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Water Service - am I naive?

We took a good friend and his spouse for dinner on Saturday night to celebrate a special occasion...a 70th birthday. It was a very upscale and beautiful Michael Mina restaurant where we had dined before, and which we knew was expensive. Upon being seated we were asked, and I quote "Would we like sparkling or still water for the table?". We replied "sparkling". I assumed, regrettably, that since we were not asked if we wanted bottled or tap water, that water service was an included part of the dinner service at this fine restaurant. It would have been awkward to ask in front of our guests whether this was the case.

I was shocked to see that on our bill we were charged $24 for 3 bottles of water...with tax and tip it was $30 for water that was untouched by 2 of the 4 of us. Was I unreasonably naive to assume that since the question was "sparkling or still" rather than "bottled or tap" that water was an included part of the dinner service? I was so "ticked" at our server that I almost (but didn't) deduct the $30 from his large tip (our bill was $500, and I tipped $100). I felt very "ripped off". Should I have, or was I simply stupidly naive? Would it have been reasonable to deduct the water charge from the waiter's tip...he indeed did lead us into this trap? Whatever, I've learned my lesson, nevertheless it would have been uncomfortable to ask if water was included in front of my guests.

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  1. you were naive, but that's ok, it happens to everyone , even the best of us; as for the price, 8$ per bottle is not excessive, but what surprise me is that you say that only 2 of you drank it; either you drink a lot, or something went really wrong?

    anyway, I normally ask for plain, tap water; unless I want "special" water.

    Max.

    19 Replies
    1. re: Maximilien

      It would have been nice if the waiter said something like "we are offering Brand X sparkling water for $8, Brand Y still water for $5 or tap water" but it (the selling of water) seems to be such a common practice, it is assume that people will understand there is a charge - just like coffee, dessert etc as in monavano's response.

      I am also curious about the bottles and the number of people drinking it. I would be upset if a waiter took the liberty of openning a bottle per couple and having it go to waste.

      1. re: cleobeach

        offering the prices like that, in an upscale restaurant (which MM restaurants solidly are) can come off by a large amount of people as the server thinking they are cheap. This is why (in my experience) unless it's a super luxury item, like a truffle supplement at $75/gram, the price isn't offered, unless prompted.

        1. re: plaidbowtie

          But surely you agree that before serving bottled water, the server should specifically ask if you would prefer bottled water (still or sparkling) or tap water. This question was not asked of us.

      2. re: Maximilien

        No, neither me nor the other "drinker" had more than a few sips of water. Can't imagine how 3 bottles of water were poured.

        Not that it excuses my naiveté, but I have indeed been to at least 2 or 3 restaurants where water service was included, and there the same question was asked "Would you prefer still or sparkling?"

        1. re: josephnl

          You also have to watch for waiters relentlessly topping off your glass. I tell them to bring it and leave it. Same for wine.
          They don't call it H2Oversell for nothing!!

          1. re: josephnl

            "No, neither me nor the other "drinker" had more than a few sips of water. Can't imagine how 3 bottles of water were poured."

            If this is indeed the case, why did you agree to pay for 3 bottles? You should have said something. Maybe it was a mistake. And if it wasn't a mistake, then even more reason to bring it to someone's attention. I really don't understand why you paid for something you did not drink.

            1. re: ttoommyy

              My guests were a bit uncomfortable that we had taken them to "such an extravagant" restaurant. To call any attention to cost would have been awkward for me.

              1. re: josephnl

                I can understand that and would be hesitant to ask what the water costs. My sense is that you would have asked if you weren't treating guests.

                1. re: monavano

                  I didn't suggest that the OP ask how much the water was. I suggested the OP asked for the bottles of water they did not drink to be removed from the bill. It could have been done away from the table in a discreet manner.

                  1. re: ttoommyy

                    How do you leave a table of four people discreetly and in such a way that it doesn't call attention to the fact that hey, there he is arguing with the staff?

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      First, you excuse yourself. To the restroom, outside to use your cell, make up something. Then, you then see the manger and explain. No arguing involved. Unless the restaurant is the size of a studio apartment, it can be done discreetly. I
                      I've done it a few times when I've noticed something amiss on my bill.

                2. re: josephnl

                  "My guests were a bit uncomfortable that we had taken them to "such an extravagant" restaurant. To call any attention to cost would have been awkward for me."

                  If they put a $24 appetizer that you did not order on the bill would you have let that slide? I really do not understand paying for something you did not drink. You could have excused yourself from the table and handled it discreetly.

            2. re: Maximilien

              As for some, the water IS a major profit center, I have seen glasses over-filled, just to allow for extra bottles to be added to the tab. Not unlike wine glasses being over-filled, in hopes that the host will buy another bottle. That is usually the point, where I pull the server aside, and explain things in precise details.

              I do not mind paying US $ 20 for a bottle of Voss, but not if we are looking at 9 filled-to-the-brim glasses, out of 10. Please do not try to "hook" me. I do not need an up-sale, and resent when that happens.

              Hunt

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                "I do not mind paying US $ 20 for a bottle of Voss..."

                Boy, I sure do. What a bloody ripoff.

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  Amazing what people pay for something you can get out of a tap.

                  1. re: monavano

                    I live in a city where the tap water is truly horrible. We have had to put a filter in even our shower head to avoid gummy hair.

                    1. re: sandylc

                      Even still, sandylc, I'm sure you don't pay $20 a litre for the stuff that comes out of your filter. A reasonable charge for a bottle of water is maybe $2... maybe $4 or $5 for truly fancy stuff. Anything more than that and frankly you're so wealthy that you shouldn't be judging pricing on anything, or so daft you shouldn't be allowed to eat in a restaurant without a financial advisor.

                      (Not you in particular, the general "you", of course.)

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        You are right. I should also mention that we have to rent a water softener and a reverse osmosis filter to counteract our bad water. Almost enough reason to leave my city.

                        1. re: sandylc

                          I can sympathize—when I lived in the rural Midwest it was well water, and for some reason it stank of sulfur. I drank bottled water and because we had to run a softener, it took ten minutes to rinse a tiny dab of shampoo out of my hair. It was awful and completely unfit for drinking. Now I have Colorado River water and it tastes just fine.

            3. A waiter's job is to upsell you. You should be on guard. Dessert? Coffee? Water? All pads the bill and drives up their tip. Can't say I blame them, but yes, you are naive to have assumed that one bottle of water, let alone three would be free.
              Sparkling or still? is just a way to dupe you into thinking that those are your choices. There is a third option- tap.
              That's what I ask for when presented with this duplicitous question, and have never been denied.
              And you were not magnanimous for leaving a 20% tip. It's what you owed.
              Sorry to be blunt, but you need to take responsibility for your own actions and not blame the waiter for doing his job.
              ps...very nice of you to treat the other couple! That IS generous.

              46 Replies
              1. re: monavano

                Although I agree that the waiter's job is to sell, I don't see deception or "duping" as monavano calls it, as appropriate. Asking "sparkling or still", and not "bottled or tap" seems to me to be pushing the limits. Am I wrong?

                1. re: josephnl

                  Oh, it's deceptive alright, we definitely agree on that! There are many ways a restaurant upsells you, from the decor to the menu to the server making you think you can't choose free tap water. Caveat Emptor as Mike Brady said.

                  1. re: josephnl

                    I could understand your point more if you ordered still, thinking that still water = tap water. But in asking for sparkling...where did you think it was coming from?

                    1. re: LeoLioness

                      To be fair, the OP thought since "sparkling or still" were the ONLY options that they were included with the service. Also, many restaurants are carbonating their own water these days so if one orders "sparkling" it may very well be gratis at some of these restaurants.

                      1. re: ttoommyy

                        Then I guess I'm back at my original answer that yes, it's naive to assume anything but tap water would be free.

                        1. re: ttoommyy

                          You are correct, I have had sparkling water provided as part of an included water service at least 2 or 3 times, admittedly at high-end restaurants.

                    2. re: monavano

                      Folks, we removed a sub-thread that was purely focused on tipping, whether it's obligatory, etc. That's a topic that's been covered a great many times with a great deal of animosity in a variety of other threads. Since it's not the focus of this thread (which is on a different, but equally touchy topic), we'd prefer that people stick a little closer to the subject at hand.

                      1. re: monavano

                        I am very sorry, but I do not agree here.

                        A server's job is to serve, and to do that well. Up selling is for used car salesmen, in plaid suits. If it's not the case, then one needs to never darken their door again. Next thing they know, they will be working a call center, asking if the person on the other end of the line needs a new mortgage.

                        In the hospitality industry, the server is in the business of serving - period!

                        Hunt

                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          Naive, my friend.
                          Up selling in restaurants happens.
                          All
                          The
                          Time

                          Would you like to start with a salad?
                          Can I get you started with an appetizer?
                          Would you like to see the dessert menu?
                          Would you like a refill on your wine?
                          Would you like coffee? Espresso?

                          Any time you see "specials"?
                          Up sell.

                          I'd nary eat out if I never would darken a door that up sold.

                          1. re: monavano

                            Up selling, or good service? Where does one leave off and the other begin. Servers get no relief in discussions like this one unless they have 20/20 ESP.

                            1. re: Servorg

                              Both, really.
                              They're doing their job, both in serving and encouraging the customer to consume, which is to say, spend ;-)

                              1. re: monavano

                                To me it's like going to the rental car counter and having the clerk offer you their insurance. I know my credit card company and my insurance policy at home covers me for any possible damage, so I decline it. No one can make me "buy" the up sell items, unless I want them. I'm very careful about water offers. But if it comes to the table and it has a label on it I am very prone to say "Is that water gratis, or is there a charge for it?"

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  Rental cars and blackjack- decline the insurance offer on both!

                                2. re: monavano

                                  The customer does not need encouragement to consume. The server should be attentive, ready to serve, and quiet, until asked.

                                  Hunt

                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    Bill Hunt- servers encourage all the time. The next time you go to a restaurant, keep track of whether you drive every single purchase without ANY prompting whatsoever.
                                    I don't know why you see encouraging as a bad thing.
                                    Just like any other business, they have to pay their bills.
                                    That's how the world goes round and round.
                                    ps...if you've never been tempted by a server's suggestion, then you've got will power of steel.

                                    1. re: monavano

                                      Rather than encouraging (selling), I'd rather that they outline any specials, then honestly (from recent experience) answer any of my guests' questions.

                                      Maybe it's just the restaurants that I frequent, but I do not recall any server selling anything.

                                      As I mentioned, a favorite PHX restaurant offers several levels of water, but the servers tell about the "double-filtered" tap, at no charge.

                                      Just did two upper-middle to upper-end restaurants in San Francisco, and the offer for water was similar. In each case, we were offered still, or sparkling bottled, and also "filtered" tap. In both cases, the servers mentioned how good the filtered tap water was. We went with it once, but wanted sparkling in the other case, so went bottled.

                                      Now, over the decades, I HAVE encountered servers, and sommeliers, who felt compelled to up-sell. I rather resent that.

                                      I encounter similar in some steakhouses, with regards to sides. When doing two for a table of eight, I have had them tell me that each diner should have a side. Bogus! In every case, 2:8 is good, and more is a waste of food, and $. I rather resent that, and take copious notes.

                                      Hunt

                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                        This is the whole point. "Levels" of water don't exist, or shouldn't. It's water. It's hard for me to conceive of the idea that someone has had bottles of Acqua Panna shipped, in those heavy glass bottles, halfway round the world, where they sell it at a ridiculous markup (it's 1€ a bottle in any cafe in Italy) simply because of the cachet.

                                        Upsells happen all the time. When they're done with an eye toward actually enhancing my meal (as opposed to simply enhancing the restaurant's bottom line), I don't mind... and when it's done classlessly or clumsily, I become extraordinarily unwilling to do ANY upgrades, simply out of spite.

                                        Yep... still human.

                              2. re: monavano

                                I totally disagree.

                                A server should take my order, after answering any questions, get it all correct, make sure that my wines arrive on time, and are served properly, and then not bother me, unless I need them. PERIOD!

                                We are not talking selling aluminum siding here.

                                Hunt

                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  I dislike upselling as much as the next guy...and obviously have been a victim of it (I am the op). Nevertheless, I must agree with monavano that it's part of the game and pretty much omnipresent in all restaurants, albeit sometimes more subtile.

                                  1. re: josephnl

                                    As mentioned above (or maybe below?), I do not see that much, and resent it, when I do. One gets a constant barrage of tele-marketers, people trying to sell windshield repair, when they just need to wash their auto, from kids selling magazines (usually arrive via a large van), and from their financial advisers, They do not need such, when they just wish to enjoy an evening of fine dining.

                                    Just my limited opinion,

                                    Hunt

                                  2. re: Bill Hunt

                                    Oh, Bill. You must be a real joy to wait on!

                                2. re: Bill Hunt

                                  "A server's job is to serve, and to do that well. Up selling is for used car salesmen, in plaid suits."

                                  Have you ever owned a food business, Bill Hunt? I seriously doubt it by the above statement. The sole purpose for a restaurant to exist, whether it is a diner or a Michelin star establishment, is to make $$$. Restaurants are not in business because the owners like to bust their buts making people happy. Yes, that is a fringe benefit of working in the business, but the bottom line is $$$ and a restaurant will never show a good profit unless it upsells and gets its customers to order a lot of peripheral items. Upselling happens all the time. All. The. Time.

                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                    Sometimes subtly, but they all do. I think Bill's enjoying himself too much to notice, but this is Marketing 101.

                                    1. re: monavano

                                      Right. At Applebee's it's in your face; at an upscale restaurant it's very subtle, but it happens. A restaurant could not exist for a long time unless they sold marked-up extras to a high percentage of their tables. Maybe not everyone on any given night will buy into it, but a good portion of the tables will. Like you said, it's basic marketing.

                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                        Guess that most of it has just been too subtle for me to pick up on. However, as I come from an advertising and PR background, I am not exactly a "babe in the woods." If they are so very good, that I do not notice, then I tip my hat to them.

                                        Hunt

                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          "Guess that most of it has just been too subtle for me to pick up on. "

                                          Have you ever ordered a special in a restaurant? "If so, you've been upsold!" :)

                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                            no - that is not upselling. upselling is when you say i want the chicken piccata, and they say - if you like that you're going to love our (more expensive) special tonight of chicken ala king. merely stating items that are available but not on the menu is NOT upselling. it is informing the customer of their choices.

                                            1. re: thew

                                              "merely stating items that are available but not on the menu is NOT upselling. it is informing the customer of their choices."

                                              Sorry, but it is indeed upselling.These items are not on the menu and they usually cost more than other items in their category on the menu. It raises the price of the average bill, which is the goal of the restaurant. I have worked in restaurants and owned my own food business at one time. It's not the most over-the-top form of upselling, but it is definitely upselling without a doubt.

                                              1. re: thew

                                                We had a local place once tell us that they were trying out a new dessert that wasn't on the menu, and that if we tried it they would comp us a dessert of our choice the next time we came in. I call that upselling and good service. How about if they told you that someone had opened a bottle of wine that is normally not sold by the glass, but it was still available? Is that both? A lot of upselling is inextricably intertwined with service. What about them letting me know that their usual prawn appetizer can be substituted with some live Santa Barbara spot prawns they got in that morning? Upselling yes, but something I want to know about.

                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                  i'm not against upselling. but equating having specials with upselling is absurd.

                                                  1. re: thew

                                                    "i'm not against upselling. but equating having specials with upselling is absurd."

                                                    But didn't you just say that if the fictional restaurant in your example above were to say "If you like that (the piccata you ordered in your example) you're going to love our (more expensive) special tonight of chicken ala king."? Wasn't that a recitation of an off menu special by the restaurant?

                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                      no, that was suggesting a more expensive item AFTER one had been selected. reading a list of items is neutral - suggesting a more expensive one is upselling.

                                                      having specials is not synonymous with pushing specials

                                                      when, how, and context all matter

                                                      1. re: thew

                                                        It's a lot like Google suggesting ad's to you depending on your search terms. Even if the special is more expensive the wait staff is zeroing in on something I've already shown a preference for and simply making me aware of something that is similar, but that I might like better. I really don't get what the big deal is with this whole subject. I'm in charge of what I order and how much I'm willing to pay for it. More information is normally never a bad thing (if I have time to consider it).

                                                        1. re: Servorg

                                                          i agree - as i said i don't mind upselling, no one can make me order something i dont want, and if i decide the more expensive item, it was my choice. i wasn't making a big deal but i was pointing out that reciting a special is not an upsell -that's all.

                                                          1. re: thew

                                                            Then, dammit, we're in agreement...I hate when that happens! ;-D>

                                                    2. re: thew

                                                      "i'm not against upselling. but equating having specials with upselling is absurd."

                                                      Well, then you should be at a pre-meal meeting in a restaurant and hear the captain telling his wait staff to upsell by suggesting the specials. You can tell captains all across America that they are absurd, because they most definitely consider this upselling. I've said it before and I will say it again: specials raise the $$ amount of the average check. This is upselling in its purest form.

                                                2. re: ttoommyy

                                                  I disagree! When specials are priced similarly to other items on the menu, they are not upselling...they may just represent what the chef was able to get fresh at the market that day. I had a wonderful wild mushroom ragout special at a restaurant in Portland, OR a few years back, and it was the least expensive starter on the menu. When I inquired why this was so, the chef came out and told me that he had picked the mushrooms himself in the woods that morning, and since his product cost was zero, he was practically giving them away? Was that special "upselling"? I think not!

                                            2. re: ttoommyy

                                              No. I have never owned a food business, but have spend plenty of time and money at many.

                                              I am speaking from the position of a patron - only.

                                              I do not want up-selling. I want good service and better food. Then, I am pleased and will likely return.

                                              Hunt

                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                "I do not want up-selling. I want good service and better food. Then, I am pleased and will likely return."

                                                No, you don't want it, but the restaurant will engage in some form of upselling so it can make $$$. If it depended on just the menu items to make a profit, it would probably not exist for long. Restaurants depend on all the marked up extras we buy as the night progresses. Maybe not every table buys into this, but a lot do and this is how the restaurant stays in business and shows a profit.

                                          2. re: monavano

                                            "And you were not magnanimous for leaving a 20% tip. It's what you owed"

                                            I SO disagree with this statement!!!!!! A tip is NEVER "owed"!

                                            The OP is 3 bottles of water smarter now. The waiter took advantage of the festivity of the occasion and slipped one past them; the OP chose not to make a fuss and put a damper on the evening. Even had the OP "slipped away" to challenge the bill, the rhythm of the evening may have been interrupted. Hindsight is always 20/20.

                                            1. re: sandylc

                                              Wow, all the exclamation points and screaming caps, how do you really feel?

                                          3. It would have been nice that they would have told you that your bottles of water were to be charged.

                                            With the exception of Guy Savoy in Paris (where charging for bottled water is beneath them), I assume that any bottled water will be showing up with an extensive mark-up on my bill.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: wattacetti

                                              Oh, in many restaurants, there WILL be a charge for most water (though not quite so often nowadays), but the issue seems to be an inordinate number of bottles, for what was consumed. Maybe I missed something. When I am faced with "still, or sparkling," I expect to be charged - but only what is consumed.

                                              Hunt

                                            2. i actually mentioned this on another thread about being charged for things that some people assume are free. the discussion is getting pretty long & unwieldy, but in case you're interested:
                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/778295

                                              as Maxmilien said, it happens to everyone...well, unless they've read discussion like this one here on CH ;

                                              )

                                              lesson learned. now you know in the future to request tap even when it's not offered, and to *never* assume bottled is free. heck, most places don't even offer free refills on cheap fountain drinks!

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                I've found that generally, the cheaper and less formal the restaurant, the more likely they are to refill for free. It's the fancy, expensive ones that nickel and dime you!

                                                1. re: monavano

                                                  the one exception to that rule here in LA is The Ivy. i always end up having to lay something over my iced tea glass to keep the refill guys away! sure, the base price for it is steep - i think it's $5 or $6 at this point - but you get a ton of fresh mint leaves with it, and those refills just keep coming.

                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                    One of our favorite places is a bbq joint called Dixie Bones. Free refills galore and they will refill you going out the door! They also give plenty of bbq sauce for leftovers.

                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                      At US $ 6 for an iced tea refill, that had better be a great iced tea!

                                                      Hunt

                                                2. I don't think I have ever had bottled water included for free except a couple times recently when it was "house-bottled" - and in those cases, the waiter has been very clear that it was complimentary. And I think it's the norm to be asked, "Sparkling or still?". My typical response to that question is, "Tap."

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: aching

                                                    The "house bottled," or "double-filtered tap" seems to be becoming the norm. Some restaurants are bucking the trend to soak the patron, at every turn, and should be commended for such a stance.

                                                    Hunt

                                                  2. As a point of fact, I almost always ask for "tap" unless there is a non-drinker at my table. Having said that however, I don't necessarily think the $8/bottle charge is excessive, given that it was a nice restaurant. A bottle of San Pellegrino will run you probably $2-3 at a grocery store (right?), and every restaurant marks up beverages significantly.

                                                    So, doing the math, if they applied the standard multiplier to the retail cost of the bottle of sparkling water (3x to 4x), it makes sense. "Sense." :-) Honestly though, I've never seen any sort of bottled water offered gratis anywhere.

                                                    I think you'd have been in the wrong to dock the server his/her tip because of the water charge, for whatever my opinion's worth.

                                                    1. I guess I do think it's a bit naive to think bottled water would be free and as such, it would have been wrong for you to take away from the server's tip as a result of your own error. If it's not tap water, asume you have to pay for it. If you don't want to inquire into the cost, ask for tap water (a perfectly acceptable option).

                                                      1. They used to ask if you wanted bottled water, I guess this is a more subtle way of asking the same thing, or maybe not ... "sparkling or still" can refer to two kinds of bottled water, do I really have to specify "tap water"?

                                                        Maybe I'll just say "Bring me whatever pours out of the rain gutters"

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: redfish62

                                                          You do have to say "tap", unfortunately. I think it's presumptuous and a big eyeball roller, but it seems to be de rigueur.

                                                          1. re: monavano

                                                            I'm going to learn how to say "tap water" in Mandarin, then when the waiter asks "I'm sorry?" I'll get in a huff and say "CAN I PLEASE HAVE SOMEONE WHO SPEAKS MANDARIN AT MY TABLE?"

                                                            Teach them a lesson.

                                                            1. re: redfish62

                                                              I think speaking up for yourself and disregarding their ploy says it all. You've got their number and and are savvy enough to know you can certainly get tap for free.

                                                              1. re: redfish62

                                                                "What kind of still water do you have?"
                                                                "Oh, we pour Acqua Panna and Fiji."
                                                                "Oh, those are too fancy. Don't you have any Metropolitan Water District?"

                                                          2. At least they do not leave them opened on the table when you arrive any longer. I hate the upselling BS.

                                                            You ordered one bottle you pay for one bottle.

                                                            On the check, you just circle the other 2 bottles and write. "I ordered 1 bottle. If you get a credit back for redoing the check, please keep. I have adjusted tip accordingly."

                                                            No discussion, no need to get others at the table involved, pretty simple.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                              It's like those bottled waters waiting for you when you walk into a hotel room. Not free but usually marked as such.

                                                              1. re: monavano

                                                                Well, some of that depends on one's "level." We normally get two 32 oz bottles (not the Fiji, or Voss) waters, per day. Still there ARE the Fiji, or Voss waters, with a hanger, that includes the price per bottle.

                                                                Hunt

                                                              2. And remember, "naive" spelled backwards is Evian. ;-)

                                                                1. I think too that it was a little naive to assume sparkling or still was free.

                                                                  I think we have to watch the coffee prices too, it's so easy to say yes to coffee when it can be anything from a couple dollars to a fair bit. It would be most unusual to ask to see the menu before ordering coffee and find out what they charge per cup or French Press. But it's an easy upsell for the server.

                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                  1. re: smartie

                                                                    Interestingly, I eat out a lot, and very often at expensive restaurants, so I guess I'm somewhat surprised that I was so easily suckered in on this one. But aside from the water, they almost caught me on something else...coffee. At night, I often make a point of ordering regular coffee and then tell the server to make sure that any refills are decaf. At this restaurant, sure enough they served my first cup of coffee from a French press. I am certain that had I not stopped the server at that point, he would have brought my refills from a 2nd press and charged me accordingly...which indeed would have been appropriate. But...and this is where the server I think failed, both with the water and with the coffee...I honestly think that an ethical server would have asked if we wanted bottled or tap water...or at the very least would have asked each person if they wanted it before pouring a full large glass for everyone at the table...and, when I stated that I wanted regular, then decaf, surely he should have told me that it was individual French press service. Certainly servers should be salesmen, but being a good salesman does not preclude being up front and avoiding deception.

                                                                    1. re: josephnl

                                                                      I don't think you were "that" naive. I also think if this has coloured your opinion of the restaurant in any way, such as returning, than a written note or call would be in order to let them know you were disappointed in how it was handled.

                                                                      Any business owner would fall over themselves to credit a $30 mistake on a $500 check if it means return business.

                                                                      1. re: josephnl

                                                                        "I honestly think that an ethical server would have asked if we wanted bottled or tap water...or at the very least would have asked each person if they wanted it before pouring a full large glass for everyone at the table"
                                                                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                                                        it's really not about his personal ethics - the guy was doing his job the way the restaurant wants him to. in my experience, it's extremely rare these days for a server to mention tap water as an option - i always have to ask for it after they've offered me sparkling or [bottled] flat/still.

                                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                          I disagree rather strongly. I eat out at good and fine restaurants as much as anyone...and rarely has anyone served me bottled water without specifically asking first if I would like bottled water. True, they may not specifically mention tap water as a option, but when asked if I would like bottled water, it seems obvious that tap water is an option. The reason I was duped at this restaurant was that I was intentionally misled into thinking that the only options were "still or sparkling" water. I admit that I was either naive or trying to be extra polite in front of guests, and I should have asked for tap water.

                                                                          Sorry goodhealthgourmet, it is clearly about ethics. Intentionally misleading customers to increase profits is not ethical. This is true whether it is about overpouring water or wine, or trying to sell daily specials which are priced higher than other menu items without revealing the price, or as happened to me once when my guests were (without asking me, the host, first) offered "perhaps you would like a few shavings of this wonderful truffle which we just received today from Italy". Unfortunately 3 accepted...$40 each ($120!) was added to my tab. Yes, selling is part of being a good businessman...misleading customers is neither ethical, nor in the long run, good business. It is wrong, and very short-sighted. (I am, by the way, a retired businessman...and was, I think, both ethical and pretty successful.)

                                                                          1. re: josephnl

                                                                            my point was that it wasn't necessarily the *server's* personal ethics at play, rather an element of the restaurant's overall operating procedure, and the server was executing it...as unethical as you may find it to be.

                                                                            and i don't see how you were "intentionally misled into thinking that the only options were "still or sparkling" water" when you *also* state that "when asked if I would like bottled water, it seems obvious that tap water is an option. "

                                                                            i'm not trying to start a debate with you here. as i said earlier, i fell for it once as well...but only once. and i assume the same will now hold true for you.

                                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                              I agree that I was unfortunately either naive or more likely distracted by my guests. I have indeed (on a very few occasions) had in-house bottled water included in the dinner service...and also, as previously stated I have essentially always been asked if I wanted bottled water before it was served to me. I was not asked if I wanted bottled water this past weekend. I thus do feel that I was misled...and certainly filling all of our glasses to the brim, even for the 2 of us who drank no water, was just plain wrong (3 bottles worth wrong!). I really don't want to go on about this. I was curious what others would think. I obviously expected more integrity/honesty than may be the norm...and was probably somewhat naive in this expectation. I've learned my lesson, and will specifically request tap water in the future.

                                                                              1. re: josephnl

                                                                                The entire water upsell is an issue that I am glad I, and you, firmly understand. I do not care how it is phrased, or whose ethics are below the acceptable line, the server has become a part of the bad behavior. The second and third bottles were more than "the customer should have known". It is outright thievery. You did not order bottles 2 or 3 and they were hoping, with the waiter as an accomplice, to steal money from you.

                                                                                I have a simple rule in life. If you reach into my pocket and try to steal money, I better not notice because i will react accordingly.

                                                                                I do not care if it is the server, the owner, the manager on duty or just a stupid bet the server has with the busboy on how many he can serve. I view all of them together as one unit and when it comes time for me to pay, I take appropriate action with the check.

                                                                                You are not naive, no more than someone falling prey to the chimney scam, the flim-flam man or any other bad behavior designed to take money out of your pocket. You learned a lesson and if 3 bottles of nice water was the price, you did good.

                                                                                1. re: josephnl

                                                                                  I agree josephnl. I think you were being polite and not "on your toes", which we shouldn't have to be when enjoying dinner out.
                                                                                  Just recently, DH and I went to a small, family-run Italian place. First time. It was...ok, but that's besides the point. The first thing the waiter did was ask if we wanted garllc bread. I believe he did mention it was $2.50. i assumed that we'd get regular bread service along with the meal, and frankly, if I had to pay for it, I was going to skip it. I should have saved the carbs anyways because the bread was reheated and stale! But, I digress.
                                                                                  After our entree, it was "Dessert? Coffee?". Jeeez! Not even a moment to digest!
                                                                                  So, you get the upsell at all levels.
                                                                                  ps...the truffle incident is over the top and aggregious. Unfortunately, it's becoming more commonplace.
                                                                                  I think the big take away for everyone is to know tap is available, always ask for prices if not provided (I don't care who you're with, that's just a money making scheme for "specials", so ask, there is nothing to be ashamed of or to find offensive) and tell the waiter to leave your bottle of whatever on the table and DO NOT TOUCH IT! Pour yourself because otherwise, they'll keep pouring until your drunk or you've drank enough water to float away!

                                                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                                                    At the risk of going off on a tangent, I think the heart of the matter is having to be "on your toes" and alert for chicanery when out at a nice restaurant. I agree it's probably not something the server did of his/her own initiative, but more likely a policy of the restaurant. "When offering water, say Still or Sparkling, if they ask for Tap that's fine, but don't offer it up front."

                                                                                    It definitely takes away from the experience of going out to a nice restaurant when you feel like you have to be on guard for this kind of thing. In fact, it's downright infuriating. The issue goes beyond the OP's initial complaints about water service.... it's about restaurant owners trying to nickel and dime their customers in the hopes that the clientele either doesn't notice or doesn't want to make a big deal out of something that is, in essence, a relatively small portion of their bill.

                                                                                    I'm out with friends or colleagues, having a few drinks, trying to have a nice time... possibly have a case of the Warm and Fuzzies, and yeah, my guard goes down, I'm more vulnerable. To pull that kind of nonsense IS a form of taking advantage. When it happens to me, I feel like *I* dropped the ball and wasn't paying attention, but I also don't speak highly of a place and will probably not choose to go back.

                                                                                2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                  Well, considering that "ethics" at any level, are a thing of the past, it is not surprising. Next thing we know, dining will be like letting an "aluminum siding salesman" into our living room.

                                                                                  I just cannot wait.

                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                        2. Yes you were naive, but it was better then realizing, a bit too late, that the waiter was pouring wine in everyone's glass all evening and getting the bill for that!!

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Mother of four

                                                                            Would you pay for that if noone at the table ordered bottles 2 and 3?

                                                                            1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                                              There were ten woman at the table, and we had ordered two bottles of white and one bottle of red. We had been to a pre party , so that was enough wine for a glass for who ever wanted more, since we were driving. No one realized what was going on until I all of a sudden realized it and stopped them from pouring. I honestly don't remember what we paid for the wine, as all I really remember is being charged $6 for six anchovies for a Caesar salad!! That restaurant is now out of business thank goodness!! I wrote to every review I could about them and hope that I was partly responsible to their demise!!

                                                                              1. re: Mother of four

                                                                                The pouring of wine at MY tables is something that I take very, very seriously. If necessary, I pull the servers aside and instruct them on what a "pour" should be.

                                                                                As I will often spend 5x the price of the meals, on the wines, I want them to understand how to do it correctly. This is all whispered, out of ear-shot of my guests.

                                                                                Now, I should not need to instruct the servers, or the sommelier, on such things, but as the host, I will do what I need to do.

                                                                                Hunt

                                                                          2. it was not the waiters fault at all. sparkling water pretty much always means a bottle you are paying for. i'm glad you did not undertip a waiter, punish him, for your not realizing something. there was no trap set. nothing underhanded going on. no one ripped you off.

                                                                            23 Replies
                                                                            1. re: thew

                                                                              "Sparkling or Still?" is relatively new to the American restaurant lexicon. I can understand how some people could be fooled into thinking tap is either not an option, or still=tap ;-(

                                                                              1. re: monavano

                                                                                I agree - but the OP ordered sparkling. There could have been no misunderstanding about whether or not it was tap - the misunderstanding was whether or not it was gratis.

                                                                                1. re: aching

                                                                                  Right. I can see some confusion with still=tap, but certainly not sparkling.
                                                                                  Just to clarify, did the table not drink 2 bottles? If so, why were more brought to the table before they were needed?
                                                                                  Thanks for clarifying.

                                                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                                                    "Just to clarify, did the table not drink 2 bottles? If so, why were more brought to the table before they were needed?"

                                                                                    From the OP:

                                                                                    "No, neither me nor the other "drinker" had more than a few sips of water. Can't imagine how 3 bottles of water were poured."

                                                                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                      This is nebulous (not you!). I can't imagine the OP was charged for water not consumed. Thanks for finding this!

                                                                                      1. re: monavano

                                                                                        If you order a bottle of water and don't drink it, you SHOULD be charged for it, right? But if the waiter was just bringing bottles of water unrequested and plopping them down on the table, then there is reason to be upset. I didn't read it that way - that would be very odd!

                                                                                        1. re: aching

                                                                                          But now the question is: Were those second and third bottles even seen by the OP? If the OP and the one other guest truly only had a "few sips" where were the other bottles? As someone said in an earlier post, this is all very "nebulous" at this point.

                                                                                          Maybe some other "liquids" were involved with this dinner that the OP hasn't fessed up to? ;)

                                                                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                            If I can read between the lines here until the OP clarifies.... it sounds like two of the four were drinking wine and had only a very little bit of water. The other two, on the other hand, probably drank quite a bit of it.

                                                                                            The restaurant probably kept filling all glasses as often as possible, and opened a new bottle as soon as one was emptied. I guess the justification is they didn't sell you "A Bottle" of sparkling water, but sparkling water throughout the meal. If it keeps showing up, people keep drinking it. Glasses get refilled constantly the same way they would be if it were tap water.

                                                                                            Personally, I would never order bottled water, but maybe that's because a) I enjoy wine/beer with my food and b) I live in NYC which has pretty good tap water.

                                                                                            1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                              I'm the op. No, the bottles of water were only seen as it was poured. They were out of sight otherwise. I had no clue that they were pouring 3 bottles. They initially filled all 4 glasses about a third of the way. They then came by once or twice and refilled the little that two of us drank, and eventually topped off everyone's glass whether they were drinking or not. Thus, apparently 3 bottles were opened.

                                                                                              I don't know whose fault it was...management, waiter, busboy or whoever. I do think that this pretty inappropriate...enough so that I will not return to this restaurant.

                                                                                              egit...all 4 of us drank wine, we ordered 2 bottles and also had cocktails. Only 2 of us had any water, and it was no more than a few sips...perhaps a half glass each. They just kept adding water to our rather large water glasses...and I was too stupid or inattentive to notice what was happening. One should not have to play the role of "water police" while enjoying dinner!

                                                                                              1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                I get that you wont return, but please, you dropped the ball a bit, can't you admit to that and take a wee bit of the responsibility here? Whatever water is being consumed is generally topped off. You have to wash your food down with something, right?
                                                                                                The best defense is a good offense.
                                                                                                Next time say "I" will let *you* know when we want another bottle*. Leave this one on the table and I or whomever will pour. Thank you. End of discussion. I defy a waiter to ignore your express directions to him.
                                                                                                Live and learn, and hold yourself responsible for your part in this, because you had some.
                                                                                                Cheers, and happy, stress-free dining!*
                                                                                                * DH and I will go through one bottle and then it's ice water all the way!

                                                                                                1. re: monavano

                                                                                                  Of course I'm taking responsibility for allowing myself to be ripped off! The title of my post suggests my own naiveté. I've learned my lesson!

                                                                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                                                                    Ms Mona,

                                                                                                    I have a simple way of eating in restaurants. I order something, I pay for it. Other than that, if I did not order it, I do not pay for it.

                                                                                                    If I order a 6-course tasting menu, I should not need to keep tabs on the number of courses. If I order the 8oz steak and they give me the 14oz version it is also not correct in my opinion for them to charge me for the larger steak. Likewise if I order the American filet and they give me the Wagyu I do not think I should pay the difference.

                                                                                                    I am sorry that others feel it is the customer's requirement to monitor the servers.

                                                                                                    1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                                                                      This wasn't a mistake or substitution. Bottled water was ordered for the meal. It was refilled just as tap would be. That's what waiters do. And it's not out of the ordinary to suggest that the waiter understands that if you agree to bottled water service, you want to drink it throughout the meal. Just. Like. Tap.
                                                                                                      3 bottles is about right for 4 people over the course of a meal.
                                                                                                      Your example is apples and oranges. You're telling me that you should get what you ordered and I'm saying that I agree! Bottle water. Exactly what was AGREED.
                                                                                                      $30 is just not life changing, at least for me. I wouldn't harbor the animus.
                                                                                                      Monavno out!

                                                                                                      1. re: monavano

                                                                                                        Ms Mona

                                                                                                        I think you finally found why we were ships passing in the night.

                                                                                                        - I have never heard of "water service" but it appears that this is a cue to the server to bring multiple bottles of water as if it was tap water and the customer will pay
                                                                                                        - Where I live, when you order a bottle of water, it is not a full meal service, just a by the bottle concept.

                                                                                                        If the OP ordered the first, the full service, then the OP needs to pay for what was consumed, if it were the latter and the server took it upon himself to bring additional, the the OP should only pay for one.

                                                                                                        Thank you for the clarification. I learned something new today.

                                                                                                  2. re: josephnl

                                                                                                    Oh, so they took the opened bottle back with them after pouring? In that case, I could see how you could go through 3 bottles without realizing it, and I think that's sneaky on the part of the restaurant.

                                                                                                    In my experience, they've always left the bottle on the table or on a small service table next to us. They refilled our glasses without asking, but always asked before opening a new bottle.

                                                                                                    Edit: Sorry, my post seems to have ended up in some random spot, instead of where I wanted it!

                                                                                                    1. re: kathleen221

                                                                                                      We never saw the bottles. Thet were off to the side somewhere, and our rather large glasses were kept filled to the brim, even for those of us who drank no water. I was never asked if we wanted them to open additional bottles of water. I left the restaurant truly p.o.'d and felt ripped off. The restaurant has subsequently resolved the issue, handling it to perfection!

                                                                                        2. re: aching

                                                                                          Yes, "sparkling" should be expected to be a charge, but then the volume of bottles, should have matched the reality, and it did not seem to.

                                                                                          Maybe I missed something there?

                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                        3. re: monavano

                                                                                          Ah, but tap water is always an option, as all restaurants must meet health codes by having running water. I think it would be the rare North American who thinks tap water isn't available!

                                                                                        4. re: thew

                                                                                          Mr Thew

                                                                                          If the OP only ordered the first bottle and the server brought additiona bottles without confirmation from the table is that not the server's fault? Please note that I started with "If" since I was not there.

                                                                                          I am more than willing to pay for a bottle of water if I order it but the subsequent bottles that I did not order are not my responsibility.

                                                                                          1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                                                            However, if the refills are flowing, and you drink it, you've bought it. How is this not understood? You gotta pay attention! The question is that we don't know what exactly went down at this particular point.

                                                                                            1. re: monavano

                                                                                              Ms Mona

                                                                                              If I order 1 bottle of water and the server takes it upon himself to open bottle 2 and then bottle 3, with absolutely no permission on my part, it is my nickel? How about if I order a bottle of wine for my wife and me. And I am engrossed in conversation with my wife for 2 hours and sip the wine through appetizers, salads and entrees. I receive a bill for 3 bottles of wine. And it is my responsibility to oversee the actions of the server? Please tell me otherwise.

                                                                                              Thank you

                                                                                            2. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                                                              i am not defending the extra bottles at all - those are clearly uncalled for and should not be paid for. I was commenting on the idea that sparkling water was assumed to be free

                                                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                                                Mr Thew

                                                                                                Totally agree. I would never assume that fizzy water that is phrased "sparkling or still" is free. Now when an open bottle of fizzy water is on the table when you sit or the server comes over and places a bottle on the table without comment, now we are moving into a gray area and slippery slope.

                                                                                                But isn't it a shame that we even need to have these discussions.

                                                                                          2. I enjoy sparkling water with dinner. I dont know of anywhere where it's included in the food price.

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                                                              Some restaurants in Los Angeles have installed filtration systems that can do filtered still or sparkling. There's occasionally an upcharge, but it's never been more than $1 per table for unlimited refills.

                                                                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                That's what I was referring to up-thread by "house-bottled". It makes me laugh, but I guess it's accurate!

                                                                                            2. You were very naive, and your fear of asking in front of your guests was your Achilles heel. Get over that fear.

                                                                                              1. Ah, you've fallen for the Great Restaurant Water Ripoff.

                                                                                                It doesn't matter to me what the choices are, I just say, "Tap water will be fine, thank you."

                                                                                                I've only been given attitude in a couple of places—including one where I offered to drink from a bowl on the floor filled with a hose from the alley if they liked.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                  You got style!

                                                                                                  Restaurants are in the hospitality business. Yes, they must make a profit, but when they prey upon the naivete of their customers, customers who feel ill-used should shun them, and loudly.

                                                                                                2. I think you were naive. If they asked "would you like coffee with your dessert?" would assume that is free too?

                                                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: Rick

                                                                                                    Sorry, but that's not a reasonable or relevant point.. Except for a restaurant that offers a prix fixe menu that specifically includes coffee as a part of the dinner, I am unaware of any restaurant that serves "free" coffee. There are many restaurants that provide bottled water (sometimes house-bottled) as part of their dinner service at no additional charge...thus I maintain that simply asking whether we would prefer sparkling or stlll water, rather than asking if we wanted "bottled water" is misleading. I fully accept responsibility for not questioning this offer, nevertheless I still feel that this kind of behavior is distasteful at the least, and I don't like it!

                                                                                                    1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                      I agree. I have never had this happen. additionally, I would have thought that "still" meant "free"...meaning "plain water". In my neck of the woods, we drink the tap water just fine (some states buy our tap water to sell). I would have been surprised to find out that "still" meant bottled water at an extra charge. I would have been upset and felt ripped. I would have thought that "sparkling" came at a cost. Unfortunately, the restaurant didn't care enough to clarify. It would have only taken a second...." would you prefer bottled sparkling, still or just plain tap water with your meal". It takes a second. Too bad. Sounds like they lost your business, they would have lost mine too. I can't be bothered monitoring petty crap like that when I go out to eat.

                                                                                                      1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                        Now I'm wondering what's wrong with me. I've never felt at all put out (or embarrassed) to ask for tap water or une carafe d'eau to drink, nor have I felt that a restaurant was tying to deceive or cheat me with the question "still or sparkling?". Hmmmm. Will have to think about this.

                                                                                                        1. re: Lizard

                                                                                                          My point is, I have never had to ASK for tap water. It has always been offered (along with other waters) or it is just poured and you need to ASK for something "special" if desired.

                                                                                                          Offering bottled only (or first) might be more common in areas with low water quality?

                                                                                                      2. re: josephnl

                                                                                                        When you say that some restaurants provide bottled water for free, do you mean branded bottles purchased from a store or purveyor, or do you mean tap water that's been poured into bottles at the restaurant and set on your table?

                                                                                                        1. re: Papuli

                                                                                                          I reread my post above, and realized that I was misleading in saying "many"...over the years I have been to at least 5 or 6 restaurants in the U.S. and abroad that automatically poured bottled water at the table as part of their dinner service...sometimes house-bottled, sometimes branded...at no additional charge.

                                                                                                        2. re: josephnl

                                                                                                          Sorry, I disagree that it's not a relevant point. I am personally unaware of any restaurant that provides bottled water as part of dinner service at no additional charge. I don't doubt it happens, but it's also not the norm. Just because a few restaurants do provide free bottled water, why would assume they all do, and then accuse them of being misleading when you find out the water you *assumed* was free, wasn't.

                                                                                                          1. re: Rick

                                                                                                            I, of course, do not assume that all restaurants provide bottled water as part of their dinner service. As I have repeatedly said, I have been to some very high end restaurants that do. In this instance, I was not asked whether or not we wanted bottled water...I was asked whether I wanted still or sparkling water. I fell for it either through naivete, or inattention. I've learned my lesson...case closed, I'm out of here!

                                                                                                      3. It has just dawned on me that so many people pay for water all day long and never seem to complain about the cost of bottled water, sometimes highly inflated at vending machines and small stores. It seems a whole lot of people virtually have a plastic bottle glued to their right hands 24/7.

                                                                                                        This is a restaurant that is trying to upsell in order to make profits just like any other business. The consumer has the right to ask questions and say yes or no to extras on their bill, it is no different from the sales clerk trying to sell a necklace that would look great with a dress, your car dealer trying to get you to take a dog guard, power windows and a sunshine roof, or a hotel wanting you to try the spa treatments.

                                                                                                        I had a facial treatment done a few months ago. I think the price was $60. Through the treatment the assistant was well trained enough to say things like 'I think the passion fruit mask would be great for your skin, and do you want me to use the apricot scrub?' I did not know these were upsells and I think the final amount was nearer to $120. My fault, I learned a lesson. Ask.

                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: smartie

                                                                                                          The beauty parlor is not in the hospitality business. In the hospitality business, there is a finer line to be walked about upselling.

                                                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                            not sure I agree, you never went to a take-out place and they want to sell you a drink with your sandwich, a pastry with your coffee? Restaurants want to sell you appetizers, desserts, wine, WATER (!), and coffee - and their sauces are conveniently on the table for sale such as BBQ and steak sauces.

                                                                                                            1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                              Mr S

                                                                                                              At many resorts and hotels there is total upsell from a cabana, to a suite, to a room on the concierge level to a fax charge for your boarding pass, water in the room, etc. Once they have you in the door they try to maximize revenue, no different from a restaurant.

                                                                                                              1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                                                                                And?

                                                                                                                I don't approve and shun those places. Just because some places do these things doesn't make it right and good.

                                                                                                                Note, earlier in the thread, I did say the OP was naive. But her reaction is still *valid*, and it arises naturally from the hospitality context.

                                                                                                          2. I am on the wagon of you were naive, you're supposed to ask for tap if you don't want to pay. This has been going on a long time now and it's not just in uber expensive places. I got asked this at a hotel restaurant yesterday for lunch.

                                                                                                            1. also in case u didnt notice ......
                                                                                                              there already is a good thread ongoing about this very subject

                                                                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/778295

                                                                                                              1. I am the op. In response to those who said that I should have complained on the spot (I didn't, because we were celebrating a special occasion, and I didn't want my guest to know that I was displeased)...I contacted the restaurant by email a day later to let them know about my displeasure. They replied and have responded with more graciousness than I could have expected.

                                                                                                                I do realize that I was naive, and will be more cautious re water in the future. Thanks for all the comments, and now I consider this issue closed.

                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                  Mr J

                                                                                                                  And what did they say?

                                                                                                                  I always notice people get much more pleasant after they caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

                                                                                                                  1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                    "I contacted the restaurant by email a day later to let them know about my displeasure. They replied and have responded with more graciousness than I could have expected."

                                                                                                                    That's all you need to do have done in the first place. When you are a paying customer you have every right to inquire into something you think is amiss and you should do it with diplomacy and without any reservations of being petty, rude or any other negative feelings.

                                                                                                                    1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                      Excellent, OP. You've done the diligent and right thing, and I hope you are satisfied and will perhaps patronize them in the future.
                                                                                                                      Win/win!!!

                                                                                                                    2. Whenever I am offered a choice like the one which was presented to you I say to the wait person "I like Metro brand water. Do you carry it?" And when the invariably ask me about it I say "Metropolitan Water District brand from the tap is my water of choice." That usually shuts them up.

                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                        I'm sure they find that really charming.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                          In Brooklyn we called it "City gin!"

                                                                                                                        2. Well, probably a tad naive. The "water issue" can be a big one. For a few restaurants, it is a big profit-center, though should not be. This seems to be fading, as more and more high-end restaurants are starting to offer filtered tap (or "double-filtered tap"), and are not nicking the table for US $ 100 of bottled water.

                                                                                                                          There is a somewhat similar thread on the New Orleans board (more about a restaurant that will NOT server water to patrons, but with some comments, that might fit in here), and maybe it will offer some insight?

                                                                                                                          More higher-end restaurants around the US seem to be getting away from the very large "water charges," and that is not a bad thing.

                                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                                          1. Unless I really want "special" water, I've learned to answer the "sparkling or still" question with: "Tap is fine, please." Even upscale places own a pitcher or two for cheapskates like me. if they try to upsell me, I'll just ask sweetly, "Oh, is something wrong with the tap water here?" Sometimes, there really is (a water main break leading to a boil order or something like that), but usually everything is fine.

                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                              Exactly- they have to have potable water or close down to remedy the problem.

                                                                                                                                1. re: agarnett100

                                                                                                                                  How do you figure? I do the same thing, and I've asked the same question. (Where I live, lack of potable water = restaurant closed, no questions asked.)

                                                                                                                                  Did you have something to add besides your one-word attempt to correct the Internet?

                                                                                                                                  1. re: agarnett100

                                                                                                                                    How am I being naive to request tap water? Most people drink it and live for years, in spite of the chemicals they put in it to kill bacteria.

                                                                                                                                2. I am going to say naive but only because I've been there and done that in an upscale Manhattan restaurant and learned my lesson after the first time. Whether "sparkling or still" you may get bottled water which is never free.
                                                                                                                                  Personally I think NYC water is the best in the world and specify tap water. In Europe I get the local bottled water "con gas". It is not too pricey. My wife loves the bubbly stuff over there.

                                                                                                                                  1. See, in Europe if you're asked if you want still or sparkling, it is always always always bottled. So this wouldn't phase me in the least. You have to ask specifically for tap water if that's what you want. Now, the other thing is that in a premium restaurant, where the bill is $500, and your water was $24 of that, it represents 4.8 percent of the total bill. Which in an overall perspective isn't a huge amount. Part of me says, "In for a penny, in for a pound", and if they were serving the water from a bottle of water and not from a jug, then I'd be expecting to pay. That's what my first clue would have been -- if the server had filled my glass with water from a water pitcher I'd expect it to be at no cost. But if I said "still water" and they swung by with a bottle of bottled water and poured it into my glass, that's definitely a charge. Definitely. By the same token, I would expect the opened bottle to stay on the table, and not vanish from view. That's how its done in Europe at least.

                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                      There are certain customs in Europe that irk the typical American tourist. Water is almost always bottled. My best guess is that tap water just does not taste as good as NYC tap water. I am also guessing that the OP is not from the NYC area. Bottled water service to homes is a big business in Europe. If you get the local bottled water it is not expensive. Order Evian in Capri and you pay the price.
                                                                                                                                      In Southern Europe they place bread and butter on the table. There is a small charge if you have some. If you don't want to be charged ask them not to put it on the table. Inexperienced American travelers think this is wrong because it's not that way at Olive Garden where you get unlimited garlic bread.
                                                                                                                                      We went to a late show at a Fado (Portugese Blues) supper club in Lisbon. We had already had dinner so we planned on just ordering a pitcher of wine and enjoying the show. Out came the delicious warm bread and butter which I could not resist. As the show began the waiter brought out a plate of savory steamed shrimp. I explained that we did not order that and he said: "OK, you don't eat, you don't pay." DUH!! We knocked off about half the platter by the time the show was over. We never felt duped. The total bill was reasonable. It's the local custom and the show was fabulous!! When in Rome, as they say.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                        And in Europe, as here, you can ask for a pitcher of water (un pichet d'eau, in France anyway).

                                                                                                                                        When you're spending 30€ each on dinner and the water for the table comes to 10€, that's a lot more than 4.8%.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                          Ya, I wasn't doing the math based on a Euro dinner, just on what the OP reported.
                                                                                                                                          I know at the local place in Firenze (hole in the wall, unknown to tourists, my friend introduced me to it and the owner who she's known for some 30 years), the meal came to 15 Euros, and the water came to 8 Euros. The next time we went, we forgot the water and stuck with wine. MUCH more cost effective!

                                                                                                                                      2. Alrighty I'd like to offer my POV, seeing that I'm a waitress.

                                                                                                                                        Over here, we're instructed to upsell still and sparkling water. It's our job, so as a customer that feels cheated, please don't take it personally. Before I became a waitress I did just that, thinking the waiter was out to rip me off. Now I just smile and say tap. I don't really know how to explain it. It's like you have to sell it, it's fine if they reject but you have to ask no matter what. Pretty much caught between a rock and hard place. I work in a somewhat fine dining atmosphere too so people in big groups probably wouldn't want to ask if water was included in dinner service, for the same reasons as you.

                                                                                                                                        I wouldn't say you're naive, just choke it up to a learning experience and bear it in mind next time =s $24 for a mini life lesson, it ain't half bad.

                                                                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: youngnsassy

                                                                                                                                          Do you simply ask if the guest prefers still or sparkling water, or do you ask if they would like bottled or tap? There's a big difference.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                            I ask if they would like still or sparkling. Yes if I were to be perfectly honest, it's 'cheating', I can see it in their expressions when they're not familiar with the question. But that's the way most restaurants work.

                                                                                                                                            To ease my conscience a little, the restaurant I work at isn't some fast food joint and the water is not that ridiculously overpriced, so people who come in generally can afford it, even unwittingly so. If it helps at all...

                                                                                                                                            1. re: youngnsassy

                                                                                                                                              youngnsassy, it sounds like you are following procedure diligently. Bravo!!! Clients are free to ask if they are confused and you will fill them in. I'm sure you don't mention all of the specials along with prices and calorie content.
                                                                                                                                              It's a big step up from McD's "do you want fries with that?" They don't say: "do you want fries with that. $1.29" I think everyone knows there is a charge for fries.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: youngnsassy

                                                                                                                                                I still think it is misleading and therefore unethical to ask simply if one prefers "still or sparkling" without first asking if one wants bottled or tap water. Fortunately, "that's not the way most restaurants work" where I dine...and I'm including some of the very best restaurants in southern CA and NYC. Misleading is unethical, and whether or not the customer can afford it, is totally irrelevant.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                                  Actually, that happens all the time in NYC. When I get the "sparkling or still" question (which I do), I always politely say "tap is fine."

                                                                                                                                                  Yeah, I got burned a few times before I figured that out. Learning experience.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                                    Well over here I've not yet heard of one restaurant that serves free still or sparkling water, so it depends on where you stay too. You can either say that the restaurant is unethical, or that the customer assumed the wrong thing, it goes both ways.

                                                                                                                                            2. I have had free pours from bottled water in nice restaurants many times. Don't let people convince you that this doesn't ever happen.

                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                Of course, that's precisely what led to my op and to my falling for the "still or sparkling" ploy which I maintain is deceptive and unethical.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                  Maybe it was tap water in a fancy bottle LOL...never can tell unless they open it in front of you!

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                                    Out East @ TRP in Riverhead NY they serve still or bubbly water in their own refillable bottles @ no charge. It's unique and unusual.
                                                                                                                                                    The owner of the restauarant also has a "no straw" policy for beverages and no decaf espresso or cappucino. Great restaurant!

                                                                                                                                                2. I think you were naive.

                                                                                                                                                  "Sparkling or still?" is the usual question here in nice restaurants (Southern CA). We normally reply with "bottled still" or "tap is fine". I think the assumption is that a diner at a nicer restaurant would know that there is normally a charge for bottled water, and especially for sparkling water.

                                                                                                                                                  You should assume there is a charge for everything, and be pleasantly surprised if you get the bill and weren't charged.

                                                                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                                                                                                    That has not been my experience at many of southern CA's best including Providence, Melisse, Water Grill, Patina, Spago, Marche Moderne, etc. At each of these and most others where I have dined, the question put to me has always been whether or not we wanted bottled water. To do serve bottled water for which there is a charge without asking specifically if it is wanted (as opposed to free tap water) is deceptive, and deception is always unethical!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                                      But they do ask, they do ask if you want bottled water. If you assume it's free and say yes, why is it totally the restaurant's fault? Why are they the unethical and scrupulous ones? You assumed it was free as well.

                                                                                                                                                      The way I look at it, asking someone if they want bottled water as opposed to tap water, is like asking someone if they want a salad as opposed to NO salad. Why assume the water is free and assume the salad isn't? If you aren't sure, ask. If you assumed wrongly, don't completely blame the restaurant and say they're unethical.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: youngnsassy

                                                                                                                                                        If asked if I would like bottled water, I always assume that this is instead of tap water. When asked in this way it seems obvious to me that the bottled water will not be free. To serve bottled water (and especially to pour it repeatedly to all at a table) without asking if it is wanted, is IMHO misleading, deceptive and unethical.

                                                                                                                                                        I am unaware of any restaurant (at least in the U.S.), that serves free salad unless it is clearly indicated on the menu that entrees are accompanied by salad (and/or sometimes soup).

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                                          Ah it all depends on location then.. Over here it's unheard of to have free bottled water!

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: youngnsassy

                                                                                                                                                            I have been to at least 5 or 6 high-end restaurants where bottled water is included in the normal dinner service. It was for this very reason that I allowed myself to be mislead by the "Would you prefer still or sparkling water" question at the high-end restaurant which led to this post. I've learned my lesson and will not fall victim to this con again.

                                                                                                                                                  2. Oh My Gosh!! 183 replies to this topic. Amazing!!
                                                                                                                                                    We had brunch today @ Georgia's Cafe on 89th & Bwy Manhattan.
                                                                                                                                                    Free tap water came in refillable bottles. We poured it ourselves.
                                                                                                                                                    Brunch was excellent as was the service.

                                                                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                      Sounds terrif...and I bet you didn't miss the $8/bottle water a bit!!!

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                                        I know that the water at Son of a Gun in Los Angeles (from the "Animal" guys) is filtered tap and bottled in house by the restaurant and is free to each table (and stated as such by the wait staff).

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                                          Ciudad used to charge for it, but it was a quarter a person and they were very upfront about it—it was theoretically to recapture the costs of the filtration system. "We have a very advanced filtration system; we do charge 25¢ a person for it, but it's unlimited, and you can have still, sparkling, or both."

                                                                                                                                                          It bothered me a little bit, but not that much, mostly because they were honest about it.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                                          When in Manhattan we drink "City Gin" (great tasting tap water).
                                                                                                                                                          When in Roma, San Pelligrino con gas! When in LA bottled water.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                            Los Angeles Metropolitan Water tied for the gold medal with a small town in British Columbia Canada in the 18th annual Berkeley International Water Tasting competition for best tasting municipal water in 2008.

                                                                                                                                                      2. If it has bubbles in it..you should have assumed you would be charged.

                                                                                                                                                        1. 192 replies!! Do I hear 200?