At the risk of sounding like Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm... I entertain a lot of people at a restaurant near where my workplace is. This is a fairly high end restaurant (not Per Se or Daniel but not someplace on DDD either). I'm there a great deal and the owners and staff know me and I typically get excellent service and food there. About a month ago, a new waitress began working there. She is pleasant and generally seems to be professional and hard working. I began to notice, however, that she charges for each ice tea refill at our table. She also seems to push the refills as in...."do any of you need refills?" While the menu does not specifically say "free refills" or "bottomless ice teas", no other server there has ever charged me for refills. Today when the bill came I noticed 6 ice teas at $3 each for a total of $18. I asked her about it, saying that no other server there does that. She quickly said she would remove the refills from the bill. By the way, I wouldn't have asked her about soda or sparkling water refills. I understand that you should pay for each round of those beverages. Ice tea just seems to me to be in a different category. Was I a jerk or was I right to confront her about this?
If she acknowledged that you shouldn't have been charged for them in the first place then that would make her the jerk.
This is a fairly high end restaurant ....
I would expect to be charged for everything. As for the server pushing drinks...,are you annoyed because you feel she's padding the bill, or that she's actually doing her job?
With that said, your concerns should have been directed to the manager or owner....and your prior experiences should dictate the policy.
The menu doesn't specify free refills....she did not give anything away, so she did her job. If there was in fact a house policy for free refills on any beverage....then she was not trained properly and the fault lies with the manager or owner.
Either way, I see no fault on the server's part....and she did not pad the bill. By definition, padding the bill is being charged for things you did not order that are slipped onto the check.
It is always okay to inquire about a concern you have about a bill or the service you're receiving, in a polite and respectful way. It sounds like you did that.
I wonder: could there have been a new policy of charging for ice tea refills implemented between your last visit and you getting the new waitress? And perhaps she just recognized from your question that you're a regular, so she contradicted the new policy and gave the refills gratis?
Or, it was the policy all along, and only when you asked did she recognize you're a regular VIP and so pulled the charges?
In any case, it sounds like you both handled it well.
Interestingly, here soda is typically free refills while iced tea is not unless it is from the soda fountain. Sparkling water that is bottled would not be but seltzer water would probably. A bar would charge for all but I am talking strictly restaurant.