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Feb 14, 2008 08:02 AM

Special Pet Peeve

Hello Hounds --

Last night I went to a popular little spot in the East Village; one that I've been to before, that I've recommended, and honestly I will most likely go back to. The menu is inexpensive, with most apps in the $5-8 range, and pasta dishes hovering around $10-12. Yet the pasta specials sounded good, so we ordered two of them for dinner. They were listed on a chalkboard, and the waiter recited them... but there were no prices listed nor recited. There wasn't anything particularly exotic in them, nor would it seem that their preparations were elaborate. But the bill arrived, and the specials were *twice* as much as the other pastas on the menu. Why?! Why are the specials not more or less in line with the price point of the rest of the menu (truffle season excepted, of course).

It's not about the money, it's about the principle. Normally I ask about the prices of specials, but this is a low-cost, low-key place. Honestly, it didn't occur to me to ask. I was more offended by this because I'd recommended the place, yet I wasn't paying the bill. I think it was a little bit of a nasty surprise for her, because she doesn't have a ton extra cash to burn.

Am I the only person this bothers? Has anyone ever challenged a restaurant on their bill when this happens?

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  1. No, you're not the only one.
    I have a friend who absolutely goes crazy when "specials" are recited and without prices, yet.
    Instead of wasting our time while the server recites (and sometimes stumbles, poor things), why can't they just attach specials of the day to the menu with prices? I'll bet almost any server would be glad to volunteer to take the time to copy them on the computer and attach them to menus rather than have to stand there wasting everyone's time reciting. It would probably be less time consuming all around.

    2 Replies
    1. re: idia

      My father was like your friend. He would ask the price of every special, whether he was interested in it or not, just to make the point that he shouldn't have *had* to ask.

      But to the question of challenging the bill, if you don't ask the price I don't think you have a right to challenge it. It's a shame that it had to happen when the OP recommended the restaurant and someone else was paying. I'd certainly feel awkward in that situation as well. Caveat emptor, and lesson learned.

      1. re: JoanN

        joanN, i'm gonna take your father's approach: "and how much is that special?"
        ......"and how much is that special?"....."and how much is that special?"
        (well...maybe not, depending on how potent the cocktails ;-)

    2. im guessing this was max?

      its used to be more popular in the past. these days, decent restaurants treat customers with respect...especially considering you'll come home and post something right away on chowhound.

      places like perilla, market table, little owl...always are cool about mentioning the price. i think thats the only way to do business.

      1. The situation you have described, i.e., recitation of special without prices, is one of my major restaurant peeves. As I've said many times before, in the age of computers and printers, there is absolutely no excuse for restaurants not printing out specials *with prices* and providing this info with the regular menu. Nobody would ever accept a regular menu without prices, so why accept specials without them? Restaurants are the only place where this happens. Would anyone purchase movie or theater tiks without knowing the cost? Shoes? A candy bar? Restaurant owners do it because they figure that diners will be too embarrassed to ask for fear of looking cheap, thus making it an easy way to pad the bottom line. Frankly, it's deplorable.

        If a special interests me and no price has been provided, I *always* ask! Those who don't have nobody to blame but themselves when the bill hits the table and they're faced with sticker shock.

        Until enough diners make it clear to restaurants that they won't put up with this way of doing business and the practice is totally banished, it's "Caveat emptor!"

        7 Replies
        1. re: RGR

          RGR, you just hit on DH's pet peeve when you said "Nobody would ever accept a regular menu without prices,". Most menus don't post the price for tea, coffee, bottled water or soft drinks. He always asks the price to avoid paying $3.00 for a glass of iced tea.
          To OP, sorry this happened to you and your friend. Life is such a learning experience and this is one for us all. If no price is given, ask. Most of us are in the same boat - price does matter.

          1. re: Pampatz


            I must disagree with you in part. I have never seen a menu in lower end and moderate restaurants that did not list prices for coffee and tea. When it comes to upscale restaurants, all the ones we've been to have a separate dessert menu with prices, and that's where coffee and tea are listed along with prices.

            With regard to bottled water and soft drinks, I do agree that at high end restaurants, no prices are provided. But to be honest, we never order either, so I've not given much thought what the costs are. I'd venture to say that diners at that level don't care how much bottled water or a Coke costs.

            1. re: RGR

              IHOP does nto include the price for coffee on the menu.

              1. re: jes

                and Applebees does not list the prices for their cocktails

              2. re: RGR

                Most dine-in chains don't list the price of beverages on the menu. In a high-end restaurant, I wouldn't look because I wouldn't be ordering a Coke anyway.
                I agree that lower/mod owner run restaurants usually post the prices.

                1. re: RGR

                  <<I'd venture to say that diners at that level don't care how much bottled water or a Coke costs.>>
                  Ummm - wrong - did you not see this recent post about this issue?

                  1. re: Catskillgirl

                    jfood agrees with Catskillgirl

                    Bottle of Panna (flat water) $10. Chocolate mousse cake $9. Which would you buy? jfood does not buy bottled water in areas with good tap water.

            2. If I'm interested in a special, I ask the price as they are frequently more expensive than the usual menu prices. As for challenging the bill, I don't think you can do that in this case. They didn't mis-calculate, you simply didn't ask ahead of time. My pet peeve with specials is when there are more than about 3 that are recited. . .too many details to remember!

              1 Reply
              1. re: gourmanda

                I know, gourmanda and RGR..!! I (the OP) absolutely agree it's a caveat emptor situation. I normally DO ask. I'm not even sure why I didn't... but as I said I just kind of didn't think of it. And normally when I ask the specials are *close* to the prices of the regular menu.

                In my case the waiter was also the bartender, and was definitely harried. He may have simply forgotten to give the price. But still, in my "fantasty brain" I have a quiet little conversation with the manager about this...

              2. I ask the price of the special if it isn't given. I don't think it's appropriate to challenge the bill because you (general) neglected to ask a question. Same if someone orders a drink without knowing the price (which commonly happens). I think this instance is one you chalk up to a life lesson and move on from there.