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Did our server do anything 'wrong'?

DH and I went to a new-ish neighborhood restaurant last night. A step up from casual but down from bistro.

We both decided on getting burgers ($10-12/each). I planned to order a side of garlic rapini as a side veggie.

When the waitress took my order, I said: "I'd like the truffle burger"
She responded: "Would you like a side salad or fries"?

.... at that point, in retrospect, I should have asked "Is that included?" but, I didn't and you can see where this is going...

I asked for the salad.

DH ordered his burger and her question to him was with the same tone (as if she wanted him to decide about two options) - as if those were the choices to be made.

When the bill arrived, there were 2 side salads at $4/each.

We asked the waitress if it was a mistake and she explained that they were in fact sides. I told her the way she asked was misleading and we assumed they were part of the burger.

In thinking about it further, there were several side options (the rapini, mac n cheese, potatoes, different types of fries, soup etc) - not just salad and fries - which, to me, are typical sides offered with a burger.

I was further irked because this is a newish spot and I'd imagine many patrons are first timers and not familiar with the menu and what's offered.

It put a bad taste in my mouth towards the establishment... so, I ask you - do you think she was intentionally trying to get us to order a side? I found the way in which she asked to be misleading. But, perhaps my frustration is misdirected and I should have been more apt to ask if it came with what we ordered.

Thoughts?

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  1. Was there anything in writing on the menu by way of explanation either way? ("Our burgers come...etc...)

    1 Reply
    1. re: scoopG

      No - nothing was mentioned on the menu. Just a section for burgers and a description of each. There was a section for salads, appetizers, entrees, burgers, and sides.

      I was not expecting any sides to come with the burger, which is why I decided on what side I wanted before hand. Had she not asked the question in the manner she did, I would not have thought anything of the burger just being the burger.

    2. Simple. Should not have happened. It was wrong to do that.

      1. Oracle,

        Was this in LA?

        And, while not "wrong" it is too slick to pass the smell test. Sort of like the continuous pour of bottled water "technique".

        1 Reply
        1. re: ipsedixit

          Yep - at Plate 38 in Pasadena, no less. Certainly not 'high end' - although, I think they are trying to be....

        2. Who knows how servers are trained at that place... maybe they are told to phrase things in a way that leads people to think those things are included. I'm always wary and look ahead of time at the menu. Of course she might also have been trying to weasel out a higher tip, but I know that sometimes training gives employees little choice.

          1. With all due respect, I can't believe people still fall for this. If this is the nicest restaurant you've ever been to, you are absolved of knowing that the nicer the place, the more "a la carte" things become. And there were probabably no pictures on the menu to show you what your plate was going to look like. So one needs to assume that even if the server is offering you what SOUNDS like a "choice", buyer beware -- unless you ask, you should expect an additional line item on the bill. As noted, servers are often trained to "upsell"; yours was probably just doing her $2.13/hour job.

            1. You got had. Caveat Emptor and all that. I wouldn't make any definitive decisions about the place or not go back based on this. The upselling is pervasive, and we should read the menu carefully to know that those sides were indeed sides, and not included.
              It certainly is misleading, but, there is culpability on both sides.
              I'd call it a wash and go back if the food was good!
              Don't over think it, in other words. Enjoy.
              ps... at least the side salads were reasonable, if that's any consolation.

              1. Sorry Oracle, but in my opinion you got screwed without even getting a kiss or a thank you. I would definitely make sure the waitress and the manager knew that her tips just went to pay the extended bill.

                5 Replies
                1. re: PotatoHouse

                  When in doubt ....assume it is an upsell....Then you will never have this problem.......

                  1. re: PotatoHouse

                    I wanted to ding her tip, but DH had a different opinion - so I tipped her as I would have had we not been had. I'm still bitter... if you can't tell. ;) I thought about writing to the mgmt - as I know they are trying to draw a customer base from locals - which we certainly are.

                    1. re: The Oracle

                      You wanted to reduce her tip because YOU misunderstood her? Oh lordy. Im SO glad Im no longer a server ....

                      1. re: Cheflambo

                        I FELT like it, but I didn't. It was a knee-jerk reaction that I didn't follow through with.

                        I felt that way because the experience made me feel as if she was trying to get us to spend more in an underhanded way.

                        1. re: The Oracle

                          Re-reading your OP, I'm curious - how did your server react when you told her you thought her approach misleading? How generously to tip in that situation would depend very much on how she handled your complaint, imo.

                  2. I agree with the posters who said this is a common upselling technique that servers are trained or instructed to do, but I don't agree that *nicer* restaurants do this by default. I personally think it's a dishonest practice for a restaurant to instruct its servers to casually ask a patron if they would *like* something - that either by implication of the nature of the thing (in this case fries with a burger) or the manner in which it is asked can be reasonably thought to be included - so they can pad the tab.

                    The other day, I went to a Korean restaurant and asked for another bowl of rice to go with the jjigae we ordered. The waitress asked me "Extra, right?" to ensure that I knew I would be charged extra for what I was requesting. That was an honest way to handle it that didn't seek to shame me into paying something I didn't expect to pay after the fact because I don't want to make a scene at a restaurant.

                    There are plenty of fine restaurants that are very straightforward in their approach to explaining what is included, taking customer orders, and tabulating the bill. And if the server failed to first ask you which of the included sides you would like and skipped straight to the tactic of getting you to order a salad or fries that wasn't included, barring the possibility that this was a very earnest but unexperienced server, I'd say your server did a shifty thing and was wrong (and likely also the management for instructing her to do so).

                    1. We were in a restaurant recently and my husband asked the server if he could sub something for the fries. She said it would be no problem and went through the available items but happened to forget to mention the extra $2.00 charge to sub a salad for fries. I guess you just have to learn to ask questions (a lesson we are still learning.)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Jambie

                        I think most of us are, but really, I would assume the "sub" meant "same" as in price. $2 is not a lot, but I can totally understand being a bit upset that you were not told. I would not think to ask if it were extra, I would expect (damn well expect) to be told that my entree would cost more money if I changed it.
                        "Sure, happy to make a substitute, but here will be an extra charge" is the right thing for the server to say. Not to is more egregious than the OP's situation.
                        DH and I really love our fries with burgers. We both diligently read what is included with sandwiches and burgers, such as fries, cole slaw, pickles, chips etc. It's just because we're sticklers about it.
                        If fries are not included, we generally split an order, which really, in the end, is better for both of us!

                      2. I don't think the server did anything wrong. No more so than at a fast food joint when they say "would you like fries with that?" If she put it exactly the way you said she did there would have been no doubt in my mind that they were not included, unless her inflection was such that it was clear they were. How's that for waffling?

                        (If her questioning inflection went up on salad, paused and then went down on fries, as if she were asking you to choose between the two included free side dishes, that's one thing. If the question upspeak was at the end of the sentence then to me it's clear that neither were included and she was offering those as possible extra dishes. Does that make sense?)

                        Usually, in our experience, our servers are pretty specific; they typically say something like "you get two sides with that" if they're included. If they ask you a Yes/No question, like "would you like...?" or "Any Sides?", we assume it's not. If they ask *which* sides you want, as if it's assumed it's included, we assume so as well but it could be a sneaky way to trick you if they're not.

                        But it's easy to get tripped up, so I'm no longer embarrassed to look like the dumb guy and ask, "does that come with it?"

                        But she was likely/definitely told to upsell by management. All servers are.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: acgold7

                          it would have been forthright to word it like "would you like to order a side?" or "care for a side?"

                          as quoted the implication of inclusion is there, but I'd say if that's the policy then the place is doing themselves a disservice as I would bet the garlic rapini might very well be more expensive to the customer (although a lower profit margin to management) and 2 it's sort of insulting to the burger crowd that it's expected those are the only sides that might be considered.

                          1. re: acgold7

                            The inflection was definitely made to seem it was a choice between the two. That's what tripped me up and that's what I was irked about. I was planning to order a side, after all ... it was unnecessarily sneaky, IMO. Which I clearly do NOT appreciate.

                            1. re: The Oracle

                              yeah, it sounds like it was intentional to me. Otherwise she would have asked if you wanted to "ADD a SIDE", the addition is key, as is mentioning a side rather than relatively standard accompaniments.

                              1. re: Rodzilla

                                I'm intrigued that you guys (in general, not meaning to single you out, Rodzilla) think a waitress is carefully parsing her language to be deceptive in order to get a potential additional tip of $1.60 while putting the entirety of her tip in jeopardy.

                                When I was a waitress back in college, I can tell you my mind was on getting the order as quickly as possible, getting it as completely as possible to avoid numerous trips, what needed to be picked up for half a dozen other tables and how I was, generally, going to be able to make everyone's experience sufficiently pleasant that they'd feel good about the whole experience and want to be generous, want to return and want to sit at my table in the future.

                                1. re: rainey

                                  rainey, servers (actually, anyone working in a retail sales capacity) are commonly trained to upsell, and they are often fed suggested phrases with which to upsell that are crafted to make the additional purchase as painless as possible. Some reasonable people think that's not only to be expected, but totally acceptable. Other reasonable people think it's a dishonest practice.

                                  I prefer to dine out at places where I am treated as though it is assumed that I already know what I want to eat and drink and don't need to be suggestively sold, be the sell hard or soft. Sounds like you worked in that kind of a place. :)

                                  1. re: inaplasticcup

                                    If it's company policy to offer an upsell, then it's not the server's fault for doing it. It was one of the six steps of selling at McD's when I worked there in high school and we were dinged on my evaluations for not doing it which is how raises were based. Honest or dishonest, it's not the workers' decision. As upsell goes, it works which is why it's done, which is why you see all the candy/magazines at the front of the check out counter, why chips are next to the soda--people buy impulsively.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      Yes, but at McD's EVERYBODY knows that they are ordering a la carte. If it went down exactly the way Oracle portrayed it, and I have no reason to believe it did not, then the server made the allusion that the fries or salad were included rather than a la carte. If the server were attempting to be upfront, she would have asked, "Would you like to add a side?".
                                      I grew up around the foodservice industry and I am looking at opening my own restaurant within the next two years. If the scenario played out in my restaurant the way Oracle portrayed it, Not only would the server be paying for Oracle's meal out of her paycheck, she would also be looking for a new job the next morning.

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        Not disagreeing that it's very likely that she was just following orders, but if you happen to believe that the practice is dishonest (and apparently many reasonable people here don't, but if you do), then it follows that you believe the server was also dishonest to practice it.

                                    2. re: rainey

                                      Well we can never know for certain, especially without hearing the tone, but it reads as deception. It sounds like you were an honest waitress, how would you have asked?

                                      1. re: Rodzilla

                                        Well, I worked in a busy Italian resto about 40 years ago. But if it were a burger sorta place I suppose I'd ask "would you like fries or a salad with that" as those are probably the most common choices and most of us want something with a burger.

                                        Again, I'd go back to what the menu said. Is there an indication of the price structure or what's included with items? It's the unusual menu that doesn't have that info. If it isn't there, it's the management being cagey. If the info's there, it's the patron being careless. I just don't see that the busy waitress has much to gain but I confess I could be wrong.

                                        I completely understand not wanting to feel taken advantage of. But, mostly, it's not all that much in question and hanging onto bad feelings really wouldn't be worth it to me. I'd, possibly, adjust the tip downward to what I was expecting to pay and, if I really didn't expect to feel good about dining there again, avoid the place. ::shrug::

                              2. Do you get mad when they charge you extra at a fast food restaurant when they ask if you would like fries or a drink?

                                Unless its not printed on the menu (think special) I find it rather unappealing when my server discusses price.

                                1. To me the key is the words 'would you like' rather than 'do you want x or y'. As well, I don't know of a restaurant anywhere in my area that serves a salad standard with a burger. Fries, yes; salad, definitely not. It appears to me that the restaurant has trained the servers to encourage the ordering of sides. I do not think the server did anything wrong.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: foiegras

                                    It would have been OK if the server had said 'do you want' instead of 'would you like?

                                    And from what did it appear to you that the restaurant had trained the server "to encourage the ordering of sides"? I missed that.

                                    1. re: DPGood

                                      Pity the poor customer whose English skills don't yet include the difference between the 2 phrases.

                                      Sounds to me like the server was *told* exactly how to say what she said, and she'd rather keep her job than get a bigger tip from that table. And she didn't forfeit the tip after all, so the ploy worked.
                                      I don't even like it when the server asks if I want OJ after I recite my breakfast order -- it's so obvious they've been told to do so.

                                      1. re: DPGood

                                        No ... I'm saying that 'would you like' is proper phrasing for an addition. 'Do you want x or y' implies inclusion. My guess is that the tone was one of boredom from repeating the question as she had been trained, as she does every time someone orders a burger.

                                        The butcher counter at my grocery store upsells (or attempts to--never works on me, I always work from a list). Last time I was there for chicken tenders and bacon. Bacon was one of the upsell items mentioned, and the look of faint surprise (Hey, maybe this lame upsell stuff does occasionally work!) when I agreed that I wanted bacon was priceless. Luckily he couldn't see 'bacon--1/2 lb' written on my list ...

                                    2. Seems like a pretty standard question to me. Did the menu give any indication what the pricing structure was or what was included in various orders? Did you object to the bill?

                                      Personally, I think you're pretty lucky it was just a couple of $4 sides.

                                      I might have tipped on just what I thought I was going to be billed. I think that's as far as I'd push the issue. Live and learn! And take some consolation in knowing that you don't have to go back there if it still doesn't feel OK to you.

                                      1. All of this said and discussed, I hope this is so minor in the course of this weekend, regardless of what we all have to say.

                                        1. <I went to a new-ish neighborhood restaurant last night. A step up from casual but down from bistro>
                                          <It put a bad taste in my mouth towards the establishment>

                                          Yes, the server did something wrong in the sense that a customer left unhappy. A new-ish neighborhood restaurant should try to cultivate satisfied customers who will spread the word and hopefully become a repeat customer. But instead of raving about this new restaurant to friends and online social networks, your experience has led you to do the opposite.

                                          1. The way I was instructed to say things like this was to be sure to use the word "ADD," as someone mentioned below. "Would you like to add a salad or fries with that?" Then it's clear you are saying that it's extra.

                                            I think in SOME fast food places they say that, and in some, they say something like "would you like to make that a ___" (e.g. value meal), which is obvious they are making it more expensive, and some just say "would you like fries with that." But per the OP, they don't say "would you like fries OR a coke with that," implying that one of those is included, you just have to make a choice. I call deceptive.

                                            1. I think this scenario toes the line between normal upsell (which puts the onus on the customer) and clipjoint tactic (which reflects poorly on the restaurant). I wouldn't avoid a place because of it and I wouldn't assume the waitress did this on her own accord, though. But it would make me careful about dining there in the future.

                                              1. I Think the server was wrong. The OP mentioned that there were many sides on the menu, but the server asked if they wanted fries or salad, not if they wanted a side with their burgers. To me, that would imply one of the two choices was included.

                                                1. About a year ago I took my in-laws out for dinner for their anniversary along with other family members for a total of 9 people. I forget exactly how the waiter phrased the question, but to everyone at the table (except me – the guy picking up the tab who has been screwed often enough to know better) he was asking if they would like the Caesar salad or the garden salad as though they came with the entrée. I’m pretty sure he was aware that they didn’t know they were being charged (it was a “feeling” I had). In hindsight, I could have tried to nonchalantly ask if the salads “came with” the entrée but not wanting to appear cheap or embarrass anyone, I sat quietly and cringed as each member of our party (sans me) ordered salads that I’m certain they would have passed on had they known there was a fairly hefty extra cost. At least half of them probably didn’t even want a salad. There are many people who are not very restaurant or menu savvy enough to realize that certain items (salads, for example) do not necessarily come with the meal and I think they can easily make costly false assumptions. Not everyone eats out as often as the average Hound. Good waitstaff (who aren't deliberately doing this - different from an upsell, i.e. "is anyone interested in dessert?") should be able to recognize this and try to ensure there are no misunderstandings. My 80 y.o. in-laws would not believe in a million years that in many restaurants the baked potato or green bean sides could be an extra $8 each. Don’t even get me started on “would you like sparkling water?” How many seasoned Hounds have fallen for that one? By the way, you got off easy – my salads added over $80.00 to the tab. Ouch. I haven’t returned to the place and yes, I know I should have contacted the restaurant, etc....

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: bobbert

                                                    ouch bobbert, but ya did do the gracious thing since you were the host to not let your guests know those salads would jack it so much.

                                                    1. re: bobbert

                                                      What was written down in the menu? Was this a new, unfamiliar restaurant that you went to? One that you had never been to before? You normally take eight family members out for a special dinner to a new place or a restaurant you have not checked out ahead of time?

                                                      You also could have asked, does the Ceasar salad come with anchovies? Is it made table side? As a way to elicit more information. Why is it appearing cheap to ask if the salads are included in the entree dinner price? You could have also said, "that sounds great, how does the salad option here work?" Really, $10 each for side salads? How much were the entrees? And again, with the menu: what was written down?

                                                      Sparkling water? Spouse and I prefer it and are happy to pay for it.

                                                      1. re: scoopG

                                                        Mentioning price at all, especially when treating others can be seen as inappropriate, or embarrassing. Maybe Bob could have found some clever way to inquire about the price without feeling awkward or looking cheap - but he shouldn't have to.

                                                        I don't think all waiters/waitresses are up to such tactics, but I'm sure there are quite a few who are hoping that the patrons will be too embarrassed to ask when ordering, and supposing they'll be similarly passive when it shows up as extra on the bill.

                                                        1. re: scoopG

                                                          Had been there a few times before and I was well aware of the costs. Quite clear to me what the cost would be and, my feeling was it was just as obvious to the waiter that these people thought the salad came with the entree. These were not " side salads" as in a little lettuce and a few cukes so with the 20% tip they were probably more than 10 bucks each. My DC's probably thought they were getting side salads.
                                                          The group consisted of several older individuals that come from modest, unsophisticated backgrounds as well as a couple of college age kids who don't dine in expensive places as often as they would like. Believe it or not there are millions around this country who think unlimited salad and breadsticks is the norm.
                                                          And there lies the issue. My belief, in this instant, was that the waiter knew that my DC's were not aware they were being charged for the salads even though I, as someone who dines out a lot, was quite certain. To me it was quite clear, the menu was clear - the only one not very clear was the waiter who was dealing with people who also were obviously not too clear about the salads.
                                                          As for sparkling water, I have no problem with people who drink it ( I've been known to have a bottle or two myself). The only issue is when it's "sold" to people who don't realize they're buying it. There have been a number of threads here where this is talked about.

                                                        2. re: bobbert

                                                          My 80 y.o. in-laws would not believe in a million years that in many restaurants the baked potato or green bean sides could be an extra $8 each

                                                          --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                                          I have been in your seat at the table! And I handled it the same way you did. (It was my ILs)

                                                          Sometimes that is just the way it is and being kind to your guest who might not know any better is the right thing to do.

                                                          I remember years ago, we were visiting an old friend of my mother's in another city. My dad offered to take her and her husband out to dinner. Turns out they had made plans with her MIL so my dad says "MIL is invited also."

                                                          These people were not used to nicer dining experiences and fell into the "clueless" category. We were at a nice place and they ordered everything the waiter recommended, not realizing every item was a la carte. My dad was furious but kept himself under control.

                                                          1. re: bobbert

                                                            bobbert, your post struck a memory chord. Years ago, probably about thirty years if I'm being honest, we were a large party at an after-concert holiday dinner. My step-father and mother were hosting my family and some friends of ours in a city across the country from their home. Ages varied from my young children to my parents - a wide spread. We were about twenty people total. After all the drink orders were taken, I later learned the waiter asked my son (about age 10) "would the young master like shrimp?". He answered in the affirmative. Subsequently, a very large silver platter of shrimp was passed by our white-gloved waiter and the entire table ate the delicious shrimp. My husband and I naively assumed that this was just something the restaurant did as part of their hospitality (and it would be figured into the cost of doing business in this southern coastal city) and did not give it another thought. We knew my stepfather hadn't ordered it -- he disliked seafood.

                                                            Dinner proceeded; we all enjoyed several more treats evidently ordered by "the young master". It was only when the substantial bill arrived that the truth emerged. My stepfather was much too polite to make a scene and paid the bill.

                                                            Today, "the young master" is in his 40s, often hosting dinner parties of his own. He - and the rest of us - have never forgotten this (expensive) lesson in the art (?) of up-selling. Shame on the waiter for taking advantage of this situation. "Once bitten, twice shy".

                                                          2. I wonder if the server didn't perhaps use proper inflection. If spoken in different ways, those words together could mean one of two things: "Which if the complimentary sides do you want, salad or fries?", or "In addition to your burger, can I interest you in salad or fries?" -- the old "suggestive sell, a la McDonald's "YouWantFriezWizzat?"

                                                            1. Don't you just hate having to ask? It makes me feel cheap to say, how much is that, is that included, like it detracts from the experience of being pampered by having to be a vigilent consumer. Know what I mean?

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                Especially if it's my treat. If someone orders the "special" I can't imagine then asking the waiter how much that will be. I have no problem asking when it's just my wife and me but, treating friends/relatives? Think of it. You're someones guest and you ordered the "special" and the "salad" and then the host pipes up and, even in the nicest tone possible, asks how much the special is and "...does the salad come with the entree or is that an extra cost?" If I'm buying that's not going to happen. I'd certainly eat the money before making my guests feel awkward.

                                                                1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                  I know what you mean, GraydonCarter...

                                                                2. I'm sorry, but I totally disagree that the server did anythng wrong. Servers are, in effect, salespeople, and I have been to far too many restaurants where this practice is employed to EVER be offended by it. Last night I was in an Outback, for Crissakes, and the waitress asked asked "Would you like a salad or soup with that?" Her tone implied that it was included, but I knew different. I appaluded her efforts at doing her job well. If you''re paying $10-12 for a burger, chances are that everything is ala cart. When in doubt, simply ask the question. I find it no more offensive than "What kind of wine would you like with your dinner?" or "What have you decided on for dessert?" The server was simply doing their job. As for the diner, Caveat Emptor and lesson learned.

                                                                  16 Replies
                                                                  1. re: SweetPhyl

                                                                    And here is where words and how they’re used and nuanced make a difference. I have absolutely no problem with a server trying to up-sell an item. “Anyone have any room for dessert? We have a wonderful pecan pie that’s to die for!” or, “…for that vodka martini, would you like Grey Goose, Absolute, or just the regular bar swill?” I’ve been “sold” very often and just as often, I pass. Since we’re mentioning chains, at Olive Garden, they ask if you “would like our marinara dipping sauce for those breadsticks – it’s an extra $3.” Yes, it’s written somewhere on the menu but there are many people who would easily believe it comes with the breadsticks and they would be out $3, be pissed off, or both. According to a server I know, about 50% pay the extra and there’s no confusion.
                                                                    Some things regularly come with meals. Salads? Not as often as they used to but there are a lot of moderately priced places that still give you a salad with your meal. How about if the server asked if you “would like the sourdough or Italian bread before your dinner?” “Would you like the house herb butter or you could have the tomato puree or garlic, anchovy dip.” Now the tab comes and you find out that the sourdough was extra as was the tomato puree. Sure, somewhere in the 5 page menu it says these things are extra and you could have asked but you’re the host and you don’t want to look cheap in front of your guests so you eat it (literally and figuratively).
                                                                    There’s selling and then there’s swindling. I do not have a problem with a server, bar tender, or car salesman trying to sell me something and there is a fair amount of gray in this area but, as I wrote about dinner with my in-laws, it was quite clear to me and IMO, the waiter, that the people ordering salads believed they came with the meal. Touché for the waiter. He got his up-sell. He got his extra $15 in tip but in the long run, the restaurant lost out as I for one will not be back dropping $50-60 dollars a head again. It seems counter-intuitive, but the nicer the place, the less I expect and I’m usually ready for the sales pitch. When you get naïve individuals who don’t often eat in places more than 1/2 mile from a mall or younger people who are making their initial forays into fine(er) dining, I believe any good, experience server should recognize them and instead of licking their lips like a lion watching a limping wildebeest, maybe take a moment and be sure there’s no confusion. Caveat Emptor? For a salad? Really?

                                                                    1. re: SweetPhyl

                                                                      Ditto. Implied here is that the offer seems to be a great one until the check arrives.

                                                                      And no one has to ask about money. I find it odd that people are quick to refrain about asking questions because they fear to be seen as cheap in front of their guests, then complain about being gouged afterwords cause they did not say anything.

                                                                      The question can be phrased in so many ways. "So how does it work here, are these sides included?" Or "can I equally substitute any of these sides? Is the extra added charge the same?"

                                                                      As Mark Twain noted, only a person with larceny in their own heart can be cheated.

                                                                      1. re: scoopG

                                                                        So your future in-laws are in town. They're "regular folk", worked hard their whole lives and a night out for them usually was at the church supper. They're staying at their daughter's place where she sleeps on the couch and there is no way she's sleeping at your place as you're not yet married and they would freak out. They are not typical chow hounds but they are typical of tens of millions of Americans. Fast forward to dinner where you are treating at a nice chain upscale steakhouse. You know it's all al acarte but they don't. Now the waiter asks your future mil if she would like baked potato or the special house fries. "How about the cream spinach or the green beans. We also have a very nice garden salad..." Next up. Dad. You know, the guy you're trying to impress and show what a great catch you are. He also goes for the full Monty. You're 95% sure that they think everything they just ordered comes with their $38 steak (go figure) and you think the waiter might be taking advantage of the situation. You're saying that you would then ask if that stuff is included? I don't see how you do that without making the future IL's feel really stupid or, how would they feel if they actually wanted those sides? Maybe they change their whole order because they think... well, you should get the point. It's only happened to me a couple of times but as the OP said, it left a real bad taste.

                                                                        1. re: bobbert

                                                                          the only way one could head that off is on the way there drop a line like "oh yeah and by the way this is one of those places where if you want anything more than just the steak you'll have to order it separately or you'll be disappointed" implying that you fully EXPECT them to order sides, but sort of subtly letting them know nothing is included but worded as a warning they might be unhappy if they don't know that. and then let the waiter do the up-sell, the result might still be the same, but you'll feel you tried and more importantly they don't feel stupid.

                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                            That's smart. Though if I knew it was a place where upsell traps are common (and I was picking the restaurant), I wouldn't be going there in the first place.

                                                                            If you can't manage to discretely have a word with the waiter or manager in private once the trap has been played, the only graceful way to show your displeasure is on the check.

                                                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                              true the 'trap' can happen anywhere, but the ala carte menu is probably public knowledge (or at least on the website if there is one)

                                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                                Good point.

                                                                            2. re: hill food

                                                                              > sort of subtly letting them know

                                                                              To my guests I will always say something like, "order anything you want - - it's my treat" to avoid any ambiguitiy.

                                                                              1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                yes, if you're the host then your approach is indeed proper, but I was addressing the issue of how to alert beforehand to someone unfamiliar to the place it is all a la carte rather than included and not sound like a cheap asswipe. delivered as a warning they NEED to order what they want as sides.

                                                                                then if they want the X with baked potato, creamed spinach, caesar salad, and more - well so be it.

                                                                                1. re: hill food

                                                                                  You could try to make it a size/waste issue, as opposed to a monetary one? As in, casually mention that the sides are a la carte and so large that they are better for sharing, so how about we all discuss what sides we'd like to order for the table?

                                                                                  1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                    that's a viable tactic. "Hey! what will we want on the side? we can get salads or they do a killer spinach we could split a few!

                                                                            3. re: bobbert

                                                                              I feel for you Bobbert, I really do. It is hard for "regular folk" to comprened a $38.00 steak not coming with two sides.

                                                                              And I do think that the average person would think a salad or dessert would be more...but a steak dinner comes with potato and veg.

                                                                              I hope you get a fabulous wedding present from the IL's and take them to a "family style" resto next time.

                                                                              P.S.- I just know you were gracious and not said a word.

                                                                              1. re: Luna2372

                                                                                My last post was actually a hypothetical in response to scooG on what one could do in such a situation. It's easier said than done. Sometimes you just have to eat the bill.
                                                                                Overall, my point is, that in the hospitality business, the phrase "let the buyer beware" really shouldn't belong.
                                                                                I eat out 4-5 times a week, anything from street food to fine dining, and the vast amount of time I am treated fairly by hard working owners and staff who are rewarded with my business and generous tipping. As I also worked in the business way back when and have 3 kids in the biz now, I also tend to take the side of the workers over the customers in most of these type of posts.
                                                                                I understand upselling and I understand al acarte. I don't understand deliberatly selling something to anyone when a server KNOWS the customer thinks it comes with the meal. This happens very rarely to me and, in the past 20 years or so, it's only been successful when I've been caught off guard and was hosting where someone would have felt awkward if I spoke up. Did the waiter deliberately swindle the OP? Probably not. Did he swindle me with the $10 salads? I think so.
                                                                                The generic answer to the question, did the server do anything wrong? If the server knowingly sold something that he believed the customer thought was free, yes, he's a crook. If the server assumed or believed the customer was aware that the fries or salad would be extra, then no, he was just doing his job. Lots of gray there but sometimes you just get that feeling that things ain't right.

                                                                                1. re: Luna2372

                                                                                  Hey, it's hard for me to comprehend that a $38 steak doesn't come with sides, even though I've seen it often enough ;)

                                                                                  1. re: foiegras

                                                                                    Especially around here the $25 steaks come w/ potato and veg.

                                                                            4. re: SweetPhyl

                                                                              If your job as a server is to sell things, you can't just view customers as one-time deals where you fleece em for all you can. Repeat customers are the life blood of the restaurant business (well, that and people who spend thousands of dollars on wine at a single meal).

                                                                              If I feel a server is deliberately deceptive to pad the check, I find out whether doing so is the restaurant's policy. If it is, I don't come back and let them know why. If not, I lower my tip (one of the very few reasons I'll do so) let the manager know the cause of my dissatisfaction, and stop the meal there if the situation allows. In either case, the server's tactics were not helpful to himself or the restaurant.

                                                                              The point - If you want to tell me how good your fries are hoping Ill buy some, that's fine. That's salemanship. If you phrase an add-on as a choice between two things that are sometimes included, I know you're being dishonest. Deliberate deception is offensive and disrespectful. A restaurant or a server should not want an otherwise happy customer to feel offended or disrespected. Don't be so shortsighted.

                                                                            5. Server do anything wrong?

                                                                              I'm leaning towards no. However, I've been upsold a few times so now I ask questions when the menu isn't clear. "Does the burger come with xxx and yyy? or I there an extra charge for the salad?" The answer is usually, "yes."

                                                                              Although part of the servers job is to upsell, I would be irked more by the establishment's owners for their confusing menus.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: dave_c

                                                                                I'm with you Dave. Right under "BURGERS" it should tell you what if anything it comes with...and what the cost of a sub is.

                                                                                I mean really...how many times have you wanted only a burger? Most ppl want something with it. The menu should state it clearly.

                                                                                The waitress did her job.

                                                                              2. "do you think she was intentionally trying to get us to order a side?"

                                                                                Yes.

                                                                                1. I waited tables for twelve years and I can tell you that upselling is a part of the deal. But a total of $8 upsell means maybe one or two dollars for the server in extra tip, if you are generous, so I'd chalk it up to how the servers were trained. I always found the best way of upselling to increase my tip was liquor. If someone asked for a gin and tonic, I would ask which gin they wanted. Inevitably they would say tanqueray, beefeaters, or Bombay, and that adds up over the course of an evening.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: mojoeater

                                                                                    Very clever! I bet most folks would hesitate to say "oh hell, just give me the rail liquor". Gin and tonic is one thing, but a TnT has a certain cache to it.

                                                                                  2. I would not have assumed they were included as nowhere on the menu does it indicate anything comes with the burger other than what's on it "lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, cheddar cheese, brioche bun". Nothing under the "Burgers" heading says they come with anything. If you ordered something from the entree section and she asked if you wanted a soup or salad would you have expected them to be included? If not, why expect a burger to include something extra?

                                                                                    14 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: gourmanda

                                                                                      The point is there is a way of phrasing the 'soup or salad' question that is deliberately misleading, a tone of voice that implies that you are being offered a choice between one or the other rather than being asked if you want to add something on to your order.

                                                                                      Traps of this kind are deliberate and dishonest. I don't want to ever feel like a restaurant is trying to trick me. Whether the server in the OP's case used this tone of voice/tactic, I can't say since I wasn't there. Sounds likely enough.

                                                                                      So restaurants and servers be warned - if you try this move, you risk losing both your tip and a potential repeat customer. Doesn't seem like a good trade-off to me.

                                                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                        Exactly...

                                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                          Don't take it out on the servers, please. They are doing what they are instructed to do and you get in big trouble if they find out you aren't upselling at every available opportunity. That's what secret shoppers do - they grade you on the "steps of service" and if you don't say a particular phrase at a particular time throughout the meal, you get dinged. The report goes to the restaurant manager and often, you are called out in a group meeting where they go over the report and the opportunities you "missed" to upsell because you didn't ask them if they wanted a delicious soup with that or if they'd like to try a bucket of Buds or whatever. Take your concerns to the managers and/or owners, but please don't take it out on the servers, they are doing what they are instructed to do.

                                                                                          1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                            I never take it out on a server's tip but will take it out on the business. As I stated, there is a point where a server is AWARE that the customer does not realize he is getting charged and goes through the transaction without mentioning a thing to the unknowing person( s). That is no longer up-selling. That is thievery.
                                                                                            If the server can HONESTLY say that he/she honestly thought that any reasonable person would have believed there would be an extra charge then I give them a pass.
                                                                                            In the first instant, I have an image of the server going out with his colleagues later and, with high fives all around, bragging about the suckers he had today at table 6 and how he could have " sold" them everything on the menu. I just don't like it if I'm one of those suckers.

                                                                                            1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                              I understand. But I don't really care. It's not like I've ever berated a server or gone out of my way to ruin their day. But I'm of the opinion that the 'it's my job' defense is a poor excuse for acting unethically.

                                                                                              Attempt to rip me off - tip's going down or away entirely. Whether you're acting fully on your own accord or at the whim of your employers doesn't make much difference to me. Now, reality is messy, and if the server is nice enough otherwise that I feel bad for em, I might tip well anyway. Cause I'm a big softie sometimes, not because dishonest tactics are OK as long as you can point to someone higher up the chain who's made them a policy. Everyone involved is culpable, and the server is most definitely involved.

                                                                                              BTW, I'm not talking about the kind of upsell you mention - if you want to sell me a delicious soup, ask away. Talk up that bucket of Buds. It's fine. I'll listen to the sales pitch, and I won't hold it against anyone. Just don't try to trick me or anyone at my table into it.

                                                                                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                [Quote] They are doing what they are instructed to do and you get in big trouble if they find out you aren't upselling at every available opportunity. [/Quote]

                                                                                                Sorry R&R1, but the "I Was Just Following Orders" Defense didn't cut it at the Nuremberg trials and it won't cut it here and for the same reason. Doing something immoral at best and illegal at worst is still the responsibility of the perpetrator, no matter who told them to do it.

                                                                                                1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                                  potato, cowboy and bobbert, you have obviously never waited tables in any chain or similar type of restaurant. You can't deliver the upsell taglines with some kind of smile and a wink to indicate it's the upsell. You can't hiss under your breath "by the way, that's not included." If you did that to someone who was a secret shopper instead of a regular patron like you are, you would be FIRED. I do and did find those kinds of forced upsell situations extremely distasteful. I don't like being forced to try to cheat people into spending more or dance the line of honesty and upselling, which is why I don't wait tables any longer. But I can tell you when I got laid off and couldn't find a job ANYWHERE, I was glad to have a chain to walk into and get hired on the spot, even though I had to go through those horrible steps of service with every customer. When in training, the senior server you are with will tell on you to the manager if you don't say every single thing at every opportunity that you're supposed to in order to go for a larger check, even if it's just "do you want that baked potato loaded" or "would you like mushrooms and onions on your steak?" It all adds up and you HAVE to say each little thing at each opportunity. The place is shopped by secret shoppers almost every single night, certainly more than 3 times a week and you never, ever know if the person you are serving is a secret shopper or not, they come in all ages, shapes, sizes, configurations. I was subject more than once to the humiliating group meeting where they pointed out that I didn't "suggest" to someone that their potato be loaded or their gin and tonic be Tanqueray or whatever and they go through each humiliating piece and make you feel like crap. They analyze your check average each night when you turn in your money and say "Your check average isn't high enough. You aren't doing enough suggested selling. Be sure to always ask to make the baked potato loaded or if they want mushrooms and onions on their steak," and then they come around and stand next to you or very near you while you are waiting tables so they can hear exactly what you're saying. If you don't say everything you are supposed to say, you can literally be fired. In this economy, it's just not a good argument to say oh well, you can work anywhere, you can get another job, etc. When I got laid off I couldn't find another job ANYWHERE and I darn sure did what I was told as often as I could stand to do so when working at the last chain I worked at.

                                                                                                  I think it really depends on the customer as to whether they feel they are being tricked or if it's just an upsell, as evidenced throughout this thread. A subtle difference between using the word "add" or not can supposedly make it crystal clear, or the inflection of your voice - supposedly in one instance, the same words can indicate that it's an add on, but not if you say the say words with another inflection. It's analyzed to death and honestly, in a chain restaurant at least, the servers are just doing their jobs exactly as they are instructed to do. The idea of the upsell or the suggested sell or the wording or whatever comes down from corporate, and I think it's really crappy to take it out on the server who is getting in trouble by management if they don't do what they're supposed to do (and risk losing their job to boot), but getting in trouble with certain patrons if they do what they're supposed to.

                                                                                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                    "You have obviously never waited tables in any chain or similar type of restaurant. You can't deliver the upsell taglines with some kind of smile and a wink to indicate it's the upsell. ...you would be FIRED."
                                                                                                    ______
                                                                                                    I know. This isn't news to me. I just don't care. I'll stick with my 'No ripping off Cowboyardee while expecting to get paid for it' policy.

                                                                                                    'In this economy, it's just not a good argument to say oh well, you can work anywhere, you can get another job, etc.'
                                                                                                    ______
                                                                                                    What if your job had you kill innocent people indiscriminately? Beat up little old ladies and take their purses? Steal wallets, but not physically hurt anyone? Sell cigarettes to kids? Tell the pubic lies on the behalf of some political figure? Use foul language? Produce junk food that's bad for public health (though tasty)?

                                                                                                    Do you see my point? Hopefully, there are some things that you wouldn't do or condone in the name of making a much-needed buck, while there are other things that you view as acceptable compromises. Where you and I draw the line is different. but the all-encompassing 'this economy is too hard' defense doesn't hold any water. This economy is hard on lots of people. Including customers. Don't rip em off.

                                                                                                    "I think it really depends on the customer as to whether they feel they are being tricked or if it's just an upsell, as evidenced throughout this thread."
                                                                                                    __________
                                                                                                    Nonsense. I'm not talking about gray areas. I'm talking about situations where the server's words are carefully chosen and intoned in such a way that any native English speaker would assume they are being offered a choice were they not already familiar with this tactic. The server knows perfectly well what he's doing.

                                                                                                    "And I think it's really crappy to take it out on the server"
                                                                                                    _______
                                                                                                    No. Ripping people off is 'really crappy.' Not paying extra to the person and business who's trying to rip you off is a perfectly reasonable response. It's not a matter of taking anything out on someone. It's a matter of not being complicit with being swindled.

                                                                                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                      I have worked every position in food service, from busboy to manager including waitstaff. I have NEVER been asked to nor asked any of my staff to intentionally mislead customers in order to pad the bill. See previous post.

                                                                                                      1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                                        That is very refreshing.

                                                                                                      2. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                        Although I never waited tables, I did tend bar for a number of years where I did quite a bit of up selling. Of course you’re usually dealing with a different type of individual at a bar and it’s probably fair to say that when I suggested the Johnny Walker Black vs. the house scotch, it was assumed there was a premium charge. For this thread, I talked at length with my daughter who is a server at a popular chain restaurant. She uspsells all the time. She gets recognized by management for her upselling prowess. With pos systems, the computer can easily calculate who’s been selling desserts and who’s been selling the most apps, as in “…would you like something to start? We have this wonderful special fried ravioli with gorgonzola which is perfect to share”. She also assured me that her managers do not want customers complaining that they paid for something that was suggested as coming with the meal because, as cowboy points out pointedly, this would be bad for business, not good. They do not want to lose a customer over a bottle of water or a salad. She was also quick to point out during my questioning that she NEVER takes advantage of older people, younger people, or naïve people. If there is even the slightest doubt in her mind whether or not the customer might not know there will be a charge, she tells them. On some items such as bottled water and side salads, she simply states the up-charge, as they seem to be the most often confused. She’s never had a customer complain and she is regularly one of the top “sellers” (yes, servers are salespeople) in the restaurant. It can be done.

                                                                                                        1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                          I would be happy and proud to have your daughter not only serving in my restaurant, but also teaching the other servers the RIGHT way to up sell (for extra pay, of course) :-)

                                                                                                  2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                    How is the point not personal responsibility or the diner? The customer reads the menu, nothing on it says burgers come with soup or salad, the OP wanted rapini anyway--so why say yes to anything else?

                                                                                                    1. re: gourmanda

                                                                                                      The difference is the server's intent - whether he knowingly and intentionally misled his patrons to pad the check. Context and word choice and intonation can make it quite clear when this is happening.

                                                                                                      If your server knowingly misled you, talk about the customer's responsibility to read the menu and ask questions is beside the point. It would be like saying a burglar can't be held responsible because you didn't lock your door.

                                                                                                2. Doubt that she did anything intentionally wrong, more that she was following instructions from on high on upselling patrons. Perhaps she forgot what all the other sides were.

                                                                                                  9 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                    Bobbert's daughter has the right approach to this, and her success rate is based on the fact that she understand the concept, and doesn't try to "dupe" the obvious "marks". Yes, it can be done. She's a professional. And she succeeds without being as "evil" as Cowboyardee wants to make every server seem to be. Most servers DONT want to have that little scene at the end of the meal where the customer questions the line items he/she didn't think was going to be extra. Being up front with your customer is always going to end well. It also seems that she can spot the troublesome customers right away and handles them correctly, yet still brings in the higher checks. And yes, it IS the customer's responsibiity to read the menu carefully. And really, just ASK if you are unsure. Upselling is ubiquitous -- if you don't like it, just say no.

                                                                                                    1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                                      "And she succeeds without being as "evil" as Cowboyardee wants to make every server seem to be."
                                                                                                      _______
                                                                                                      Read my posts a little [a lot] better. I applaud and reward efforts like those of Bobbert's daughter.

                                                                                                      Quotes: "I'm not talking about gray areas. I'm talking about situations where the server's words are carefully chosen and intoned in such a way that any native English speaker would assume they are being offered a choice were they not already familiar with this tactic. The server knows perfectly well what he's doing."

                                                                                                      "BTW, I'm not talking about the kind of upsell you mention - if you want to sell me a delicious soup, ask away. Talk up that bucket of Buds. It's fine. I'll listen to the sales pitch, and I won't hold it against anyone. Just don't try to trick me or anyone at my table into it."

                                                                                                      "The point is there is a way of phrasing the 'soup or salad' question that is deliberately misleading, a tone of voice that implies that you are being offered a choice between one or the other rather than being asked if you want to add something on to your order."

                                                                                                      "If you want to tell me how good your fries are hoping Ill buy some, that's fine. That's salemanship. If you phrase an add-on as a choice between two things that are sometimes included, I know you're being dishonest."
                                                                                                      ______
                                                                                                      All me, all from this thread, all written before your post.

                                                                                                      Now find me one instance where I wrote the word 'evil.'

                                                                                                      And that's the word you choose to put in quotes?

                                                                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                        Oh I did. VERY thoroughly. I got your drift. Please don't patronize my restaurant.

                                                                                                        1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                                          Your 'thoroughly' and my 'thoroughly' are quite different.

                                                                                                          State which restaurant is yours and your wish is granted. Seems odd, considering I tip well, treat servers well, and am actually fairly easy to upsell by honest means, if I am hungry. But if you don't want patrons who don't put up with dishonesty - sure as hell no skin off my back.

                                                                                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                            Couldn't agree more about the nuances in these situations. Nowhere in cowboy's comments did I read a blanket condemnation of upselling and the servers who do it.

                                                                                                            There are forthright ways to upsell, and purposely veiled ways to do it. Caveat emptor for sure, but the fact that we should look out for ourselves does nothing to mitigate the dishonesty of a purposely dishonest sales tactic.

                                                                                                            1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                              I actually think we all agree on the unpleasant and cagey upsell. But I can pretty much guarantee you there is no across the board agreement from person to person on what the cagey upsell is like. Some might say an inflection, some might say a particular word choice, full moon, whether the server was friendly or pushy, there are all these seemingly gray areas and I don't think it's clear at ALL to many, many patrons when the upsell is happening, even if you use the "proper" tone, words, phrasing, what have you. Not at all. And they are mad when it happens and they didn't catch it happening.

                                                                                                              "Would you like a soup or salad with that?"

                                                                                                              Just look at the interpretation you could have in that phrase alone. Is every server going to say it the right way, every time, to every customer's perception? Probably not. You can't tell just by looking at the words if it's extra. You could say "THE soup or salad," but that's still not totally clear. You could say "Would you like to add on a soup or salad to that?" (which is the way I was taught to say it) and it's STILL not clear to some people.

                                                                                                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                                Agreed as well that reasonable folks will differ on what looks cagey at first glance. But intent matters, and it often comes through in nuances that are difficult to relay through the written word.

                                                                                                                1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                  To steal a quote from Justice Potter Stewart when defining obscene pornography, "I'll know it when I see it". Believe me, the very few times it's been sucessfully done to me, I knew it. The only difference in my case with the $80 worth of salads is that I was the one who got screwed :)

                                                                                                                2. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                                  It looks as though we don't disagree about that much. The main sticking point: I just don't think some combinations of inflection, intonation, word choice, and body language are up for debate. There was a very insightful post above (i don't see it anymore, though I can't imagine why it would have been deleted) about how there are inflections in English that signify one's intent, and that all native English speakers recognize these instantly and easily, even if it's difficult to pick out exactly what the difference is. In this case, it would be whether you rise your inflection on the words 'soup' and 'salad' (indicating that these are add ons) or drop intonation on the words 'soup' and 'salad' and rush quickly through the question, sounding almost bored (indicating that one or the other is included).

                                                                                                                  It's a subtle thing, but you can tell a lot from intonation and body language. I don't advocate dinging servers just because their language was imprecise or something. But 99 times out of 100, if all cues are that someone is trying to mislead me, that's exactly what's happening.

                                                                                                    2. "upselling" is not always the same. whether or not it seems deceptive can depend on the typical expectations, which can vary among dining cultures.

                                                                                                      (1) mixed green salad, great choice. would you like the grilled chicken breast or sliced flank steak on that?

                                                                                                      (2) mixed green salad, great choice. would you like the french or italian dressing on that?

                                                                                                      most people would not blink at an extra charge for (1), but would be surprised at a charge for (2); not every case of upselling is equally acceptable. maybe this is an extreme example, and the burger would fall somewhere in between, since the expectation of a side with a burger is not unreasonable. the choice to sell the burger without a side, as well as the way the upsell question is asked, can play on that expectation.

                                                                                                      of course the customer can always ask. the indelicateness of doing so has already been discussed.

                                                                                                      1. She was upselling. Simple as that. You can, however, do it in a much more legit manner. She may have been told to upsell and didn't realize that her approach was misleading. She may never have been in that line of work before. If you've never done it, you won't always be good on the first go around. When tipping is involved, unless something absolutely terrible has been done, they still deserve the tip. I once had a waitress that I didn't know, look at me and the steak that I had ordered rare and say, "Yecchhh! That's disgusting! How can you eat that?" Not acceptable and a management complaint was made. I don't usually complain but that time, I had to. Misleading upsell may call for a little more lenience.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: heathus

                                                                                                          HA! shoulda said "sweetheart, you're right, just have the kitchen season it and bring it raw. and yes I will have the extra side"

                                                                                                        2. Does anyone else find it odd how afraid people are to ask questions about their food? Why do we trust the server instead of our own eyes that have read the menu? I understand that in many situations openly discussing money is considered gauche, but when we are talking about a married couple with shared finances wanting to know if the fries are extra or included, why is it so difficult to speak up? I know people have mentioned fear of having their food spit in - is that what it comes down to? Fear that if we annoy the person who last touches our plates, those plates may be compromised? Fear that we'll be judged as cheap? I also realize that sometimes you just want to go out and relax and not have to negotiate, but when the truth is that the higher-than-expected bill immediately sucks the joy out of the evening, isn't it worth standing up for yourself? Do we just trust servers too much, and willingly forget that one of the main goals of their job is to get us to part with as much money as possible? How many of us are aware of the upsell, fall for it anyway, and feel silly afterwards? Why are we trying to please the servers and not ourselves?

                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: babette feasts

                                                                                                            I was thinking about this thread when my folks were griping tonight about exactly the opposite, whatever local place they went had no sides included and no 'up sell'. but then they aren't big fans of green vegetables and like to be dissatisfied anyway...so everyone was happy.

                                                                                                            you just can't please everybody.

                                                                                                            1. re: babette feasts

                                                                                                              I think you're right - we should feel free to speak up when we're reasonably displeased. And I think the OP did just that when the bill came and she felt that something was misrepresented to her. The truth about a slick upsell is that you often don't see it coming until you're paying for it.

                                                                                                              This is not to say that all upsells are tricky. I think cowboy and many others upstream have given great examples of the difference between a straightforward upsell that ends up giving the customer something he or she wanted but perhaps didn't occur to them at the time of ordering and the kind that is DESIGNED to get people to pay for something they don't intend to.

                                                                                                              At this point in my life, I could give a crap what my waitperson thinks of me for not ordering enough either by their or the management's standards, but I've been to lots of places where they seek to shame patrons into spending more money. Experienced waitstaff are keen observers of human nature - they know when you're in there on a business dinner and don't want to look like a tightwad by asking for tap instead of bottled, still instead of mineral. And once your guests start guzzling that bottled water down and are in need of refills, are you then going to ask them to switch back to tap? Of course not. And then it's a 6 to 10 dollar bottle of water - WATER, mind you - after 6 to 10 bottle of water just racking up on your tab, not to mention the a la carte soups or salads around the table. It happens all the time. That we should be vigilant on our dime is a given, but it doesn't make the practice any less slimy in my book.

                                                                                                              Luckily, there are lots of fine restaurants in all price ranges where the management (because this attitude totally trickles down) are not that greedy and cynical, and you don't have to exercise hypervigilance on an occasion when you should be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy your meal.

                                                                                                              1. re: babette feasts

                                                                                                                as the OP, I'll say that typically I have NO issue with asking how much things costs. Specials of the day when prices are not offered up? I'll ask away. Sauces at a steakhouse (that are offered, but I figure are extra) - I'll ask away.

                                                                                                                In this instance - I think I was tired and hungry. I had a bad day and just wanted to relax and enjoy a meal. It was planning to order a side, so it wasn't really the cost of the side that was an issue for me, nor do I ever feel cheap about asking for prices.

                                                                                                                .... and, I did think about asking if it was included - but 'something' stopped me. In thinking about it now - the best I can come up with - along with being tired/hungry - is it was me not wanting to sound ridiculous/stupid about options that seemed so certainly part of the order....

                                                                                                                It's not that I've never asked the question (if it was included) because I have and don't have issue with asking. It's just that in this case, it wasn't a questionable thing (in my mind).

                                                                                                                I think the timing of the question (along with the tone) was part of equation. An immediate "salad or fries" was stated, before I could even order the side I had planned to order....

                                                                                                                Live and learn... :)

                                                                                                              2. If you thought the waitress was trying to trick you into ordering something extra, and I think the waitress was guilty. then I would have skipped the tip without an ounce of guilt