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May 31, 2012 11:04 AM

Would You Buy A "pig In A Poke?" How About Drink Menus With No Prices?

There seems to be a growing trend in restaurants to show no prices on beer lists and after diner drink lists. It seems sleazy to me. I guess I could tie up the server while I ask about 6 to 8 brands on a list of fifty, but that's not comfortable for me and probably doesn't make the server happy to stand there and call them to mind(if he or she can.) I' m getting tired of this practice and annoyed at having to self limit my trying new drinks because I don't want a HUGE surprise on my bill.

Why not just have the prices on the menus?

Any thoughts?

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  1. I can't say I come across this very often and I go out for drinks a fair bit. Where do you live that this is common?

    7 Replies
    1. re: LeoLioness

      Baltimore, MD.

      I didn't say common, but trending.

      1. re: salad man

        It's a terrible practice, I agree. I'm glad it's not one I've ever seen in Boston.

        Edited to add, at least not on a menu. At a craft cocktail bar like Drink, where there aren't menus per se and the whole point is to talk to your bartender so he/she can suggest something based on your likes/dislikes, I can see how this might happen. Still, I've never heard of them using Johnnie Walker Blue in a drink and charging a customer $30 for their drink after the fact.

        1. re: salad man

          Just came back from Harryman House in Reisterstown,Md. Same practice.Suggested to our waitress that I thought this practice was just not nice and please tell the owner. No one came

          1. re: salad man

            Maybe when people get such a menu they should hand it back to the server and say they'll order when they have a menu that includes prices. This is a ridiculous practice.

            1. re: salad man

              I called the owner of Harryman House to register my displeasure. Turned out to be a very
              pleasant conversation ending in " you make good sense,give me 2 or 3 weeks to try and rectify the problem and please give us another try,

              We'll see.

              1. re: salad man

                it's one thing if it's all cocktails, and the waitress can simply say $10 a pop.

              2. re: salad man

                I went back to Harryman House last night. Same menu--STILL NO PRICES. So much for
                "pleasant conversation"

          2. I've never seen such a thing, but any place that is any way annoying doesn't get on my short list of regular hangouts.

            1. It's also a common, and extremely annoying, practice around here- Fairfiled County, CT

              1 Reply
              1. re: JenJeninCT

                Not a big drinker when I go out, but I'll sure pay attention to what's happening here in Hartford County, CT. I'll report back what I find.

              2. I would definitely "tie up the server" while I ask about the prices on anything I was interested in. If people do that often enough they'll probably get to the point of at least having a sheet with names and prices on it. Stand your ground!

                1. I first ran into this travesty in the national 'family priced' chains (TGIF, Applebees, etc.) back in the late 80s.

                  No drink prices on the menus (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic).

                  When questioned about it, management told me that the menus were printed and priced regionally and/or nationally by the chain, BUT since the tax on alcohol varies greatly by state, drink pricing had to be done locally and thus was not on the printed menus.

                  33 Replies
                  1. re: bagelman01

                    And that's what a printer and a copy machine are for.

                    1. re: bagelman01

                      OK, that is what laser-printed Avery labels are for - local prices.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        unfortunately the local manager may not have the aiuthority to alter the chain menu, by stickering prices

                        1. re: bagelman01

                          Maybe that is why I very seldom dine at chains?

                          Would I ever order a bottle of wine, when no prices were printed? No.


                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            Unfortunately, sometimes when on business in the hinterlands chains are all that are available. Most of these chains don't really do bottle wine business, so your concern would not be an issue.

                            I, however, always ask the price when one is not posted on the menu. I abhor missing prices or worse "MP"

                            More than 40 years ago, I waited tables while in college. At one 'fine' restaurant I worked at in Philadelphia they had three "MP" items listed on each night's menu. The owner explained that this was a bonus selling incentive for the waitstaff. We were told the minimum price we could charge patrons, but any amount we got above the minimum was our bonus.

                            So, If we thought the well dressed couple celebrating an anniversary would pay $24.95 for the lobster instead of $18.95 that six dollars was the waiter's bonus. We learned never to say market prices loud enough for another table to hear.

                            1. re: bagelman01

                              You do realize of course that this was theft by fraud - a criminal act.

                              No chortles here.

                              1. re: FrankJBN

                                No chortles and NOT theft by fraud either. As long as the server was given the authority to name the market price by the owner there was no theft involved. The patron was quoted a price before placing an order and then decided whether or not to order at that price.

                                Theft by fraud is an act requiring the INTENT to defraud, most often occurring in embezzlement. Here the servers did not convert the owner's property to their own, they were given specific permission to take all proceeds they could make above a stated minimum sales price. They did not commit fraud on the patrons by means of charging more than a menu published price, the servers set the market price at the servers' estimate of what the market would bear.

                                Disclaimer>>>>I went to Law School, Have a J.D. and passed the state bar exam.
                                Unless your jurisdiction has specific laws forbidding an establishment from charging different patrons different prices (when not based on protection such as discrimination) there would be no criminal act.
                                Otherwise, every customer would pay the same price for cars at the dealer. The dealer lets the sales force know the minimum price acceptable for a vehicle and the salesperson makes a higher commission on sales above the minimum. When cars are in short supply, it is not unususal for the market price to be above sticker and that's not a criminal act or theft by fraud.

                                Basically, if you don't like the price quoted, don't buy.

                                1. re: bagelman01

                                  And what price did you charge if a customer ordered without asking the amount?

                                  1. re: lrhr

                                    I never accepted an order for an item listed on the menu at Market Price without quoting a price to the patron. Why develop hard feelings or sew the seeds for an argument or end up with an unhappy non-returning customer?

                                    I always quoted a price and if the patron agreed and placed the order, I made money.

                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                      And did the patron know there was room for negotiation? Was their open bidding, on say a nice porterhouse steak?

                                      1. re: escondido123

                                        The only negotiations I recall on Market Price items was if a patron asked for a smaller portion (16 ounce porterhouse vs 22 ounce for example) at a reduced price. Since all steaks were cut to order this would have never have been a problem.

                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                          So people had no idea they could negotiate the price of their lobster? And the waiters got to determine who could afford what price? Really?

                                          1. re: escondido123

                                            In a free market society, the buyer can always negotiate the price of an item, the buyer just has to know that the answer is often NO.

                                            If you buy a house, you negotiate the price, if you buy a car you negotiate the price, there's no law about negotiating the price in a store or restaurant, it's just not conventional.
                                            During the last economic collapse (2008) it was not so rare to find customers at high end department stores (Neiman, Saks, etc.) negotiating the price on high end luxury goods. On a particulary cold, snowy Tuesday in March 2009 my wife offerd only 40% of the ticketed price for a current season Top designer bag and the department manager gladly accepted it.
                                            Whether a restranteur would accept or laugh at the negotiating diner is another story...<VBG>

                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                              I was asking about the restaurant you worked in not the world at large but thanks for the story.

                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                I've only done this once in TJMaxx, on an already flawed item. The answer was quick, yes, you can have it for that amount! Making me think I should've offered less? No, the price was right for me.

                                                When a waiter gives me a market price for crab, somehow I wonder if they could be trained to offer based on any perceived resistance to the price thereof, and almost automatically offer me 1 crabcake instead of 2, for a lower price, and quote the amount of ozs in comparison.

                                                Then again, maybe they see that I'm old and fragile and wouldn't care for the extra cake.

                                                And then again, I wonder if it is just in the training to quote both prices when one asks about crab cakes. But I like the scenario as presented.

                                    2. re: bagelman01

                                      Color me stupid, but as long as I can remember, there has always been sales tax on prepared food in every state I have visited in the last four decades. If you are charging and collecting sales tax at the higher price, but the owner is only sending in sales tax at the recorded lower price, then that seems like fraud to me.....and I doubt the owner would send in the higher amount out of the goodness of his heart or even being a good citizen. If he didn't give a crap about his patrons, then I'm sure he didn't give a crap about his tax responsibility.

                                      1. re: fourunder

                                        Delaware has no sales tax. And we get lots of visitors from Pa, NJ, & Maryland, esp for big ticket items, and restaurants.

                                      2. re: bagelman01

                                        JD or not, when a product is offered for sale by a retail establishment at a certain price and the salesperson adds on his own extra take, that's a lie and theft. You are lying by omission of the actual selling price.

                                        Your manager told you the price of the product. You had specialized knowledge that you used to take advantage of the customer.

                                        Among your arguments seems to be that because the customer paid the inflated price, IOW actually was defrauded there can be no frfaud. In your studies, I am sure you noticed that fraud occurs when the 'customer is willing to pay' and not otherwise.

                                        Others have noted negotiations - at the auto dealership, the customers know prices are negotiated. As asked elsewhere, did the customers at the restaurant know that?

                                        You go into a gas station and ask for a quart of oil. Attendant says $5, You pay, he puts 3 in the till and 2 in his pocket. he didn't rip you off?

                                        A soda is on the menu at $1. You tell the customer, today we are getting $2. They buy and you pocket the difference - simply good salesmanship?

                                        1. re: FrankJBN

                                          It wasn't was bagelman01's price....

                                          : 0 )

                                    3. re: bagelman01

                                      Interesting, and something that I had not heard before.

                                      For me, while I travel a great deal, we are in major metro areas, in the US, or abroad, so chains are seldom a consideration, or mandatory. For that little blessing, I am thankful.

                                      Good reasons to qualify "MP," when ordering anything.

                                      Thank you for sharing.


                              2. re: bagelman01

                                Recently, no wine prices - I asked "Where's the prices of these wines"?
                                He said, Tell me which one you are interested in and I'lll go back and find out."
                                I said, "I'm interested in all of them and their prices."
                                He stood his ground and asked which one I was interested in.
                                I said, that if I picked one, and it is too expensive, I'd have to pick another one, but we'd have to remember the first one's price, and so on.

                                "Just a minute," he said.
                                He returned with a wine list and their prices.

                                1. re: Rella

                                  That's completely absurd. Was it a new restaurant by first-time restaurant owners, I wonder?

                                  1. re: LeoLioness

                                    No, not at all. A restaurant that had had previously a wine menu with prices.

                                    1. re: Rella

                                      Bizarre. How on earth could they think that's a good business practice?

                                2. re: bagelman01

                                  off topic but about drinks and chains and ties into my short comment - the manager was likely lying to you.

                                  I was in an Applebees in the hinterlands after midnight this century. I was in a mid-sized party approx. 6-8. Most, not all got drinks (apres theater crowd). I ordered a shot and a beer. The waiter explained they did not serve shot and beer together - it was policy. I asked for the manager. he came and stated it was illegal for them to sell a shot and a beer together. As I had been ordering a shot and a beer in the local environs for some 3 decades I doubted this. I ordered a beer. When the waiter brought that, i ordered a shot. manager came back and said they couldn't if I was going to drink them together.

                                  Keep in mind, per my inquiry to manager, they would have brought doubles or multiple shots or multiple beers, just not one of each together.

                                  I subsequently inquired of Applebees corporate who advised they had no such policy.

                                  1. re: FrankJBN

                                    Managers in many businesses often tell customers that something is against the law to back up policy. This is often not true or an out and out lie. Challenge the manager to produce the statute.

                                    I stated above my legal qualifications, yesterday I took my 15 year old shopping for bathing suits. as she went into the dressing room she pointed outr a sign that said swimwead is not returnable due to local heath code. I dared the store manager to produce the statute/regulation. Of course he could not, it doesn't exist. I practice in this area and am on the regional board of health. I pulled the sign opff the wall and suggested that the manager have corporate print a sign that complies with the law. All they have to do is state, 'we don't take swimwear back because you don't want to buy one someone else has worn, and customers would be accepting. Don't try to hide by making up false laws, it's too easy to get caught.

                                    1. re: FrankJBN

                                      Before blaming the owner/manager, there *are* many restrictive liquor laws that vary not just by state but possibly by county and town. So it's possible that the individual restaurant was trying to impose their own policy by stating it as law, but it's also possible that they were being honest.

                                      Were you in Nebraska, by any chance?

                                      1. re: guilty

                                        So, guilty, how would you explain some restaurants on the same streets having prices and some not?

                                        1. re: randyjl

                                          I wasn't saying that not having prices could be due to law; that's obviously the restaurant's decision. I was saying that it's possible that there is a law that prohibits mixing liquor and beer, in reference to the experience that Frank had.

                                          I guess my post above was pretty unclear; sorry about that.

                                          1. re: guilty

                                            I have never seen a statute that prohibits the mixing of liquor and beer, but have seen local ordinances and alcohol authority rules that prohibit serving multiple drinks to one customer at the same time.
                                            This is to ensure that the patron is sober enough for the additional drink after consuming the first drink.
                                            This reduces dram shop liability and spaces out the time it takes for the patron to consume multiple drinks. More control all around, in fact some localities do not allow the serving of a double shot drink.

                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                              Maybe if you read the article I linked to you would be familiar with statutes that prohibit the mixing of liquor and beer :)

                                              1. re: guilty

                                                I didn't write that those statutes do not exist, merely that I had never seen them. I don't accept mentions of statutes in a general news article without citation, but would have looked in the Statute book of the jurisdiction if I was truly interested (that's what we lawyers do). And having read the article you linked to, it talks about the Nebraska law, but never cites it or gives the date/number. etc. which would allow a quick check in Westlaw or Lexis.

                                                I merely put forth another reason why two drinks might not be served at one time to a patron.