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refills or billed a second time?

was recently at a moderate priced restaurant for a leisurely lunch, and know i should/could have asked but asked for another iced tea (which i do not think was even priced on the menu) and found it to be a second @$3.50 each with a $ 9.00 entree- suddenly a pricy lunch, i paid and left, but still wonder if it is correct not to be informed or just what is correct?. ps. new restaurant that i did enjoy except for that and now very doubtful about returning

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  1. I find some places offer free refills for some drinks and some charge. As often, I guess it all depends. Have to say, I've never asked and never been told either. I work on the basis that if I want a second drink, then I want it whether or not they're going to charge.

    1. Three -Fifty for iced tea? That must be some pretty frakin' good iced tea. If a restaurant charged for tea refills here in Houston, it would be burned to the ground by the locals, as tea is the de facto drink of choice. What typye of restaurant was this? A nine dollar entree doesn't sound high end, so I would think not only should you be informed, but it simply shouldn't be done.

      1. If there was any doubt (i.e., if it wasn't specified on the menu), I'd certainly ask before ordering.

        That said, I have a friend who lunches every day at Denny's. It's always the same order, which includes three glasses of ice tea, for which he's billed separately. When he could order one ice tea and have unlimited free refills. Go figure.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Muskrat

          Hi Muskrat, this confused me. Does your friend ask to be billed three separate times? Or is it that he demands a new glass each time?

        2. If it's not specified, I don't assume. The one time I was seriously annoyed was at lunch at a restaurant in NYC some years ago. They had several interesting iced tea and house-made soda concoctions on the menu, and I ordered one. My glass was not quite empty when the waiter silently removed it and replaced it with a full one of the same, leading me to assume it was included, as I hadn't been asked if I needed or wanted it. When the bill came, I was charged for the second drink. I paid, but also wrote them a note about the practice.

          1. If you are requesting another drink, it's up to you to ask, and you shouldn't assume anything.

            When they offer to fill it for you, I think they should tell you if refills are free or not, but if they don't say, it's still up to you to ask.

            If they don't ask but simply refill it, I don't think they should charge.

            1. I always ask with any drink other than water if it is "free refills" when order it. If it is not, then I just get water if I am thirsty and know I will drink more than one glass. $3.50 for a glass of tea is absurd, and charging for a refill is even more ludicrous in a restaurant with $9 entrée. I would have sent an email or snail mail letter to the manager/owner telling them I would not be returning just because of this practice. They may want to rethink policy or lose repeat business quickly.

              1. Iced tea refill charge should be illegal.
                Cost less than a nickel for an iced tea. (let's not get into the labor or ice, etc.)
                Years ago at a public golf course restaurant I ordered an iced tea ($2) with my meal and wanted a refill and the server told me it would be $2 for the refill. I called the owner of the concession over and asked him about the refill charge on iced tea. He told me he couldn't afford not to charge for the iced tea refills. I told him I'd never order iced tea anymore and only ice water. He shrugged his shoulder and walked away.
                You'd figure he'd rather make $2 than nothing wouldn't you.

                1. I run into this at chain places... there are NEVER prices for drinks on the menu!
                  Mom wanted to go to Friendly's for lunch the other day so, darling daughter that I am, I took her. No drink prices.
                  Pizzeria Uno with my sister last week... no drink prices on soft drink or grown up drinks.

                  Really... restaurants should put ALL prices on the menu. Then there is no guessing, no assuming, no "you should have asked". As a customer, why should I have to ask the price of something? Why isn't the business held accountable to posting prices?

                  A resto is a business and if they want to maintain the business then put prices on the menu. I cannot fathom what the big secret is. You want to charge for refills? Fine. Put it on the menu. Period. End of story.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: iluvcookies

                    So who started the unlimited soda, coffee, iced tea, anyway?? Maybe the same cabal who are bent on turning the U.S. population into walking blimps!
                    Where else do you see this? Not in Italy, Germany, France, Mexico, etc.
                    Next to simplify things, in restaurants, we can have built in troughs at each booth and the attendant can just throw in a bucket of stuff.

                    Obviously, I am not a proponent of the "bottomless" whatever.

                    1. re: ospreycove

                      As ospreycove notes, in many European countries, refill drinks with a meal are usually charged. Refill coffee at the end of a meal varies from place to place - some will charge, others will not.

                      1. re: Harters

                        I may be mis-remembering, but European ice tea/soft drinks have a lot less ice so that's there's actually enough fluid in the serving to quench your thirst.. I've been to American restaurants that stick so much ice in the glass that it's hard to get more than three swallows of the beverage.

                      2. re: ospreycove

                        I want my bottomless water! I drink between 3-8 glasses of water with a meal out. As a person who is trying to watch what I eat I find that if I'm able to have water I won't be as likely to over eat.

                        Although I can remember years ago as a child drinking 9 of those huge mugs of water they used to serve at the Outback.

                        1. re: ospreycove

                          Since when is ice tea fattening ospreycove? Not everyone dumps a load of sugar (or any for that matter) in the glass.

                        2. re: iluvcookies

                          I'm with you on this, but I don't think that it will solve the problem. It is common practice for servers to take orders for drinks up front when they hand out menus and take customers' food orders when they return with the drinks. The average person ordering a soda or iced tea hasn't even glanced at the menu yet.

                          Because it has become increasingly common for restaurants (especially moderately priced ones) to offer "bottomless" glasses of iced tea at a reasonable price, some restaurants that charge for refills bank on the fact that many customers will incorrectly assume that refills are free. Is it legal to charge a small fortune for each glass of iced tea? Of course. Does it make good business sense when customers feel cheated (even if they could have asked)? I don't think so.

                          1. re: cheesemaestro

                            Cheese....Yes, you are right, for the restaurant, trying to capitalize on an accepted norm and hiding a legal but deceptive charge, there might be a better way to try and build "repeat business"......lol

                        3. Here in the NJ/NY area, I think it can be assumed that you will pay for a second drink; if a place actually offers free refills, they usually advertise it b/c it's not the norm. I don't think the same is true for other parts of the country...when I lived in New Orleans, I remember that ice tea refills were always free of charge--can't really remember if it was the same for soda, etc. Cocktails...a different story! :)

                          1. Unless the menu is clear on the point, the burden falls entirely upon you. Period.

                            20 Replies
                            1. re: Karl S

                              True... but the burden *should* be on the business establishment to provide clear pricing for the customer.

                              1. re: iluvcookies

                                I can probably name over 500 cocktails off the top of my head. Every menu should include the prices for all of those as well?

                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                  Within reason... a place like Friday's or pizzeria uno that has "featured cocktails". should put the prices for them. They should put the prices for draft/bottle beer as well. And obviously put the prices for soft drinks.

                                  A diner that DH and I frequent has a small section on their menu of well known drinks such as gin and tonic, pina colada, martini along with prices for those few and the brands of liquor they offer. At least here you can get a sense of what things cost. Is this really such a horrible or unreasonable thing to provide to your customer?

                                  1. re: iluvcookies

                                    Above you said "ALL prices" should be on the menu.

                                    At chains especially, the prices aren't hard to figure out. N/A drinks are around $3, mixed drinks about $7 and specialty cocktails around $8 or $9. Bottled beers are around $3.50 and draughts are about $5.


                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                      Ideally, yes all prices should be on the menu. In a supermarket all items have prices (or a shelf tag). The point here is why, as a customer, should I be left to guess about pricing in an establishment---despite how easy it may be to figure out. Would you walk into a car dealership and assume the price of one car because you know how much another is?

                                      And if I'm traveling and hit a Friday's in another state, why should I assume the prices for a drink there are the same as the one by my house?

                                      1. re: iluvcookies

                                        Because they are, approximately.

                                        My restaurant offers an almost limitless number of cocktails. I'd like to see the 1,000 page menu it'd take to list all of their prices.

                                      2. re: invinotheresverde

                                        Beers, wines, soft drinks and coffee/tea should be labeled. These are one ingredient drinks, ergo not up for sliding price. I have worked for many many bars that list "Tiers" of drink prices (house, call, super call) . It was just good practice.

                                        1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                          Gryphonskeeper, that sounds like a great way to present pricing.... kind of what I had in mind but didn't have the words for it.

                                          Invinotheresverde, how do the servers/bartenders know how much to charge the customers? Surely there is some guideline/formula. Can't this be amended to present to the customer?

                                              1. re: iluvcookies

                                                I'm trying to think if there's any other business that runs this way, just assumes that customers should know the price and accept whatever is charged. It's one thing to have an idea of what prices are if you're in the business and it's your livelihood but for everyone else, it's just another item in a list of hundreds we purchase. Added to which, restaurants do charge vastly different amounts. We just went to a place that served $6.50 iced teas, no price on the menu. Casual, everyday place and $26 right off the bat with four of us getting ice tea.

                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  IIRC, the OP didn't say the menu lacked a price for iced tea.

                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                    Karl S, what is IIRC? gryphonskeeper, I don't thonk $6.50 is out of line for a glass of iced tea, as long as there are free refills, for life.

                                                      1. re: Karl S

                                                        Thanks, Karl S. I'm in the stone age on computer terminology.

                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                      It's the subthread about menus not having the prices and customers should just know, in general, how much they are.

                                                    2. re: chowser

                                                      $6.50 for iced tea? Was is made with magic tea leaves from the bottom of fairy land cultivated by virgins? If not, its a huge rip off!!

                                                      1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                        The indelible Chowhound figure of speech (created years ago by I can't recall which Hound) you might appreciate goes something like "picked by 12 year old virgins chanting at the full moon in Alice Waters' garden."....

                                                        1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                          LOL, I never asked, but maybe next time I'll ask to see the qualifications of the virgins first! I was floored when we received the bill. This impromptu dinner out to try a new restaurant ended up more than we budgeted. Good thing we didn't order the unpriced desserts!

                                      3. Paying $7 for iced tea to go with a $9 entree seems out of balance to me too. It could have been a server error, rather than a policy. I'm in south FL, unlimited ice tea is the norm, it may be a southern thing. (Along with sweet tea.) I also ask for water, and still have 2-3 glasses of tea. The best ettiquite would be drink prices and refill policies in the menu.

                                        1. Many years ago, in Lausanne Switzerland, we ordered saddle of venison for dinner. After cleaning our plates, imagine the surprise when two new, completely filled plates arrived! The reason? "We thought you might still be hungry" the waiter replied. No, there was no additional charge.

                                          4 Replies
                                            1. re: Sherri

                                              That seems to be the norm for Swiss restaurants. I have encountered the same thing a couple of times in Switzerland.

                                              1. re: Sherri

                                                Nice... If that ever happened to me I would immediately assume my grandmother took over the kitchen!

                                                1. i did try them again but for take-out. i really wanted to like this place (very convenient) . found the portions to be small and a bit pricey. would i go back again? no but primarily because of the drink incident, not the food or portion. when i looked at the printed menu again i noticed they managed to put a price next to each item except drinks. i grant you mixed drinks may be a bit much to list but tea, soda water, basics certainly could and should be priced on the menu. so for $3.50 lost a customer forevermore

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: rich51

                                                    I would still write them about it and tell them just that.

                                                    There's iced tea and there's iced tea. Was this just plain old from a tea bag tea or something fancy brewed with fresh tea leaves? If it is the latter, then I would expect that price and no refills.

                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      nothing special ,glass was filled from a drink dispenser spigot. just like soda