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Won't give me water with my meal???

I recently paid $8 for two fish tacos in Malibu, which were very good, but I was angered when they refused to give me a glass of water with my meal. "Only bottled water", he said.

Have you encountered this? Do this make you as furious as me?

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  1. I posted about having a similar experience in Maine this summer. "Furious" doesn't begin to describe how I felt! We left, and found somplace else to spend our food dollars.

    1. A "Subway" restaurant here in Wilmington, Delaware, tried to charge me 40 cents for a cup of water a few months ago. I was prepared to buy a sub sandwich, but when I heard the news, I got up and left. They don't even offer bottled water. I had been a customer since the 60's but never again. Besides, there are much better sub shops around here than "Subway"!

      1 Reply
      1. re: ChrisInDELAWARE

        The cup is where most of the expense is for restaurants that offer take away food in regards to beverages. I doubt it costs as much as 40 cents but the cost of the cups, lids and straws is not trivial.

      2. A friend of mine owns a cafe in the country and part of her agreement with the health department is not to offer tap water. They are on a well system and the water is approved for cooking but not for serving to drink. Sucks.

        8 Replies
        1. re: mojoeater

          Hopefully she knew this before she purchased the restaurant, or signed the lease! (Sounds like the sort of thing the leaseholder would be obligated to disclose if they knew about it, and if they didn't, I'd be looking to break the lease/cancel the sale and move to another location).

          Yes, it sucks, but the solution seems clear to me. She should offer bottled water at her own cost. (doesn't need to be fancy bottled water, since this is presumably a casual place she could get the Culligan guy to set up a big bottle in the corner....). Otherwise, the negativity that her refusal to offer tap would set off probably isn't worth it in terms of loss of good will...

          but then, it does beg the question: if the water isn't safe to drink, what do the employees wash their hands in? and what are uncooked foods washed in? (All the more reason to offer bottled without charge: I am not sure those are questions you want your customers asking or thinking about!)

          1. re: susancinsf

            It's actually not that big a deal. All the drinks are bottled and people in that area are used to paying for them. They live on the property and drink the water all the time. It's approved for washing and cooking in the restaurant, just not for drinking.

          2. re: mojoeater

            jfood would have a tough time eating in a place that could cook with water you can not drink.

            1. re: mojoeater

              Years ago, I lived on a farm in Virginia where we used well water. The board of health constantly told us that the water didn't ,meet health standards because it wasn't treated. It was the best water I've ever drunk, and no one ever got sick from drinking it.

              1. re: pikawicca

                Ah, ok..That explains everything, pikawicca! Now I understand. Thank you for the clarification!

                1. re: pikawicca

                  It's so lovely to have your own good water. We live on the side of a fairly rocky hill with a deep well. Our water is delicious. I have no idea what the health department might have to say about it.

                  1. re: danna

                    The best water I ever tasted was running in a downhill stream on my BILs property in Wyoming, from a spring way up. Drank plenty of it right out of our hands and weren't worried at all. We had wells when we lived upstate, turned everything red from the iron but we used it anyway! Mankind hasn't always had "city water" readily available but somehow they were not wiped out of existance.

                2. re: mojoeater

                  What does she cook with? Assuming she has a filtration system (I hope!) she should offer tea at least.

                3. If I was refused a glass of tap water I would just walk out.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: rednyellow

                    ditto! If they can't spring for water (no pun intended) I'm not going to be a customer.

                  2. I know for a fact, it's AGANST THE LAW, here in Las Vegas to deny any requests for tap water..In any way, shape or form. It must have to do with the fact we are a desert, and temps can get to 115 degrees in the summer. I'm speaking in regards to a resto setting, or bar. Most places have bottled water, of course.

                    I would be flabbergasted if I was denied simple tap water, and would never, ever give my business to any resto that denied this to me!

                    I'm also very confused..How can you cook with, wash hands with, but not SERVE the well water? That seems just..backwards. If it's not "approved" to serve in a glass, why is it okay to do everything else?

                    Pardon my complete ignorance on the subject, but is well water still an option in the US? I would think if it's very, very rural, I could see it, but in the year 2007...Well water?

                    24 Replies
                    1. re: Honeychan

                      I live in MA, woodsy area but not concidered rural unless you come from the city, and almost all of us have wells. My general area, each house lot is at least 2 acres. I live high up and most of the surrounding land is conservation. Never a problem with the water. wells and septic are pretty normal in many MA areas.

                      1. re: Honeychan

                        I have heard this (about LV restaurants being forced by law to serve free water) from other people, but I can find nothing on the web that verifies that. It seems to be an urban myth. Can you provide a link that shows information regarding if that is true or not?

                        1. re: Servorg

                          Doesn't it seem logical to anyone else that if the tap water is not safe to drink, the management could simply post a sign about the issue? And then from there, if they want to offer free bottled or charge for it, that's their choice. But at least it would help to have a notice publicly displayed...???

                          1. re: Servorg

                            At the moment, all I could find online was that they have changed the law, and it's resto only serve water, when asked. (Due to drought conditions)

                            I'm trying my best to find out if there is a city ordinance, or how the law is written in regards to "unlawful to deny drinking what when asked". I'll post more, if I can find out.

                            It very well -could- be a "urban myth", I guess..But, it's a smart one.

                          2. re: Honeychan

                            According to the US Geological Survey, over 45 million Americans use well water. And not just in remote rural areas. The area to which I referred is only 15 minutes from a city. And drinking water has different standards than cooking and washing. Boiling water removes most contaminants, and hopefully you use soap when you wash your hands!

                            1. re: mojoeater

                              Boiling does not remove certain important contaminants, and soap is not the primary cleanser of hands. If you can't drink it, cooking or washing dinnerware with it is not a great idea...

                              1. re: Karl S

                                Cooking with water occurs at such a high temp that I can't imagine what pathogen wouldn't be killed.

                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  Chemical contamination will not be eliminated by boiling the water.

                                2. re: Karl S

                                  Which is why I specifically said I hope she has a water filtration system because she'd be a hypocrite if she cooked with the well water. So if she can serve food with her water, then hot tea should be fine.

                                  1. re: DarthEater

                                    Home water filtration systems will not remove many chemical contaminants And to be more specific, a detailed chemical analysis of the water would need to be performed so the correct filter is present in the system. it's not a one-shoe fits all science.


                                    1. re: jfood

                                      Interesting, but she can still cook and serve food with that water? Unless shes going through gallons of outsourced water a day.

                                      1. re: DarthEater

                                        exactly my point earlier. if you can;t drink the water it is almost inconceivable that she has a filtration system that can filter the resuired water for cooking and cleaning.

                                    2. re: DarthEater

                                      This could be an issue of scale, though - the concentrations of whatever is in her water could be such that the residual amount on hands, food, etc. would not pose much of a risk, but habitual consumption of large amounts in the form drinks could lead to problems further down the line.

                                3. re: Honeychan

                                  I thought that was generally the case across the US?


                                  1. re: Honeychan

                                    this is true in Hawaii in rural areas where the water comes from a catchment system. private homes can use it for whatever they want, and everyone does, no one gets sick. but it is not approved for restaurant use because any water (even for dishwashing I believe) in a restaurant must come from an approved treated source, so they have that water trucked in - but I've never heard of a restaurant refusing to serve whatever "approved" water was available.

                                    1. re: Honeychan

                                      Same thing in Arizona. A restaurant cannot refuse a request for tap water, even if that's all you're ordering.

                                      1. re: ajs228

                                        I would ask you the same as was asked of the poster from Las Vegas: Do you have any source to indicate that this is actually true?

                                        I searched Arizona statutes and regulations and could find no reference.

                                        1. re: FrankJBN

                                          Not at my fingertips, no, but as I recall the law was passed a few years ago (less than 5) as a way to prevent homeless people from dying of dehydration during our brutal summers.

                                          1. re: ajs228

                                            I actually found a web site that says Arizona does have this law on its books. But from what I can see it includes all places of business, not just restaurants.


                                      2. re: Honeychan

                                        I live in the suburbs in Manchester, NH..1 mile from a very large mall and very close to the airport ..so it is not rural at all and I have a well. Actually everyone on my street does. So it is not uncommon at all.

                                        1. re: Honeychan

                                          In most of New England outside of big cities, it's all well water. I've always had it. And we live in the suburbs, not rural at all.

                                          1. re: madisoneats

                                            Well TT having eaten all over can confirm that North Carolina has the best tap water. Every place in NC had good water, and it was free!


                                          2. re: Honeychan

                                            I grew up in CT, not exactly the suburbs, but not totally rural either, pretty standard New England small town. We have a well. I don't actually think we had city water as an option actually. Everyone in my neighborhood have wells. The water is delicious.

                                            1. re: Honeychan

                                              Suburban West/Central NJ. Well water.

                                            2. This somewhat happened to me at a Starbucks recently. I ordered two drinks and also asked for a cup of ice water- I was told that they can provide me with water, but no ice. Store policy. It makes no sense, but they were so rude about it I've taken my business elsewhere ever since.

                                              20 Replies
                                              1. re: lilinjun

                                                Some places (especially chains, I think) have a "count" on the cups. And every cup has to relate to a charge....so that might have been why the o.p. was denied water. I too have been told at certain places that I can't have a full cup of water/ice...and given a little dixie cup for the water.

                                                I don't get the ice thing either....I love ice, and the more the better. Yet many places won't give you a big cup of ice (I guess because of the drink thing I mentioned before.).

                                                1. re: janetofreno

                                                  They may at some places. The ones where I've worked didn't keep real track of the cups; it was good this way because if someone dropped their drink or otherwise damaged their cup then you could just go get them a new one. The main reason for giving little teeny cups for the ice water is that those cost considerably less than the custom printed waxed cups in use at so many places.

                                                  1. re: janetofreno

                                                    hate that cup count thing. One chain here used to refuse to give me a small specialty coffee in a large cup for that reason. The coffee came with a mound of whipped cream and there was no way I could take it to go in the small cup, overflowing with whipped cream as it was... so I stopped getting that drink (and really don't go to that chain anymore). I feel bad for the staff who are stuck with these rules and no leeway for logic/customer preference, but Head Office needs to figure this stuff out.

                                                    1. re: janetofreno

                                                      Ice costs money to make and store, whether you make it yourself or buy it from outside. And cups, lids, straws etc cost probably more than you think. Not to mention bathroom supplies, when people want to use the restroom without buying anything....little things like this can add up for a busy place.

                                                      1. re: coll

                                                        I understand your point, but then the customer gets punished because the store owner isn't charging enough to cover overhead.

                                                        Speaking of bathrooms, try driving across California while you're on diuretics and see how many times you have to use one. (Peeing behind your truck in the wilderness is one thing. Trying to do it on the 405 in Sherman Oaks is another.) That happened to me. If I had to buy something each time I used a fast food's or convenience store's bathroom, I'd have spent an extra hundred dollars. If the owner set up a "tip jar" I'd be willing to drop in a quarter when I use the john, but I'm not going to spend $1 or $2 each time.

                                                    2. re: lilinjun

                                                      Good for you! I can't think of any reason it would be acceptable to refuse ice to a customer....But Starbucks??? Someone needs to get their head out of.....the stars.

                                                      1. re: southerngal

                                                        I'm not suggesting that lilinjun was going to or would do the following. And, my following musing in no way excuses being rude to a customer in any event.

                                                        In the case of Starbucks, it might well be a response to customers who order a cup of ice or an "iced americano, no water" ie, espresso on ice, and then add a cupful of milk from the pitchers that are out for people to add (one would presume limited amounts) of milk or half and half to their drip coffees. I'd imagine that many people who think the lattes are too strong would also order a cup of ice, split their latte into the two cups and add milk from the same pitchers. Many folks seem to do this sort of thing proudly as though it's a noble thing because they don't like the prices that Starbucks charges.

                                                        Generally, I've seen many many places that charge 25 cents or so for a cup of ice and/or water. These have always been places that only have disposable cups, though.

                                                        1. re: ccbweb

                                                          I get an iced espresso all the time and then add a swig of milk. That's cheating how?

                                                          1. re: wittlejosh

                                                            hello, you may enjoy googling for "ghetto latte".
                                                            some people get seriously passionate about this issue.
                                                            there are ~600 comments about this here:

                                                            YMWTGF("doppio-latte arbitrage opportunity") for a more
                                                            highbrow discussion.

                                                            ok tnx

                                                            1. re: psb

                                                              Yikes! I just spent an hour reading that site. I'm not sure my drink counts as a "ghetto latte," but I'm going to rethink my ordering strategy. It just never occurred to me.

                                                              1. re: wittlejosh

                                                                >Yikes! I just spent an hour reading that site.
                                                                hmm, we'll all have to work a little harder to make up the GDP loss.

                                                                >but I'm going to rethink my ordering strategy.
                                                                some questions presented and thoughts ...
                                                                1. in the case of starbucks, i think as a practical matter [although not
                                                                as a matter of principle] the extra cost of the milk really hurts
                                                                starbucks. although i have to admit for a mom_barista&pop_roaster
                                                                operation i dunno how much helping yourself to 4oz of half and half
                                                                costs the bottom line. [btw, is there a economically honest reason to
                                                                charge more for soy drinks? or is that some kind of price discrimination?]

                                                                2. so i think the real "victims" of the ghetto latte practice is if it makes
                                                                it significantly more likely another customer will find insufficient/zero
                                                                dairy product when he goes to augment his drink ... forcing him to
                                                                "settle" for suboptimal dairy level or paying a large "milk cache miss
                                                                pentalty" [instead of being on his way in 30sec, might take up to 5min
                                                                to negotiate a refill].

                                                                ok tnx.

                                                                1. re: psb

                                                                  "for a mom_barista&pop_roaster operation i dunno how much helping yourself to 4oz of half and half costs the bottom line"

                                                                  That's easy. A small coffee shop probably pays retail for half & half which is around 2.60 a quart. 4 ozs costs the shop .32. If the shop makes $1.50 profit on every $2 cup o' joe, then each 4 oz of cream costs 20% of that profit.

                                                                  Not insignificant.

                                                                  1. re: psb

                                                                    I went there too. My main thoughts are:

                                                                    1. It's STARBUCKS for christ sake. If you didn't have a few extra dollars to light on fire, why are you there in the first place? There are cheaper places to get coffee.

                                                                    2. Half and Half? People Drinking large quantities of Half and Half? A Tbls. in coffee I can see (and have done) But enought to mimic a latte? Are they TRYING to gain 100 pounds?

                                                                    1. re: danna

                                                                      1) exactly.
                                                                      2) yep. in some places (not starbucks) it's on the menu...a "breve." or, if you're me, "scary in a cup"

                                                                      that obesity epidemic and the heart disease issues in our country suddenly become far easier to understand.

                                                                      1. re: danna

                                                                        Danna, re: half & half. I worked at a WF type place,with a hot bar/salad bar, full juice & coffee bar with condiments - all organic (including soy, rice, almond, regular, 2% & lactose free cow milks). People on occasion would buy a box of cereal from the grocery store portion, use a giant salad bar bowl & fill it to the rim with half & half!
                                                                        We went through 4 qts of half and half in 20 minutes! There were no coffee sales during that period, so it was all in the cereal!
                                                                        I am continuously amazed! Also had a very wealthy couple ringing up 2 salads to go. No problem until I realized they had filled two large soup-to-go containers with salad dressing & were arguing that they wanted the dressing on the side. I have no problem with not charging for a few condiment sized containers, I'm not going to nickle & dime to have you pay for that, but this was OVER TWO POUNDS of dressing! This is why things cost what they do. Most people are great & considerate & understand what is reasonable. But the ones that abuse it do so in a way that really hits you hard and not only do good customers get inconvenience when the cream is empty in 2 min., but they end up subsidizing poor behavior as well.

                                                                        1. re: meatn3

                                                                          Maybe I've just been naive, but I NEVER realized people do these things. It's disgusting. Eating free bread and then leaving? Making ghetto lemon ade?? This thread has truly opened my eyes to how rude people can be. Then again, I was at Target the other day and bought a bottle of water on my way out. I was trying to get a napkin and there was this woman standing in front of the soda and condiment area who was gulping down her small soda and refilling it over and over (at least 4 times that I saw). Blocking everyone from getting to anything in the meantime.
                                                                          Or sometimes when grocery shopping I see people eating a bag of chips or something you know they aren't going to pay for. As meatn3 said, we end up subsidizing this behaviour one way or another.

                                                                          1. re: SweetPea914

                                                                            The big chains call this "shrinkage", and have a permitable percentage to account for it (say 2 or 3%): anything over that and someone gets fired. This covers customers AND employees taking things they shouldn't. It gets figured into their cost analysis when pricing things up, so there you go.

                                                                  2. re: psb

                                                                    What a great link and i have absolutely no intention of reading anything other than the originall whine-entry.

                                                                    Here's my advise to the store owner:

                                                                    DON'T MAKE THE CUSTOMER PUT HIS OWN MILK IN THE COFFEE!!!

                                                                    SB created this business model and the original idea to have a PT Barnum look-alike as the logo was rejected. Now that the stupid money (the people who order the "Iced Quad Venti Breve Latte and an Iced Triple Grande Breve Latte" for $5 each ) have evoluted (sic) from an amoeba and are shooting for a two-cell organism the push me-pull-you begins..

                                                                    And now the dealer in the 3-card monty scheme is upset that the players have learned not to watch the queen but watch the other card to win, and they cry FOUL!

                                                                    Personally anyone who orders anything in SB other than a cup of coffe is insane (and my kids did that for years), but it's their money and if they want to spend another $3 for some cream (which is free) and some air (which is also free) then more power to them.

                                                                    Here my advise to really piss off the SB barister. Order a large coffee in a double cup. Take the two cups to the milk bar and disengage. Pour whole milk in the empty cup and take a straw and blow bubbles into the milk. Add the coffee and you have cafe au lait in one cup and add some milk to the other and you have an Amercan Coffee in the other. All that for $2 or a buck a cup. And the looks you will receive from others is priceless. And no i have never done this but one can always come up with crazy ideas.

                                                                    And SB owners, you created this monster, you have to give greater credit to those who are just trying to place commodity pricing on a commodity product.


                                                                  3. re: wittlejosh

                                                                    they are not talking about a swig of mild. they are talking about emptying half the cup into another cup and then filling them BOTH back up to the brim with the milk. Quite a difference I'd say.

                                                                    1. re: wittlejosh

                                                                      At first blush, "swig" sounds like a comparatively small amount of milk, similar to what one might add to a cup of drip coffee and a far cry from the 8 or 12 ounces of milk that those I was thinking/writing about would add to their iced espresso.

                                                              2. Here's your line: "WHAT? Well, then, I'll eat somewhere else - thank you, but this meal is unacceptable." (Exit).

                                                                1. Would you feel the same way at a top restaurant?

                                                                  How about at a place that sold only canned/bottled sodas/teas, but not water? (Although, almost everywhere sells water these days.)

                                                                  My last question is whether you have ever purchased bottled water? If so, you have only yourself to blame. You (and other purchasers) created the demand for an absurdly over-priced product which has supplanted an option which was free.

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: FrankJBN

                                                                    Mr. FJBN:
                                                                    while i agree the bottled water thing has gone a bit overboard [YMWTGF(water sommelier)],
                                                                    i think your comment overreaches a little. i think it is not unreasonable to have water for
                                                                    money in some cases.

                                                                    1. in some cases it costs money to provide clean/cold/potable water at a certain
                                                                    location without city plumbing running to that location. clearly without a mkt transaction
                                                                    being an option, the water wouldnt be provided. [the only place where i buy a lot of
                                                                    water is travelling in countries with sketchy water. but i buy cheep water, not VOSS].

                                                                    2. in some cases, the option to buy water is a little bit of a money dance ... like you are
                                                                    in a bar/resto with friends and are not a drinker. perhaps you dont like sugar drinks
                                                                    or dont want the calorie hit ... so there you are just paying a little tax/fee to be there.

                                                                    anyway, if people want to pay for something i suppose it is ok if costs are
                                                                    internalized. now what is obnoxious is when you arent allowed to carry your
                                                                    own water or it is overpriced in places with local monopolies etc.

                                                                    1. re: psb

                                                                      You shouldn't have to pay for tap water, but at "fast" places where they use disposable cups i'm in total support of customers having to pay for extra cups or cups just for water - people always way more than they need and end up throwing it all away.

                                                                      1. re: psb

                                                                        I'm not exactly sure what you are saying psb, but I disagree with a couple of points anyway.

                                                                        In almost absolutely all locations it costs money to provide clean cold potable water, even with city plumbing. Cities do not provide water for free.

                                                                        A bar (especially with friends) is one place you can always get a glass of water for free.

                                                                        1. re: FrankJBN

                                                                          >Cities do not provide water for free.
                                                                          the marginal cost of some water at a place with a tap is ~0.

                                                                          but the marginal cost isnt 0 everywhere.
                                                                          say i am at a street fair and i didnt cart along my nalgene
                                                                          bottle and i want to buy some street food ... or am just thirsty. it is
                                                                          not unreasonable my options include coke or h20.

                                                                          if you are in mexico or india, the cost of cold tap water may in fact
                                                                          have the monetary cost of 0, but factoring in "non-economic costs"
                                                                          may make that $1 bottle cheep indeed.

                                                                          the situations i object to are:
                                                                          1. costs not being internalized
                                                                          2. artificially forcing a customer to engage in a unreasonable
                                                                          transaction. an interesting case is the movement to provide
                                                                          free water in (dance) clubs to reduce dehydration-related problems
                                                                          of "patrons" on Ecstacy. see e.g.

                                                                    2. I've come across places that charge you for bottled water when you ask for "water' claiming you didn't specify. But I've never heard of a place that will refuse you a cup of water! Ridiculous!