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Jun 17, 2010 07:20 AM

Is the waitress obligated to tell you about happy hour drink specials?

Last night my sister and I went out to a mexican restaurant that we have been going for years. When I say years, we are not 'regulars', don't know staff, just go every few months. Its nothing fancy at all but they have a great margarita/chips salsa and always hits the spot and the price is right.

We get there and order 2 frozen margaritas, waitress says large or small, we say large. We have 2 each, great meal and ask for the check. The drinks were $40.00. I've never even spent that before in the past on the food and drink combined for one person. We figured it was a mistake since happy hour is 2 for 1. So we tell the waitress who says, its not happy hour on the large ones, I thought you knew. My sister says, how would we know if you didn't tell us? The waitress then walked away making a huffing sound. We paid and left, as we were outside, my sister said I'm going back in just to make a point of saying we should of been told then we decided against it and said we just won't go back. I know I will since I really like the food but this left a totally bad taste in my mouth. And also just left me mad.

Which brings me to my question, should the waitress of told us about the drink special? Or was it up to us to confirm it with her?

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  1. It is up to you to confirm. It would be exemplary service on the waitress' part to say, "just to let you know the large drinks aren't included in happy hour", but she didn't so who has to pay the price? You. Caveat Emptor.

    1. I personally find it distasteful for the server to bring up price. I would prefer it to be well marked on some type of menu. I think it's just a personal issue with me though.

      1. I wouldn't say the waitress is obligated to tell you the large margarita's were full price, but in terms of good customer service she made a bad move. Was the small-only stipulation printed on the menu or specials board? I would have paid the bill and left, but would probably call/write the manager the next day. The manager's response would determine if I went back. I wouldn't expect a freebie/discount/comp, just would want the manager to considering making the happy hour limitations more clear.

        I frequently go to a sushi bar that does 2-for-1 happy hour. Their servers always check over the order, remind customers that they can add one more item for free if they have an odd number, and make sure the customer understands which items will be charged and which will be free. The food is good, but there are other places with equally good food and similar specials. The extra service makes that place my go-to.

        1. How did you "know" it was two for one? Big sign? Menu? In which case there needs to be fine print. If you've always gotten small ones before, then I can understand your confusion. It would have been nice if the waitress had "remembered' that that's not your usual, and let you know, but it doesn't sound like you go there often enough for that. So the bottom line is, how did you know?

          2 Replies
          1. re: DGresh

            I knew because of all the times I went its always been 2 for 1 and I have never recalled it being for the small or large. And I've been going at least 6 times a year for the past 14 years. We went outside and looked for a sign, it does say Happy Hour 2 for 1 on the signs outside. I will make a point to walk over and take a pic of the sign and clarify what it said. I was just bummed, and I've waitressed for years and would of never not said, get the small its 2 for 1, but that is just me, I certainly realize people are different that's the way it is.

            1. re: c11

              If the sign says Happy Hour 2 for 1 (w/o caveats) you're entitled to be irritated, in my opinion.

          2. When we did a happy hour it was "well drinks and domestic beer 2-for-1." Unless someone asked, I didn't, frankly, have the time to explain what a "well" drink is to each and every customer. Occasionally, a customer would call for a brand of liquor. That's a "call" drink; not a well drink. The customer would not be entitled to a chip/voucher for a second drink. Occasionally someone would genuinely be uninformed (one lady was so pleasant; she thought the "well" meant the entirety of the booze inventory 'cause all the bottles are in one place) and I'd give 'em 2-for-1 on higher-end drinks.

            But the moment someone behaves entitled and starts to *insist* that I break the rules -- I stick to the rulebook.

            What, if anything, did the signage in the window/at the hostess station/on the menu/on table-tents say about their Happy Hour policy?

            The waitress was just doing her job -- you asked for the higher-priced drinks and she decided to serve them to you without question. At many of these low-priced places servers' sales are carefully monitored by management. There are definite perks to be earned by selling a costlier version of an item to the customer when a discounted price is available (e.g., customer orders a dinner-menu version of crab cakes for $12.95 when the "bar bites" menu offers the same thing for $10.95).

            1 Reply
            1. re: shaogo

              Now that the OP has revealed that there appeared to be no caveats (and in fact weren't any on the sign that's outside -- that's supposed to "lure" customers in) I'm with her. She should've complained to the manager and gotten the 2-for-1; no matter what size the drinks.

              If the sign outside a place makes an offer, and the offer isn't modified by a brightly-lit sign or sign(s) indoors, the offer stands. It's particularly tacky if the offer made by the sign outdoors is modified by, perhaps, a tiny note on the menu customers aren't likely to take note of.