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Waive the corkage???

We went to a new much touted restaurant on a Tuesday a couple weeks back. We reviewed the menu on line but could not review the wine list so I brought a couple bottles and left them in the car as back up. I found a Pinot I liked and ordered it but, alas, they were out. They brought what they considered an acceptable substitute (a wine that retails for about 1/2 of the one I ordered) and said it would be $65 instead of the $75. I agreed to taste it and it was not remotely to my taste (and nothing close to the Pissoni). I went to the car and got my own.

Was I wrong in being surprised that they hit me for corkage? Just curious.

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  1. If their menu lists a corkage fee, then yes, I think you were wrong to be surprised.

    It would have been a nice gesture on their part to waive the fee since they were out of your first choice, but I would not consider this an instance where a waiver is required.

    1. The courtship dance involved in corkage waving is, as any other courtship dance, a complicated ritual, full of hidden and/or implied messages.
      Most probably you made a faux pas somewhere along the line.
      Absent that I'd say yes, corkage should have been waived.

      1. eatemup..
        when they opened your wine, did they mention a corkage fee or was it listed on the wine list?
        they should of waived the fee since they didn't have the wine you ordered and the second bottle was not to your liking..
        just curious..what was the corkage fee?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Beach Chick

          I do not believe it was mentioned or listed. I always assume there is a charge and would have happily paid it had I walked in my bottle from the start. The fee was $15 - not bad.

          1. re: eatemup

            were you out celebrating my birthday on the 16th too eatemup?
            imo, if it is not listed or mentioned, I feel the restaurant should not of charged you..$15 is a very fair corkage fee..care to divulge the restaurant?

        2. Places that serve wine discourage BYO by having high corkage fees. Afterall, they want to sell a bottle to you as part of your dinner. They should always mention that there is a fee if it's not in print on the menu. I would have refused the substitute wine and went back to the menu for another selection of my liking, not theirs.

          1. It is very rare that a restaurant with even a moderate wine list will not charge a corkage fee if you bring your own. I wouldn't even expect it to be listed on the wine menu, but expect it to be the rule. You should ask in advance if there is a corkage before bringing your own and also ask if the wine you choose to bring is already available on their list.

            If a restaurant has their menu on their own web site, they should also have their wine list posted (or a good representation).

            Just because they were out of your first choice does not mean you should get a pass on corkage. I would have gone back to their list for a second choice of my own and if there was nothing on the list I liked, I would accept the corkage and then decide if the other attributes of the restaurant merited my return.

            As for having the corkage waived, it depends on the bottle you are bringing in. If it is truly a rare wine that the restaurant would not have been able to provide and adds glamour to the restaurant setting, and you offer tastes to the sommelier, server etc, they may consider waiving, but otherwise, I would expect to always pay a corkage fee.

            1. Allowing a customer to bring their own wine is a courtesy extended by many restaurants to those who would like a specific combination. There is no right for a customer to bring in his favorite soda, bottled water or entree. The business of a restaurant is to serve food and beverage in a desired atmosphere. Corkage fees allow for some regulation of the number of bottles that are brought in.

              In this case the customer could not find the wine list on the web site and decided to bring some back-up. First, there are still telephones that work and if wine were such an "A" list item for this particular customer, he should pick up the phone and called . There is no right to pre-screen the list and wine sells and cellars get depleted on a daily basis.

              Customer orders a bottle and it's sold out. Hey it happens and server suggests another. "They brought what they considered an acceptable substitute". Jfood is sure they recommended and then the customer agreed to try. "a wine that retails for about 1/2 of the one I ordered) and said it would be $65 instead of the $75". Here's where jfood thinks the wheels fell off the bus. Customer was probably a little upset and thought there was now a quasi bait and switch, he was not getting the same value. And then he did not like the taste. OK this happens.

              Now he wants the corkage waive. It might have been a nice gesture, but he knew enough to bring a few bottles that he liked, knew enough to choice a Pinot he liked and then went with a recommendation and he did not like.

              He should have asked for the wine list again, choose one he liked since he seems to have a good knowledge of wines and if one was not available bring in a bottle and paythe corkage. It might have been a nice gesture to waive the fee, but should not be expected.

              9 Replies
              1. re: jfood

                Very respectful difference of opinion. I'm in the wine industry, so here's
                where I believe the restaurant goofed and the OP goofed just a touch:

                The OP orders a $150 wine. That's a relatively expensive bottle of wine.
                The resto is out of that wine. Well, that's OK. But it probably should have
                been marked on the wine list as being "out" with a pencil-eraser-sized red dot
                (like some wine lists do), or the server/sommelier should have had a list of the wines
                that are out of stock buried somewhere in his pocket.

                So then the server recommends a wine that's half of $150, that probably doesn't
                have the same degree of flavor or enjoyment or rarity as the wine originally ordered.

                That's a poor recommendation. Obviously if someone is ordering
                a $150 bottle of wine, he very much likes wine, probably has
                a pretty good level of wine knowledge and has an expectation of a certain
                level of flavor or enjoyment or rarity A recommendation of another wine that offered
                a similar experience was in order. Not one that was half the cost, that tasted
                vastly inferior to the original wine ordered.

                So of course the OP was disappointed in the second wine. The resto goofed.
                Bad wine recommendation and they misread the customer. The OP, at this point,
                has had two minor failed wine interactions.

                So now, the situation has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The
                restaurant should have been sensitive to the OP being inconvenienced, and
                It would have been a very nice -- and simple -- gesture for the resto sommelier
                or manager to ask how the OP how they could help provide a nice dining experience.

                But the OP dropped the ball too, in case the resto never makes this gesture.
                He should never have had the expectation of waived corkage. The waiver of corkage
                has to arranged ahead of time, before the OP's wine is opened, to avoid surprises later.
                Very nicely, very politely, the OP should have explained his situation -- the kind of wine he desired to drink that evening, that first the wine was out of stock, and then, that the
                substitute wine was not at all similar to the wine he originally ordered. And he's a
                little frustrated. I have some wine in the car that would be good, would it be all right
                if I brought it in, and if so, would you mind, in this situation, waiving corkage?

                Which sets up the request so that it is easily accommodated by the resto,
                or another offer of accommodation can be made.

                I don't think this is at all about general corkage policy, but about
                keeping a wine-drinking diner happy after two minor goofs by the resto. Moreover,
                if you're a resto selling $150 bottles of wine, you'd better have someone on
                your staff who knows your wine inventory, and has the specific wine knowledge to
                recommend an *appropriate* substitution.


                1. re: maria lorraine


                  If jfood is not mistaken the numbers were 75 for the first and 65 for the second.

                  1. re: jfood

                    Here's how I'm figuring $150 for the first wine.
                    The second wine "retails for about 1/2 of the one I ordered,
                    and [the resto] said it would be $65 instead of the $75."
                    Which means, if *I'm* not mistaken, the original wine was
                    about $150, the substitute wine was $75 ("about 1/2 of the one
                    I ordered") and offered at a discount at $65.

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      "I found a Pinot I liked and ordered it but, alas, they were out. They brought what they considered an acceptable substitute (a wine that retails for about 1/2 of the one I ordered) and said it would be $65 instead of the $75"

                      If you take away the parentheticals ...and said it would be $65 versus $75 is where jfood assumes the prices for the wine. He thinks the OP placed the parentheticals to add the point taht even though the second, recommended bottle was 1/2 the price in a liquor stor it was not half the price in the resto, probably starting the bad feelings.

                      1. re: jfood

                        Eatemup, could you clarify wine prices, please?

                        Irrespective of cost…

                        First frustration: lack of communication of “86” status.
                        Just like before you order an entrée, server lets diner know of “86” items.
                        This avoids combing through the entire menu (or an even longer wine list)
                        and finding something you like, then ordering that, anticipating that,
                        and then server returning with news of “86” status.
                        Instead: Wine list is marked with “86” items, or server verbally informs before wine list is perused.

                        Second frustration: inappropriate recommendation given the item originally ordered. Hyperbole to make a point: Diner orders lobster, but lobster is “86.” Not a good idea to recommend the chicken breast then. Lobster = special entrée. Recommendation should be nearly or equally opulent to lobster, i.e. aged steak, foie gras, dish with truffles, etc.

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          They were out of the wine that was on the list at $75. The substitute wine was offered at $65.

                          1. re: eatemup

                            Jfood guessed right. I didn't.

                            $15 is not much at all for corkage.

                            I wonder about the huge diff in flavor for wines priced the same or nearly the same.

                        2. re: jfood

                          hi, jfood,

                          When the OP wrote "a wine [Wine B] that retails for about 1/2 of the one I ordered [Wine A] and said it would be $65 instead of the $75,” two things are unclear.

                          Does the $65 number refer to the deal the resto is offering on Wine B — it was normally priced at $75 but is being offered with a $10 courtesy discount? Or does the $75 number refer to the resto wine list cost of Wine A?

                          Is the OP comparing apples to apples (the retail cost of Wine B = half the retail cost of Wine A), or apples to oranges (the retail cost of Wine B = half the RESTO wine list cost of Wine A)?

                          I assumed -- perhaps incorrectly -- an apples-to-apples comparison was being made. That the retail cost of Wine A was being compared to the retail cost of Wine B — and that the "$65 instead of the $75" referred to the deal the resto was offering on Wine B -- a $10 courtesy discount off the regular $75 cost.

                          If, as jfood conjectures, Wine A costs $75 and Wine B costs $65, then the wines should not taste so dramatically different, as the OP says, if they were priced correctly in the first place.

                          Awaiting word from eatemup...


                  2. re: jfood

                    the I'm sorry we're out of that wine thing really irks me. it ought not to be that difficult for a place to be current and make sure the wine list and/or staff is up to date; that was the source of the problem here. it is particularly irksome at a restaurant that touts its wine list. "it might have been a nice gesture"...exactly. eatemup probably won't go back and likely has plenty of other options. it would not have broken the bank for this restaurant to waive the corkage; very short sighted from my view.

                  3. "I agreed to taste it"--idk, so now they have 95% of a an opened bottle of ~$18-wholesale Pinot to try to get rid of somehow?

                    Not surprised they weren't running to waive corkage given that...

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: xanadude

                      This happens a lot. The restaurant sells it as a special wine by the glass that evening, and it's rather easy to make more that way than if they had sold the entire bottle to one table.

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        If they wanted to sell it BTG, they would offer it that way from the get-go; they'd especially do it if they thought they'd more than likely get more money out of it.

                        I'm not saying tasting it and then declining a bottle, when offered, is unreasonable or uncommon, just that doing that and then being surprised that you get hit with corkage (with no other circumstances, like knowing the owner, spending a huge amount on food or after dinner drinks, ordering another bottle, etc) is a bit much--they gotta make money somehow, especially on wine.

                        1. re: xanadude

                          <If they wanted to sell it BTG, they would offer it that way from the get-go; they'd especially do it if they thought they'd more than likely get more money out of it.>

                          Not exactly.

                          It may be a prized wine, that the resto cannot get in large case allocations,
                          or a wine that they can't consistently open and have sell well.

                          If it's offered as a special by-the-glass selection though, and it's just
                          one bottle -- 4-ish glasses or so, it's very easy for the resto to turn
                          a returned wine into win-win. If the bottle is on the wine list at $75,
                          the resto's cost was likely $25, so the resto has to sell this wine at $6.25
                          per glass to break even -- easy to do at the OP's "much touted" restaurant,
                          and they could probably charge double that for a good wine.