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Apr 30, 2010 07:34 AM

Were we overcharged?

We were in Tokyo recently. One night, after walking around Omotesando Hills, we decided to get some cheap eats, and ended up in this yakitori place off Aoyama Dori. Just a normal small place with heaps of locals. We sat at the bar, and ordered 3 skewers and 2 bowls of Chicken Egg Rice between the 2 of us. That's it, and the complimentary ( I assume) small dishes, no drinks, and we were charged 6380 yen in the end. There wasn't any breakdowns and it was just a handwritten subtotal number on the receipt.

Knowing a skewer usually cost between 200 - 300 Yen, and a bowl of Chicken Egg Rice usually cost between 1000 - 1500 yen, my question is, were we simply overcharged as foreigners? Could it have happened?

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  1. When you go to a yakitoriya or other drinking spot in the evening, it's pretty much a rule that you order at least one drink, even if it's a soft drink. And there's usually a set table charge, which gets you those non-complimentary small dishes at the beginning of the meal (to go with the first sips of your drink). So it sounds like either there was a Y1000/person table charge (not unheard of in Aoyama), or perhaps the charge was Y500 and they also applied a one-drink minimum to your bill, since they couldn't explain the rules to you in English. So no, it sounds like they treated you fairly.

    1. they may have added standard 10% to the bill, that gives exactly 5800. Your food was probably 3000 for the bowls and 1000 for the skewers, which leaves about 2000 as table charge or maybe mandatory drink. so you have not been overcharged -- still you made quite bad choice: No drinks at a yakitoriya? what's wrong with you? ;-)

      2 Replies
      1. re: Scharn

        Sigh, the boy doesn't drink and was grumpy that night after an afternoon's shopping, and he just wanted to get back to the hotel. The bill seemed high to us, but I now think we simply didn't manage our expectation well enough, due to a lack of understanding of yakitoriyas.

        Thanks for clearing things up, Robb and Scharn. It's good to know the customs of yakitoriyas and good to know that we weren't overcharged. Cheers!

        1. re: shallotpancake

          Well, good thing you didn't stumble into a really expensive shop ;-)

      2. It is also possible that you were overcharged, just by accident. The small dishes are almost always NOT complimentary.

        6 Replies
        1. re: deraumai

          Usually I find the otoshi to be anywhere from 300 to 800 yen a person.

          Speaking of such 'table charges', has anyone successfully denied them AND not had to pay? I've always thought that it was mandatory. Recently I read an article/blog/post where the author sent it back to the kitchen and was not charged. Is this possible?
          I always drink a few (at minimum) beers at these kind of places but I don't always want the otoshi.

          1. re: lost squirrel

            I wouldnt send them back. It's very annoying for everybody involved and even if they comply, they will make the mental note "idiot foreigner" which is neither a good thing for you nor any other blue-eyed blond-haired person in town.

            1. re: Scharn

              I've never tried sending them back, most often I just eat it anyway. I doubt it's much of an effort though, it seems most of them are prepared and portioned out in advance.

              Regarding the 'mandatory' thing, when I first came to Japan I thought it pretty unethical to (A) serve something unasked for and (B) charge for it without (C) providing any explanation of the costs involved until the final bill comes.

              Come to think of it, I'm still not a fan of the practice to this day.

              1. re: lost squirrel

                That just seems to be an issue of being ignorant of local customs, rather than being shammed. If you've traveled to Europe, you'll find the same practices with a cover charge added to the bread served at restaurants. Would you refuse the bread and the cover charge when sitting down at a restaurant? Is that also unethical? I'm sure many foreigners eating in the US must feel the same when realizing they need to tip 15%+ to a bill.

                1. re: E Eto

                  Agreed, I was ignorant when I first came. But I'm not longer and I still feel it's a bad practice.

                  I'm not familiar with the bread charge in Europe, but I think it's ALWAYS unethical to surprise charge a diner.
                  It may be a local custom in some areas, but that doesn't excuse hidden charges for bread or anything else.

                  Tipping in the US is a whole different matter, mainly it being expected but not 100% mandatory like otoshi. When tipping is mandatory for certain size parties or other reasons, it should be (IMO) clearly indicated on the menu.

                  But, we weren't talking about tipping as a practice, we're talking about hidden charges that are neither written down or communicated orally.
                  As far as I'm concerned, there's no excuse for it. When I go out to eat, I take the otoshi and I pay for it - but that doesn't mean I have to approve of the practice.

            2. re: lost squirrel

              Yes, the charge is mandatory. Just because some ignorant, aggressive person was able to intimidate the restaurant staff into giving him a discount doesn't mean it's something to consider trying for yourself.

          2. I consider the otoshi as a friendly service in place of a tip. Often times the little bit to eat at the start of an evening is quite welcome. I would never complain about it.