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Do I really want to spend $693 on a bottle of wine?

john Feb 19, 2008 10:20 AM

So I went to a very pleasant dinner in Vail over the weekend with fantastic food from appetizers through dessert - the issue, however, was the service. First of all they completely switched one of our appetizers - gave us an entirely different pasta without asking. The waiter came over 3 times to ask if it was ok - clearly trying to gauge whether he should leave it on the bill. We said it was fine, but not exactly what we were looking for. The pasta was on the bill until we asked for it to be removed - which it was. He claimed he "forgot" to take it off the bill, but I think I would believe a 5 year old with chocolate all over his face claiming he was not the one who took the last cookie more than this joker.

The real kicker came to the wine selection. We had already started with a very reasonable $50 bottle of champagne when I started asking about a bottle of red to go with dinner. I specifically asked about a couple of $65 bottles of Oregon Pinot Noir. He tried to steer me towards a $100 bottle and I was clearly not interested in spending that much and asked for other suggestions. Then, this waiter had the audacity to tell me how wonderful a $693 dollar of wine was and how much we would enjoy it with our food. I wasn't quite sure what to say to him so I sent him away to get the sommelier (who was ver helpful in picking out a $58 bottle of red burgundy).

What would you all have done in this situation - I feel like I probably should have told the manager how inappropriate the waiter was across mulitple dimmensions. I have never been recommended a bottle anywhere close to that price (probably $120 at most). IMHO, if you are looking for an expensive bottle you should ask for it proactively, not try and be sold. I can understand moderate upselling, restaurants are businesses, but could you imagine walking into a Honda dealer and being told you should really be looking at Porsches?

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    xanadude RE: john Feb 19, 2008 10:47 AM

    15.000000% or significantly less tip for service like that, possibly as low as 0.0% to send a message.

    1. a
      AlyKen RE: john Feb 19, 2008 10:50 AM

      Ask him when the last time he ever ordered a $693 bottle of wine. I hate it when people try to upsell or oversell food. I like tap water with my meals and everyone tries to sell me bottled water. I seriously doubt that waiter has ever had the wine.

      I wouldn't have tipped at all. I think that tips are for good service and 20% is not required.

      1. waitress RE: john Feb 19, 2008 12:07 PM

        Bad server etiquette! Upselling is an art, you shouldn't even notice it!! Once this waiter bad mouthed a wine and my girlfriend replied, "my father sells this wine and I like to support his company" talk about shut the waiter up!!
        A way to avoid this in the future is look at the restaurant wine list on the website before visiting or just pick a price point and go with it. Hopefully this is one bad experience you will have better servers in the future!

        1. e
          excuse me miss RE: john Feb 19, 2008 08:37 PM

          i can think of three explanations...

          a) the waiter was young and inexperienced and completely clueless
          b) the waiter was old and senile
          c) the waiter was quitting tomorrow and decided to have a little fun at your expense (get it- "expense"!)

          1 Reply
          1. re: excuse me miss
            john RE: excuse me miss Feb 27, 2008 01:33 PM

            I think it was more the second half of a. He was probably about 30, but apparently just stupid.

          2. NYChristopher RE: john Feb 27, 2008 12:18 AM

            I'm sorry to say that I have become less reliant on the servers (I frequently know more, or at least I know my own tastes better) and more reliant on sommeliers, who are not without fault themselves. The best of them will gauge what you are eating and then, quite literally, try to read you for price. When you picked a $50 bottle and asked about a couple of $65 bottles, there is no reason why the waiter should have gone up ten-fold on you.

            My favorite experiences are when I give an idea of my price point and the sommelier comes in under it (assuming, of course, that I like the wine).

            Bottom line: asking for the sommelier was a step in the right direction; a poor (or 15.00000%) tip would have also reinforced that message.

            Of course, I have no idea how to tip sommeliers ... I am often clumsily asking for them at the end of the night and then palming them a tip directly (assuming it was deserved). if anyone has a suggestion on how better to handle it, I would appreciate it.

            2 Replies
            1. re: NYChristopher
              ClaireWalter RE: NYChristopher Feb 28, 2008 01:40 AM

              Which restaurant? Inquiring Chow-minds want to know.

              Speaking of waiter etiquette, as I also posted on the Food Media board, the Denver Post food section ran a piece yesterday about the waiter's perspective and the diner's perspective of restaurant service. See it at http://www.denverpost.com/food/ci_836... . The issue of trying to upsell a customer from a $50-$60 wine to an almost-$700 bottle did not come up!

              1. re: ClaireWalter
                NYChristopher RE: ClaireWalter Feb 28, 2008 04:40 PM


                Were you asking me or John?


            2. Servorg RE: john Feb 28, 2008 04:52 AM

              Did he actually quote the price to you, or simply point out the bottle on the wine list? If he only pointed it out to you it's possible that the young waiter may have simply misread the price as $69, which would have been in your already established price range.

              On the other hand, if he said "And it's only $693" then he has been working in Vail far too long and needs to relocate to another city where ordinary people don't fly in and out of town on the way to and from their homes in Tahoe, London and Manhattan on their G-V's.

              9 Replies
              1. re: Servorg
                john RE: Servorg Feb 28, 2008 07:49 AM

                I'm actually from Manhattan and I can tell you that has never happened to me at home. As I recall he did point out that it was "a little pricey."

                Utterly ridiculous.

                ClaireWalter - it was Larkspur.

                1. re: john
                  Cheflambo RE: john Feb 28, 2008 08:20 AM

                  He may have been young, but Im sure he could calculate the 20% gratuity on a $693 bottle of wine. Upsell is one thing, but there are other words for what this fellow was trying to do.

                  1. re: john
                    Servorg RE: john Feb 28, 2008 08:23 AM

                    >>As I recall he did point out that it was "a little pricey."<<

                    Maybe he read the label as $93? I'm just saying it's possible he didn't realize the wine was $693, (unless he was being a real wiseass - in which case the 15% gratuity would have been too generous).

                    1. re: Servorg
                      Cheflambo RE: Servorg Feb 28, 2008 10:07 AM

                      If the waiter is actually familiar enough with the wine to legitimately recommend it, Im SURE he knows the price.

                      1. re: Cheflambo
                        Servorg RE: Cheflambo Feb 28, 2008 10:29 AM

                        I think a lot of waiters recommend wines they are not familiar with.

                        1. re: Servorg
                          Cheflambo RE: Servorg Feb 28, 2008 11:18 AM

                          That's why I added the word "legitimately" to my comment. He probably ISNT that knoweldgeable. If this had happened with the sommelier, instead of the server, it would be a much bigger deal.

                          1. re: Servorg
                            Azizeh Barjesteh RE: Servorg Feb 28, 2008 11:46 PM

                            You're right. I'm a server who thinks wine is disgusting. I really can't decipher anything good about any of it. So, I talk to the servers that adore wine and go off of what they say.
                            It's really the best I can do in the situation. I never lie and say I enjoy one over the other, but I'll tell them what's most popular or what the rest of the staff enjoys most.

                            1. re: Azizeh Barjesteh
                              Cheflambo RE: Azizeh Barjesteh Mar 1, 2008 12:45 PM

                              Azizeh, I hope that as a server, you keep that opinion on wine to yourself, especially if you hope to sell any. If your restaurant does sell wine by the bottle, you might want to have a mental list of certain wines that go with the specific dishes you're selling. That way, when your customers ask (and they WILL ask - they do not know and do not care that YOU do not care for wine) you can make an educated and appropriate suggestion.

                              1. re: Cheflambo
                                ccbweb RE: Cheflambo Mar 1, 2008 12:49 PM

                                Isn't that exactly what Azizeh said he/she does? Talk to the servers who are into wine and use what they say to make recommendations.

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