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Jan 23, 2010 07:34 PM

etiquette for being charged for wrong item ordered

We were in a Thai restaurant recently. The waiter delivered the wrong appetizer. He later came back with the correct appetizer, but my dining partner had already started eating the app we didnt order. He left the correct dish on the table, but then later charged us for both.
What's the correct restaurant etiquette for charging patrons for wrong dishes delivered even though they started eating them upon delivery?

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  1. The waiter should have removed the incorrect appetizer and not charged for it. You might have had to pass him / ask him to remove the unasked for appetizer.

    1. "excuse me, but there is an error on our check. we did not order *item x,* we ordered *item y,* but *item x* was delivered to our table by accident. now it seems that we've been charged for this item which we did not order. may we please have this corrected, and get a copy of our correct tab for our records?"

      no hostility or attitude needs to be conveyed to the server. s/he may have accidentally plugged in the wrong app to the computer when starting your tab, which is why the dish was made and delivered to your table. people make mistakes, it happens. when the server realizes the mistake, it can be immediately corrected and apologized for, and you *still* get to eat the mistake app--free bonus. in the event that the server gives you any attitude, the same speech can be repeated to the manager, and again everything will likely be corrected asap, including disciplinary action toward the server, if s/he is pulling any sort of check-jacking scam. in any event, the patron will not pay for the mistake, so there is no reason to get upset or argumentative. it isn't the patron's fault, whether the un-ordered item was consumed or not.

      7 Replies
      1. re: soupkitten


        While I generally agree with what you say, the difference here is that rms9004's dining companion started to eat the appetizer knowing that it was the wrong one.

        If you eat something, even if you did not order it, I think part of the onus is on you to pay for it.

        Your approach above would work beautifully if the person did not already start eating the incorrectly ordered appetizer.

        If you are demanding a refund from the restaurant, then the obvious question has to be asked: "Why did you eat the incorrect appetizer?"

        1. re: ipsedixit

          ipsedixit's right- you eat it, you pay for it.

          Anybody who's ever worked in a restaurant is familiar with the old "this nearly-finished item was not what we ordered/bad tasting- I'd like a replacement, please, with something more expensive, for no added charge."

          1. re: EWSflash

            Sorry, in this circumstance I can't agree with you. It's one thing to order something as obvious (to an American) as a cheeseburger, get a plate of fish 'n chips instead, eat it and then try not to pay for it. But in an ethnic restaurant, a diner may order Miang Kum and receive Mee -grob and being unfamiliar with regional styles and different chef's approaches, may not know it's not what they ordered. In that case the responsibility lies squarely on the (figurative) shoulders of the restaurant, not the diner.

            1. re: BobB

              Jfood would fall into that camp of not knowing with many cuisines.

              But in your example, who told the patron that they received Mee-grob?

              Jfood has ordered Moo Shu Pork/chicken in various areas of US and the range is quite varied. He would not know if it was wrong or just a regional variation.

              1. re: jfood

                From the OP's description, it sounds like it was only when the waiter returned with the correct appetizer that the diner realized he had starting eating something he didn't order. That's the waiter's fault, not the diner's.

                1. re: BobB

                  That scenario jfood agrees with.

                  But for that to occur, the waiter would have to have noticed the wrong dish, had not told the patrons it was the wrong dish and just showed up a few minutes later with the correct dish. If those are the facts, no pay.

          2. re: ipsedixit

            i do hear what you are saying: "you eat it/break it, you buy it." it's so nice to hear from more than one person on this thread! i would find an offer to pay to be a very nice (unnecessary) gesture on the part of a customer who ate and enjoyed something that was delivered to their table in error. and i'd graciously refuse, and offer the unordered item for them to enjoy, with the complements of the establishment.

            i've been in hospitality for a long time, and for me, customers should never, ever pay for unordered items. when an unordered item hits the diner's table, that item is *theirs,* and if the diner(s) did not order it, it certainly should not be on the check, nor paid for by them.

            think about it: in a normal restaurant scenario, customers arrive and are seated at the table. they peruse the menu and place their order. barring any mishap, all of the items the diners ordered will arrive at their table in proper sequence and be enjoyed, followed by the check with the correct items listed, and the diners will pay for for prix fixe or a la carte menu items, beverages, etc. . . *but* in the course of the meal, the server may (very commonly) bring items that were not ordered by the diners. basket of tortilla chips&salsa/bread basket, or other complementary starter-- not paid for. unordered amuse bouche-- not paid for. same for a small palate cleanser between courses. other complementary items may be provided at various restaurants that can and do range "from soup to nuts!" when i worked as a bartender, we'd occasionally have mistake pours. we could pour the item down the drain, certainly-- but in many instances, myself or another person would look around and make the call to instead serve the beverage as a complimentary item to a regular customer. this was a nice, hospitable gesture which the regulars appreciated, and served the dual purpose of occasionally letting folks try a microbrew or glass of wine that was new to them, which they would then subsequently order and enjoy on occasion. if an item is served at the table/bar seat, the diner can certainly accept that the item is theirs to eat/drink, and if they did not order it, they can reasonably understand it to be a complementary item provided by the establishment. even the complementary dessert item with birthday candle (never ordered by the customer, always a hospitable gesture on the part of the restaurant) is an example of this. from my pov: wrong item delivered to table, well, of course the diners would/should eat it-- it's at their table/bar seat, after all--and after it's served, we certainly can't take it back and serve it to anyone else! in any event it isn't the diners' fault, & they should not have to pay for a mistake on the restaurants' part. to comp the mistake item, whether or not it is eaten, is the only hospitable thing for the restaurant to do. to actually charge for the mistake item seems. . . so. . . very, *very* wrong. to me.

        2. Were both appetizers finished?

          The gracious thing for the customer to do is pay for food that's consumed, even though some of the food consumed wasn't ordered.

          The server or manager who wants to adhere to what etiquette dictates, that is to exceed the customer's graciousness; would realize that it was *their* bumble that was really a breach of etiquette anyway, in the first place, and that their customer, regardless of having sampled the dish, should not be responsible for the dish's cost.

          However, when the server placed the first appetizer on your table, it became unsuitable for sale to someone else. So there's a line of thinking that basically says there's no harm in eating the incorrect app, yet still demanding that it be taken off of the check. The food would've gone in the garbage and that does no one any good.

          All that being said, I'll go ahead and encourage the OP, by all means, *especially* if you didn't finish the appetizer that was brought incorrectly, you should bring it to the attention of your server that you were charged for the restaurant's mistake. If the server doesn't take it off your check, any manager worth his/her salt will.

          Now, there's no etiquette that especially applies to a situation like this. Just adhere to the golden rule and all other conventions and niceties that we use in any "business" situation (this involves money, so therefore it's business), treat those you're speaking to with respect, but should the people you're dealing with demonstrate that their manners are poor, keep up your graciousness; two wrongs don't make a right.

          1. If your dining partner ate it knowing it was the wrong dish, then he should have paid for it.

            After all, why did your dining partner start eating the appetizer if he knew it was the incorrect one?

            Of course, the gracious thing would've been for the restaurant to comp it, but seeing how your dining partner had started into the dish after noting the error I don't see how the restaurant was necessarily to blame for charging you both dishes.

            1. Of course you should not have been charged. The waiter should have left the incorrect dish on your table for you to enjoy - they cannot resell it. In a more expensive restaurant, the waiter should deliver the correct menu item and not charge for that EITHER. But in an inexpensive Thai place it is OK for them to charge you for the item you actually ordered.

              No, it does not matter that you ate the dish that was delivered in error.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Kater

                I agree. We were at a fairly upscale Indian restaurant in Old City, Philly this past spring. Not only did I tear my (favorte; and I don't have many nice clothes, as I'm a SAHM who lives in tee shirts ;-) linen slacks getting into the booth (there was a jagged edge of metal that had popped up, and I caught it as I slid across; my leg bled, too)....they brought us the wrong appetizer, initially. We were entertaining my daughter and her boyfriend (both were nervous; first meeting with the parents ) and it was dark and noisy and so several of us reached for the food (since we'd never had anything like this, before, we didn't recognize that the item was wrong, at first glance) and popped it in our mouths, before noticing.

                Our entire meal cost was cut in half by the restaurant, as a "thank you" and without any demands on our part.

                That's the way to run a classy restaurant!

                  1. re: phofiend

                    jfood had the same questio. According to google...stay at home mom