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Apr 13, 2011 01:00 AM

Charged For Things In Restaurants That Other Restaurants Give You Gratis

Frequent one sushi place that is on the higher end of the price point and has excellent fish. They, however, as l eat a lot of unagi, always charge me extra for the house made eel sauce as l like more. Sauce is not great, so recently l have been BYOS, using mine and no issue. One deli charges if you want more than the normally delivered 1/2 pickle and so on. Any outrageous stories out there, l suspect there will be.

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  1. Three years ago, was in Boca Raton shopping with the wife and daughters. Wasn't bad enough what it cost for the shopping, but the kids insisted on lunch at the Cheesecake Factory.

    Both kids ordered Diet Cokes w/LEMON as their beverages. When the bill arrived, the server had keyed in a charge of 50 cents each lemon wedge.

    I was pissed, paid the bill, but have never agreed to return to Cheesecake Factory, no matter how much the kids beg.

    How to lose a customer by stupidity or greed. If a restaurant wants to charge for a garnish, then reveal it when ordered. I would have been more than happy to give them the lemon wedges served on the side of my cup of tea--which I don't use.

    57 Replies
    1. re: bagelman01

      Curious if you said anything about the charge to anyone? The waiter, the manager on your way out the door? Yes, you're only one voice amongst millions who go to the CF, but if enough voices speak up, they might realize that charging for a wedge of lemon is cheap and bad publicity for them.

      Or they might not. :-/

      1. re: LindaWhit

        Mentioned it ti the MOD when paying the bill at the cashier, the answer was that if you order anything extra you should expect to pay for it. They're entitlked to run their operation that way and I choose to spend my dollars elsewhere.

        1. re: bagelman01

          Totally agree, now that I know you mentioned it to the MOD. And as I said - with the millions who go to CF, they're obviously getting feet in the door who are either not seeing the charge or don't care. (more likely the former)

          1. re: bagelman01

            Oy Veh, I don't "do" Cheesecake Factory, but really? Charging for a lemon wedge or two? Does that mean if I go to the bar there and order a martini with an extra olive they're going to charge me for it? I don't even want to know the answer.

            1. re: mamachef

              I don't do Cheesecake Factory, but there are things parents do because their children ask <VBG>

              1. re: bagelman01

                I've got 3 kids and have responded in the affirmative to requests for things that made my toes curl. : ) We don't have one around here, so it's never come up. I don't know what <VBG> means. (?)

        2. re: bagelman01

          Wow, now THIS is something I've never heard of and, luckily, have never had happen to me. I'd be p...d too!! I don't eat there but I know they are always busy and this is still just too rude, no matter how busy they are.

          Good for you for speaking up. This is exactly the kind of thing I actually WOULD complain about!

          1. re: bagelman01

            I agree 100%. I have eaten at many restaurants up and down the U.S. East Coast and have never been charged for things like extra butter, coffee creamer or napkins. I consider these things to be included in their "overhead" - the reason it costs so much to eat out. (From reading below, I'm amazed how different things are in other countries!) If (American) restaurants are trying to cut back on costs by charging extra for such petty things they should tell you when you order!

            I ate at a Carabba's tonight, and noticed tables receiving glasses of water w/ lemon so when I ordered mine I told the waitress no lemon TWICE and it still came out with a lemon wedge! Maybe I should have asked her to take .50 cents off my bill!

            1. re: kittyangel

              Actually, I had this happen yesterday. The kids wanted to lunch at Red Robin while shopping at the mall. We ordered 3 waters, 1 coke 1 coffee black. Waters no lemon. Sure enough the coffee came with creamers and the waters with lemon. Had the waitress bring fresh water without lemon and told her to top the coffee off as I did not need romm for cream.

              The servers are so preprogrammed that they don't think, just do. This lack of regard for patron's requests should be reflected in their tip.

              That said, all the food was delivered exactly as ordered, no tomato, extra pcikle, ciabatta bread, not a roll, etc.

              1. re: bagelman01

                "That said, all the food was delivered exactly as ordered, no tomato, extra pcikle, ciabatta bread, not a roll, etc."

                well i hope that then should be reflected in a larger tip

                1. re: thew

                  Very recent restaurant experience: As we were leaving a restaurant we told the girls/women/seat-you people at the desk/greeters (what do you call the persons anymore as you come in?)

                  that the water was running in the restroom. One said, "I'm sorry." We said,, nothing to be sorry about, just thought you'd like to know that the water is being wasted and maybe it could be fixed.

                  She said, "I'm sorry."

                  Outside parked in the lot, there was a sticker on the back of a car that suggested if you could afford to eat out you could afford to tip 20%. We wondered if it was a restaurant workers's car. Damned glad that we tipped accordingly, because definitely the male waiter was probably the best part of the meal :-))

                  1. re: Rella

                    Rella, I still call the greeter/seat-you person the host or hostess even tho in some places the wait staff or managers do it.

                    1. re: Rella

                      Actually I've been going in the opposite direction.

                      After years of 20-25% I took a good hard look at the issue. The price of the same dish on the menu has gone up because of the cost to the restaurant. Some restaurants are passing some, but not all of the costs to the customer. But the servers are earing a higher amount of money while I am paying more for the same dish, and the owner is absorbing more of the increased costs.

                      I think it is only fair that my historical 20-25% gets reduced so the server does not make a winfall on the backs of me and the owner.

                      1. re: nobadfoodplz

                        a winfall is overstating it, don't you think? and just as your costs are going up, so are the servers. so their less than minimum wage job covers less and less for them.

                        1. re: nobadfoodplz

                          Pay the money.

                          The servers have gone without a raise long enough.

                          1. re: wayne keyser

                            Servers get a "raise" every time the restaurant raises its prices.

                            1. re: kmcarr

                              only in numbers...every time the cost of gas or milk or new shoes for their kids goes up, their raise goes right out the window.

                              1. re: kmcarr

                                except for people tipping less because the price goes up

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    as the price of gas or milk increase we all pay more, not just servers, while most people only receive a raise once a year, at best, the server receives one every time the price of the menu items go up plus their percentage to some should increase as well.

                                    1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                      this conversation could go round in circles for years....can we all agree that most servers aren't exactly well-paid, and to begrudge them a few pennies is pretty unkind, especially since a lot of them don't get benefits like the rest of us?

                                      (Let's assume that an average check at a restaurant is $50. If the restaurant raises their prices 5%, the new average ticket is now $52.50. 20% of the difference is a whopping 50 cents. If they turn 4 tables a night, they've made a whole $2.00, for which they've done a not-inconsiderable amount of work trying to actually *earn* that 20%...and you're going to stiff 'em for that?)

                                      And you're going to cut their tip because of that? If your personal finances are so tight that that extra 50 cents makes that big a difference to you, there are other issues at play.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        I, for one, agree. As our costs go up, so do theirs, so I still tip the same. If I am satisfied with the service 20%, really happy more, and very unhappy less. I personally don't know why we have this system. I think restaurants (as all businesses) should try to recruit good employees, expect a good performance from them, and pay them what they're worth.

                                        1. re: sunshine842


                                          I am not stiffing or begrudging anyone. I am dealing with the cold hard facts that I am paying more, the restaurant is earning less, yet the server has a windfall, and it meets the exact definition of a "windfall." So 2 parties are suffering, albeit, slightly and one party benefits. And I also "actually earn" my hard earned dollars every day. Whether I can afford it or not is similar to asking if a corporation can afford to raise salaries now hat the economy is better. Yet unemployment stands at >8%. Everyone is earning less and paying more.

                                          1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                            Sorry, but your argument makes absolutely no sense. If the restaurant is raising prices, then it isn't "earning less." Prices fluctuate with inflation. So do your income and the server's expenses. There's no windfall there.

                                            On the other hand, if I tip servers based on what food cost in 1975, then I'm certainly getting a windfall. Sure, it makes me an asshole, but think of all the money I save.

                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                              Mr Alan

                                              yes it does.

                                              If the cost to the restaurant increase by 10% and they only pass on 8% then they are eating 2%. Me as the customer is paying 8% more. The server is receiving 20% times 8% more in tip. I am out the 8% cost plus the tip times the 8% and the owner is out 2%. The server is up the tip percentage times the 8% increased cost.

                                              1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                Your math skills need some work.

                                                If food costs go up 10% and the restaurant only passes on 8% of the cost to you, then you're coming out ahead. You're only paying 80% of the incremental cost, so you receive a windfall.

                                                The server, on the other hand, is taking it in the shorts. What do you think s/he eats at home? I'll give you a hint - FOOD. So the grocery bill goes up 10%, but tips only increase 8%, leaving the server with less inflation-adjusted money to eat on.

                                                And that's assuming that most customers aren't clueless tightwads who reduce their tips when restaurant prices go up.

                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                  Mr Alan, my math skills are fine. The increased costs to the restaurant include the overhead and other incidentals. I did not say food costs, i said costs. So no windfall to me.

                                                  And the server is not taking it in the shorts at all. In fact the server is the only one in this analysis who has a salary immediately tied to the cost of food increase. I bet you do not and I know I do not.

                                                  1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                    is there some reason you continue to try to justify short-tipping the person who's working at considerably less than minimum wage, with considerably less benefits than YOU have?

                                                    The person who has no control whatsoever over the cost of the menu, nor his/her pay at the end of the day, nor the rising cost of trying to put food on his/her own table, but is expending the same amount of effort to give you a decent experience, only to have you stiff them?

                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                      Ms Sun

                                                      I am not stiffing anyone, I am explaining that when you increase both numbers in a mathematical equation it is greater than only increasing one of those numbers. Tipping someone 15% is not, by any stretch, a stiff. All people on commission do not control their pay. Do you give money to the sales person at Macy's when you buy on the day after Christmas to compemsate their lower commission? The items are al 40% off and their pay just went down 40% for that day. Yet when you go to a restarant with a 40% off coupon everyone states you leave the tip on the full priced items. Why?

                                                      And everyone I know is facing rising costs trying to put food on the table, those on fixed incomes who do not have the benefit of making more money because the cost of food and hence their pay goes up.

                                                      I am just presenting a different point of view here

                                                    2. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                      Ive always believed that f it was too much of a hardship to tip correctly it should also be too much of a hardship for you to eat out, but Ive come to accept that some people are just cheap and don't care.

                                                      1. re: twyst

                                                        (and have never been on the other side of the table...)

                                                      2. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                        Mr. Bad Food,

                                                        Every restaurant manager knows that menu prices are directly tied to food costs. Overhead and other incidentals don't figure into the picture. As a matter of fact, commercial real estate rental rates have dropped in the past few years, while labor costs are steady or declining. It's food prices that are driving any menu increases.

                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                          Assuming that restaurants do not build their overhead into their cost structure tells me that you aren't all that familiar with how successful restaurants operate from a financial perspective.

                                                          It absolutely, positively is in the price structure. Rent and utilities might not be as volatile as food prices, but they do change, and they are accounted for by anyone with any level at all of understanding how to maintain a profitable business.

                                                          And you as a customer tip the proper percentage on the total bill at today's prices because that's just what you do. End of story.

                                                          Under your thinking we should all just pay whatever we want for anything...if we feel like paying the electricity bill using 1973 rates, well, that should just be okay, because you said so.

                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                            Perhaps I could have been clearer. Fixed overhead is certainly included in menu prices, but those prices are generally set as a multiplier of food costs. The general rule of thumb is that an entree should be priced at four times the cost of its ingredients.

                                                            While there are exceptions to this general rule, it shows that menu price fluctuations are tied to directly to food costs. Menu prices tend to go up only when the restaurateur has to pay more for ingredients.

                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                              sorry, alan, clicked the wrong reply. Wasn't aiming that one at you.

                                                            2. re: sunshine842

                                                              Ms Sun

                                                              Totally agree. And that is exactly what i do. I pay what i feel is the proper percentage. I just think that the percentage is different than you, and it appears others, do.

                                                              And the price I pay for electricity is set by the PUC of my state and I can decide, to a degree, how much I pay my switching electrical providers. And my limo company places a fuel surcharge on the bill in these times of $4 gas. But they do not increase the gratuity to the driver, they base that off the base rate, so there are examples of thoughtful owners not trying to create a windfall for the tip-based employees and are considerate of the customer.


                                                              1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                                Some people must have a very different definition of "windfall" than I do.

                                                      3. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                        20% X 8% is an increase of jus over 1 and half percent. yes you are complaining about a 40 cent increase on a 25 dollar entree.

                                                        1. re: thew

                                                          Mr thew

                                                          20% of 8% is 1.6%, that is the correct math on the example. But if the server was fine with $5 tip which 20% of $25 on night 1 why is the server not just as happy with the $5 on the $27 entree the next night?

                                                          time to move on.

                                                          1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                            Extending your logic, if the server was fine with a $1 tip on a $5 entree in 1975, why would s/he not be just as happy with a $1 tip on a $25 entree in 2011? I'll tell you why - because tips are based on menu prices. Today's menu prices. Not yesterday's, not last year's, and not last century's.

                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                              And extending your logic I should only tip on the half-price special price? Or should I tip zero on the free dish in the BOGO price? How about Happy Hour drinks for $1, tip the bartender a quarter, bet he'd be glad with that 25%er? Or should I not tip at all on the compensated dishes? Or should I still tip if the manager removes an item because it was prepared badly by the kitchen?

                                                              You cannot logically take the position that the server deserves the highest percentage multiplied against the highest potential value that the check "could have been."

                                                              1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                                Your argument has nothing to do with the point I made. But then again, your underlying premise makes no sense, either, so I suppose it should come as no surprise. I'm done here.

                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                  Mr Alan,

                                                                  I was responding to your comment of the tip should not be based on yesterday's prices. If my scotch was $12 yesterday and is $3 at happy hour today, I tip on yesterday's price, the normal, not affected by spikes in oil prices or food prices, cost. But if I followed your do not pay by yesterday's but todays price, then i would base my tip on $3, not $12. So which is it?

                                                            2. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                              i said "just over 1 and half %," and you said "1.6 %." I'd say we are saying the same thing, no?

                                                    3. re: sunshine842

                                                      spot on! many diners talk a big game about money but never really do the extra step of figuring out how much it is that they are talking about.....50 cents for each table is based on the assumption of 20% tip...many cheapskates walk away with 10%, etc., so that number may be inflated

                                          2. re: nobadfoodplz

                                            Maybe I am just lazy, or maybe I can more easily afford it now, but I just keep things simple, and tip the same, as I have for decades - 15% minimum, unless the service is horrible *, 20% normal, and then more (often spread around to outstanding members of the service team), when the service is really good. I usually tip on the wines, plus the taxes, unless I happen to tip the sommelier separately, then the tip on the AMEX might reflect the food and taxes (even on the wine), and maybe not the total bill.


                                            * Not THAT long ago, we had absolutely horrible service at a resort restaurant. The server got 10%, but our busser, who was excellent, and so very helpful, found a US$ 20 in his hand. When things go OFF, I do try to reward the good people, even if they are on the lower end of the "food chain." Heck, maybe more IF they are on that lower end.

                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                              I'm pretty broke these days, and have been in the past. But whether I'm making $ or not, any place that I go out to the server usually get's 15-20% and sometimes more for exemplary service. So for me it's not tied to my finances, I include the tip in my budget.

                                              Servers aren't exactly living La Vida Loca, they're usually just trying to feed themselves and their family.

                                              And Bill, if you go out of your way to reward those who give good service, that's not lazy! I commend you.

                                              1. re: cosmogrrl

                                                cosmogrrl...La Vida Loca (The crazy life)...I think you meant La Dolce Vita (The sweet life)

                                            2. re: nobadfoodplz

                                              The costs of a dish increasing should be reflected in what the item costs on the menu. If an item costs more to make it should cost more for us to buy it, simple right?
                                              Inflation is reflected in all areas of the economy, if you get a raise do you begin to tip more at restaurants? Prob not, its all probably going to your increased cost of gas and other living expenses.

                                    2. re: bagelman01

                                      Hmm, I used to work at a brew pub back in the day and I recall lots of cheap patrons only ordering water but asking for extra lemons then they made their own lemonade with the packets of sugar. And they did not stop at one glass. I wish we could have charged for lemons.

                                      I have seen people do this in other places too. MAYBE, if lemonade was not served then this would be ok with a charge, but otherwise it's just cheap and poor manners.


                                      1. re: Dax

                                        Cup of hot water plus a packet of ketchup = tomato soup (by any of a number of derogatory names)

                                        1. re: Dax

                                          the only counterpoint i could make is for people who don't want or can't have sugar. i'm not saying it's right, but i imagine your pub didn't serve sugar-free lemonade. in that case, the classy way to deal with that, IMHO, is to say, "look, i can't have sugar, but charge me for a lemonade, and i'll take water with lemon and make my own sugar-free."

                                          just my ten cents...

                                          1. re: Emme

                                            Except Dax said they were using sugar packets, not the blue, yellow, or pink stuff.

                                            1. re: 2roadsdiverge

                                              i guess i thought he didn't specify... oh well.

                                      2. Where I live, every sit-down, independently owned restaurant serves some sort of bread/roll/starch before the meal. The Mexican places do chips and salsa, the low end family restaurants/diners do the standard tea rolls, the higher end places do house made bread, etc....you get the picture.

                                        A new restaurant openned in town and the owner bucked the free bread trend. Many times, we were seated next to a table who asked "where is the bread?" When told bread would cost $5, you should have heard the bitching! Holy Cow, people would go crazy. I know he lost business far in excess of the cost a small piece of bread.

                                        21 Replies
                                        1. re: cleobeach

                                          I think Americans think that if it's on the table when they sit down, that it is free. This is not the case in other countries. In Italy restaurant tables are set with two bottles of water, one with gas, and one without, and you'll be charged if you open one. Then there's no charge for the bread or breadsticks on the table.

                                          In Portugal, it's common for a restaurant to put out a dish on the table, and you'll be charged for it if you eat it. The more gullible you look, the more expensive the dish. They are tasty dishes, but can be a painful surprise when the bill arrives.

                                          1. re: 512window

                                            What happens if no one eats it? Does this one plate of food end up getting passed from table to table over the course of the night? Ick.

                                            1. re: Lixer

                                              Where I have seen the charge-by-the-piece-rolls in Germany, yes, the basket sits there all day and all night. My mother wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole (total germ freak). My dad would make the waitress count them as soon as we sat down so we didn't accidentially get charged for rolls we didn't eat.

                                              1. re: cleobeach

                                                Does this really happen??? Seems like it would violate all kinds of sanitation laws (at least in America). (Altho I don't doubt some restaurants "recycle" unused roll's). And don't they get stale? Yuck! (Please excuse me, I think I have to go wash my hands/puke!)

                                                1. re: kittyangel

                                                  Kittyangel, Health department rules vary by locale. When I was in the food business in New Haven many years ago, the health department allowed restaurants to reserve uncut rolls in the bread baskets, but sliced bread had to be trashed. New Haven did not require a restaurant to provide clean plates for subsequent trips to a buffet line, but the health department in Hamden (adjoining town) did.

                                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                                    bagelman01, I can understand the rules being much more lax "many years ago". But in this day and age? You'd have no way of knowing if someone (perhaps with a contagious illness) had handled it, sneezed on it, dropped it on the floor, an insect crawled on it, etc.

                                                    Many years ago I worked in a resaurant for one month and it's a miracle I ever ate out again!

                                                    1. re: kittyangel

                                                      In Indonesia, there is a regional type of restaurant that puts out 20+ dishes once you sit down. Then you pick which dish you want to eat and you'll only be charged for what you eat (per plate or for things like chicken, how many pieces you eat). All the items that you don't eat will be taken away at the end of the meal and re-served to the next customer. It can be painful to not know how much you spend until the end of meal (unless of course you convert it to US dollars later ;) ).