price).

                                    2. Let's see 4 cooffees at $1 per and a muffin. Jfood would have left $5, thank the manager and left with no further comment. As they say, cut your losses, do not make a scene and move on. not worthe the price of an argument.


                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: jfood

                                        But the server gets screwed. Hand the server a cash tip--"this is just for you"--then ask for the manager and pay the menu price and not a penny more.

                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                          if i felt the waiter did his job and did not know that the price had changed, i would tip him, we're talking a buck here so no biggie. but if he was a party to this charade, no tip from me.

                                          The shill at a three-card monty game is still a party to the problem. i know, the manager told him to do it, but i will not tip anyone who is a party to a situation that rose to this level and in the end was reported to the DCA. May be harsh, but the server is being an accomplice to bait and switch and I, for one, will not reward such behavior.

                                          BTW - the server was screwed by the manager, then screwed himself, not screwed by me.


                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                            It would at the very least be a lesson to the server to warn future guests at the time of ordering that the menu prices were not reflective of the real prices, which he / she should have done in the first place to avoid issue.

                                        2. This happened to us recently in San Diego. My boyfriend like to guess the amount of the bill before he looks at it and in this case, it was off by about $10. We were surprised and asked to see a menu. Every single price was wrong, even the drinks. They said they had changed the prices in their computers, but not on the menus yet. They adjusted our bill, but it also makes me wonder how many people haven't noticed this happening and haven't said anything. I agree that the extra quarter he took off the price of the coffee wasn't enough. In this case, it was only 75 cents. What if you were in a fine dining establishment and it were a $10 error, not just 75 cents? The amount doesn't matter - the fact that it happened at all is what matters.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: tara17

                                            Let me guess, the gaslight district?

                                            One of my favorite LA yakitori houses was notorious for incorrect bills. I don't think it was intentional, you sat around a bar and kept ordering from the chefs until you were full. You also bought beers for the chefs, everybody bought beers for the chefs, it was surprising that they could still stand at the end of a night much less add up a check.

                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                Either way, I walked through there one night and felt like needed to keep a firm grip on my wallet.

                                              2. re: Scrapironchef

                                                Actually, it was in Hillcrest. A Thai place between 4th and 5th on Hillcrest just down the road from Saigon on Fifth.

                                            1. Was there a disclaimer at the bottom of the menu page stating something like "Menu prices subject to change without notice". A lot of places do this on their menus and on their websites... not that that is a very good defense in this situation.

                                              1. Wow. In my opinion:
                                                -You were absolutely right.
                                                -I would not have paid it.
                                                -I would have reminded the owner that, to the best of my knowledge, it's illegal to charge higher than the listed price in NYC.
                                                -I probably would have been yelling by the end of the conversation.
                                                -Too many people let things slide because they're embarrassed at fussing about small amounts, but I think we should all speak up.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Lady Grey

                                                  On the right day, or maybe the wrong day, depending on how one looks at it, I would have done all of the things that you suggested and perhaps even thought of telling the owner to revise the check or I would call the cops, or ask them to call the cops. Or I would have just left the correct amount on the table or thrown it at the cashier and walked out.

                                                  1. re: Lady Grey

                                                    We used to shop at a grocery store (only a few times) that consistently over charged for items that were clearly marked at a lesser price. It clearly stated that if the price was not correct at checkout, you would get it free. Most people didn't notice, but I did and called them out on it. The checker was annoyed, the people behind me were annoyed, and the manager was annoyed, but I got my refund, and it was a hefty $10.50 or so. Later this chain was in legal trouble, because, evidently, they made a regular practice of this. So the moral is that if you don't speak up there are people/corps/restos out there that will keep taking advantage of the unsuspecting. You are right Lady Grey - we ALL need to speak up.

                                                  2. I would remind him how long you've been going there and tell him you'll take your business elsewhere. I f the owner is so stupid to insist you pay, he deserves all the lost business he can get.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: bkhuna

                                                      So to update I reported them to Consumer Affairs and received an email that they were going to randomly inspect/check this and let me know the result. To me that was a good choice for me. I did not want to ruin a perfectly good morning with calling cops or risk now wanting to go back if i had so chosen. I now know that i will not return, a place like this does not deserve my business.

                                                          1. re: dolores

                                                            UPDATE: I just received the following email.

                                                            Dear Consumer:

                                                            DCA conducted an inspection of *************** on 10/4/07 the following was determined:

                                                            A violation was issued for failure to post service price posted

                                                            Thank you

                                                            ** I bet the violation was much higher then the couple bucks they tried to jip me out of. That will teach them!

                                                      1. jfood is sure many will appreciate this.

                                                        jfood was invited by a Japanese client to a high end sushi bar in Tokyo. Three people and they decided Omakase and sat at the bar itself, not a table.

                                                        90 minutes later, jfood felt like a fugu. has no idea how many pieces he ate or what half of them were, but wow was it great. Bill mistakenly handed to jfood and it's in japanese. Now jfood has no idea what he ate again. But he did know that the bill was over the top expensive and fortunately the host grabbed it and said, "you are my guest mr jfood and i must pay." Now Japanese custom dictates that he pay, but let jfood mention that even without them added stuff the three of us did not eat, this bill was equal to jfood's biz class seat from the US.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                          Ouch! I hope your client at least got some frequent fryer miles.

                                                        2. I had this happen and called the restaurant on it. So the manager came over with his new menu and showed me a mock up and said that he hadn't had time to print the menu but the prices had been changed in the computer. I refused to pay the extra.
                                                          At this same meal I encountered multiple roux balls in my chowder and when trying to order my vodka gimlet had the bartender come over because the had never heard of a vodka giblet - obvouisly they had some kinks to work out. ( there is just so much more....but it digreses too much from post)
                                                          My refusal to pay the difference about 18$ by the time we were done with all the courses was not taken politely by the manager. I was upset enough after the fact( situation so mishandled) that I contacted the owner.

                                                          1. I hate stuff like this -- someone else is wrong but you're made to feel cheap. This happened to me at a restaurant in Chicago. As I was by myself for that meal, I considered going back to my hotel room but decided to just eat there, and ordered a soda with my food. When the bill came, the price for the soda was like $2.50 -- WAY higher than the menu. I complained and was told it hadn't been updated, blah blah, and they paid $1 for the soda (yeah, sure you did) and it seemed that they actually had smaller sodas for cheaper but never actually mentioned that there was a choice. Then the manager made some smart comment about how she liked what I was wearing. Right.

                                                            I was really steamed about it for quite some time, too. Considered reporting to the district attorney, but I decided I had better things to do with my time.

                                                            Relatedly, the other day my husband called a restaurant to order takeout and I asked him to try some noodle dish that was listed as $3.50 on the menu; when they tell him the total, it's WAY higher than we expected -- turns out the noodle dish is now $10. Thanks but no thanks. "It's the price on the new menu," the person tells him woefully, as if they're not the ones who PRINTED the menu!

                                                            1. I'm pretty amazed at the shortsightedness and downright idiocy of the owner. Why a neighborhood place that depends on local business would even consider doing something so stupid, not to mention unethical and, I believe illegal, is beyond me.