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Jul 30, 2012 06:54 AM

martini gouging

As a way of controlling our restaurant dinner costs, my husband and I often order martinis with the house gin. We inquire what that gin is and most times it is Beefeater or similar. When the bill comes, a more expensive gin has been substituted and the price is higher than we anticipated.
Here are my questions--
Is it gauche to ask how much a martini is before ordering? Most menus don't include this information.
How does one handle the situation when the more expensive gin is used especially when dining with others? Thanks for your advice.

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  1. The restaurant WANTS you to think it's gauche to ask, that's why they don't put the prices there. They are more expensive than you would think. Go ahead and ask.
    Ask them to make the drink you want with the type of booze you want. Because it's your favorite. If the bill comes and it 2 bucks higher, no problem, but if it's $20 higher than expected, I would probably ask about it. Maybe not in front of everyone at the table, but maybe off to the side.

    5 Replies
    1. re: wyogal

      Oh, come on. :-) They don't put the prices on the menu because statistically, people feel better about spending money on something when the price tag isn't staring them in the face... it's one of the first things you learn about menu design in restaurant management school, but the restaurant manager isn't sitting in back, twisting his moustache, conspiring ways to emotionally manipulate you into not asking how much things cost.

      1. re: muscles_marinara

        You pretty much confirmed her point, which is that it's a manipulative marketing technique. She didn't say anything about mustache twirling.
        Personally, if I were trying to control costs, I would not be ordering martinis in restaurants which don't list their price.

        1. re: muscles_marinara

          and what I learned in the class (yes, cooking school/hospitality management), is that customers will spend more if there are no prices. It has nothing to do with customer comfort, it has everything to do with the bottom line: profit.
          And yes, the manager may not have a moustache, but he/she is definitely conspiring on how to best get the most $$ he/she can out of the customer.

          1. re: muscles_marinara

            Don't know where you drink your cocktails, but I can't think of any bar/restaurant that DOESN'T put prices on their cocktail menu . . .

            Granted, if one just walks in the front door, saddles up to the bar, and orders a drink, then he/she will have no idea what it costs, but if one is looking at their cocktail menu . . . . they ALWAYS have prices on them -- at least in my own humble experience.

            1. re: zin1953

              Yeah but they never have a regular martini on the cocktail menu, it's always some kind of tarted-up cocktini

        2. Asking how much a drink costs is only a problem if you feel it might make you look cheap in front of dining companions. The restaurant should be happy to tell you if you ask.

          If the restaurant has overcharged you or delivered something you didn't ask for, then I would ask your server to refund the difference. Life's too short to go to clip joints, so if they don't happily give me a refund plus an apology then I will not be going back to that restaurant.

          1. Wait, you ASK them to use house gin, they substitute a more expensive gin (without telling you) and then charge you for it? That's pure fraud. No way do you pay for it, and if it happens more than once I'd probably quietly ask to see the manager and tell him that his staff is deliberately defrauding customers. There's no excuse for that whatsoever. If no result, I'd probably report to the better business bureau and also drop an email to a local newspaper that reports on the food scene.

            3 Replies
            1. re: monopod

              couldn't agree more...the no price thing may be a sales tactic, but I would never buy anything without knowing how much first

              1. re: BiscuitBoy

                I realized I was out of my league at the Four Seasons bar in Manhattan, in 1998, when I bought 3 martinis for my 2 guests and me, handed the barkeep a fifty, and he deadpanned back to me : "that's not enough".

                1. re: Veggo

                  whew, do you get the whole jar of olives for a > $16 drink?!

            2. Please, ask the price. We're happy to let you know. If a waiter scoffs at you for asking the price (or worse, scoffs at your selection), then ask the maƮtre d' if it would be possible to have a different waiter, that the one you were given doesn't seem very interested in serving you.

              You handle the switch job exactly the same whether you are with others or not. Ask for the manager and let him know that you were charged for something that you didn't order. It's just the same as if you had ordered a small steak, and they brought you a large one and charged you for it.

              1. I make it a rule not to order any drink without a price. If they pull that, I stick with water.