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Should You Be Able to Pay Less for Subbing out An Ingredient?

I was waiting on line at a local Halal chicken and rice take-out cart in Forest Hills, Queens yesterday. The cart charges $6 for a full meal of chicken and rice plus a free soda, snapple or water. Granted, last year the price used to be $5 (though without the "free" drink). While at times I do feel cheated as I do not take a drink and yet am paying more, I figure that it is more than fair as everyone has had to raise their prices...I've never thought to ask to pay less because I do not usually take a drink.
Anyhow, a woman in front of me on the line did just that... she said that as she did not want a drink, if she could pay less. I actually did not hear what the cart owner told her but it left me feeling uneasy.

How do you feel about this?

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  1. Ask the cart owner. The way the woman in front of you asked showed little tact in asking, and in so doing sounded cheap. The way to ask is "How much would it be for chicken and rice without the drink?" You may find it's five bucks again. If it isn't, get it with the drink and save the bottle of water for later.

    4 Replies
    1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

      Sound advice JK.....this is an old topic that turns up occasionally to see which side of the fence you sit on.....quite frankly, I don't see any position other than the owner has a right to charge whatever he/she wishes and it's up to the customer to say yeah or nay. When a beverage is offered for free, it's an incentive for you to purchase and not an item for negotiating a lesser price. sort of like a 2 for 1 sale requirement. Asking outright for a discounted price on the belief you are getting less is not realistic or practical. Depending on the owner, he may grant you a reduction in price, but I am talking a pricing policy. Prices are set on what is believed to be a fair and competitive price for their products and services. Owners do this with an expectation of (X) amount of sales for the amount of inventory they have that day, to bring in an (X) amount of gross sales to cover their expenses. Nipping at these totals is selfish and rude for these hard working people and something I would never consider myself......especially, considering in this instance we are talking about less than a buck. The same is true whether it is a cart business or a fixed restaurant.

      For the record, if your sincere interest is to query how much certain items are, assuming you have not seen a printed price on a menu, I would consider that different. In the example give by the OP, clearly the soda is included in the incentive *special*.

      1. re: fourunder

        It is only an incentive to buy if you actually want both items in the package.

        JK's way to ask does sound good. I don't know if you can expect to get the full retail cost of the drink off, maybe a dollar, maybe 50 cents.

        1. re: babette feasts

          bf,

          Are we talking about the chicken, rice or beverage?

          Yes, the OP is referring to the beverage, but your reply opens the door for another question....what if I don't want the rice...white meat only and etc.

          with regards to whether it's an incentive or not to include the beverage...it is arguable, but if you want the chicken and rice, are you really going to decline to purchase the meal deal because it includes a bottle of water? You can refuse it....it's still six bucks. If you don't want the beverage and have a problem with the policy and do not believe it is an incentive, but rather price gouging to get you to purchase something you do not want.....you can pass.

          When you go to a diner for eggs after 11:00AM, let's say the eggs are $4.99 on a printed menu(a la carte) ...two eggs any style with home fries and toast. Now let's say you go between the hours of 6:00-11:00 AM and there's a breakfast specials menu which includes the same above, but also includes a small glass of juice and coffee or tea for 2.99. Do you really believe you should be able to have the egg breakfast for less than 2.99 if the patron declines the juice or coffee....or should the patron be charged 4.99? The deal is the deal, take or or leave it.

          1. re: fourunder

            I was talking about the beverage. I very rarely drink sodas.

            I see what you are saying, but your breakfast specials analogy doesn't work for me. In that case, the special is specially priced for the time of day. It doesn't sound like the OP's vendor is only including the soda at certain times of the day.

            I would feel pretty embarrassed to try to negotiate on a $3 meal at a restaurant but see the food cart that has only one item as a little different, because there are no other choices. Might not make sense but that is what it is to be human. $3 for a meal....whatever. Knowing that I used to be able to get something I wanted for $5 and now it is bundled with something I don't want for $1 extra...I might want to see if the old way is still an option.

    2. the cart owner should have a price with and without the drinks.

      for example, $6 for the "kit" $5.50 without the drink, .... at least to make it like you are "gaining" at buying the whole kit.

      1. Costco has a dog and a soda for $1.50. Jfood doubts there is a price for just a dog, but worth the ask the next time.

        More importantly, how was the chicken? :-))

        2 Replies
        1. re: jfood

          Costco used to sell the dog alone for $1.25, at least in the CT locations, but stopped in 2001. It seemed that the $1.25 price was just supposed to be for people who wanted an ADDITIONAL dog with the combo to be eaten by ONE person.
          Instead people were ordering multiple dogs with one combo and sharing and refilling the soda amongst multiple diners.
          The Sam's Club in Orange, CT gave the discount for a short time while they had a sign posted forbidding drink refills.

          1. re: jfood

            The chicken is ok- not the best, but for a cheap and fast lunch it's very reliable.
            If anyone knows the area, it's on 71st and continental in Forest Hills.

          2. well technically the drink is "free" with the meal, so not part of its cost...no ?

            then again, I can't say i've never wondered this myself (but never asked) . As someone who does not eat meat, i've had numerous pastas, salads etc that i've paid the same price for when I asked if I could have the meat-free version of an existing dish. If the salad already came with chicken breast, and bacon for example, and I have it meat-free, they are technically getting to sell the meat twice.

            8 Replies
            1. re: im_nomad

              Similarly (yet completely opposite) I have asked for a "senior meal" (liver and onions- was nowhere else on the menu) and was told it was an extra $1.50 for the exact same food, portions, etc. Just because I am not 62 years old.

              I don't quibble about the "free" beverages since those are labeled as such.

              One time at Costco, I did not want the beverage and filled the drink cup about 1/4 with chopped onions. I knew I did not have any at home and was not wanting to go to another store to buy one onion that night...

              1. re: Cathy

                sneaky... hope you had purchased something that normally would have had onions.

                1. re: im_nomad

                  I did it once, years ago. Bought two Polish sausage and a slice of cheese pizza (and my husband does not like onions).Filled one cup with beverage and the other barely 1/4 with onions. That was our dinner and the onions were for what I cooked for myself the next day.

                  1. re: Cathy

                    ok, you're forgiven lol. your post just put me in mind of back when I worked at Wendy's during university, when they had the salad bar, and people regularly would go up with their burger wrappers and fill them with salad, instead of actually purchasing one.

                    I bet there are actually a few people out there that make a meal out of the condiment bar freebies. *shudder*

              2. re: im_nomad

                yeah, dont' you hate having to do that? If I want to forgo the meat, or sub in a meat-free substitute (is that redundant?), I usually get charged the same price or am charged more respectively. Am I really paying $8.99 for a plate of lettuce, a few pieces of tomatoes, and a sprinkle of cheese? jeez....

                And why should some extra veg cost more than a chicken breast and bacon? I don't know, but it does....

                1. re: im_nomad

                  'technically getting to sell the meat twice">>>My youngest does not like cheese. At least once a week she cons me into luinch at Subway. We have her sandwich made first. When the counterperson asks what kind of cheese, she replies, I want provolone, but I wantyou to put it on my dad's sandwich you're making next. I get the double cheese that we're paying for.
                  My wife doesn't eat bacon or much red meat. It she wants it deleted from a dinner salad, she asks for it on the side. It goes into a ziplock bag and home for our dogs to enjoy.

                  If you're paying for it, find a use for it..................

                  1. re: bagelman01

                    my dog is on a low-protein diet, and no one at the table ever wants the stuff. I'd rather it not go to waste, bottom line. I do regularly take home steamed rice, and i'm sure the restaurant thinks i'm cheap, but I can't be bothered to make it, and the dog loves it.

                    btw, how does a CH'er have a child that does not like cheese !! Great for you though !

                    1. re: im_nomad

                      both daughters are lactose intolerant, or generally intolerant <VBG>

                2. It's totally fine to ask. If someone thinks I sound cheap or tacky asking, I would gladly invite them to stick their fingers in their ears until I am finished with my transaction.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Boccone Dolce

                    I'm with you. And as they do it, they can say "Lalalalalalalalalalalalala" really loudly!

                    1. If I don't want a particular item offered, most times I say, "skip the starch", that's my choice and I wouldn't expect the vendor to give me a discount.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: cstr

                        I agree, I mean how far do you go with this sort of thing beyond the drink? If a person orders a chicken dish without the chicken the cook may be inclined to make the other side items larger, but I don't think it's necessary that the vendor give a discount for that.

                        I fear that in the future menus will just have condiments and components listed and have the price for each... that way the customer can just build their own damn meal ("Oh, I'd like the risotto, but those truffles sound expensive... I think I'll have it with asparagus instead").

                        1. re: Blueicus

                          A double agree with both cstr and Blueicus.....

                          How about when they say they do not want the starch.....and expect more chicken!!!!

                      2. In that case, a package deal rather than a dish, I think her question was reasonable.

                        I expected a story about a diner ordering the Denver omelet without ham and wanting a discount!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Kater

                          Yes, I think not wanting a can of soda is a not 'subbing out an ingredient'. The can of soda does not need to be cooked or prepared and is not integral to the dish

                        2. Time is money.

                          If you want to negotiate the posted price of a vendors wares do it when you are not going to interrupt his business (be the only one in line).

                          Don't expect discounts by going off the menu. Just be pleasantly surprised if it happens.

                          1. If it's not too busy, I don't think it hurts to ask (btw, I wouldn't attempt trying something like this at the 53rd and 6th cart in NYC as the lines are always long). It's all about how you ask. I don't think the owner would respond very well to, "I don't want the soda. I'll give you $5." I've heard people bargain like that. It makes me cringe when I see that. But if you phrase it nicely and in a way where the owner can easily say no, I don't see what the big deal is.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              53rd and 6th with the special bags? Oh man that is really not nice to bring that up when jfood is sitting in CT.

                            2. I think you should just find another use for the soda. Maybe give it to a coworker or friend that drinks soda. Or if you get the water, but a water snob (as I am myself), use it to water plants. I do not think that if you are getting a "special" that you can get less of the special for lesser costs. What I do not agree with is when I am at a restaurant and I want to sub an item and I get charged more even though I am really getting less. I asked for more of a cheese that was already present in a salad I was ordering instead of slices of avacado...now this was shredded chedder people, not more expensive than a quarter of avacado! And I got charged extra even though I had less quality of salad. I just happen to be particular in what foods I accept the flavor and texture of avacado, but I know it has a higher cost than a tbs of chedder cheese. Even though that upset me intitially, I will still go back to the restaurant and the salad was good, so I really cant complain that much.

                              1. You could say: " Is there a different price if you don't want the drink?". That only works if the drink is not named as free and the restaurant offers something similar with other meal combos (like fast food places do). If it named free then nothing minus nothing is nothing. Asking for a further discount is rude.

                                People do this though - go into restaurants and try to renegotiate prices when they sub out or ask for something to be left off a dish. It is just so annoying and rude. Shall the chef pop into the office and figure out what the food cost difference is?

                                1. A lot of restaurants in my area will have a wide variety of salads, all with chicken breasts. Then, they'll have ONE vegetarian salad, typically a plain garden salad, with a note saying "Add $3 for grilled chicken breast." I personally feel that if I want a different salad, but without chicken, the price should be reduced by $3. It seems only logical to me. However, I have never verbalized this to a server. I just pay full price and feel grumpy!

                                  1. I do not worry about this. Now, I do anticipate and state that I am ready to pay more, should I substitute. For me, it’s about getting what I want. The exact exchange of currency is seldom an issue.

                                    As my wife has a bi-valve allergy, I make this known, especially with tasting menus. I always offer to pay more to accommodate her, but usually the kitchen handles it fine and even pairs different wines with her substitute dishes.

                                    Maybe I just do not see the problem.

                                    Hunt

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      well when "currency is seldom an issue" I guess you aren't looking for a cheap lunch, but when I have $40 to spend on coffee and lunches for the week, it matters to me if I've charged for something or not.

                                      1. re: mollygirl

                                        Well, if I were on such a limited budget, I would be brown bagging it, as that would be the least expensive option.

                                      2. re: Bill Hunt

                                        <Maybe I just do not see the problem.>

                                        The problem is that many people need to save money where they can. It's terrific for you that you don't, but understand that you're in the minority. Of the world.

                                      3. ok, so for some reason, i have not been able to reply to a post here since i originally posted. I was not advocating for paying less for subbing out a less expensive option. I was merely lamenting paying more for subbing out a way less expensive option. I understand that a dish's price is a dish's price, and I will not pay less if i want a less expensive choice in my dish.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: kubasd

                                          I understand the problems with the CH servers. I have had to exit a half-dozen time, just to reply.

                                          Sorry that I misunderstood the thrust of the thread, and my have side-tracked your OP a bit. That was never my intention.

                                          Mea culpa, mea culpa,

                                          Hunt