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Brought Food That Wasn't Ordered and Charged For It

So I was eating at a neighborhood restaurant and had just finished a moderately expensive meal (expensive for me). I was debating getting dessert, since a) I was somewhat full b) dessert was pricey ($10 for a slice of pie, just pie)

The waiter asked me if I wanted to order the pie and I decided against getting dessert since I really didn't want to spend any more money. I ask for the check.

Instead of bringing the check, the waiter comes back with a slice of pie and winks at me, I thank him profusely and with surprise.

After I finish the pie, he comes back with the check. I open it to see I was charged for the pie.

I ate the pie, I have no issue with paying for what I eat..... but the incident rubbed me the wrong way. I didn't want to ask him "hey, did you mean to charge me for this?" since I'm pretty sure most waiters know how to comp a dessert. But I didn't like having choice taken away from me when I refrained from ordering pie due to budget.

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  1. Hmm... Tough one. I also don't like ending a meal on a sour, combative note, and sometimes I'm sorry later I didn't handle it differently.

    I don't have any issue paying for what I eat either, but I do have an issue in being asked to pay for something I didn't order. I think your incident falls into that category.

    Are you a regular or semi-regular there? If so, maybe you ought to ask to chat with the manager on your next visit, try to clear the air. It's bothering you enough that you posted about it here, so rather than let it gnaw at you, tell the manager what happened and how you felt about it. Restaurants often say they want patrons to give them any negative feedback so they have a chance to address it.

    If it was your first visit, maybe chalk it up and consider it your last visit as well.

    Either way, your waiter was in the wrong.

    2 Replies
    1. re: BrookBoy

      I'm the same way, I didn't want to cause a stink and I didn't want the waiter to get defensive if it wasn't meant to be comped. I eat at the place somewhat regularly but I don't think I'm going to mention it, it seems a bit late for me know and I don't want to cause drama with the waiter.

    2. It would very much rub me the wrong way, and indeed I would likely say something. If, as you said, you did not wish to order the pie and he brought it to you anyway (especially with a wink), it would IMHO seem to reasonably imply he was comping you with it, and thus the fact that you ate it seems irrelevant. I would likely point this out to him, and if it wasn't taken off my check, I would consider taking it off his tip.

      1 Reply
      1. re: josephnl

        He winked and dropped off the pie without stopping and I thanked him profusely as he walked by. To be honest, I thought he was comping the pie, that's why it rubbed me the wrong way, but I still tipped him regularly. Also, he was the one who collected my check so he would have seen if the pie was comped or not.

      2. Sounds like it could have been a misunderstanding:

        1) it's possible that he brought it to you not picking up on the cue that you didn't want it (and not meant for it as a freebie);

        2) he acknowledged you didn't want it, but gave it to you as a freebie (and winked as hint), but later either forgot and rang it up anyway (or someone else rang it up for him).

        I think the point of confusion (or clarification) was when he brought it to you (with a wink). That's when it would have been best to ask him directly if he brought it by mistake, or by intention (freebie or not).

        HOW was the pie ?!?

        2 Replies
        1. re: LotusRapper

          I should have asked him if it was comped instead of assuming. Lesson learned for me, the whole thing just sort of has lingered with me, mostly because it was expensive pie! It was pretty good, but I could have easily refrained from spending $10 on a slice of pie.

          1. re: Pookipichu

            <the whole thing just sort of has lingered with me>

            Most likely it's lingered with you because you didn't handle it the way you know you wanted to.
            You were asked if you wanted dessert, you kindly refrained and then the waiter brought it anyway.
            You were duped/tricked into purchasing the pie you didn't want.
            When he brought the pie I would have asked him why he brought it....you specifically said you didn't want it. I'm not sure why you ate it, why would he comp it unless you're very familiar with each other?
            Take it back. If he had a problem with it then the tip would reflect that.

        2. Whoa. There's something wrong here. In the situation you have described, there is only one way I would have viewed the pie. It was comped - free. Anything else would be incorrect, immoral, irresponsible, whatever else that starts with the letter "i" on the part of the waiter. You didn't ask for it. You should absolutely have pointed it out.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Bkeats

            I thought it was comped too, I think I'm definitely going to just gently ask next time if it was meant to be comped.

          2. I think my gut reaction before thanking the waiter after he brought me the pie would've been to say I didn't order it, and in that case, I would've received verbal confirmation if it were being comped. I frequent a few bars, and this happens to me a lot with drinks. It's usually either because some creep (why is it always the creeps) from across the bar bought me one, or the bartender is giving me one on the house. They will usually say something without me even asking, like "hey, the guy over there in the blue shirt bought this for you" but the other night I had left my seat to play bar pong (yeah, it's embarrassing to admit) and when I came back I had another drink sitting there. I immediately questioned it and was told that my friend 2 seats down bought it for me.

            That all being said, in your case, I still would've taken the waiters non-verbal cue of winking to imply the pie was being comped. If it wasn't, then what was the wink for? Is he now winking for screwing you over on a dessert you didn't order? I would've brought it up myself, and if not rectified to my liking, then yeah, I'd probably have returned the favor by screwing him over on the tip and deducting the cost of the pie out of it.

            13 Replies
            1. re: SaraAshley

              In a somewhat related note, when guys offer to buy me drinks, what I really would like is a plate of buffalo chicken wings, but I guess that would not be appropriate to mention.

              1. re: Pookipichu

                Haha, yes, I know that feeling. I also try not to go *too* overboard when I drink, so sometimes a guy will ask to buy me my next drink when I've reached my cut off point, and I'll politely decline stating why, but sometimes I just want to be like "no thanks, but you can buy be the one I'm currently drinking." Lol, I never would though.

              2. re: SaraAshley

                I'm curious. How do you know they're creeps? Are they creeps b/c they buy you drinks and that creeps you out? Do they ever talk to you or just buy you drinks? The reason I ask is in my single days, I've bought my share of drinks for women and I'm not creepy. At least I like to think that. Usually look fairly respectable. Heck, some of those women even went out with me afterwards. Once in a while, I've even had women buy me a drink. That's always a very pleasant surprise.

                1. re: Bkeats

                  Can't speak for SaraAshley, but I find it creepy to send alcohol to women you don't know. Want to talk to me? Cool. Want to get me drunk/make me accept your gift or have an awkward scene/put me in your debt? Nope. I always refused drinks from guys. The idea is weird to me. You may be a perfectly normal guy but it's just not for me.

                  1. re: Hobbert

                    Same here. If I'm chatting with a guy and he offers to buy me a drink, it's appreciated. If someone buys me a drink without speaking to me first, it's creepy. It carries a certain degree of presumption that just doesn't sit right.

                    1. re: mpjmph

                      Actually, any good bartender should never just show up with a drink for a lady from anyone, creep or nice guy, without first asking the woman something like "the gentleman (fellow, guy, creep, dude, etc.) would like to buy you a drink." You should always have the opportunity to turn it down if you're not interested.
                      Back on subject. As stated, tough one. It could have been anything from an error to an up-sell and the wink might have been a twitch or even a pass. When the pie showed up, I think something along the lines of "I'm really full, thanks but I couldn't eat another bite" would have put the ball back in the waiters court where he would have been forced to reply with a "it's on the house" or something similar. Hindsight is always pretty easy. I probably would have ended up doing as the OP, complete with just being pissed after the fact.

                      1. re: bobbert

                        Maybe the fact pattern of what I did wasn't clear. I never told the bartender to bring a drink to a woman. I would never do that as I have no idea what she is drinking. It would be either what bobbert has described. I'd tell the bartender that I would like to buy the lady her next drink and s/he would go tell her that the guy in the (color) suit (back in the day when we still wore suits) would like to buy you a drink. Or I would walk up to the woman say hi, I'm Bkeats, can I buy you a drink? I can't imagine just telling a bartender to send a random drink to someone. That is creepy even to me. But given the reaction from the woman on the board, its a good thing I'm only buying drinks for one woman now.

                        ETA: I just reminded myself of a story. Back in my impecunious grad school days, I went with my girlfriend and one of her friends and that friends boyfriend to a club. The ladies wanted to go and dance. After paying the cover charge, the other guys and I were flat broke. So our two dates asked us what we wanted to drink and told us to stay put. They were gone for 5 minutes or so and came with drinks for us. They found plenty of guys to buy them drinks. Probably seems like a horrible thing to a lot of readers, but the other guy and I got quite a laugh out of it. Poor saps were buying the two girls drinks and had no clue that they were just being played. I have to now wonder if that had ever happened to me when I bought someone a drink. Women have quite the power over us poor guys.

                  2. re: Bkeats

                    How do I know they're creeps? This is actually a hard question to explain. Yes, generally speaking, just the act of sending over a drink to a girl you have never spoken to can be pretty creepy, but let's just put all that aside, the guys sending over the drinks would never be guys I would be interested in the first place. Just to be blunt, they're usually older and or less attractive than what I would normally go for. No offense to you at all Bkeats (I will admit that I am unusually picky, and I turn down perfectly nice guys for dumb (to other people) reasons) but sending over a drink to a girl just comes off as a little desperate to me, and desperate is not a guy I like. I like to work super hard for guys I like, hence why I'm single, but that's a personal problem, lol. This is not to imply that you are desperate at all, and clearly you've already stated that you've found yourself a lovely lady, it's just how it comes off to me with the guy's I've experienced it with. Now, do I accept the drink even if I'm not interested? Yes, normally. If a guy wanted to know if I was interested in him first before buying me a drink, he should've came over and talked to me first. It's also interesting that about 50 % of the guys that send me over drinks without speaking to me first, actually never end up coming over and speaking to me after I've accepted their drink. Go figure!

                    And yes, for guys I'm really into, I will also buy them drinks from time to time. :)

                    1. re: SaraAshley

                      If that is a picture of you, I can see why you have guys buying you drinks. If I ever happen to see you in a bar, I won't buy you a drink but I will come over to say hello.

                        1. re: Bkeats

                          Thank you, that's very flattering!

                        2. re: SaraAshley

                          I know what you mean, I always found it an odd move to get a random drink delivered. Well, it didn't really happen to me, but a friend I went out on the town with, who was beautiful but pretty unapproachable. It seemed like a bit of passive aggressive move to send her a drink and then what, wait for her to get up and go to them? I guess they were signalling interest in a low-risk way and waiting on her reaction, but it wasn't attractive. Maybe guys see this in the movies and imagine the woman will turn to them so invitingly that the rest will fall into place... but I think IRL you need a follow-up move to make this work.

                          1. re: julesrules

                            Truthfully, I'm not a shy girl at all in social situations. If by chance I was actually interested in a guy sending over a drink to me without speaking to me first and he didn't come speak to me afterwards, I would have no problem approaching him myself to thank him and to get to know him further.

                    2. On a somewhat related note (hope not to derail the thread). On more than a few times at different restaurants, I've been asked by wait staff if I want my beverage (coffee, soda, juice) "topped up" after the first one. In several incidences, I was billed additionally for those "top-ups" as if they were new separate orders. I know I should be more careful and ask them beforehand if additional top-ups are free or not. And on the times I did get dinged, I submissively paid accordingly.

                      But I hate it when they ask me without telling me if they're free or not.

                      Has this happened to anyone else ? How did you handle it at bill time ?

                      (Note: I'm not referring to additional beers/wines which of course would be charged accordingly).

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: LotusRapper

                        Ugh, that is definitely related. I really don't like when that happens. Instead of asking you to "top off" they should ask if you'd like to order another glass or cup. I've been charged for a hot water refill on a tea bag.

                        Also when specials or prices are unlisted and they don't tell you unless you ask them. One time I was at an Italian restaurant they had a lamb chop special that was literally more than double the price of anything else on the menu, it was total sticker shock when the bill came.

                        1. re: LotusRapper

                          Really? Wow, that would really cheese me off. I guess i'd start asking if there was a charge for that, and if there was I wouldn't get it. The usual charge for a soft drink is enough to take care of dozens of refills per customer.

                          1. re: EWSflash

                            i sometimes will order club soda along with a glass of wine at a bar i frequent. we most often deal with a server, but the bartender ALWAYS charges me for refills on the soda. c'mon. it's water ffs, and our bill for drinks is going to $50+.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              It's a serious pet peeve of mine for any bartender to charge for a soda when alcoholic beverages are also being ordered. I'm talking just regular soda like Coke from
                              the tap. I know it's their right to charge it, but it just seems pety to me to ring up a $2 soda when so much money is being spent on alcoholic beverages, as well.

                              1. re: SaraAshley

                                charge for a coke? ok, it's syrup. refills of fountain coke should be free too. charge for refills of club soda? bogus. it's water.

                          2. re: LotusRapper

                            This happened to me at Becco restaurant in NYC. I drank soda at dinner as (a) I'm a "cheap" drunk, it doesn't take much to get me light-headed so I don't drink much alcohol, and (b) we were going to Broadway show after dinner. IIRC one of the hosts kept asking me if I wanted refills each time he passed thru the dining room. Sure, I figured N/C as done at most other places. When the check came I was charged for each additional soda, and that place was not cheap. I was not comfortable complaining about it, thought maybe I hadn't read the menu correctly and also didn't want to look like a tourist rube, even though I was born and raised in NY and now live elsewhere. Expensive lesson learned.

                            1. re: LotusRapper

                              On a similar note:

                              I was in NYC one time staying at a hotel and decided to have breakfast at the hotel restaurant. It was a buffet-style thing. Someone came by shortly after I sat down with a carafe of juice and asked if I wanted some. I said sure, thinking it was included in the buffet cost. When he came by again, I agreed to a refill.

                              When the bill came: That juice was $10/glass. Ugh.

                            2. I would have been pissed. I don't accept others making choices for me without my permission.

                              1. I'm going to give this a different spin. But first let me acknowledge that whatever the reason, it was the wrong way to do it. You were clear that you did not want to order it, but it was brought anyway. You should not be charged for it.

                                1. It may have been an error on the bill and whoever put it there didn't know it was to be comped. There are pos systems that could 'facilitate' this kind of error.

                                2. Perhaps the manager told the server - oh, s/he always get's a slice of pie, just bring it to the table, without telling the server to comp it.

                                3. Perhaps the server thought you were avoiding it because you felt fat that day, and meant it as a compliment. Here, you really deserve this.

                                In any of those cases it still should have been comped. And while it may be too late to do anything about it this time, there is always next time.

                                1. I would have said something as soon as it was brought to the table. "Excuse me. I didn't order this." Then the waiter would have had a chance to explain what was up.

                                  1. Maybe you misunderstood your wink, and he really wanted your phone number.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ricepad

                                      And comped you in advance with a $10 slice of pie [gasp !]

                                    2. Well, at least you got the pie and paid for it. It's far worse to pay for something inedible or pay for something and not get it at all then later realize it but it wasn't worth the trip back..

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Monica

                                        For me, I would disagree. What would bother me most about the situation was not the $10 I spent on the pie, or whether the pie was worth the $10 or not. It's about the fact that to me, unless the cost of the pie being on the check really was an over site on the waiter's part, he purposefully charged OP for the pie after she (I'm pretty sure OP is a she, my apologies if I'm wrong) said she did not want dessert, and then he winked to make himself look even more deceiving and douchey to imply that he was doing her a favor and that the pie was on him.

                                        If I pay for something and they just forget to give it to me, I assume that it was an accident, and while it's annoying, at least it wasn't done on purpose.

                                      2. Well, are you a woman? Perhaps he thought it was an issue of calories/dessert guilt/whatever you want to call it, and thought he would make an executive decision in favor of what he believed you really wanted? Just a theory ...

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: foiegras

                                          Who is he to make that decision, theory or not? I would have called him out from the gate.

                                          1. re: Cherylptw

                                            I never said I thought it was a good idea. Think of it as a good theory about a bad idea ;)

                                          2. re: foiegras

                                            If any male waiter makes an executive decision on my behalf, I'm going to make one with my foot up his behind.

                                          3. Many restaurants have a web presence, and a way to leave feedback. I would leave feedback. I recently did the same with a product I bought that had disappointed me, and made a suggestion about how they might avoid a disappointed customer in the future. I didn't want to just hold a grudge, especially since I was going to have to continue to do business with them. They ended up sending a product that solved the problem I was complaining about. I let them know how I felt about that as well. (Very good!).

                                            1. He tricked you. If you go back there, make sure to get a different wait person.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: sueatmo

                                                I don't think you can complain about it as you missed the chance to clarify the situation by not telling him outright that you didn't order it. Then, the fact that you ate it makes it even harder to justify a complaint. I don't think he tricked you, to me the wink would've meant "I know you said you didn't want dessert but I bet you really do, so here's the pie.". It's like when your dining partner orders dessert and you refuse the offer of 2 spoons with it and the server brings you two spoons with it anyway, thinking they are doing you a favour. Admittedly, you don't have to pay for the two spoons.
                                                Unless the waiter categorically stated that there would be no charge for the pie, you really don't have a leg to stand on.

                                                1. re: Billy33

                                                  Ehh, but I feel like the server can only make that type of presumption if it's not at the customer's expense. How does he even know the pie that he brought her would've been what she would've ordered for dessert, had she ordered it and known she was paying for it? And where does this stop? What if I question to the server the filet mignon, but end up, for whatever reason unknown to him, ordering the less expensive roast chicken, and then he just brings the filet mignon anyways because he just *knows that's what I really wanted.* IMO, a server cannot make these decisions for a customer.

                                              2. Before ordering anything at some restaurants in Portugal and China, I was brought food, which I then turned down, yet subsequently was charged for. In fairness, it was usually something I like, such as olives in the former or peanuts in the latter.

                                                In China (and this is a lot more common), some places also charge for tissues/napkins, which I guess I don't have much of a problem with. It's usually nominal and comes in a convenient pack (often with restaurant addresses written on it).

                                                If you don't want something, make sure you say thus as soon as it's brought to the table. An opened tissue pack might be obvious, but do they count the peanuts beforehand?...

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: BuildingMyBento

                                                  It's standard practice in Portugal. Restaurants in tourist areas are pretty good about stating the charge and asking diners if they want the food. Off the beaten path, it's assumed you know what's up. Overall, restaurant prices in Portugal were so much lower than what I'm used to paying at home, I didn't mind paying a euro or two for bread and olives.

                                                  1. re: mpjmph

                                                    Yep, as I said the price was nominal, but the point is that Portugal rolls that way too.

                                                    Also, there are plenty of times I have ordered a dish somewhere that tasted terrible. That wasn't my intention...

                                                2. Perhaps I invariably look for the good in people, and without being there, or knowing the person- there's no way to know what could have happened.

                                                  I feel, IMHO however, that immediate calls of immorality and trickery are a little overboard. In my experience, both as a diner and in the distant past a server- sometimes there are communication misunderstandings, and mistakes happen.

                                                  Perhaps he misunderstood your intentions about dessert, or you misunderstood the wink, (I wink at people often- it's a mannerism, Im generally not buying stuff for people afterwards). Or yes, maybe he is the satan waiter who decided to pull one over on you.

                                                  Was it cool that you got charged for something you didn't want? Clearly that answer is no. However, we're all human, and we're (generally) all adults, and that means speaking up when something is going to negatively impact you somehow.

                                                  Personally, my response when this happens and I'm unsure:
                                                  Pie gets delivered, I play a little dumb, and ask what it is, was that on the menu, etc. It makes clear that I didn't actually order it, and let's them off the hook if it was a mistake.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: plaidbowtie

                                                    It seemed pretty clear to me that the OP had declined dessert when the waiter asked and the OP asked for the check. When you were a server, would you have brought something else to a customer who had asked for the check?

                                                    1. re: Bkeats

                                                      perhaps I wasn't clear- miscommunications happen, regardless of the clarity one party believes to be projecting. There have been times yes, that I have accidentally charged for a comp that didn't get taken off. The reason is irrelevant, and if they paid with a CC we could refund that amount.

                                                      Back when I served, cash was more frequent, in which case that was impossible. It didn't happen frequently, maybe once or twice a year, but every time it did, I was pissed at myself the entire day (if not longer), for doing it. We ALL make mistakes at work, and while that doesn't make it okay, they still happen. I would hope that an honest mistake on my part would not lead to my evisceration on the internet by people who weren't there.

                                                      1. re: plaidbowtie

                                                        Asking for the check is never a miscommunication.

                                                        1. re: Mental_traveler

                                                          There are 1,000,000 (forgive the hyperbole) different ways that people have asked for a check.

                                                  2. Sorry for the delayed reply, I just got back from an LA work-trip, I think I've pretty much said everything I can say on this topic. I learned my lesson not to assume and to confirm expectations match in a kind but clear manner. For that I am at fault.

                                                    That being said, I had clearly said I would not order the pie, clearly asked for the check instead, stating that I was full. The server took my choice away from me and did not correct the bill if he did mean to comp me the dessert. In the future, I will not make assumptions about winks and smiles and just send the darn pie or whatever back.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                      1. re: LotusRapper

                                                        It was really tasty, but honestly, at $10, I could and would have skipped it. :)