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Sketchy or not ?

A restaurant has a nice buffet for about $40 per person. The price has been the same for several years. The price recently increased by 10%. Assuming the cause was inflation, we never thought to ask about the increase.

It turns out that the increase now covers the price of non-alcoholic drinks (which must be ordered from the server). The previous price did not cover drinks. However, nowhere on the website or menu is it mentioned that drinks are now included etc. The only way a returning customer would find out about this change is if they ordered a non-alcoholic drink and found it not included on the bill, or if they happened to overhear a newcomer sitting nearby who asks the server.

Does this seem sketchy to you ?

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  1. I don't think it is particularly sketchy...if the price of the buffet hasn't gone up for several years, and you're talking 4 dollars, then I'll bet most of this is to cover for increased food costs.Non-alcoholic beverages are fairly inexpensive and probably not ordered by too many, so I suspect that it isn't the sole reason for the jump in price.
    The fact that it isn't on the menu is that it costs a ton to print up tons of menus. It could be mentioned on the website, but it really seems to be a non issue to me, IMHO.

    1. In order for restaurants to survive, they must adapt to conditions presented before them. They made a decision they needed to increase their price. Think of it as good will on their part for allowing you to have all the beverages you want now.....non-alcoholic, soda, coffee or tea.

      In reality, too many people were not ordering any drinks at all, other than water. I think all buffet places should follow their lead. It's better for the house and the customer.

      1. So you are upset that your bill was less than you were expecting it to be? While it would make sense that they would mention it somewhere or somehow - position it as giving back to the customer - I dont find it odd that they havent. You know for next time and so will everyone else. Plus if you are spending $40 for a buffet I doubt the $1.99 for a soda will break you, regardless if you are charged or not.

        1. Not sketchy, no. Not really wise, either, on the part of the restaurant. It would be in the restaurant's best interest to make it known that non-alcoholic drinks are included because that adds to the perceived value of the buffet. They should post that info on the web site and also have the servers mention it while it's still a new policy.

          1. I'd only think it was sketchy if this story was the opposite - i.e. the price used to cover drinks, now it's increased and it doesn't cover them anymore yet you weren't informed and ordered 37 iced teas.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ultimatepotato

              Rather what I was thinking, but not as amusingly.

              1. re: ultimatepotato

                you made me think of a restaurant i went to as a teen with my mom, her ex-husband and his two boys. the boys each had like 3-4 diet coke refills. i think i had 1 refill. mom and ex-stepdad each had iced teas. the menu neglected to reflect that they had changed their soda refill policy. Mom was pissed, to say the least, when lunch was an extra 30 dollars. I believe ex spoke to management just to express disappointment and deceit felt, and the manager may have comped all the refills...

              2. From a customer service POV, I don't see the point of not making the policy change known. In general, the hiding of information seems similar to the non-disclosure of the price of specials, except in this case, the customer would have no reasonable expectation of having to ask the necessary question to elicit the hidden information.

                1 Reply
                1. re: dump123456789

                  This begs the question then, how did you find out about the increase and the inclusion of the drinks. You were obviously informed at some point....now that you know what the consensus is .... what's really the big deal, especially if you normally order drinks anyway.

                  With regards to this...

                  The only way a returning customer would find out about this change is if they ordered a non-alcoholic drink and found it not included on the bill,

                  This is not necessarily true in the scenario you pose for all restaurants, and here specifically.. Maybe the customer ordered the beverage, but it was forgotten to be put on the bill. So you really believe it's deception on the part of the house not to charge for drinks, but instead, increase the buffet price and you and give you all the drinks you want......which by the way is probably the lowest food cost item they serve. Don't you think they would rather you fill up on liquids, rather than sea foods and meat proteins? You're over thinking this and making an issue out of nothing.

                  I'd bet there is someplace on the menu or board, that says something along the lines of selections may vary.....instead of the need to reprint materials or the need to update any website.

                  It it offends you and causes you to respond by using words and such like:

                  Customer Service POV
                  Hiding of Information
                  No Reasonable Expectation
                  Necessary Question
                  Elicit the Hidden Information

                  I suggest you write the place off your rotation...it's clear to me you harbor ill feelings now. The reason for any misunderstanding for you could be simply the server forgot to mention it to you..

                2. Some places are very tardy in updating their menu and website.

                  1. I'm still having trouble figuring out what the real issue is.
                    The raise in price is really within the norm ($4 dollars on a $40 buffet that hasn't increased its prices in a number of years. You know there is a price raise and give that it is modest and infrequent, isn't an issue for you.
                    The bonus for the patron is that non-alcoholic beverages are now included in the price. Seems to me this would be seen as a nice bonus for designated drivers, non-alcohol-drinkers, and families with underaged kids.
                    The restaurant hasn't advertised the new added inclusions to their pricing by not republishing the menu, which is understandable. But the increase in price, while reflective of an increase in food prices also includes a bonus for the patron. Which is a nice surprise, quite frankly, given that usually prices increase while service/inclusions decrease this day and age.
                    I could see being upset if the price went up and the inclusions went down and you didn't realize this and were hit with an unexpected bill because, say, there was now a 10% surcharge on all prime rib on offer and you didn't know that and you took some but wouldn't have if you'd known about the increase. But this is the reverse. You may go and order lemonades for the kiddies, expecting to pay say $15 dollars in addition to your final bill (which has gone up by $4 per person for whatever reason and you knew that from the start and were fine with it, hence your presence at the buffet), and are told that the lemonades are now included, making you feel, well, pretty happy.
                    So I'm not sure what the real issue is...I'm not being obtuse, I'm just really wondering where the heartache is...is it because you think that the $4 increase is there only to cover the non-alcoholic beverages? Or is it because changes to their pricing haven't been explained to your satisfaction on the menu? And would this $4 increase mean you won't frequent the buffet anymore? Or are you concerned that they will raise their prices in the future without explaining the reason to you (and do you think the customer is owed an explanation for pricing changes at a restaurant)?

                    1. I don't actually have as strong a reaction to the place & policy, as some of you have to my question.

                      I found the situation odd, which is why I asked, and why I used the word "sketchy" as opposed to "deceptive" or "dishonest". As SAHCook points out, it makes more sense to make the product appear to have a higher value by advertising all the inclusions, so I was trying to understand why they might not do that. From an economics POV, perhaps a better word would have been "irrational". And since businesses aren't supposed to act irrationally, why is this one doing just that ?

                      FYI, menus/websites are republished with some regularity at this place - I think twice since the price increase. And I found out about the policy change when a member of my party ordered a drink that was not charged on the bill, so I asked about it.

                      In other threads, posters have commented/complained about restaurants that provide free bread, but only if the customer asks for it. For me, this falls into a similar category.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: dump123456789

                        "Sketchy" implies deceptive or dishonest. If you didn't want to imply that, then you should have used a different word. That is why there is this reaction to your post.
                        "Odd" means something different, like out of the ordinary.

                        1. re: wyogal

                          I agree.....and the following words I copied from the above comments from the OP in another post gives me the impression of legal speak for preparation of a formal complaint.

                          Customer Service POV
                          Hiding of Information
                          No Reasonable Expectation
                          Necessary Question
                          Elicit the Hidden Information

                        2. re: dump123456789

                          It does seem out of the ordinary, based on your experience with this particular restaurant. I'm so used to the reverse happening, where price goes up and there are less inclusions, so that's why I asked.

                        3. Perhaps you are over thinking this.