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Egregious? I think so.

Went to Fatty Crab downtown tonight. Hadn't been there in ages and don't remember loving it to begin with. BUT, thought I'd give it another try. First, the waiter was sweet but majorly gave us the upsell by convincing us to order at least one expensive entree we didn't need, probably 2--but let's not be petty.

But here's the part that really ticked me off. He sold us hard on their chili crab dish, the one that has "MP" after it's name. Ok, since most of the entrees don't exceed $20, I didn't ask. i SHOULD HAVE ASKED and so should you if you are ever to endeavor upon this FORTY-TWO dollar entree. There were 2 crabs and 2 pieces of white toast (cut into four). Do you think that's a fair price? I admit I should have asked and usually do, but shouldn't he maybe of mentioned that considering it was at least DOUBLE the price of most everything else on the menu???

So, I'm not going back. Cause I feel kinda duped. And for $42 bucks, I coulda rented a little boat and caught a bunch of crabs myself. (no crab jokes, please.)

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  1. Unless the crabs were really huge, it doesn't strike me as a fair price, but the basic problem is the one you mentioned: You should have asked. And my guess is, it'll be a long time before you forget to ask the price of any special or "seasonal price" item again. Sorry you got burned.

    1. Yeah, you could blame yourself for not asking the price, but I don't think that's really being fair to yourself. Asking a price can be kind of awkward, especially if you're with company, and in any case, it's not something you want to think about when you're out for a meal. You sort of get a price in your head of what the evening will cost once you select a restaurant, and then you don't give it much thought. If everything else on the menu is in the teens or so, it was a logical assumption that other items would be in that general range. I think places like that count on the fact that price isn't something that gets discussed.

      By the way, were these just your basic blue crabs? Like the ones you get in Chinatown or catch yourself with a chicken neck bone and a net? Because if they were, then no way is $42 a fair market price unless they were sauteed in gold. I have to wonder if the waiter made a mistake.

      In the end, just keep in mind that restaurants, like all businesses, require return customers to survive. I have a feeling you won't be giving them any of yours.

      3 Replies
      1. re: douglas525

        It's Dungeoness crab. I had the dish a few years ago and it was $38. About half a crab. I didn't think it was outrageous. It's not Chinatown.

        1. re: douglas525

          Sorry, not asking for a price and being blindsided by a high one is more "awkward" than doing due diligence by either asking for the price or simply choosing not to order the dish. It looks to me like fat parish didn't take control of the situation, and then complained about it. First, it sounds like s/he didn't really want to go to Fatty Crab. Secondly, s/he allowed the waiter to upsell him on two items. Thirdly, s/he ordered a special without asking the price. Fourthly, s/he posted here to complain.

          My analysis? First, s/he could have chosen not to go to the restaurant. Secondly, s/he could have chosen not to participate in the upselling. Thirdly, s/he could have inquired as to the price of the crab dish. Fourthly, s/he could take all of this as an object lesson, never return to Fatty Crab, but also change his/her behavior by taking more responsibility for it.

          I regret if this sounds harsh, but really, although we all love it when the waiter seems to decide to take our interests to heart, we can't count on that from employees. Everyone has a responsibility to himself/herself as a customer. Caveat emptor!

          1. re: douglas525

            It's a pretty fair price, especially if it was 2 crabs (I remember only one crab when I ordered it). Even if you buy one of those crabs in Chinatown, they'll end up costing you anywhere from $14-$18, depending on how large it is and considering price fluctuations. So $42 for 2 crabs at a restaurant is a good price, especially as you're hitting the end of dungeness crab season.

          2. fats, I think it's a full-scale shyst. You should be sour. I don't like waiters, who act like used car salesmen. I don't need you pitching me and upselling me. I get enough of that everywhere else. I don't need Vince Shamwow or Billy Mays shysting me when I sit down to relax for a nice meal.

            1. "...FORTY-TWO dollar entree. There were 2 crabs and 2 pieces of white toast (cut into four). Do you think that's a fair price?"

              Actually, two dungeness crabs for $42 in a restaurant sounds like a relative bargain. I live in San Francisco, the land of dungeness. Here, you'd pay about $35 for only one at anyplace with table service.

              Average prices for live crab to take home and cook yourself are about $7-8/lb, during the season.

              3 Replies
              1. re: dolcevita_sf

                dolcevita_sf, yeah... but you live/d in SF and know what dungeness cost. The OP's complaint (and one I kind of agree with) is that it felt like a bit of a blindside because it's over 2x as much as anything else on the menu. And since it's an ingredient we don't normally see in NYC, it may not be common (dining out) knowledge what MP would be.

                ... kind of reminds me of the crappy red-sauce place that had a special with white truffle shavings. Nothing on the menu was over $12, and the server "neglected" to mention that their special was $85. Saved a good friend from an awkward moment by asking the waiter what the cost of that special was.

                If the cost of a special, or a MP item on the menu is out of the price range of everything else on the menu, they really *should* tell you. Especially if the server is pushing it hard on your table.

                1. re: egit

                  "...it felt like a bit of a blindside because it's over 2x as much as anything else on the menu. And since it's an ingredient we don't normally see in NYC, it may not be common (dining out) knowledge what MP would be."

                  Aren't lobsters "MP" or "AQ" on menus there? And aren't they usually twice the price of anything else? That's certainly been the case anywhere I've seen them offered in the U.S. I like both crab and lobster, but as several others have mentioned, the mere fact that something is listed as "market price" is a tipoff to me that it's likely to be pricey.

                  I do think waitstaff should give the prices of daily specials, and it would be nice if they also offered "market prices" without being asked. But that's often not the case, and I've never felt odd about asking.

                  1. re: dolcevita_sf

                    I totally agree with you. Yeah, MP means it *may* be pricey. We get lobsters here, and it's common knowledge they're expensive. We also get blue crabs here, and they don't tend to be all that expensive. All I meant by my comment was that if you go out to dinner on the east coast, most people have a relative idea of how much these things are. Dungeness crab is much rarer here.

                    With ANYthing in restaurants though, if you have any doubts, there's nothing wrong with asking what MP is, or how much that special costs.

              2. I don't mean to suggest that you did anything wrong or that I can't understand your dismay (or the opinions of other posters). But.

                I have to say that I have always thought of "MP" markings differently than specials that are listed without prices and which are upsold by the server with no hint that their pricing is out of line with the rest of the menu. While I generally don't ask the price of specials, I have noticed that more restaurants these days seem to be either listing them with prices or the servers have been directed to add "for X dollars" at the end of their descriptions, and I applaud this move, as it avoids putting the diner in the awkward position of feeling like he's cheap if he needs to ask. To me, the "MP" mark is different--it tells me loud and clear that this is a dish where the restaurant is not comfortable that a consistent price will allow it to make the money that it wants to off the dish--toherwise, why not just take the most expensive price you're charging for any other entree and assign that price to the MP entree. "MP" says "we're going to set this price at some margin over what it costs us to buy it today", and since I don't know what that margin is, and am at much more of a disadvantage than the restaurant, which has used MP as a placeholder for price, in knowing what the market price of an item is going to be, I think it's a reasonable assumption that "MP" indicates "likely expensive" and "possibly more than you're willing to pay." I always ask for the MP before ordering such dishes, but that's me.

                p.s. I kind of want a shamwow. I spill a lot and it kind of looks awesome.

                8 Replies
                1. re: planetjess

                  "While I generally don't ask the price of specials, I have noticed that more restaurants these days seem to be either listing them with prices or the servers have been directed to add "for X dollars" at the end of their descriptions, and I applaud this move, as it avoids putting the diner in the awkward position of feeling like he's cheap if he needs to ask."

                  Totally agree, but the lack of a price in no way relieves the diner of the obligation - to himself/herself - of either asking the price or not ordering the item. The other choice - to order it and roll the dice, then complain if it's higher than s/he wanted - is often a bad one.

                  1. re: Pan

                    I must have been unclear--I didn't mean to suggest that I am in favor of rolling the dice and complaining afterwards. I meant only to say that I think it's great that more restaurants are not putting diners in the position of having to ask in the first place, because this does seem to bother some diners/make them feel awkward. In terms of what I do, you have left out an additional choice (which is the one I make)--to not ask the price and order a special anyway because it sounds good and not to complain about the price afterwards. I have no issue with those who have carefully planned budgets for their meals at a restaurant or who order with an eye to cost ("this steak would have been worth it to me at $28 but not at $35," etc.), but that's not generally how I order. I sit down, look at the menu and hear the specials and ask the waiter to bring me what I most want to eat from what's on offer, and then I pay what they're charging for it. I don't get to go out to eat as often as I'd like to, so when I go I don't tend to limit myself--whether at a burger place or some place more expensive.

                    As noted above, I make an exception to my practice of not bothering to ask when I see "MP", because I generally believe that "MP" signals that the price is likely going to be very out of line with pretty much everything else on the menu (otherwise why not just price it at your topline entree price), and I also make an exception for wine (because I am not independently wealthy). I don't recall ever having complained (even just to myself) at the price of a special--it's the price I pay for what is to me a more enjoyable meal because I refuse to let the size of a check concern me--though I did remark to my husband after Easter dinner at a restaurant that didn't put the price of the specials on the menu that it was a shame they hadn't, because all of them (app, entree, dessert) had been impressive and delicious and the lack of prices (which turned out to be shockingly low) might have unfortunately scared some people off.

                    1. re: planetjess

                      You're right. If you genuinely are willing to pay whatever price something costs, simply ordering it and then being happy to get it at any price is a good choice.

                      You weren't unclear, though. I was simply agreeing with you and adding another point relevant to this thread.

                    2. re: Pan

                      Agree with your last point which is why I didn't complain after I got the check. I also may have decided to order it anyway if I knew, but having tried it last time I was there, probably wouldn't have for that price. Still think they should've mentioned it since it is technically not even a special and he did make a point of saying we were missing out if we didn't get it. But I could have and should have asked. The last time I learned this lesson was many years ago at F.illi Ponte when I ended up with a $95 "Angry Lobster." I guess I'll be back on here complaining in another 5 years about a $50 fruit salad served at the ever-evolving Market Price.

                      1. re: fat parish

                        Haha. If I ever see a fruit salad listed at market price, I am *definitely* going to ask how much it is (even if I have no intention of ordering it). Then I am going to make fun of it.

                        1. re: fat parish

                          I do agree that they should mention the price without being asked.

                    3. I went to the UWS Fatty Crab last week and they were running a special of crab claws. The waiter made it a point to indicate that he thought it was a bargain compared to the whole Dungeness crabs, and gave both prices. He was right -- this was a huge portion for just over $20. I'm wondering if Fat Parish's waiter wandered off policy or was promulgating it.

                      1. I think big ole' Fat Parish just has bad food karma:-(

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Tenacious G

                          Or maybe his waiter was a shysty pitchman instead of a waiter.

                          1. re: Tenacious G

                            I do! That's the running joke with my friends and fam. We will go to the best restaurant and I will have the fly in my soup. Never fails. But things can change, right?? Maybe some good karma's on it's way and my posts from now on will be brimming with restaurant love and contentedness.

                            1. re: fat parish

                              Oh Fatty Parish...this is your family!
                              Now everyone knows, right folks???

                          2. I'm pretty sure that guidelines for proper service require the price of the specials to be mentioned by the waiter. If they don't (and that happens often) I ask. They raise an eyebrow on me I can lower the tip on them.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: msny98

                              I think those guidelines vary from employer to employer.

                            2. Seems to me that a special should be in the same price range as the rest of the menu and if it is not, the price should be stated.

                              Did the OP say Dungeness? Not that is even the point - the fair market calue of a particular crab in a particular area. For ex: Dungeness in my neck of the woods are about 5 bucks uncleaned - whole crab. Out? I haven't the foggiest. Maybe 30 for two nice ones with sides. But I am not in SF.

                              1. You were not duped (though were I the manager I would consider how this practice breeds ill will and thus harms the restaurant's goodwill). From now on, remember: MP=Muchos Pesos.

                                I cannot overemphasize the importance of diners taking ownership of things like asking for prices when they are not supplied. Always ask. Each and every time. Even if you're not likely to order it. Just. Do. It.