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When that extra is "too much"

I live in Jerusalem - so I've tried to figure out how to explain the financial extra cost of my issue given the different currency.

There is a place I order food from for lunch about once a week that does various omelette sandwiches/meals that I like and their prices are fairly resonable. A plain omelette sandwich is 12 shekels (~$3.15), if you add mushrooms or hotdogs to the omelette the prices goes up to 14 shekels (~$3.68). However, my favorite omelette is the one with onion and parsley added which is the most expensive at 18 shekels (~$4.74). To put this in context, 6 shekels is about the price of a 750 ml bottle of Coke or half a kilo of couscous.

It's not a huge price increase - but it's fairly significant given that parsley and onion are not pricey ingredients. And I have to mentally justify that adding a protein (no matter the quality of the hotdog) is cheaper? So the choice I have to make is whether I forgo my favorite item because it seems overpriced or just suck it up as it's not so expensive.

Where is the line of not getting what you want because the price of the "extra" is too much? At this point, the principle of the issue bothers me more than not ordering what I want....but I do feel like I'm being had.

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  1. Seeing as this is a place you visit regularly and, presumably, are on good terms with the staff, perhaos you could ask how they reach their pricing decision on this. it does seem odd that there's such a % price difference - but perhaps by asking you'd find the reason (assuming it isn't just good old greed). Other than that, the extra small cost for me wouldnt be a reason to not order what I wanted and enjoyed.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      In this specific case, it's a place that does delivery to where I work. So my primary relationship with the staff is with the range of delivery boys who come to my office and whoever takes orders over the phone that day. Based on my previous phone calls when I've asked for things like an extra fork - they're not likely to be management making creative decisions.

      The primary charm of this place is that they will take any delivery order no matter how low the price and how many times they send people to our office in a day. So I've come to terms with the non-negotiation.....but I do usually go through a moment of asking myself if I really want to pay what I feel is a bizarre over-charge.

      1. re: cresyd

        Ah. Understood.

        I think you have to suck it up then. Or become, like me, a mushroom omelette fan (my favourite sort). Cheap sandwiches though (if I've correctly done my shekel/sterling conversion) - wish those here in the UK were so reasonable.

        1. re: Harters

          Yes - these are the East Jerusalem prices, and they are super reasonable. But if I go over their whole menu there's always (what seems to me) to be an assortment of oddly priced items. So while my primary gripe is with 6 shekel parsley - there are definitely other things to complain about if you wanted.

    2. The choice seems simple enough...... suck it up or figure out a way to find out why. Perhaps stop by one day and ask someone who would be responsible for such things? One would hope that any good business owner would welcome questions from customers that give them feedback. At least a reason, if you get one, will help you decide if it's worth the extra money.

      1. I know nothing about Jerusalem so take this with a grain of salt but are fresh herbs hard to come by making it more expensive? Are onions local or have to be shipped in from far away? I pay a lot more for items that readily available.

        Or it could be the McDonalds way of pricing. The reason they can sell hamburgers so cheap is the markup on their other items-salads, chicken, "fish" etc is outrageous. Maybe yours is how they sell others things cheaper?

        2 Replies
        1. re: foodieX2

          This is what I was thinking -- perhaps it is an item that they know people really like and have thus raised the price knowing that people will still pay for it. That extra mark-up (or the other items that seem to be oddly priced) might be making up for other items at lower prices. It could also obviously be the prices needed to ship in the onions/herbs, but that still seems high. If you ask, make sure you speak to the owner or GM. I doubt that servers/delivery drivers etc will know the specifics of each item.

          As to your specific question... how much is too much extra? I don't know... i often think about this myself. If I can get something I like and that will satisfy for me a $1.50 less than something that I enjoy the most, is it worth it? I guess for me it comes down to how often I am eating it. If it is a place I frequent often, out of convenience, necessity, etc and I am trying to be more conscious of my spending, then I will go with the lower priced item that I know I will enjoy, however I will still splurge or treat myself to what I really crave once in awhile (or maybe thrice in a while).

          1. re: pollymerase

            Fresh herbs - especially parsley and cilantro - are quite cheap in Jerusalem comparatively speaking and also quite commonly used in Palestinian cafe dishes. So it's also not that they're keeping the parsley and onion around just for this omelette.

            While this issue is the one that I notice the most (as it impacts my ordering), there are other menu items that have similarly strange "why does this cost this much?" moments. Were this a restaurant I chose to go to for their awesome food, I think I'd see this differently. But it's that issue of "convenience work food" - and so makes me feel like I should just go with the plain omelette because it's just about my preferred flavor. By getting parsley and onion I'm not making the omelette more or less healthy or have more or less protein/calories (should I be really hungry).

        2. It does seem strange that the onion and parsley omelet is so much more. Are the onions caramelized or something to make them more costly?

          1. This is really a question of personal preferences and it comes down to how you value the marginal utility of an extra dollar versus the marginal utility of onions and parsley in an omelet.

            If the former is greater than the latter, don't order the omelet with the onions and parsley. If the latter is greater than the former, go ahead and get the extra fixins.

            1. Could you prepare onion and parsley at home the same way the restaurant does, and bring it along on the day you know you'll be ordering, adding it to the sandwich after it is delivered?
              That pricing does seem odd. I don't often get takeout but when I do, if I have some of the optional extras at home, I order without and add my own at home.

              1. This is similar to pizza, here. Each topping for a large pizza is $2, whether it's extra cheese, pepperoni, or onions. It's still $2 even if the topping is added only on half of the pizza.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Vidute

                  How do you order then? Just get the pepperoni as more "bang for your buck"?

                  1. re: cresyd

                    in this pizza scenario/analogy (1/2 and 1/2) it's usually being split with a friend, so one person wants anchovies and the other hates them but loves onion, meat but no sausage etc. I've never been charged separately for each half topping, but rather the number of surface toppings of what ever % as in one half pepperoni and mushroom and one half anchovy and olive would be charged as a 2-topping.

                    but yes it also makes no sense as diced black olive HAS to be far cheaper than a meat topping.

                    1. re: cresyd

                      I will order a meat for my pizza if I'm in the mood for it, but I really like onions; however, I can't see spending $2 for onions, so I never order them. If I'm getting the pizza as takeout, I'll just order plain cheese, bring it home, top it off with some chopped onions.

                      1. re: Vidute

                        I do this all the time with pizza. We love caramelized onions and green olives on pizza - most places don't offer those as toppings. Regular onions aren't the same, and it really chaps my ass to pay $2 for 2 oz. of raw onion in any case, so I usually just start caramelizing an onion on the stovetop when I place my order. It's hot and ready to go when the pizza arrives.

                  2. I don't get it either, cresyd, assuming all these omelets have the same # of eggs....unless they're charging more b/c the parsley & onion omelet is very popular, and they can get that price due to demand?
                    BTW, if these are 3-egg omelets, I can tell you that the same start at twice the price in my neck of the woods (Massachusetts). Irrelevant, but now I want an omelet!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pinehurst

                      In the sandwich, I would guess a two egg omelette (the omelette "meal" which comes with an omelette, side of labneh, side of Arabic salad, side of pickles, and two pitas - that is definitely a three egg omelette and costs ~$6.30 for plain and $7.80 for parsley). Their entire menu can be made into a game including questions such as "why does a sandwich made with 3 hot dogs and french fries cost the same as a sandwich made only with french fries?"

                      Other than the point where they can get away with it, I have no clue why it's the case. In a number of other restaurants in Jerusalem it costs nothing to have parsley added. They don't deliver to my office though.

                    2. <Where is the line of not getting what you want because the price of the "extra" is too much?>

                      This is such a great question and all of us have, at one point or another, thought about this. It seems your question is two fold. First, is it justified for the store to charge you more for for onion and parsley than for mushroom and hotdogs. Second, is it justified for yourself to continue to pay extra for this?

                      For yourself, it is just of your own decision. Is the joy having onion and parsley worth the extra 4 shekels? If so, pay for it. If not, start ordering mushroom. I must say that I do often weight the extra cost against my preference. As for the store decision, I can imagine that there are more than the cost of buying parsley vs buying hotdog. Although parsley is probably cheaper than hotdog, it may be financially more costly to keep parsley on the menu. Here are some considerations.

                      Hotdog can be easily stored in a refrigerator for a long time without any negative effect. The store owner can buy hotdog in bulk and therefore driving the price down. Parsley needs to be fresh. So it cannot be bought in bulk. In addition, any parsley which is not used in time has to be thrown away, so this drives up the price further.

                      Hotdog preserve pretty well throughout the day. So the kitchen can cut up all the necessary hotdog in the morning, and use the chopped hotdog whenever is necessary. In fact, the leftover hotdog probably can go back to the refrigerator to be used the next day. Based on my cooking experience, onion and parsely are best to cut up immediately before use. So the store may do the same -- only chop up the necessary onion and parsely whenever an order is placed -- instead of chopping up batches in the morning. This is a significant addition of labor and time -- and therefore a certain cost is added to reflect this.

                      Of course, there are just speculation. It could be, like you said, they just think they can get away with this.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        After thinking about this more - I believe that if there is serious thought going behind the decision it's because of what you said. But in general, I just think this is one of those "this makes no sense" menus.

                        Another example is that if you order a large sized Arabic salad (mix of veggies) or a large sized fattoush (mix of veggies plus dried bread) the cost is the same (24 shekels). If you add chicken to the Arabic salad, it's 27 shekels. If you add chicken to the fattoush, it's 34 shekels. (Having had both, the fattoush does not come with a different sized portion of chicken - in this case, if I have leftover chicken from the night before I will bring that to work with the expectation of ordering the "cheap" fattoush)

                        I think if most of the menu made sense but the omelette situation was weird, I'd assume there was a logical explanation I could work out. But mostly I think I'm beholden to them because they're the most convient place for me to order from during work.

                      2. when our kids wee little, we made up a game to keep them busy while waiting for our food in a restaurant:
                        See how many different prices the restaurant charges for adding the same item to a sandwich (etc).
                        The winner at the former New Colony Diner in Monroe, CT circa 2005 was 16 different prices for adding a slice of American cheese, running from 10 cents all the way up to $2.
                        The cost of making a hamburger into a cheeseburger was 20 cents, burt making a hamburger deluxe (with fries and cole slaw) into a cheese burger deluxe was $1.50.
                        The $1.50 for the extra was definitely TOO MUCH.

                        1 Reply