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Charged more than menu price [moved from New York State]

f
fisher Sep 7, 2011 07:51 AM

We are semi-regular patrons at Marino Pizza on Rt 9 in Queensbury. Semi-regular meaning that we stop there for dinner half a dozen times a year with friends and kids after outings in the Lake George area. It’s conveniently located and we enjoy their pizza and garlic knots. We’ve never ordered entrees, but the marinara sauce that is served with the garlic knots is very tasty.

But I’m not really posting about the food. Our most recent visit was the last weekend in August. We enjoyed our meal as usual but then got a surprise in the check. The prices charged for 3 of the items were higher than the menu. Two pizzas were 50 cents higher each, and an order of garlic bread w/cheese was $4.25 instead of the $2.59 listed on the menu (a 64% increase).
Presuming this was just an error I mentioned it when I went up to the register. The waitress said, oh no, it’s correct, our prices have gone up, we just haven’t gotten our new menus yet. And then she pointed to the bottom of the menu where it says “prices subject to change”.

Since the total difference was only about $2.50 I figured I’d just pay and be done, but while paying I mentioned that the increase in the garlic bread price (64%) was really significant and that they should have mentioned the price increases before we ordered. The response I received was that food prices have skyrocketed and what do I expect them to do, cross out the prices on all the old menus and write in the new prices? At that point I simply paid and left.

I don’t care about the $2.50. I do care that this just somehow seemed wrong. We like their food, but I’m not sure I want to go back. And there are a lot of other pizza places around that I’m guessing would be happy to have our business.

So here’s my question. Should they have done something differently? Do you think they really are just “waiting for their new menus”, or were we charged the “It’s the end of August and they’re probably tourists who’ll never be back price”?

  1. l
    lucasboden Jul 14, 2013 04:02 PM

    Pay the increased price. Leave no Tip.

    7 Replies
    1. re: lucasboden
      monavano Jul 14, 2013 04:29 PM

      Wow, that's robbing the server who has nothing to do with charging you more. Why would one punish the server? How would you like to NOT get paid for doing your job simply because a customer didn't like the policy that you didn't set?

      1. re: monavano
        l
        lucasboden Jul 14, 2013 09:11 PM

        The server did nothing? The server should know about the $2.50 price difference on a popular item and should inform the customer about the price difference. If not, the server is also guilty. it is not just common courtesy or decency, it is fraud.

        1. re: lucasboden
          monavano Jul 15, 2013 04:25 AM

          Well, yeah, then you're right. The server didn't do ANY of her job and deserves to be penalized.
          The onus comes down to the owners for not keeping the menu prices current and leaving ZERO tip is a big middle finger that the server doesn't deserve.
          Yeah, the server didn't notify the customer, but still performed much of her duties without complaint.
          I just can't abide by cheap.

          1. re: monavano
            ipsedixit Jul 15, 2013 03:25 PM

            Yeah, the server didn't notify the customer, but still performed much of her duties without complaint.
            I just can't abide by cheap.
            _____________________________

            I don't abide by cheap either, esp. having been a server many times over in my previous life.

            But that said, I'm not so sure it's accurate to characterize the server has having "performed much of her duties" assuming that she knew about the price change (and if she didn't there's a strong argument that she *should* have known).

            Aside from plating and bringing the food/drinks, a good portion of the server's expected duties involve explaining the menu (from a customer's perspective) or selling the menu (from the restaurant's perspective). Given this, it is a significant dereliction of duties by the server to not inform the customer of a price change even with the menu byline of "prices subject to change".

      2. re: lucasboden
        h
        Harters Jul 15, 2013 12:59 PM

        Such an act by a restaurant (or similar in any other type of business) where I am in the world would contavene consumer protection legislation. If you advertise a price, that's the price to be paid. Simple.

        1. re: Harters
          PotatoHouse Jul 15, 2013 03:06 PM

          That is called bait and switch and is illegal.

          1. re: PotatoHouse
            h
            Harters Jul 15, 2013 03:14 PM

            Indeed - although it can be a fine line between illegality and plain old-fashioned sharp practice. Travel trade is probably the industry that gets closest to crossing the line - the cheap holiday that they advertised are all sold out when you phone.

            On the illegal action - that can lead to an unlimited fine and two years prison

      3. t
        ta0126 Oct 5, 2011 03:15 AM

        so, let's look at the steps taken by the restaurant from their perspective.

        1. you notice that costs have gone up and decide to raise prices.

        2. you sit down with your computer, calculator, or slide rule and calculate those new prices.

        3. you prepare a new "master copy" menu with updated prices (TM).

        4. you place an order for printed menus, get the printer's delivery date, and ** nevertheless decide to go ahead and change your business's prices before that date.

        5. you look at your existing menus, think about writing in the new prices, and ** neglect to do so.

        6. you look at your existing menus, think about putting a yellow sticky note that says "prices have recently changed - please ask your server", and ** neglect to do so. after all, you have a line of disclaimer print in there somewhere.

        (that disclaimer print truly only belongs on material that leaves your control, such as print advertisements, newspaper coupons, and take out menus delivered to people's homes by bulk mail. not on media such as menus that remain ** in your control and ** in your establishment.)

        7. you do one or both of the following:

        (a) sit down and reprogram your cash register or pos system with the new prices, and/or

        (b) sit down with your waitstaff, more than once (to catch every day and shift), and explicitly tell them that prices have changed, tell them to ignore the existing menus, tell them to refer to the new master copy menu with updated prices (TM) in its secret location behind the counter somewhere out of the sight of customers, and tell them to write a different price on guest checks when calculating totals.

        8. as the business owner, manager, host/ess, or server, you greet guests, seat them, pick up existing menus in your hands, personally place those menus in their hands or in front of them, and ** neglect to say anything about new prices.

        9. you talk to customers, look them in the eye, and take their food orders, and ** neglect to mention that prices have changed.

        10. if not using a pos, you go back behind the counter to consult the secret master copy menu with updated prices (TM) in its secret location behind the counter somewhere out of the sight of customers and use those new prices to calculate a total check that you know is not what the guest is expecting given the menus you personally placed in their hand earlier.

        11. you hear from even one single guest or even one single member of your staff that a guest was suprised to see different prices on their check, think about taking some kind of action to prevent inconveniencing future guests, and ** neglect to do so.

        ...

        for most people, going through these steps (most of which had to have happened at some time at that restaurant), at some point some kind of conscience or ethical alarm bell had to get triggered.

        i would feel perfectly comfortable voicing my objections. i also understand why people would be angry. there were just so many ethical decision points and too many missed or declined opportunities to do the right thing.

        1. a
          acgold7 Oct 3, 2011 05:12 PM

          What's just so shocking to me is how many posters on this thread, many of whom I respect greatly, see this as no big deal, just because the amount was so small, or perhaps because of the meaningless disclaimer. At what point does it cross the line? When you order the 2004 Margaux and they bring you the 2006 for the same price? When you order the Prime Filet and they bring you Choice? Or Select? When you order Kosher/Halal and what you ate wasn't and you didn't know? Or when you ordered Chicken and you ended up eating Pork? When does a harmless "oversight" become Fraud? Especially when it is too late to refuse or undo the transaction?

          10 Replies
          1. re: acgold7
            e
            escondido123 Oct 3, 2011 05:18 PM

            I'm with you on this and am baffled that people think it is ok to give out menus with prices on them and say nothing about the prices being higher until after the food is ordered, served and eaten. It just boggles the mind that anyone--but an unscrupulous restaurant owner--would find this acceptable.

            1. re: escondido123
              mcf Oct 4, 2011 07:59 AM

              They did say something; "subject to change."

              1. re: mcf
                d
                dump123456789 Oct 4, 2011 06:20 PM

                "Subject to change" is such boilerplate CYA language. Has anyone been to a nice place that actually used that wording to justify why their final billing didn't match the prices on their menu and why they didn't tell you beforehand about the price increases ?

                So, out of curiosity, do you ask, for each item, whether the price has changed, or do you just wait until you've placed the entire order, and then ask if any of the prices have changed ? Couldn't they conceivably still increase the prices after that point using the CYA verbiage ?

            2. re: acgold7
              PotatoHouse Oct 3, 2011 05:55 PM

              Or you order Crab and end up with Krab instead. I would raise holy hell!

              1. re: PotatoHouse
                j
                jlhinwa Oct 3, 2011 09:48 PM

                No kidding! That is a line that just mustn't be crossed!

              2. re: acgold7
                d
                dump123456789 Oct 4, 2011 06:37 AM

                Actually, there only seem to be 2 posters who are in support of the restaurant in this situation, 1 of whom has said they won't be repeating themselves any longer.

                I'm trying to think of any other business in which prices are given to the customer, and a higher price is charged without the customer's prior approval after it's too late for the service to be un-rendered or the sale cancelled. Nothing's coming to mind right now.

                1. re: dump123456789
                  mcf Oct 5, 2011 05:22 PM

                  I haven't posted in support of the restaurant at all; I thought they had a dismissive attitude when faced with a consumer complaint. Even if raising prices were warranted, the communication could have been better.

                  I have posted in support of personal accountability and in this particular case, a sense of proportion and rationality.

                  1. re: mcf
                    westsidegal Jul 14, 2013 06:53 PM

                    completely agree with mcf.
                    the malfunctioning parking meters in my town cheat me out of $2.50 a week.

                    this goes into the "so what?" file--too petty to spend time on it.

                    1. re: westsidegal
                      j
                      Jerseygirl111 Jul 15, 2013 04:26 PM

                      Wow. That is so wrong. I do not have an extra $10.00 per month to be cheated out of.

                      A quick OT, the local beach town has now changed the way they process the parking fee for the most prime spots. Instead of regular old meters where if you had time left over, another patron could benefit from your leftover time, they have changed to machines that print out a ticket corresponding to your spot number. So if I pay for three hours and only use two, that leftover money goes directly to the town coffers because the next patron in that spot has to start all over again to get a ticket for themselves. Since the minimum is an hour, the town could potentially benefit 60 times the hourly rate for a single spot. It's a great deal for them but sooo shady IMHO.

                      1. re: Jerseygirl111
                        westsidegal Jul 15, 2013 05:10 PM

                        jerseygirl111:
                        if the choice for me is being bilked out of $10/month or one of the alternatives:
                        a) going head to head with the city bureaucracy
                        (an extremely unpleasant process that offers an extremely low probability of winning coupled with a high probability of wasting my time and getting aggravated)
                        or
                        b) not driving my car
                        or
                        c) paying substantially more money to park in private parking garages (around $8 PER HOUR)

                        it's a no-brainer, i'm going to throw the $10 at the problem every month, enjoy my life, and not look back. i like having and using my car and i like living in this city.

              3. e
                escondido123 Oct 2, 2011 08:10 PM

                If the prices are not what is listed on the menu, then the server/host needs to tell you that before your order is completed. To think a restaurant can list one price and then charge another at the end of the meal is totally ridiculous. (Imagine going to a store, buying an item based upon the "shelf" price and then having a higher price on your sales slip--that would never happen.)

                4 Replies
                1. re: escondido123
                  ipsedixit Oct 2, 2011 09:10 PM

                  (Imagine going to a store, buying an item based upon the "shelf" price and then having a higher price on your sales slip--that would never happen.)
                  ________________________

                  It does happen.

                  And when it does, the store gets fined by the regulatory authorities.

                  1. re: ipsedixit
                    e
                    escondido123 Oct 3, 2011 08:45 AM

                    Right, because it is illegal. Same goes for the restaurant. There is no excuse for doing this to a customer. If the prices on your menu are wrong, tell the customer so when they order.

                  2. re: escondido123
                    j
                    jlhinwa Oct 3, 2011 08:49 AM

                    Exactly. I have no problem with a restaurant changing their prices due to costs going up. I just want to be told before I have committed to purchase and pay for that item. And the principle's the same whether it is a small amount or a large amount.

                    EDIT: This is a reply to escondido123's post above but somehow I couldn't get it to line up right.

                    1. re: jlhinwa
                      s
                      shellymck Oct 3, 2011 05:14 PM

                      I followed this thread with interest because I am one of those people who always checks the bill in a restaurant. I would say that it is not uncommon to be upcharged in this way (menu price different from receipt price) and I am not surprised when it happens. And on principle I always protest no matter what the amount. If the restaurant can go to the trouble of reprogramming the cash register than they can go to the trouble of reprinting menus.

                  3. ipsedixit Oct 2, 2011 02:24 PM

                    This is wrong on so many levels.

                    1. j
                      jlhinwa Oct 2, 2011 01:20 PM

                      I missed this thread when it was originally posted.

                      Add me to the list of people who feel what the restaurant did was wrong and the way it was handled when asked by OP only compounded the problem.

                      It is interesting to me that there is another thread currently discussing the issue of pricing for specials. It seems to be the general consensus that 1) it would be great if restaurants would post their daily special prices, and 2) absent posting prices, servers absolutely should state the prices when reciting specials; and 3) customers have a right to know the specials' prices and should ask if the server doesn't offer up the info. Throughout that thread is a sentiment that people don't like getting surprised by a higher priced special just because the restaurant/server doesn't want to offer up the info.

                      So how is this any different? Yeah it is just a few bucks, but it seems even less honorable than pushing specials without stating prices, because the menu states the price of the item and there is no disclaimer at any point in time until after the item is ordered and consumed.

                      Very poor form on the part of the restaurant and I would not feel good about patronizing a place that is so cavelier in how it treats its customers.

                      26 Replies
                      1. re: jlhinwa
                        ipsedixit Oct 2, 2011 02:26 PM

                        I think the difference between this situation and specials is that the price of specials is not disclosed.

                        Here, the restaurant quotes you one price and charges you another.

                        It would be like if a waiter said, "the catfish special is $10 tonight" and you get charged $11 for the catfish special and when confronted about it the restaurant points to the sign that says, "prices subject to change without notice".

                        No dice.

                        Prices subject to change applies only BEFORE you accept the restaurant's offer of the price as listed. Once you've accepted (i.e. by ordering the dish) that is the price. Restaurant can change it, but only for customers who have not ordered it.

                        1. re: ipsedixit
                          mcf Oct 2, 2011 05:35 PM

                          Is there no responsibility, having been warned in writing, to ask which if any prices on the current menu have been changed? My guess is that the OP didn't bother because it didn't matter. As happens so often, it's the communication that rankles, the tone of it, more than the insignificant infraction.

                          But seriously, this is one to shake off, not get riled by.

                          1. re: mcf
                            d
                            dump123456789 Oct 2, 2011 09:01 PM

                            Let's flip your question: what is the last moment at which the restaurant may change the price if they put "Prices subject to change" on the menu ? When you order ? When the bill comes ? When the change/credit card slip is brought back to you ? Others have answered this question with "when the prices are presented in writing to the guest". What's your answer ?

                            1. re: dump123456789
                              mcf Oct 3, 2011 06:20 AM

                              I would say the moment after the forewarned diner asked if any of the prices had changed from what was on the printed menu and been informed.

                              1. re: mcf
                                DuchessNukem Oct 3, 2011 05:30 PM

                                Not to be difficult, mcf, but I never ask if prices have changed. Do you do this every time you see the disclaimer?

                                1. re: DuchessNukem
                                  mcf Oct 4, 2011 07:54 AM

                                  I don't think your questioning me about my behavior, given my stance, is at all unreasonable, no worries.

                                  If I had a concern about what the tab might be, and if I saw such a disclaimer, I'd ask. Two examples of when I routinely inquire: if specials prices aren't offered and when a dish's price is listed "market price." It's on me if I don't to accept whatever comes. I'm guessing that the OP didn't ask, and I wouldn't either, if the prices were so modest to begin with that the additional charges total so little.

                                2. re: mcf
                                  d
                                  dump123456789 Oct 3, 2011 08:21 PM

                                  Referring to your example below of the price of specials, how do you answer my question above ? ie. The paper menu says "Prices subject to change", the server announces specials without prices, you ask what the prices are and the server answers. Are the prices allowed to change after that point, since you didn't ask if the prices have changed, only what the prices were ?

                                  Any restaurant that was so inhospitable as to claim coverage by the CYA clause "prices subject to change" in the way the OP describes, would probably have no qualms about invoking the same clause in the admittedly ridiculous scenario I'm positing above.

                                  In fact, what's to prevent a restaurant from invoking the same clause after the server has told you the price, and charging you more on the bill ? They could claim that the server was giving you last week's price and that "prices [are] subject to change".

                                  Anyway, if my local hole-in-the-wall barely-health-code-conforming Chinese restaurant can handle putting white out tape or black marker over their menu prices to indicate changes, I see absolutely no reason why OP's place can't too. I would not continue to patronize any restaurant that invoked that CYA clause in the way OP's place did. Yippee, they got my $2.50 at the expense of all my future business. (I really can't imagine any high-end restaurant pulling those shenanigans, which means any place that did would be easily replaceable in my dining rotation.)

                              2. re: mcf
                                a
                                acgold7 Oct 3, 2011 02:10 PM

                                No. The responsibility is not on the diner. It is on the waiter/vendor.

                                "Prices subject to change" is fine if it means they change between the time you see them on the website and the time you see them on the menu before you order. It is absolutely not valid if it's supposed to mean between the time you order and the time they ring you up. It is not a "get out of jail free" card to mean "None of the quoted prices mean anything."

                                1. re: acgold7
                                  mcf Oct 3, 2011 02:30 PM

                                  I'm not going to repeat myself ad nauseum in this thread, which has already become redundant. Suffice it to say I will agree to disagree.

                                2. re: mcf
                                  a
                                  acgold7 Oct 3, 2011 02:15 PM

                                  Next time you bring your car in for repair, let's see how you feel when the price suddenly doubles for the same work before they give you your keys back. After all, what you signed at the beginning when you agreed to the repair job was only an "estimate," right?

                                  1. re: acgold7
                                    mcf Oct 3, 2011 02:34 PM

                                    Has that ever happened to you? I've driven and owned cars for 40 years, and it hasn't happened to me. I suppose anything is possible if one isn't wise about who one does business with, and doesn't require prior authorization in writing by phone call before any work is performed and price agreed upon. I also insist on being told the price of restaurant specials before I order them, btw.

                                    Due diligence.

                                    1. re: mcf
                                      a
                                      acgold7 Oct 3, 2011 04:54 PM

                                      But that's my point exactly. It hasn't happened because it can't. But you're saying it's okay if it does.

                                      They can't change the price without telling you. When you order at their price on the menu and they take your order and bring you the food, that's the agreed upon price. They can't just change it at the register. The amount is irrelevant.

                                      1. re: mcf
                                        sunshine842 Oct 3, 2011 10:38 PM

                                        and why, do you suppose, does that law about requiring an estimate if the repairs exceed xx dollars exist?

                                        Because unscrupulous shops were providing quotes and then charging out the wazoo for the work quoted.

                                        Consumer protection laws exist purely because some shyster made them necessary.

                                        The prices posted are an implied contract and changing the prices without mention ANYWHERE is a breach of that implied contract and therefore illegal.

                                        This particular individual case isn't the big issue...but stop and think for a moment how much extra money this place is pocketing on the garlic knots alone -- if they're charging an extra $2 and they dish out 25 orders a night -- no single customer complains because it's only $2...meanwhile they're stuffing an extra $50 a night into the till.

                                        Okay -- it's $100 a month...but how many other items are they pulling this game with?

                                        Bottom line: you have every right, from both a moral and legal standpoint, to expect to pay the posted prices anywhere you go. Anything else is illegal, and they could hang a poster with letters 2 feet tall screaming prices subject to change, and it doesn't change the law.

                                        1. re: sunshine842
                                          a
                                          acgold7 Oct 4, 2011 12:23 AM

                                          And the math is worse if you extend it out. $2.50 per check (and there weren't any entrees here, but we'll just use this as an average). So let's say 50 tickets a day during the week for a small shop and 100 per day on weekends, for a total of 450 checks per week. 52 weeks later that's $58,500.00 of pure profit stolen per year.

                                          Nice.

                                          1. re: acgold7
                                            sunshine842 Oct 4, 2011 04:13 AM

                                            yep -- and that's assuming that it's only one item that they're pulling this little game with...when it reality, you now cannot trust them on anything on their menu. It's easy to see how one might end up pocketing a cool $100K a year with this little stunt...

                                            so you don't change the register, so it's still billing you $2.50 each, even though the hand-written ticket says $4.50...so they're only paying taxes on the $2.50, too., and the rest of it's coming right back out of the drawer before they ever bag it to go to the bank. THAT is called tax evasion, and the penalties for THAT are way worse than anything they'd deal with for simple price scamming.

                                            Nice little racket they've got going...but the karma is going to be really nasty when this one turns around and bites them.

                                          2. re: sunshine842
                                            mcf Oct 4, 2011 07:57 AM

                                            "and why, do you suppose, does that law about requiring an estimate if the repairs exceed xx dollars exist?"

                                            Is that a law? If so, is it everywhere? It's just my personal rule. Due diligence.

                                            1. re: mcf
                                              b
                                              Boychucker Oct 4, 2011 12:17 PM

                                              It's the law in Washington state. I don't know how many other states have this law.

                                              1. re: Boychucker
                                                sunshine842 Oct 4, 2011 12:29 PM

                                                It's a law in Florida, too.

                                                1. re: sunshine842
                                                  mcf Oct 4, 2011 12:35 PM

                                                  Does it cover restaurants?

                                                  1. re: mcf
                                                    sunshine842 Oct 4, 2011 02:49 PM

                                                    we were talking about auto repair...but yes, selling something for a price other than that posted is illegal and will land you a fine at minimum.

                                                    1. re: sunshine842
                                                      mcf Oct 4, 2011 03:05 PM

                                                      Well, no I was asking specifically for the law wrt estimates and final pricing. I know what fraud is, and I know what market pricing and printing costs are, and why there are "subject to change" notifications on some menus and contracts.

                                                      1. re: mcf
                                                        ipsedixit Oct 4, 2011 08:10 PM

                                                        mcf,

                                                        When was the last time you went to a restaurant and was quoted an "estimate" for the price of the food when ordering off the menu?

                                                        The only exceptions that I can think of would be a true omasake type of meal where you don't tell the chef how much you are willing to spend, or where you are ordering fresh seafood from the tank and the weight of the fish, crab, etc. is provided as a rough estimate but you are quoted a firm price for $/pound.

                                                        1. re: mcf
                                                          sunshine842 Oct 5, 2011 10:31 AM

                                                          C'mon...let's be realistic.

                                                          Let's assume for a moment that "prices subject to change" actually holds water in some faraway parallel universe.

                                                          That ad in the newspaper touts a new iPad for $9.99, but when you go in to pick it up, it's now $1200. Prices subject to change.

                                                          Go to the movie theater -- All seats, $1 for new release movies. Okay, I'll take two tickets. That'll be $17.95 please. Prices subject to change.

                                                          Go out to eat - Lobster dinner for two, with a complimentary bottle of Dom Perignon, $9.99. Bill comes, it's $379, PLUS tip.

                                                          Don't tell me it's ridiculous, because your assertation of "but it says Prices subject to change" means that anybody can charge whatever the heck they please whenever the heck they feel like it because hey, we said Prices subject to change!

                                                          But the world doesn't work like that. Anywhere.

                                                          The law is that you have to charge the price posted -- and no, it's not subject to change. There's more case law to back this up than any of us have time or energy to read or write.

                                                          It's wrong, morally and ethically, and it's against the law, and "prices subject to change" does not exempt you from your legal obligations -- that little clause isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

                                                          1. re: sunshine842
                                                            PotatoHouse Oct 6, 2011 07:49 AM

                                                            [Quote] It's wrong, morally and ethically, and it's against the law, and "prices subject to change" does not exempt you from your legal obligations -- that little clause isn't worth the paper it's printed on. [/Quote]

                                                            You are correct. Just like those signs certain locations put up saying (paraphrased of course) "We're not responsible if you get hurt on our property" or "We're not responsible if your car gets broken into and your stereo stolen". Those signs do not relieve them of responsibility as has been proven in many courtrooms.

                                                            1. re: PotatoHouse
                                                              l
                                                              Leonardo Oct 6, 2011 09:22 PM

                                                              So true. Courts routinely toss aside waivers and disclaimers as being unenforeceable and against sound public policy.

                                        2. re: mcf
                                          a
                                          acgold7 Oct 4, 2011 12:01 AM

                                          "Is there no responsibility, having been warned in writing, to ask which if any prices on the current menu have been changed?"

                                          No. None.

                                          There is no reasonable expectation from any normal person, even with that disclaimer, that the prices on the check will differ from the prices on the menu, and there is no responsibility on the part of the diner to verify the price of each and every menu item before, during or after ordering, and I don't think even you believe that. I don't think any judge or jury would either. No one would have any reasonable expectation that this would be so unless one expects to be cheated. The burden of disclosure is entirely upon the person making the affirmative change, i.e. the waiter, to notify the customer of that change at the time of the order and to verify that the customer still wishes to proceed under the new terms. You order the Garlic Bread at $2.49 or whatever, and the waitress has to say, "Um, we had to raise the price on that to $4.50; do you still want it?"

                                          The responsibility is not the diner's. Imagine: "I'd like the pepperoni pizza... wait, is that still $9.99?.... okay, I'll have that... and can I add mushrooms? Are those $1.25 extra? Because that's what it says on the menu but I wasn't sure because it says prices subject to change... okay, let's add those... what about extra cheese? Is that also still $1.25? Okay, good. Can I have a side salad? Is that $2.95? Okay, great. What about a side Caesar? Is that also $2.95? Okay. What about the Garlic Bread? Is the Garlic Bread $2.49? Oh, that's gone up? Glad I asked. What about the large? Is that with cheese or without? Okay. I'll have the small then. How about the large Diet Coke? Is that still $1.95? Okay, I'll have that. What about a bowl of soup? Is that still 2.95? Okay, that will be fine, thanks. Now the other seven members of our party would like to check all the prices of all the items they may or may not want to order....."

                                          Preposterous. If you have to ask or confirm the price of each item then there may as well not be prices on the menu at all. If you have to begin the conversation with "Have the prices changed" then you're saying "Are you intending to cheat me today like you did last time?"

                                          This whole "If you get screwed you deserve it" attitude that I used to see so much of when I lived in the Tri-State area just perplexes me to no end. I'm not necessarily saying it's unique to that area, but I've never seen it before or since.

                                          The only appropriate response to "Prices subject to change" if they pull that nonsense on you at the register is "Great. My Tipping policies are subject to change" and leave nothing. See how they feel about it.

                                    2. t
                                      thimes Oct 2, 2011 12:52 PM

                                      I know we have all moved on from this thread. But I just read a story where a woman sued and won a suit against Walmart over a 2-cent difference between the shelf price (98-cents) and the register price (1-dollar).

                                      So yes they should have done something differently.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: thimes
                                        e
                                        escondido123 Oct 2, 2011 02:23 PM

                                        Note the details of the suit. "Ms. Bach said the first time she was overcharged for the sausages, the cashier refunded the difference. But six days later, she was again charged $1, even though the shelf price remained 98 cents." So nothing was changed for basically a week...she won all of $800, probably a lot less than what the store made on overcharges for who knows how long.

                                      2. mtoo Sep 15, 2011 02:55 PM

                                        Went to Cinco de Mayo at a local Mexican place a few years back. Signs all over for $5 margaritas and $4 Cuervo shots. We order a couple margaritas, then feeling the spirit of the holiday, order a couple of the Cuervo shots. There were two bartenders working. The younger bartender pours the shots. Older bartender yells at her for overpouring. Shots were placed in front of us and consumed. When it came time to pay the bill, older bartender charges us $7 a piece instead of $4 a piece because she felt they were too big.

                                        That was the last time I went to that Mexican restaurant. We didn't ask for doubles - we just wanted the shots that were advertised ALL OVER the restaurant. I'm a server. I can't imagine arbitrarily changing our prices because I feel like a coworker overpoured or gave too much of something to a customer.

                                        eta: for clarification, I didn't know either of the bartenders and wasn't looking for or expecting some kind of hook up from them.

                                        1. b
                                          beevod Sep 14, 2011 07:30 AM

                                          If their food is good, let it go. They're not out to cheat you, for god's sake.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: beevod
                                            PeterL Oct 2, 2011 05:08 PM

                                            Yes they are.

                                          2. u
                                            ultimatepotato Sep 14, 2011 06:10 AM

                                            What I think is that the phrase 'Prices are subject to change' is really designed for take-out menus and websites to allow for people with old copies of menus and forgetting to update online menus. Also to say 'yes, this is the price right now, but in the future we may have a new menu with different prices' for menus in store. In store it's a perfectly easy fix - a simple, typed note for each table, apologising for the following changes (new prices listed) and advising that updated menus will arrive soon. And a server who can tactfully make sure that customers have read it. Sure, people may not get too antsy about 50c or $1.26, but imagine that garlic bread with cheese was instead a bottle of wine. On the menu it's $20. On the bill it's $32.80. Still accepting the waitress pointing to 'Prices are subject to change'?

                                            This is how a place handles things well - my local Vietnamese restaurant put its prices up by an almost uniform 50 pence. To let their customers know, they had one of ther delivery guys drop an explanation note and a new menu off to all their regular addresses. And had a note at their front desk in the restaurant.

                                            1. monavano Sep 13, 2011 03:22 PM

                                              A menu that say's that prices are subject to change is a menu which prices are subject to change. It sucks, but it's out there. Don't say you weren't warned.
                                              Jeez, it's $2.50, and everyone wants to make a federal case. The restaurant isn't charging you extra because they don't like your face, food cost went up!! They were lazy and had an attitude. What do you want? An IRS audit? How much revenge do you want to extract? What is your real issue if THIS little infraction makes you so damn angry? Are you Howard Beale?
                                              Ha! Seriously...
                                              It's not Watergate!
                                              I am... moving on...

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: monavano
                                                a
                                                acgold7 Sep 13, 2011 03:45 PM

                                                The size of the infraction is irrelevant. They can change their prices all they want, but there is no circumstance where it's okay to tell you about the change only after you've eaten. They have to tell you before they give you the food, preferably before you order so you can decide whether you still want the item. I don't get why that's so hard to understand.

                                                1. re: acgold7
                                                  t
                                                  thimes Sep 13, 2011 05:08 PM

                                                  +1

                                                  and no one is saying open some Supreme Court Case . . . .the OP asked what we thought, that is what I think . . . .

                                                2. re: monavano
                                                  mcf Oct 2, 2011 05:32 PM

                                                  I'm with you. Get over it and don't go back if you don't like their attitude.

                                                  1. re: monavano
                                                    d
                                                    DCLindsey Oct 3, 2011 02:55 PM

                                                    Actually to be a federal case it has to be greater than $75,000. :) (sorry bad lawyer joke)

                                                    1. re: DCLindsey
                                                      monavano Oct 3, 2011 03:03 PM

                                                      I guess this qualifies for small claims court. Really small.

                                                      1. re: monavano
                                                        westsidegal Jul 14, 2013 06:07 PM

                                                        microscopically small.

                                                        1. re: westsidegal
                                                          monavano Jul 14, 2013 06:12 PM

                                                          right

                                                          1. re: monavano
                                                            Seeker19104 Jul 15, 2013 03:44 PM

                                                            De minimis, in lawyerspeak :)

                                                  2. a
                                                    acgold7 Sep 13, 2011 02:49 PM

                                                    The more I think about this the more irritated I get.

                                                    The menu is an implied contract. They are offering goods at a listed price, and by ordering you are accepting their offer, and by taking your order they are accepting your offer. You have a contract which they must honor. They cannot change it retroactively without your consent.

                                                    If you still have the register tape and it lists the items and price, you should make a copy of it and print out their menu from the web (it's still up and shows the prices you mentioned) and send copies, along with a letter describing your experience, to your local Chamber of Commerce and Better Business Bureau (of which they may or may not be a member), your State Atty General and your local newspaper, and copy the restaurant. You should write this up on Yelp as well. Needless to say you won't be returning -- there are too many good and honest places you can give your business to.

                                                    This is the lowest form of scummery.

                                                    As a restaurant owner, you are absolutely free to change your prices at any time to reflect changing costs. What you are not entitled to do is steal from your customers or anyone else.

                                                    Now before I get accused of going too crazy on this, there might be one mitigating factor. Do they have one of those large menu boards above the counter with the correct/current prices? If so, they should not be passing out the menus and should refer customers to the board with the correct prices instead. They're still wrong but maybe a hair less heinous.

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: acgold7
                                                      monavano Sep 13, 2011 02:59 PM

                                                      A website menu is in no way material to prove that she got overcharged even if it does jibe with the prices at the time of the visit. They are not necessarily representative of the restaurant offerings or prices and heaven knows, they are usually out of date and behind the times. Especially if this is a mom n pop, who has time to update the website?, a webmaster?. I doubt it.
                                                      The menu has a disclaimer, and just because it's small it does not make it invalid. Written in finer print on the bottom of most menus these days is a warning of the harmful effects of consuming undercooked foods, to let you know that some items may not be cooked to 165 degrees or whatever. Are you going to report them if you get sick from a Caesar's salad or steak tartar?
                                                      You were warned and it's there, in print.
                                                      I don't think the OP has a let to stand on, but certainly, my legs would walk on by this place just for their snotty arrogance. I would not darken their door again.
                                                      OP, resolve not to go back and be at peace with it.
                                                      And I don't think it's scummery, just laziness and arrogance. Profit margins at eateries are abysmal and food prices have gone up. It has to reflect in the price of the menu offerings.

                                                      1. re: monavano
                                                        t
                                                        thimes Sep 13, 2011 03:15 PM

                                                        While I agree the website isn't really "proof", as it is one of the marketing things with a long life span, I fundamentally disagree with your interpretation (though I'm not consumer protection lawyer by any means).

                                                        I think you may be interpreting things this way because of the small amount of the difference. If you went out for a steak dinner and the menu said $29 but the bill came back with $125 you might not feel "hey I was warned in the fine print on the menu that these prices I'm looking at have no real basis in reality and I should ask the price of everything when ordering".

                                                        Prices marked at the point of purchase I believe are enforceable.

                                                        And yes, if you get sick from food poisoning at a restaurant, the restaurant has some level of liability. Regardless of the fine print. You can't just fine print your way out of health laws and negligence claims.

                                                        1. re: monavano
                                                          a
                                                          acgold7 Sep 13, 2011 03:15 PM

                                                          No one said anything about the size of the disclaimer, which is completely irrelevant. "Prices subject to change" is not a legal defense for fraud, no matter what the type size. If someone tells you they intend to rob you, that does not make it legal.

                                                          It has already been determined by the courts that the phrase on the parking stub that the valet gives you that says they're not responsible for damage that occurs to your car while it's in their custody is completely invalid, no matter what the type size is. Just because it's printed doesn't mean it holds water legally.

                                                          Your analogy about food illness warnings is not valid; it would only work if the menu had no prices and said "You agree to pay whatever we decide to charge you when you check out."

                                                          The OP is completely 100% right, legally, and will almost certainly prevail. Whether he/she feels it's worth the trouble to pursue this (and I'm not talking about getting the $2.50 or anything else back; that's beside the point) is another story.

                                                          A menu printout (which will likely include the date printed and has a 2011 copyright on it) and a dated register tape with conflicting prices would certainly be enough to trigger a troublesome investigation and make the restaurant sorry they did this. And it's not about revenge; it's about seeing they don't do this to anyone else. Turning the other cheek and moving on helps no one. It allows evil to flourish.

                                                          And by the way: Those food illness warnings? They don't hold up in court either.

                                                        2. re: acgold7
                                                          f
                                                          fisher Sep 14, 2011 05:41 AM

                                                          Nope. No large menu board. Just paper menus at the tables.

                                                          1. re: acgold7
                                                            r
                                                            Robinez Oct 2, 2011 09:59 PM

                                                            There was a meeting of the minds. There was a contract. The patron was willing to abide by the terms of the contract. The restaurant chose to breach. Bad, bad, restaurant.

                                                            Any ambiguity falls on the drafter of the contract, regardless. The restaurant's blatent disregard for the prices listed on the menu would certainly fall under this catagory.

                                                            1. re: acgold7
                                                              westsidegal Jul 14, 2013 06:06 PM

                                                              acgold:

                                                              <<This is the lowest form of scummery.>>

                                                              really?
                                                              this is the lowest form of scummery you see around you?
                                                              the right or wrong of it aside, the level of OUTRAGE over a $2.50 overcharge is pretty amazing.

                                                              wow , that's all i have to say.

                                                            2. s
                                                              silence9 Sep 13, 2011 02:42 PM

                                                              "...and what do I expect them to do, cross out the prices on all the old menus and write in the new prices? "
                                                              ----------------------
                                                              Hi... As it is not the customer's fault that the establishment poorly timed the arrival of the new menus reflecting the updated higher prices, what the establishment was expected to do was keep thier original/lower prices in place until the shipment of new menus arrived. No need for them to cross out the old prices and hand out tacky looking menus with scribbled new prices on them. Just respect the customer by not 'dinging' them with the new /higher prices, until the new menus arrive. How in the world can the restaurant conceivably presume that the customer should pick up the slack for either poor planning (on the restaurant's part) or unprofessional execution (on the part of whoever was in charge of creating and delivering a new menu in a timely fashion)...

                                                              1. r
                                                                RedTop Sep 13, 2011 02:23 PM

                                                                A small bit of white medical tape over the expired prices would do the trick. That, and the new price in ink.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: RedTop
                                                                  monavano Sep 13, 2011 02:52 PM

                                                                  I'm sure many of us have seen this done. It's easy, cheap and most of all, effective.

                                                                2. t
                                                                  thimes Sep 13, 2011 02:12 PM

                                                                  I'm with you Fisher - this is B.S. And I agree that I bet they are legally obligated to honor the posted price on the menu. That clause "subject to change" is typically used for ads or marketing materials that have a "long shelf life". NOT for the menu at the point of purchase. And YES, I would expect them to go through and change the prices on ALL the menus EVERY time they change the price.

                                                                  1. a
                                                                    acgold7 Sep 13, 2011 12:32 PM

                                                                    This is not only highly unethical but most likely illegal. You can't put one price on the menu and then charge another, and saying "Prices subject to change" doesn't get you off the hook at all. I'd report it to the state AG, seriously. Who knows how long they have been getting away with this? Do they charge you LESS than the menu price when their costs go down?

                                                                    This sort of thing really irks me. When they asked you that snotty question, "what do to you expect us to do?..." etc, the answer is, "Yes." Imagine if the shelf prices were not honored at the grocery store.

                                                                    They are legally obligated to honor the posted price. If they refused to do so I would have deducted the difference from the tip and let the waitress work it out with management. I bet she starts mentioning the price increases in a hurry.

                                                                    1. Midlife Sep 12, 2011 05:22 PM

                                                                      You may not get much of a response because of the way this topic is named, but I was bored and looked at it even though I had know idea what I might find.

                                                                      To answer your question.................. VERY WRONG of the restaurant to use the 'fine print' as an excuse for hiding their new prices from guests. Even more wrong, and exceedingly STUPID (IMHO) to think they could do this at all. I'd send them a letter, enclosing a fine-point Sharpie, and telling them I'll never be back. How hard would it be to change the prices by hand until the new menus arrive? It may be technically legal (you'd need a lawyer or local consumer affairs office for that) but it's exceedingly unethical.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: Midlife
                                                                        f
                                                                        fisher Sep 13, 2011 05:54 AM

                                                                        Thank you very much for the reply. (The topic name is due to having originally posted it on the New York State board.) It is good to have my sense of the incident confirmed. Sometimes you really wonder whether you're being too picky about things.

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