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bizarre situation at Cafe D'Alsace

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gutsofsteel Feb 5, 2010 05:55 AM

So last night we went to Cafe d'Alsace for dinner. Probably go there about once a month I'd say. We always sit and eat at the bar. Last night there was a new bartender, nice enough gal but she knew zero about the beers and the menu, and kept apologizing for not being able to answer any questions - in fact she gave me incorrect information about several beers I asked about specifically. She went to get a sommelier and then returned and told me "oh they are AWOL." But I digress...

We finish, and ask her for the check and it's $95.54. I hand her a $100 dollar bill. She gives me back $4.00. Now I realize that $.46 is not a big deal, but still I said "I think you owe me 46 cents." She says "oh it's our policy not to give change change." (change change meaning coins). i said oh it's your policy just to keep my money? She said "well if it's under 50 cents we don't give change, if it's over 50 cents we usually do." I said "how on earth is that your decision to make? If I go to a store and pay for something, the store gives me back the correct change...how is this different?" She is rolling her eyes at me like I'm nuts. She gets the 46 cents. I leave a normal decent tip and as we're putting on our coats, I see her at the end of the bar sort of laughing and looking at us and telling the manager what happened. So i go over there and say to the manager "is it your policy to pocket people's change?" He said "oh we just figure people will deduct it from the tip or just round it into the tip." I said "that is outrageous - it is my decision how and what to tip - not yours." "He mumbles something about how they don't always have change around." Anyway thought I'd see if y'all have had this happen to you anywhere, and what you think about it. I think it's insane.

  1. w
    wojiparu Feb 5, 2010 06:14 AM

    Wow that is crazy!

    1. q
      Quimbombo Feb 5, 2010 06:14 AM

      Never had that happened to me. I would have been mad as well.

      It almost seems like one of those reality shows to see how the customer reacts.

      It's thievery plain and simple. And I bet with most people they get away with it.

      Would be funny tho if you go there again, have the same bartender and the bill comes out to <for ex:> $ 77. 61 pay 77$, when she comes back looking for the change mention you only like to pay round figures. LOL!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Quimbombo
        g
        gutsofsteel Feb 5, 2010 06:17 AM

        Oh I love that idea!

        1. re: gutsofsteel
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          jetbuck Feb 5, 2010 06:59 AM

          I am going to eat there next week and dot it!!!

      2. d
        dump123456789 Feb 5, 2010 12:58 PM

        This is an incredibly stupid policy. If they wanted to be smart, they'd not give you change change by giving you more change, ie. $5 instead of $4. Then you'd feel good and leave a bigger tip. Instead, they succeeded in pissing you off. Or they made you a regular credit card user, which means they get to pay for the transaction fee. Brilliant move on their part, either way.

        1. LNG212 Feb 5, 2010 01:29 PM

          The same thing happened to me over drinks at Asia de Cuba in December. They "don't do" change change. Needless to say, I made my displeasure known and cut the tip. Quite frankly, I don't think they cared.

          I agree, it seems insane to me. And like dump123456789 said, it seems to be a stupid business move. But then again, I suppose in my case they probably just figured I wasn't the type they wanted anyway. Well, they got that right as I won't ever return there.

          2 Replies
          1. re: LNG212
            LindaWhit May 16, 2011 10:36 AM

            Isn't it illegal not to "do change" if the bill isn't a rounded dollar figure? (I'm just realizing this is a year-old thread, but I'm still interested in knowing the answer.)

            1. re: LindaWhit
              LNG212 May 16, 2011 11:18 AM

              At the time, I wondered the same thing. I guess it's perfectly legal if they are rounding in the customer's favor. But in my case (and the OP's it seems), the bars/restaurants are rounding in their *own* favor. In that case, no matter how small the amount, it seems to me to be stealing. But I have no idea about the actual law on the subject.

          2. a
            akq Feb 5, 2010 01:56 PM

            There have been a few threads on this before...here's one:

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/669650

            1 Reply
            1. re: akq
              k
              KTinNYC Feb 9, 2010 03:21 PM

              Here are some more:

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/539551
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/308574
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/662007

              This is a pretty common topic.

            2. Ernie Diamond Feb 9, 2010 10:08 AM

              Demand they round down, not up.

              I would be pissed if I were in your shoes but would not likely have had the resolve to pursue it as you did. Well done.

              1. shaogo Feb 9, 2010 03:47 PM

                Let me first say that I find Quimbombo's idea -- shorting them the "change change" on your next visit -- is a marvelous idea! We eat at Cafe Alsace a couple of times a year and love it. I didn't have the cash problem because I use a credit card. If a whole bunch of us 'hounds go in there and cause a ruckus about the change, I think they'll get the message.

                It's sad that a place that generally offers great food and predictable service is stooping to this habit. There're many places in the City that do it. You know why? First, they started rounding to nickels so they'd not have to count pennies; then they moved to quarters only. Cafe Alsace is now the third place I've heard about that rounds all the way to paper money. These idiots are lazy and are willing to alienate customers and look completely unprofessional for the sake of saving a minute's worth of counting at the beginning and end of their shift.

                All that being said, I'd be remiss if I didn't make this comment to gutsofsteel: I respect your opinions and have been trying to visit some of the restaurants in NYC that you've recommended heartily. You eat out very frequently and in places that charge a lot of money. Was it really worth your time and breath complaining about this to your server? Do you really think that if the ownership/management are willing to completely compromise their professionalism with this insane "policy" they care at all about your complaint? I'm aware it's the principal of the thing. I wouldn't have bothered wasting my breath, however.

                I'm loving the idea of a mass "short-changing" of this place, nonetheless.

                1. a
                  ambrosia05 May 14, 2011 12:20 PM

                  Hi Gutsofsteel, I am the manager of Cafe D'Alsace (but unfortunately was not with the restaurant when this incident occurred). I know this is an older post, but I just came across it and I wanted to assure you that this is NOT our restaurant's policy, nor has it ever been. Our policy is to always round in the interest of the guest. In your case she should have given you back $4.50 in change. This has been made clear and reinforced to every current employee. I hope that you can join us again soon and I trust that your server or bartender will give you proper change this time! Thanks, Christine

                  1. n
                    nooyawka May 14, 2011 06:37 PM

                    I'd be pissed off and I'd make a stink about it.
                    Too bad, because I had a good experience at Cafe D'Alsace once, and occasionally, I walk by and I'd like to return in the future.

                    1. b
                      beevod May 16, 2011 07:41 AM

                      Shocking!

                      1. c
                        Cathy May 16, 2011 09:04 AM

                        Really? You ate by yourself. For $95.54. Handed her a $100 and did not tell her to keep the change? What kind of "normal decent tip" did you end up leaving that $4.46 would not have been part of? I mean, why didn't you hand her $110 or $115?

                        Nevermind. This is more than a year old.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Cathy
                          pitagirl May 16, 2011 09:37 AM

                          she said "we" and we can't assume that they didn't have money put aside for a tip.

                        2. jacquelines May 16, 2011 12:09 PM

                          I like how you questioned both the bartender and manager; I'm still wondering how they thought you were somehow out of line for questioning them.

                          Similar to what someone else said, this reminds me of the Seinfeld when George gets charged for missing his Physical Therapy appt, then he charges the PT for missing their next appt and not giving 24 hr notice.
                          Charge the bar tender for not knowing her Belgian saisons from her Americans- what a crime.

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