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Nov 24, 2007 09:20 PM

Horrible Rip Off at Corner House! [moved from Ontario board]

I've been to Corner House a few times before, including Winterlicious, and had great experiences. It's my 4th time going back. However this time, it would probably be the last. Food was still good, but here's what happened. This was the first occasion where we did not order any wine. Plus the upstairs room was kind of cold, and my bf was just getting over a cold, so we both asked for hot water. We shared an appetizer, each had 1 main (steak and rack of lamb), and ordered 1 dessert to share. We were both stuffed and couldn't have ate more.

When the bill came, they charged us 2 hot teas, $5, and $3 for the spliting of the appetizer. Now that is spare changed in comparison to the $32 mains we both had. I am not bothered because the bill came to $7 extra, but the principle of it. It really bothered me that they did not say anything or try to charge for hot water which is normally free at most restaurants. Just charge me more for my mains or raise the menu prices, if you feel you need to make more money. When I asked about the hot tea, saying we just had hot water and perhaps the waiter made a mistake, they came back with a "fixed" bill that literally said 2 HOT H2O service, $4 (so hot water with lemon apparently costs $2 each). I cannot believe that. It wasn't the amount, as we were not there on a budget. It was the audacity to charge for what would be normal service that is expected at any restaurant, and without a word beforehand. Should that not be what the tip is for? Simple water service that should come with any meal at ANY restaurant?

We tipped them well as normal, and bid the place audieu. I am not sure if management changed or whatever the reason was for this, but I don't like the way they work, and I will not be going back. Perhaps next time they will charge me for a sprinkle of parmesan cheese or the grinding of fresh pepper?

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  1. I don't know this Corner House of which you speak, but I agree that $2 for hot water is ridiculous. They surely wouldn't have charged you $2 for cold water. If they were going to charge you the price for tea, they should've at least offered it to you!

    What would bother me more, though, is the extra plate charge for splitting the appetizer and dessert. I totally get why restaurants do that when an entree is split, but I think it's ridiculous to assert the charge when both an appetizer and a dessert are ordered along with one entree per diner. It would be akin to imposing an extra charge on diners who elect not to order any appetizer or dessert.

    As you've had 3 positive experiences there previously, I wonder if it might not be worth it to give the place another chance after talking to the manager about what happened this time? I'd be sure to point out that I returned specifically because I'd enjoyed so much previously, etc. and see if this wasn't just an aberration.

    1. soho, how did you share the appetizer? Did they serve it to you on two separate plates or did you split it yourselves somehow?

      I'm so disappointed because I had been looking forward to returning to Corner House after a really good winterlicious experience a couple of years ago.

      1. I don't find this to be a problem. To serve hot water it costs the same as serving tea. The bag itself is just a few cents, while you're really paying for the use of the cup, the cost of heating the water, the cleaning of said cup, etc. And many restaurants charge a nominal fee to split meals - this isn't rare. Not so common here perhaps but in New York, where eat seat is a premium, you see it quite often. One higher-end resto in Toronto used to charge $4 extra for a half pasta for people who only wanted a small pasta but weren't concerned about the price! Restaurants are in business to make money...sad for some, but a reality.

        8 Replies
        1. re: ostracario

          WHAT??!?! You are honestly trying to justify a restaurant charging diners for plain hot water while trying to imply that the poster, soho, was somehow crazy for not expecting to be charged? And on top of that, the server didn't even have the balls to tell soho that there would be a surcharge for holding the nozzle on the hot water portion of their, likely, industrial coffee machine? That to me says that the server was looking for ways to pad the bill to average out a larger tip. Give me a break!

          Restaurants charge for tea because the markup is on the tea bag, not the hot water. With reasoning like yours, restaurants should be explicitly portioning out a measure of their overall electric or gas bills to each diner as well as each menu item. I'm not even going to address how offensive it is to charge an additional charge for sharing an appetizer. Portions are usually way too large in most restaurants already, and it makes perfect sense that two diners would share an app if they were aware, from past experience, that their mains would be more than enough food to begin with. What this restaurant's management has done with these surcharge practices makes it pretty clear what their priorities are.

          Of course the restaurant is entitled to make a profit, but looking for ways to pad a bill is just offensive.

          1. re: seeldee

            I have to agree with seeldee and soho.
            The practice is just bad business. I never understood why restaurants would stoop low just for a couple of extra dollars, especially since those few dollars will ultimately cost them repeat business (plus the effects of negative word of mouth...)

            1. re: seeldee

              If the diners ordered just hot water, it's very shabby if not flat-out dishonest to charge them for hot tea. But in rereading the original post I saw that they were served hot water with lemon, which by definition of tea being flavoring infused into hot water, is a tea indeed. If that's what they asked for they shouldn't be surprised OR offended by being charged for such.In many cases a generous slice of lemon in certain places at certain times of year could easily cost more than a teabag. Room temp and getting over a cold sound more like excuses or padding of their side of the story, and I wish she had left that part out.

              For the appetizer or dessert I agree with the poster- they each had an entree, it makes the restaurant look bad to split hairs and generates a lot more ill will than income..

              1. re: EWSflash

                But a slice of lemon or lime with cold water is standard in a restaurant, and one doesn't have to pay extra for it.

                1. re: EWSflash

                  Never been to a restaurant that includes free lemon with water? What? I've never been to one that didn't.

                  Don't know why this ended up here, but it's supposed to be a reply to OnDaGo below.

                  1. re: Full tummy

                    Wow, I am returning to a very lively thread. I think it raises the point of if the restaurant has the right to slip you charges without telling you, which makes it a lively discussion, beyond the scope of just what happened last night to me at dinner.

                    I just asked for some hot water, not hot water with lemon. But like someone else pointed out, you get ice colds and lemon with cold water too.

                    Often when you ask to change a dish, a waiter would tell you whether substitutions are ok, and they would at that point say, there is a charge for it. That is fine in my books. It's about telling your customer beforehand, and not about trying to gain the few dollars here and there.

                    I do want to write about what happened though, even if I had tip them less, because I think it's fair to let people know about the policies at this restaurant. This is part of the reason for this board, to talk about our good and bad dining experiences. In all fairness I did say the food was good. If you think it's acceptable, then feel free to go. In the end the decision is all yours.

                    Vorpol you do have a good point. I told my guest we shouldn't tip as normal, but my guest did not seem to want to. I didn't want to make a scene at our dinner and ruin that experience for the guest. I have written to management about this incidence to let them know. I don't think a waiter would have the audacity to charge the 2 H2O if they did not think they could get away with it, especially after I had asked them to fix the bill once (asking if hot tea was a mistake, they then changed it to hot water, so either way they seemed determined to charge for those 2 slices of lemon).

              2. re: ostracario

                Hum... Hum... I feel restaurants should check what's going on in town. Lots of competition and lots of reviews. Beware !

                1. re: ostracario

                  Among several reasons I disagree with this post: the logic assumes that the restaurant in question serves tea bags when one asks for tea. I don't know the Corner House, but at an upper end restaurant, I'd consider it a disappointment to get hot water and tea bag when I order tea. It certainly isn't proper tea service!

                2. I also think that both of these things were quite underhanded.

                  My question for you, soho, is why you tipped as normal? This seems to be a trend that I witness here all the time: someone is quite upset about something that happens at a restaurant but then he or she tips their usual 15-25%. It is the duty of the waiter to make sure that you enjoy your experience; the tip should be a reflection of their success at doing so.

                  I think in this case, I would probably have tipped as usual, and then politely told the waiter (and probably the management) that as the charges made no sense and were nowhere disclosed in advance, I refuse to pay for the hot water and the appetizer splitting. If they insisted on being paid for these, they could deduct them from the tip.

                  I understand that this may seem like penalizing the waiter for restaurant policy, but he or she should have probably disclosed such clearly stupid things to you in advance, IMO, and it would send a clear message to the restaurant that you disagreed highly with their business practices. If everyone keeps refusing to do so, restaurants like this will feel justified in this kind of behaviour.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: vorpal

                    much like the $7 tea at Xacutti, one should be warned when arguably basic things are significantly more than one would commonly expect....
                    at the same time, if there isn't at tactful way to say "2 hot waters with lemon costs $5", then really, there isn't a tactful way to charge $5 for 2 hot waters with lemon.

                  2. That's nothing. I was there once with my gf (no relation to your bf, I'm sure) and we each had a different entree. As usual, we both wanted to try each other's dish and so put a sampling on the bread plate and exchanged. When the bill came, we were charged an extra $5 each for splitting the entree!

                    Where is Mayor Miller on all this?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Tout Garni

                      ?????? You must be kidding. What if you had placed some of your entree on your fork and placed it into your gf's mouth? Would that be considered splitting the entree and would you have been charged $5?

                      1. re: Tout Garni

                        Oh my. Please tell me you disputed the charge and they took it off, for the sake of my general faith in good sense and taste.

                        1. re: Tout Garni

                          Okay, after reading Tout garni's post i amend my opinion- they shouldn't have been surprised to be charged extra for lemon in hot water, but maybe they had the right to be offended. It looks like the restaurant is keeping tabs on who eats what and charging for every variance, and only an all-you-can-eat place should be doing that. It's a scroungy practice if that's what they're doing.

                          But in giving them the benefit of the doubt, and without all the other "annoyance" charges, I wouldn't have been surprised at the lemonwater charge. It isn't mandatory to put lemon in water, though lot of places do it.