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Here's another rule on how to be a good customer I read about last night

We've all read those tiresome lists of "rules" on how to be a good customer so your waiter won't spit in your food.

Here's a new rule I read last night. I had never heard of this one before.

If you're not ordering a drink, you can't just ask for a glass of (free) water. No, you must buy bottled water! LOL! I'll have to remember that next time.

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  1. Says who?

    Was the article written by the manufacturer of bottled water?

    1. Hah! Good luck trying to get me to follow that rule.

      1. Here's jfood response. You insist he drinks bottled water, give it to him. Remember a few years ago all the rage was to have an open bottle of water on the table to scam the customer into thinking it was free, then zappo, an $8 charge. Now jfood insists that the bottle comes unopened and they open it at the table. No refilled bottles please.

        1. "If you're not ordering a drink, you can't just ask for a glass of (free) water. "

          Ummm, yes you can. Not sure where this "rule" came from - waiters expecting larger tips? Bottled water consortium? The only time I ask for bottled water is if there's a boil advisory in the restaurant's town. And how often is that?

          1 Reply
          1. re: LindaWhit

            I agree. I personally think bottled water is completely unnecessary when ordering still (panna). I do order sparkling on occasion. Bottled water in not environmentally sound and I don't even drink it at home. On the rare occasion I do buy bottled there is a specific reason, like being required to be able to close my drink completely as opposed to having a fountain "opened" drink.

          2. I'm glad to see I'm not the only water scofflaw around here... I very rarely drink alcohol, and sometimes I'm just not in the mood for a soft drink or tea, so water it is. As a general rule, I don't drink bottled still water. For the most part tap water in the US is clean, safe, and cheap. Most bottled still water in the US comes from municipal water systems with little or no additional treatment. My local water utility charges between $2.58 and $19.40 per 1000 gallons of water, depending on the volume used. If I'm going to pay more than a fraction of a penny per gallon for a beverage, then I want some kind of added value beyond pouring into a glass.

            9 Replies
            1. re: mpjmph

              I am not supporting this supposed rule, however the point obviously is that when you dine in a restaurant there is a reasonable expectation that you spend reasonablyl. Picture the parsimonious patron who drinks tap water, orders only an appetizer and lingers over a cup of tea. The tap water in and of itself is not a problem, in my view, however it is one of those choices like sharing an entree (even with a plate splitting fee) and foregoing all other courses, that has a negative impact on the restaurant and the servers bottom line. You might choose to do one of those things but not a bunch of them and you really should try to make up for it. If I am not particularly hungry and know that I will want only and appetizer I make a point of spending a reasonable amount at the restaurant by spending on wine or drinks and if I am still below the cost of a more typical meal I will tip above 20%. I view it as a social contract, if I am going to take up space in your restaurant I will be sure to spend a reasonable amount of money.

              1. re: Kater

                Difference of opinion on this one K. The social contract is to tip on the amount consumed, not the opportunity cost to the server or the restaurant. Long day, hot weather, do not want to cook, nothing in the house, let's go out to dinner. The customer is now supposed to hit the mean or above on the reasonable expectation scale on what to order and the nominal tip to leave. Maybe on a food board you will see people agree but not a reasonable expectation from jfood's POV.

                1. re: jfood

                  Anyone who knows me on Chowhound will know that I almost always take the side of the server. But in this case I'm with jfood merely because he articulated his p.o.v. so well.

                  As much as I'd love for diners to go "soup-to-nuts," there are, indeed, times when you're just not really hungry and a big meal is not the thing to do. Of course, one wouldn't choose, for example, a steak house nor some other sort of place which is well-known for sending diners packing into the night wielding huge "doggie bags;" but it's reasonable to expect that one's level of service should not be tarnished if you only want an app, salad and a glass of wine, let's say...

                  1. re: shaogo

                    I certainly expect the same high level of service I usually enjoy but I feel better about making sure that my server and the restaurant don't get short shrift. It's not hard to do unless you're in a BYOB.

                2. re: Kater

                  I agree that I usually tip the waiter a bit more if I'm splitting a meal with my husband (or having an appetizer, using a coupon, etc.) I do this because of the waiter's work and not out of concern for the restaurant, necessarily.

                  However, I may rethink this if I make reservations at a restaurant that is clearly full at the time we're dining. Ninety-nine times out of 100, however, we go on the spur of the moment to our favorite local restaurant and eat in the spacious bar area (and there's an even-more-spacious dining room). If I'm eating a bowl of gazpacho and calling it dinner, there's no lobster-craving, wine-guzzling big spender waiting for my table or being turned away.

                  And bottled water? No way! We have great tap water in Southwest Michigan, and I don't do bottled water unless traveling.

                  1. re: Mestralle

                    I agree that it is a great idea to eat at the bar when you know you're not going to place a full order!

                    1. re: Mestralle

                      I don't feel "less-than" other restaurant guests if my choice is to order two appetizers and call it a meal, and I've never felt compelled to sit it out at the bar because of my menu choices. Next time I'm back, I'll likely order a drink or a bottle of wine, an app, an entree and maybe even dessert. It all balances out.

                      1. re: CindyJ

                        I'm with you there. I'm a non-drinker and don't always want to sit at a bar just because I want to have a light meal that night.

                    2. re: Kater

                      I'm not going to order things I do not want just to make the server happy. Then again, if I'm not hungry enough to make my order worth the server's time chances are I'm not going to a full service restaurant. There are plenty of long standing rules of etiquette concerning how much to order and tip. It rubs me wrong when people in the restaurant business try to create new "rules" to increase their bottom line. Some people will spend a lot, other will spend little. Some will tip well, other won't. Most people fall somewhere in the middle.

                  2. That is the silliest thing I have ever heard. I don't personally drink water from a bottle. Call me crazy, but I think there's a lot worse things in the plastic to worry about than what might grow in my tap. That being said, I'm not one of those people who doesn't order a drink normally. If I do order water, I expect it refilled at some point, but won't go hunting someone down for it. If I sit for twenty minutes with an empty glass that's another story.

                    1. I bet I know the logic behind this "rule". Restaurants make a good portion of their money selling beverages - the margin on drinks is much much higher than on food. So...if you want to be a "good" customer in the restaurant's eyes, you'll order something from the biggest profit margin part of the menu, the drinks. And if you're not ordering a tasty beverage, if you still want to be a "good" customer, you'll order bottled water, which also has quite a markup.

                      I wouldn't call it a 'rule' - nobody's gonna bust your chops or kick you out for just drinking tap water. I do know what helps the restaurant stay in business, tho, so sometimes when I don't feel like ordering a drink, I'll still have iced tea.

                      17 Replies
                      1. re: ricepad

                        I understand the logic but I legitimately want tap water. I personally think I order plenty of food to make the one drink I order not an issue.

                        1. re: melpy

                          How funny to think a diner needs to order bottled water to help a restaurant stay in business.

                          I find that both ludicrous and hilarious.

                          1. re: anonymouse1935

                            I agree. It's like buying popcorn and soda at the movie theater, even if you don't want it, because that's the largest profit margin at the theater.

                            1. re: anonymouse1935

                              I know! Who knows how these restaurants stayed in business before bottled water became a fad?!?

                          2. re: ricepad

                            I can't imagine ordering something I don't want just because it's a bigger profit for the company. But, then again, I pay my credit card balance off at the end of the month and probably annoy the heck out of the credit card companies because they don't make exorbitant interest off of me. If that makes me a bad customer, so be it. I'll order what I want, not off the restaurant's profit margins.

                            1. re: chowser

                              now jfood is waiting for a restaurant that has both the price and the profit in separate columns. Then there is the rule that customers need to generate $X of profit in a given seating. Jfood can only think of how Jack Nicholson would handle that.

                              1. re: jfood

                                shaogo is rolling on the floor screaming with laughter. Indeed, Nicholson would order a soda, without the cola, without the sugar, without the CO2...

                                We normally order a couple of cocktails. I recall being at the Paragon at Foxwoods, and the captain tried to strong-arm us into ordering bottled water. We had $400 of wine on the table and I told the captain that if there wasn't any tap water in the restaurant I'd gladly take the elevator downstairs (with a glass in hand, thank you) and fill it from the drinking fountain in the public hallway.

                                Suffice it to say that was quite a few years ago. Nowadays, they send me invitations to come for free wine and Champagne tastings. We haven't gone. Perhaps they give you the Champagne for free and still charge $16 for that water in the fancy Italian bottles?

                                1. re: shaogo

                                  <the captain tried to strong-arm us into ordering bottled water. We had $400 of wine on the table and I told the captain that if there wasn't any tap water in the restaurant I'd gladly take the elevator downstairs (with a glass in hand, thank you) and fill it from the drinking fountain in the public hallway.>

                                  Good for you. That's just ridiculous. I worked for several years as a server, and I didn't think less of people if they only asked for tap water. It was when they asked for extra lemons, made lemonade at the table, ordered just a single entree each, and then pulled out the two-for-one-coupon that I got kind of annoyed.

                                2. re: jfood

                                  Who would have thought you'd need a CPA to know what to order?

                                3. re: chowser

                                  You may not be able to imagine it, but I can, and do. Several restaurants I patronize are Mom & Pop operations that probably operate on razor thin margins as it is (I've worked in several, so I have some idea about their profitability). When I dine there, sometimes I may not want a beer or a soda, so I'll order tea, instead.

                                  I do not see my relationship with these restaurants as adversarial, but mutually beneficial. I want them to stay in business. If it costs me an extra few bucks, I'm ok with that.

                                  It amazes ME that so many people on this board seem to brag about how generous their tipping behavior is, and yet are so judgmental about other acts of generosity.

                                  (And I pay my credit card bills every month, too...never had to pay interest on anything other than my house.)

                                  1. re: ricepad


                                    jfood would disagree in that noone has been "judgmental about other acts of generosity" but have commented on being forced to order something not desired.

                                    1. re: jfood

                                      Who is being forced? jfood is assuming facts not in evidence.

                                      1. re: ricepad

                                        did you read the OP

                                        "If you're not ordering a drink, you can't just ask for a glass of (free) water. No, you must buy bottled water!"

                                        1. re: jfood

                                          jfood - I didn't read the OP as "being forced" - I read it as the OP saying the waitstaff was being told to over-encourage you to BUY the bottled water, or be shamed into buying the bottled water.

                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                            Interesting, but the word "must" seems to indicate otherwise.

                                            Maybe the SF laid back definition is different than that out here on the right coast. :-))

                                            1. re: jfood

                                              LOL! I see what you mean, but I just "hear" over-emphasis on the word "MUST!!!!" when I read it, with an overly dramatic usage and the waitstaff having an "oversell" mentality on the bottled water.

                                              OP, feel like clarifying? ;-)

                                    2. re: ricepad

                                      I don't read anyone as being judgmental, just saying it's not necessary in their opinion. It's nice that you do it. I'd rather throw in an extra dollar and give it to the owner, if that's what it takes to keep them in business, rather than order a drink I don't want and letting it go to waste. How is wanting what you want in a restaurant adversarial?

                                4. So if I order a glass of water my waiter will spit in my food? Where do you live?

                                  1. I agree with the consensus: that's ridiculous.

                                    But on the rare occasion that I'm at a bar but not drinking (generally with a group of drinkers) and I really just want a regular glass of water, not seltzer or anything, I'll ask for a glass of water and tip the bartender a buck or two to make up for it. (Similar to what chowser said.)

                                    1. i think if i only order an appetizer or 2 the restaurant should give me a free entree to make up for the loss of caloric intake.