August 8th, 2013
11:00 AM ET
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Details.com editor James Oliver Cury tackles controversial food-and-drink-themed etiquette issues.

Which industry has the most egregious surcharges? Airlines have added some surprisingly sneaky fees over the years and were recently in the news again for considering charging extra for overweight people. One airline, Ryanair, seems to take pride in its fees and even contemplated adding a cost to use the bathroom. Not that hotels have been kind; $8 water bottles and $40 parking spots are as common as charging for Wi-Fi. But restaurants and bars, in my estimation, have developed the most crafty ways to squeeze profit out of that which was once - and should still be - gratis.

I made a list of every “extra” charge I’ve ever heard of (16 examples came to mind and I’m sure there are more) and separated them into two categories: those that seem warranted (like charging for shaved truffles on an entrée) and those that seem brazenly unnecessary and unfair (like charging extra for ketchup).

Below is my definitive list of potential offenses with reasoned assessments of the fairness quotient of each, based purely on personal opinion.

Extra Charges I Just Don't Get

Steak sauce/butters
The first time I ate at Dylan Prime Steakhouse in New York I was floored to see that a meal - which could easily cost more than $100 a person - might also include a $3 extra charge for a sauce or special butter. That’s like charging extra for sprinkling Parmesan on your pizza. Or having salt on the table. The eatery has seen troubled times recently so there’s no telling if the menu will retain the practice.

Ketchup
Yes, some fast food joints charge extra for a packet of ketchup. I came face to face with this practice at a McDonald’s in London back in 1988. The cost: 5p (pence) - about a nickel - per packet. The idea has since crossed the pond, where U.S. franchise owners decide how they’ll dole out condiments (in packets, via spigots with paper containers, for a fee or not.). The current cost stateside seems to be 25 cents for a handful of packets. And though it might cut down on waste, it seems random; why aren’t there similar surcharges for mustard and mayo?

Splitting a dish/extra side dish
If an entrée costs $15 and you use your fork to give your spouse several bites, no one charges you extra. Ask if you can officially split the dish and you may get hit with a surcharge of between $2 and $5 or more, a penalty that feels like it’s designed to discourage sharing (which is weird because don’t we go to restaurants to share a meal with others?) That said, if the request requires time and effort from a server to literally divide the dish and garnishes, then a separate fee seems warranted. If just a side plate is requested, it ought to be free (please don’t suggest that the effort of washing the extra plate necessitates the fee).

Splitting the check
I was a waiter once. I know it takes more time to process two, three, even four credit cards. But there’s no good reason to charge extra - or forbid - the practice. Credit-card processing fees should not be the customers’ concern.

Cocktail neat/on the rocks
Some bars tack on an extra buck or two claiming that the pour is different: You get 2 ounces in a neat rocks glass and 1.5 ounces if you order on the rocks. Or vice versa, depending on the place (see this description of a recent bourbon order). Can’t the bartender find some glasses that render these pouring differences less marked or just suck up the difference…or figure it all evens out eventually anyway? Or just charge more in general for the cocktail? Why complicate things?

Food waste/not finishing what's on the plate
Buffets are magnets for gluttons because you can pile on as much food as the plate will hold - and sometimes come back for seconds. But there’s a cost: Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs and tons of food typically remains on the plate at the end of the meal. To combat this effect, some restaurants have suggested applying a fee, as reported about the $32 waste fee posted by the management at The Kylin Buffet Chinese restaurant in England. A noble idea, perhaps, but restaurants are not government institutions (“Take all you want but eat all you take” as they say in the army), and honestly, there are a million reasons why someone wouldn’t finish every morsel. Someone wants to monetize this? See also Hachikyo, a seafood restaurant in Japan that requires customers who do not finish their bowl of tsukko meshi (rice topped with salmon roe) to make a donation.

Non-bottled (sometimes filtered) tap water
Millennium restaurant in San Francisco had its heart in the right place: They were dedicated to organic food production, small farms, sustainable agriculture, recycling and composting. In fact, they were so environmentally-friendly that they took the extreme measure of banning bottled water altogether, offering instead a delicious glass from their Natural Tap Water Filtration System. Unfortunately, they also stopped offering tap water. So, water cost $1 for what’s basically filtered tap water. Bobo, in New York, was also taken to task for what is effectively water gouging with a conscience. Even a few McDonald’s (them again?) got in on the action. I say: Allow the public to have a free glass of water, if only so boozers can work in a little hydration without penalty.

Sliced bagels
In New York there’s an 8% tax on “altered” bagels: Sliced, toasted or served with schmear. Why the distinction? The cutting and spreading, though a minimal culinary effort to be sure, technically makes it a prepared meal. Sold unaltered, it is a tax-exempt food item. Seems like there’s a hole in this law to me.

Extra Charges I Understand

Gourmet ingredients
You want freshly shaved black truffles on your butter-poached lobster? That’ll be an additional $12 at Michael’s on the Hill in Vermont (fair price it seems to me). Caviar on the side? Of course you gotta pay extra for that. Nothing fishy there. These are gourmet ingredients, so unless the menu hides the fact that there’s a surcharge, these are warranted. (Years ago, I once ordered a “special” soup at a Chinese restaurant - I don’t recall if it was turtle or sharkfin, neither of which I’d order today - and the server neglected to mention that it cost $40. I’ve been wary of unfamiliar delicacies ever since.)

Bread and butter/chips and salsa
Historically, Americans in the latter part of the 20th century are accustomed to seeing certain side dishes served for free before a meal. Most consumers simply won’t go back to an establishment if they’re charged for something they used to get (or can get elsewhere) for free. But really, why are these dishes free? The ingredients cost money - and they fill you up, so you may order less. And yet it caused quite a stir when the Post reported that Chelsea restaurant Company charged “$3 for bread and another $2 for butter” a few years back. To be contrarian, The New York Times’ Frank Bruni argued for the extra fees. Personally, I wouldn’t choose to go back to a place that charged me for bread, but that doesn’t mean I can’t see the argument for this policy.

No-shows
You made a reservation, the restaurant is holding your table, and you never show up and don’t even call? Seems fair to charge a penalty so selfish barbarians don’t abuse the privilege, especially in cities like New York where aggressive diners have been known to make reservations at three venues for the same time and day - to hold the spots - and only show up at one at the last minute. (It’s easy for restaurateurs to charge your credit card if you book through online reservation sites). The Wall Street Journal chronicled the practice a year ago; rates range from $50 (OpenTable’s fee) to $225 (the full price of the prix fixe at Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare).

Certain substitutions
I have no idea if the fries really cost more or less than a salad at any given restaurant, but if a dish normally comes with one side dish and you’d like a different one, you should be notified about the price difference and understand that some of the fee goes to the extra effort of making the chef (or server) plate something in an unfamiliar way. Not all menus are designed to mix and match - much to the chagrin of vegetarians, allergy sufferers, the lactose-intolerant and gluten avoiders.

Eating at prime time
Famed New York dining institution Le Cirque once toyed with the idea of “formalizing a prime-time price increase,” according to CBS. The idea is simple: Everyone wants to eat between 6 and 8 p.m. - not at 5:30 or 10:30 p.m. Charging more for access during the dinner rush is not unlike nightclubs that charge more after midnight when the dance floor is packed and they don’t need bodies to fill the space anymore. Frankly, I’m surprised no one charges for premium seating (bigger tables, far from the bathrooms, etc.) in New York restaurants...yet.

Tips for large groups
You just had a steak dinner with six buddies. The bill comes and there’s an extra 20% at the bottom. Does that count as an extra fee? No. Is it fair? Yes - as long as the gratuity does not exceed 20%. Admittedly there are two potential downsides to this practice: First, if the service sucks, you’re forced to pay this healthy tip anyway. Second, and far worse, some bills hide this automatically added fee, which leads the occasional diner to pay an unintended second tip on top.

Corkage
If you’re bringing your own wine to a restaurant and thus not paying for a bottle from their list (would you ever dare to bring your own food?), then it makes sense that management would charge an extra charge fee (to discourage the practice and to make up some of the lost revenue). It’s the amount that can be galling. $20? Fine. $75 to $100? Too rich for my blood. But if you’re dining at places like Per Se or French Laundry, what do you expect? Call first and ask about the policy to be sure.

Access to the room with live music
If a band is playing, of course, it’s ok to charge extra for those customers who want to be closer to the music. Helsinki Hudson, for example, requires separate reservations depending on whether you’re eating at the restaurant or inside the club - even though both are under the same roof. Sometimes, though, I wish venues would pay me to continue to endure listening.

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soundoff (820 Responses)
  1. Common Sense

    Of course, they should charge if you don't show up for your reservation and for food waste. They should also start charging for salt and pepper.

    August 10, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • crazynomadguy

      Define "food waste." Eating food that you don't want is also wasting it.

      August 11, 2013 at 12:58 am |
    • k

      A restaurant is not like a medical office; they will use their food quantity reguardless if diners show, or no show.

      August 11, 2013 at 1:02 am |
      • Common Sense

        They have to throw the food away if it spoils. And if the restaurant fills 10 tables at a time and 9 of them don't show up every single moment of every single day, then are they not loosing money Einstein? Of course, you would be forced to pay if you don't show up for your reservation. Airlines, doctors, and countless other professions / businesses would just shut down if you are not held accountable for not showing up. Suppose you had to wait 3 months to get to see a specialist doctor and what if none of those people ahead of you showed up? Would you not be mad that they made you wait 3 months? Suppose you could book flights but only had to pay if you actually boarded. Then most flights would run more than half empty as there is nothing to force people to show up on time. The airlines would go out of business and there would be no more flights. They could have reserved it for someone else and made money if you didn't reserve it and then failed to show up. But you are an S.0.B from S.0.B family and won't change your mind as you are always right and everyone else is always wrong. Can you book a flight, fail to show up, and then demand a refund since an airline "is not like a medical office". People not showing up and then not paying for it simply increases food prices for the customers that do show up and even these no shows get to pay more when they do actually eat.

        August 11, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
        • Common Sense

          They have to throw the food away if it spoils. And if the restaurant fills 10 tables at a time and 9 of them don't show up every single moment of every single day, then are they not loosing money Einstein? Of course, you would be forced to pay if you don't show up for your reservation. Airlines, doctors, and countless other professions / businesses would just shut down if you are not held accountable for not showing up. Suppose you had to wait 3 months to get to see a specialist doctor and what if none of those people ahead of you showed up? Would you not be mad that they made you wait 3 months? Suppose you could book flights but only had to pay if you actually boarded. Then most flights would run more than half empty as there is nothing to force people to show up on time. The airlines would go out of business and there would be no more flights. They could have reserved it for someone else and made money if you didn't reserve it and then failed to show up. But you are an S.0.B from an S.0.B family and won't change your mind as you are always right and everyone else is always wrong. Can you book a flight, fail to show up, and then demand a refund since an airline "is not like a medical office". People not showing up and then not paying for it simply increases food prices for the customers that do show up and even these no shows get to pay more when they do actually eat.

          August 11, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
      • Common Sense

        They have to throw the food away if it spoils. And if the restaurant fills 10 tables at a time and 9 of them don't show up every single moment of every single day, then are they not loosing money Einstein? Of course, you would be forced to pay if you don't show up for your reservation. Airlines, doctors, and countless other professions / businesses would just shut down if you are not held accountable for not showing up. Suppose you had to wait 3 months to get to see a specialist doctor and what if none of those people ahead of you showed up? Would you not be mad that they made you wait 3 months? Suppose you could book flights but only had to pay if you actually boarded. Then most flights would run more than half empty as there is nothing to force people to show up on time. The airlines would go out of business and there would be no more flights. They could have reserved it for someone else and made money if you didn't reserve it and then failed to show up. But you are an S.0.B from an S.0.B family and won't change your mind as you are always right and everyone else is always wrong. Can you book a flight, fail to show up, and then demand a refund since an airline "is not like a medical office". People not showing up and then not paying for it simply increases food prices for the customers that do show up and even these no shows get to pay more when they do actually eat. Your father is a G00F.

        August 11, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
        • Godot42

          Of course you SHOULDN'T pay if you don't show up. I don't know why you call yourself "Common Sense", since you don't seem to possess any. A reservation is not a contract. It is an appointment. If I don't show up, I owe you nothing. In fact, I think I'm going to start making reservations all over the place and not show up just in protest of scumbags like you. Congratulations, your rant will have specifically targets detrimental effects because of your post. Every time I'm going to go out, I'm going to make reservations at five places, and only show up to one. I can do it online. If you think I'm EVER going to be charged a dime for that you are a crack smoking, knuckle-dragging moron.

          August 11, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • Macushla6

      I ordered the food, and paid for it already. Whether I eat all of it or not is immaterial. It is gone either way. To me, restaurants give you too much food. If I am traveling and am staying in a hotel, I can't really take it with me. Of course, if you are talking about a buffet, that is an entirely different story. You can take just a bite, and get more if you really like something.

      August 11, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Godot42

      What do you mean "food waste"? You mean I get charge extra if I don't finish all my food? Screw you! What if it sucks? Do I get to charge the restaurant for wasting my time? And as for charging me for missing my reservation, you can go screw yourself. A reservation is not a contract. I owe the restaurant nothing if I don't show up, since they provided me with nothing. A promise of holding a table is worthless. Anyone who has ever paid for such a thing is a total idiot.

      August 11, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
      • Common Sense

        Of course you would be forced to pay if you don't show up for your reservation. Airlines, doctors, and countless other professions / businessed wuld just shut down if you are not held accountable for not showing up. Suppose you had to wait 3 months to get to see a specialist doctor and what if none of those people ahead of you showed up? Would you not be mad that they made you wait 3 months? Suppose you could book flights but only had to pay if you actually boarded. Then most flights would run more than half empty as there is nothing to force people to show up on time. The airlines would go out of business and there would be no more flights. They could have reserved it for someone else and made money if you didn't reserve it and then failed to show up. But you are aSCUMBAG from aSCUMBAG family and won't change your mind as you are always right and everyone else is always wrong. Can you book a flight, fail to show up, and then demand a refund "since they provided me with nothing."? People not showing up and then not paying for it simply increases food prices for the customers that do show up and even these no shows get to pay more when they do actually eat.

        August 11, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
        • cadet

          Precisely how is a restaurant going to "force" me to pay for a reservation I didn't show up for? Restaurants in my area don't require deposits or credit card numbers for reservations. If a restaurant did ask for my credit card number to make a reservation, I would hang up and go somewhere else.

          August 11, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
      • Common Sense

        Of course you would be forced to pay if you don't show up for your reservation. Airlines, doctors, and countless other professions / businessed wuld just shut down if you are not held accountable for not showing up. Suppose you had to wait 3 months to get to see a specialist doctor and what if none of those people ahead of you showed up? Would you not be mad that they made you wait 3 months? Suppose you could book flights but only had to pay if you actually boarded. Then most flights would run more than half empty as there is nothing to force people to show up on time. The airlines would go out of business and there would be no more flights. They could have reserved it for someone else and made money if you didn't reserve it and then failed to show up. But you are an S.0.B from an S.0.B family and won't change your mind as you are always right and everyone else is always wrong. Can you book a flight, fail to show up, and then demand a refund "since they provided me with nothing."? People not showing up and then not paying for it simply increases food prices for the customers that do show up and even these no shows get to pay more when they do actually eat.

        August 11, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
      • Common Sense

        Of course you would be forced to pay if you don't show up for your reservation. Airlines, doctors, and countless other professions / businesses would just shut down if you are not held accountable for not showing up. Suppose you had to wait 3 months to get to see a specialist doctor and what if none of those people ahead of you showed up? Would you not be mad that they made you wait 3 months? Suppose you could book flights but only had to pay if you actually boarded. Then most flights would run more than half empty as there is nothing to force people to show up on time. The airlines would go out of business and there would be no more flights. They could have reserved it for someone else and made money if you didn't reserve it and then failed to show up. But you are an S.0.B from an S.0.B family and won't change your mind as you are always right and everyone else is always wrong. Can you book a flight, fail to show up, and then demand a refund "since they provided me with nothing."? People not showing up and then not paying for it simply increases food prices for the customers that do show up and even these no shows get to pay more when they do actually eat.

        August 11, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
        • Godot42

          Common Sense, no, it isn't that we're right, its just that you're so wrong.

          August 11, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
  2. brett

    i go to a bar that serves food, i tend to like mayonnaise with my fries. when it first opened, they would provide for free, then i went in one day and now they charge an extra $1, though ketchup is free. really a bar where you're drinking heavily marked up drinks, and they charge $1 for condiments.

    August 10, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • Rick

      That is just plain cheap, they wouldn't be getting anymore of my business.

      August 10, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
      • Common Sense

        I am sure NO ONE will miss you.

        August 11, 2013 at 12:01 am |
        • jalcres

          And you're a conceited fool if you think that's good practice. The Common Sense handle is quite ironic, no?

          August 11, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Will

      Are we talking chef-prepared mayo/aoli or is this just Kraft mayo from a jar? You would expect to pay extra to have chili on your fries because chili is an item you might order and pay for on its own. But mayo is condiment, unless someone is actually whisking eggs and oil back in the kitchen.

      August 12, 2013 at 3:40 am |
  3. Henry2000

    I wouldn't go to restaurant serves steak that requires steak sauce or any sauce to make it eatable!

    August 10, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • Mel Stricker

      Exactly, why pay $100 for a steak dinner just to cover the flavor of the steak with sauce. If you have to do that then you are definitely in the wrong restaurant.

      August 11, 2013 at 3:28 am |
  4. Bee

    I managed restaurants for many years.

    Proper way of handling a sharing charge

    1. Either listed on the menu or have waiter explain it before ordering (if requested). If the customer wasn't informed before they order then it would be deceitful to charge.

    2. extra plate charge should include an extra side and starter... unless A la cart

    3 inform customer there is no sharing allowed. Usually meaning the other person must order something. This doesn't mean you can't share your food. Just we will not bring you a empty plate with out ordering something. This is done usually at high end restaurants or at peak time.

    Adding a tip on a part of 8 or more is common. Some restaurants enforce it, some leave it up to serverr. Getting burned on a party will ruin a servers day. Most of the time that table will consume most of their resources. They usually stay longer and need extra presence. A table can ask the manager to waive this if they feel services wasn't par....the manger can also deny this request.

    August 10, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • Rick

      The food costs the same whether one person eats it or two. Why should there be an additional charge?

      August 10, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
      • yesitstom

        Because you are taking up a chair that a paying customer could be for one. During prime time many people are turned away because there is no room which results in lost revenue if you decide to get and extra plate and order a glass of water. It also offsets the costs of other things that are gratis such as bread and butter for a table, and if the writer of the article doesn't understand that there are other overhead charges such as linen fees, personal that service the customer that isn't paying and restaurants are not cheap to run, a small one where I live is easily $5,000 a month rent. The reasons are numerous and to keep entrees at a reasonable price point this fee is not unreasonable.

        August 10, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
        • Rick

          But if I was in there by myself I would be taking up the same table. Right?

          August 10, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
        • Nathan

          Except that doesn't make sense because the table is taken already. Unless they are going to sit someone else at your table with you, it doesn't make sense. I could see it at a Japanese steakhouse, perhaps, where multiple parties might in fact share the same table and so someone not eating is taking up a seat, but otherwise? I guess you could say they'll dirty plates, but that's really a non cost since dishes are washed in mass and no individual person's plate is going to require the machine to be run an additional time.

          August 10, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
        • cadet

          I frequently go out all by my lonesome. Very few, if any restaurants have tables "for one"; usually the table I am seated at has two chairs. That extra chair sits empty until I leave. So what would be the big deal if I had a friend tag along who ordered his/her own drink, but then shared my fries and half my sandwich? The restaurant wouldn't be losing any money by my friend sitting in the extra chair.

          August 11, 2013 at 11:12 am |
        • yesitstom

          Rick, Nathan,Cadet... I don't think any of you see how this attitude is getting abused. When I see this behavior typically it's in a large party, some thing like a group of 7 or more and this is when it starts to cost restaurant owners money. Two table have to be put together ahead of time to accommodate, walk-ins can't have those seats, so you turn business away, then you are prepped for 7 orders and end up getting only 4 because 3 people decided to share plates and we can't make up for this with drinks because they order water, and the server can't ignore them, they have to be treated like everyone else, so refills have to be attended to, they want special condiments for their "half" of the order and those have to be fetched, they want more bread an butter (free) brought to the table because they realized they were hungrier than they thought...it goes on and on. And here you have it, a restaurant opens at 5pm for dinner, the 7-top reservation is at 6:15, so you can't seat anyone else at it because you can't be sure if they will leave before your reservation gets there, so those tables are tied up not only for the hour and a half the party will be there but an hour and 15 mins prior...and if it's a small restaurant, this really starts adding up...I hope you understand what I'm saying here.

          August 12, 2013 at 12:57 am |
      • me

        Its the American sense of entitlement. Nothing is free. That plate has to be carried by a server. The extra plate has to be picked up by a server. The plate has to be washed by a dishwasher. The soap and water to wash the plate is not free. Everything has a cost. When I traveled to Europe I learned the hard way that nothing at restaurants is free. Ketchup, bread and butter cost me extra. I didnt like it but I understand why they charge.

        August 11, 2013 at 1:34 am |
        • Jim P.

          You'd be hard pressed to determine the incremental cost of bringing one empty plate out along with the order and the tip usually pays about three quarters of your servers wages anyway, the cost of washing said dish is likely to be under a nickel..

          August 11, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
      • jenkins

        iv'e been a professional line cook for 10 years, and i can give reasonable explanations for everything on the list, but the split plate fee seems to be the one people understand the least, basically its this, first, you are taking up a seat in our restaurant (which if it is a halfway decent place this does actually cost us money) and second/ more importantly, if you order and entree (which is usually the only thing you'll see a split fee on anyway) and you want it split, we will cut the steak/chicken/fish in half and put it on two plates, but each of those plates will have the same amount of sides as a normal dish and this is what you are being charged for, if you want to avoid the fee then order one and ask for a second plate, this is easy and the server can get you the plate without us cooks noticing, potentially getting them a better tip.

        August 11, 2013 at 3:54 am |
        • cadet

          The people I know who split their dinner, already do so at the table; they aren't getting any extra vegetables nor asking the cook/chief to perform a special service. Don't see how a couple splitting main course would be costing the restaurant money for the extra seat being taken by the person sharing the meal. Usually two drinks are ordered, and possibly two deserts ordered as well. This would be more than if just a single person came in ordered one meal, one drink, one desert and asking for doggie bag to take the extra food home, but took up the space of a table with two chairs, but only used one... the extra chair would sit empty until the single person left.

          August 11, 2013 at 11:20 am |
        • yesitstom

          Cadet, in your scenario I would have no problem with it, but that's never how it happens in real life that I experience on a daily basis. Yours is the rare exception and if yours was the only way it happened, restaurant owners for the most part wouldn't have a problem with it either. Those extra plate charges are a difficult decision for us to make, but we have to in order to keep the over-all cost of the meals down and still be able to give you free bread and free soup or salad with your entree.

          August 12, 2013 at 1:04 am |
      • Bee

        It's about maximizing profit. I don't have control of who comes out to eat. If you need a table for one the best I can do is try to offer you a bar. If you want a table I have no choice but to oblige. But, If you need a table for two then I have an option to maximize our profit.

        If I ran a restaurant that didn't fill then this way of thinking might be counter productive. Each restaurant has different needs. It's my job to address those needs...which will hopefully increase profit.

        August 11, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
    • Godot42

      Unless it is clearly stated on the menu, you can't include a surcharge for gratuity. It has to be stated up front before customers have a chance to order. If the customers were not made aware of the surcharge they have no obligation to pay it.

      August 11, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  5. aaron

    They nickel and dime you to death. Everywhere, it's bait and switch. Advertise one price in bold letters and then add fees and surcharges for things that used to be standard until you double the price. It's restaurants, it's banks, it's airlines, it's hotels... everywhere.

    It's greed. It's what happens when bean-counters look at spreadsheets and make decisions without thinking about the human side of people.

    August 10, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • Frank

      Then, I suppose, "greed' is the American way.

      August 10, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
    • Nathan

      Except it's not. It is consumer demand that's pushed society into this model.

      I worked at a hotel where we did this very thing. We wrapped it all up in a package deal and charged, say, $100 for the room. And our occupancy rates were low and people said it was too expensive. So we pulled back, took out all the amenities and lowered the room rate to $75. Then had to charge for the amenities. The Internet was $10 a day, the breakfast was another $8, the gym access was $5, the premium channels was $10, etc. In the end, the same room we used to offer for $100 as a package was worth $125 when split up. But suddenly, because the base rate was $75, people started saying the price was great. Then they'd add in most of the stuff they used to get for free, like internet and parking and breakfast and the real rate rose to $110 and despite the price often winding up HIGHER, they paid it happily and occupancy went up 30%. Some people complained they had to pay for those nickel and dime charges, but the fact is that we used to try to give the same to them for a major discount and they balked at it. So now they pay more for the same and it isn't because we were greedy, but because they were cheap. They'd look at the competition and ask why our rooms were 15% more, never taking into account that our rooms had all the stuff the other person nickel and dimed them for already built in. So to compete, we had to nickel and dime, too.

      August 10, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
      • tildejac

        This is so much BS. It is the cheaper hotels that tend to give things away for free. Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden both have free internet and breakfast, but stay at a higher end hotel, EVERYTHING has a charge. Forget about free breakfast or free internet.

        August 11, 2013 at 10:47 am |
        • bob

          there is no such thing as a free lunch, or in this case, a free continental breakfast. those freebies you mentioned are most definitely something you pay for – it's part of your nightly room rate. as they are the less expensive brands, these chains can afford to charge a tiny bit more because they are still the cheapest game in town, but when you go to the higher dollar places the competition is tougher so they need to debundle everything to attract customers.

          August 11, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
        • Woodrow

          True! Funny how you can get internet for free from virtually any of the lower-end hotels, but when I stayed at a nice Marriot last year it was $20/day extra for it. Tell me that it runs Marriot any more for their internet access than, say, a Holiday Inn Express.

          I don't mind paying for things that actually provide a superior value (I'd pay for breakfast from Marriot vs. continental breakfast from another place), but when the quality is the same, then what gives? It's like charging extra for windshield wipers on a Mercedes but not on a Kia.

          August 12, 2013 at 1:55 am |
      • Godot42

        Nathan, that's not consumer demand. That's opportunism by owners. I do not believe you when you say that by charging more you are getting a higher occupancy in the hotels. That's B.S. corporate propaganda, and is designed to please shareholders, not those of us in the general public who have a brain and can tell which way the wind is blowing. You seem bright, but either confused about reality, or suffer from corporate indoctrination. Your post, while well-written, is wrong.

        August 11, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
        • bob

          baloney.
          how many travel web sites are there these days that find you the lowest cost hotel or airline ticket? thats how many people shop. lowest cost. they dont stop and think about the total cost, thats why people still complain about checked bag fees even though everyone knows about them in advance. instead of thinking about these additional fees as part of the price of getting what you want, all they do is focus on that one low number in making their purchase decision.

          August 11, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
        • carolina lawyer

          Have you ever heard of the economic concept called "price elasticity of demand?" Apparently not.

          August 11, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
        • Nathan

          If that's what you want to believe, more power to you. But as I lived through it, I'll stick to my story. Again, they wound up paying more than they did before AFTER the add-ons (which used to be free). Because they booked based on that "base rate" which was lower. That's what was in bold on the website and kayak and whatnot. All the rest was fine print. And admittedly, not everyone got all that stuff, some didn't get any. It could be a better deal if you didn't want those things. But most did want at least some of them and often the final price wound up higher than the original package deal.

          At the lower end of the chains, price differences are minimal and thus not the motivating factor in deciding on a room. Not much difference in $59 and $65, so if one includes free wi-fi, it gets the win. At the high end they can charge for what they want and people willing to pay $300 for a room don't care so much that it comes to $320 with amenities. But in the middle range, price is a differentiator. There is a difference in people's minds in a $99 room and a $125 one–and free wi-fi or croissants aren't enough of a selling point to make up the $26 gap. So the middle band often seeks to lower the base price and then make it up in amenities charges. And it is because consumer behavior drives it that way.

          August 11, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
        • Godot42

          Bob, I'm not denying that consumer demand is real. I'm saying that the above example is not a result of it. It is a result of owners price gouging their customers.

          Carolina Lawyer, you have two things going against you: you're a lawyer (which means you've made a career out of being an untrustworthy liar concerned only with winning, not the truth.), and two, you're from Carolina (North or South doesn't really matter), so you it is unlikely that you have a moral perspective. I'm an unabashed bigot toward people from the South. The biggest mistake this country ever made was fighting to get you back into the Union. If you ever want to secede again, I'll help you pack. Please make sure to take Texas with you. All that being said, you don't read very well, since I never denied the principle of consumer demand, I merely said that it didn't apply in this instance. The suggestion that everything that used to be included is now being including only with an extra charge as an example of consumer demand is something only a demented lawyer or greedy business owner could believe. It's just a lame justification for you charging more. Harvard MBA's and corporate lawyers have destroyed America. I hope you all end up burning in Hell for what you've done. (Okay, there is no such thing as Hell, but there should be for such people).

          August 11, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • jenkins

      it is offensive to restaurant employees and owners everywhere to be put in the same category as banks or any "greedy" companies. i have worked in many many restaurants in my decade as a cook and every single one of them is full of assholes like you who think we are trying to screw people in some way, 90% of the people who work in restaurants live well below the poverty line and believe it or not that also includes the owners and management. i know restaurant owners who work 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week in their own restaurant serving tables and dealing with customers who talk down to them, complain about the food and the prices, demand things for free and then don't tip despite the best efforts of an entire crew to please them. these kinds of customers end up costing the restaurant money. and the sad reality is that somewhere around HALF of the people that eat out end up being those kinds of customers. how dare you call them greedy, i am sure not every restaurant is the same, but in all my experience i have never seen one place that isn't full of hard working dedicated POOR people. however with all that being said, none of it applies to corporately owned chains, those places cook shit quality, overpriced food and they can all burn in hell.

      August 11, 2013 at 4:05 am |
  6. Dan

    Bringing your own wine to a restaurant? Wow, I must be a total plebeian.

    August 10, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • ANNIER

      Some states are "dry" so you have to bring your own wine. Don't know if it's the same now, but many years ago when I live in Utah – that's what you had to do, and you paid a fee for them opening the bottle.

      August 11, 2013 at 1:49 am |
    • Julia

      Some people get a special bottle of wine and bring it to their favorite restaurant. It is the people who stop at McDonald's and buy food for their kids, then bring it into the restaurant. They take up a table for 5 or 6 people but only 2 people order food. Then they ask for bread, and butter, and eat 10 loaves of free bread. And the people who ask for water and lemons, then put their crystal lite in the water. How cheap do you have to be. I can go on and on with the things I see every day at work. More and more restaurants are doing coupons. People want to use 2 to 5 for on table when it clearly says one per table.

      August 11, 2013 at 3:42 am |
    • cadet

      You must live in a cave or don't go out to dinner much. There are plenty of restaurants in my area that don't sell alcohol, but welcome BYOB.

      August 11, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • cadet

      You must live in a cave or not go out to dinner much. There are plenty of restaurants in my area that don't serve alcohol, but welcome BYOB.

      August 11, 2013 at 9:39 am |
  7. Mitzy

    I went to an nuvo-cuisine upscale Chinese restaurant that charged for tea, and brought a cup of water and a tea bag. I got a refill of hot water and they charged me for another cup of tea. I told the owner to his face that his restaurant would fail, and it did.

    August 10, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
  8. InTheLandOfOverpricing

    My husband and I ordered two entrees at Raymond's in Ridgewood, NJ. We each were eating off eachother's plate. The manager/owner, Joanne, had the server add a sharing charge to our bill!

    I also hate when charged an automatic tip (usually 18%) and make a point of telling my server and the manager that I most likely would have given a larger tip (Ill tip 25% for good service) if they hadnt taken it upon themselves to tell me how much I should leave on the table!

    August 10, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • LaLa

      ok, in response...I work at a large buffet style chain. The owner DOES NOT charge gratuity. MOST guests ASSUME it was added to the bill if its the typical large group of people that we so often see. It's not uncommon for any server in the place to wait on a group of 30 and receive no tip. SOOOOO, as a server, I make $2.13 cents per hour and have t pay taxes on THE CUSTOMERS TOTAL BILL (7.5%). DO the math= 30 people at 13.00= $390.00 The gov't assumes I made AT LEAST $31.20 and automatically deducts it from my paycheck...(remember I make $2.13 an hour) I PAID FOR YOUR GROUP TO EAT THERE FROM MY OWN POCKET. Wonder why some servers don't waitress long term? Wonder why the turnover is so high? Now ya know. Why add it automatically? Because NO SERVER should pay for the guests to eat somewhere. If a guest cannot afford to pay a tip, stay home or go to a drive thru.
      as for plate sharing, as a server I don't give a damn about that. THAT isn't something servers have any control over pricing/not pricing. I do the best I can to take care of my guests, including free refills on things I shouldn't, and an occasional to-go box to someone that I probably should. Please do not be rude to these folks.
      Waiting tables is NOT an easy thinkless job. It requires a LOT of planning and foresight and people skills (if it's done correctly). If you get excellent service, please tip accordingly. as a guest, you CAN dispute a gratuity charge on a CC if the server is bad.

      August 10, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
      • James

        Your argument is misleading at best and completely false at worst. You are not paid $2.13/hr. You are expected to make up to the federal minimum wage ($7.25/hr) with $2.13/hr + tips. If you do not, your employer must pay the difference. Assuming that you report all of your income accurately to the IRS - and most servers under-report to avoid paying as much tax - it is impossible for you to end up 'paying people to eat.'

        August 10, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
        • LaLa

          You are seriously mistaken.

          August 10, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
        • LaLa

          Who, then, ends up ultimately paying for it? the person that didn't tip to begin with by ADDING CRAZY SURCHARGES AND FEE,S and paying higher restaurant prices. Guess you've never been privy to the books or owned a restaurant and YES, a server CAN pay for guest to eat, especially if they have to pay TIP SHARE for a table that didn't tip. 3% regardless, and it will come out of the OTHER tips from guests that DID leave one

          August 10, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
        • Nathan

          I've worked in restaurants and what they said is true. If you employer is not following it, they are violating federal law. Wait staff can be paid a lower hourly wage as they are expected to make "commission" on the meal in the form of tips to make up the difference. But, at the end of the day, you have to have made federal minimum wage per hour or your employer IS required to make up that difference. And that should be based on the tips you report (which you are required to do). Not the tips you earn, bu the take home, post tipping out bartenders and busboys.

          August 11, 2013 at 12:01 am |
        • James

          Think about your situation a different way. Let's say you work for one hour and serve one table in that time for simplicity's sake. You get paid $2.13 for that hour on your paycheck, but your employer takes tax assuming that you make $7.25. The table doesn't tip, so you've paid tax on a higher amount than you've made. This is bad. However, when you file your taxes, the amount of income related to that particular hour that you'll report as having earned will be $2.13, so you'll get a tax refund for it. Note that this scenario ignores the federal minimum wage requirement.

          August 11, 2013 at 8:07 am |
      • bob

        do do NOT need to pay taxes on any assumed amount of tippage. keep a diary of your tips and pay tax on the exact amount. your employer may withhold based upon this calculation, but withholdings are not the amount of tax you pay – it is simply the amount withheld till you calculate your actual liability. you may be entitled to a refund, or more likely, owe uncle sam additional funds.

        August 11, 2013 at 2:16 am |
      • tildejac

        On the flipside, I have order room service at hotels where I did not notice that a tip was already added to the bill, and the waiter did not bother to tell me and I ended up tipping twice. Life sucks.

        August 11, 2013 at 10:54 am |
        • cadet

          Pays to read the whole page(s) when ordering room service. That automatic tip is generally listed somewhere on the menu in the room.

          August 11, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
      • PSN

        Yeah, you can dispute the tip at a buffet due to bad service but they usually don't fix it. Just look at the folks who were arrested for not paying an automatic tip when they received poor service. Tips are optional; if you can't make it up, maybe you're a crappy server. But that's not my fault, so why should anyone , aside from your employer, be required to pay you?

        August 11, 2013 at 11:21 am |
        • tifoso

          Where have people been arrested for not paying any tip? Under what law in what city and what state? Or is that an urban myth? If you pay for the food, nothing has been stolen so it is not theft. A tip, by definition, is up to the diner. In addition, you can pay with a credit card then contact your bank to rescind part of the charge.

          August 11, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
        • David from NC

          As far as I know, there's only been one documented case where someone actually got arrested for refusing a mandatory tip, and on that occasion the DA "recommended" the dismissal of the charges because it was a civil rather than criminal issue. (Recommending the dismissal of charges is the polite way of a DA saying "OMG what were you thinking?")

          August 11, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
        • bob

          tifoso,
          not too long ago there was a story on cnn about a place in texas that locked the front door and called the sheriff when a group didnt want to pay the mandatory gratuity for a large party. when the cops showed up they wouldnt answer the woman's question as to if she would be arrested for not paying the tip, and as she was the mother of a few children who were with her at the time she went ahead and paid it under duress.

          August 11, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • Anon

      Why would you be that passive aggressive about tipping? If you usually tip 25% and get an 18% gratuity added onto a bill when the service was worth it, then add the extra 7% in and don't be a whiny brat about it. Some places it' a matter of policy and the people you're childishly complaining to aren't the people who make such policies. I'd rather hear you bitch about how terrible tipping is in general than be whiny about servers protecting themselves.

      August 10, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • Nathan

      Did you ask them to withdraw the charge? If you both actually ordered entrees, it is beyond ridiculous.

      August 11, 2013 at 12:02 am |
    • Godot42

      I'm missing something. Is Raymond's a buffet style restaurant? If not, and you ordered your own entries, how could they charge you extra? You already bought that food, and can do anything you want with it. I understand a sharing fee if it were a buffet, but not otherwise. I'm starting to think these policies are in place because too many people act foolishly, and pay for things they don't have to.

      August 11, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • Geo

      Having worked in the service industry for many years, Let me say this. First of all, I am not a disgruntled employee. I like what I do, and take pride in giving the best service I can to everyone. Also, my employers bend over backwards to accomodate the needs of everyone to he best of their ability. That being said, there are some guests that they don't want back. It is possible to be such a pain i the butt, that they dont want your business. It is the exception for sure, but it does happen. I bet numerous people that have posted on this thread, and likely the author, have elicited that response

      August 12, 2013 at 6:47 am |
  9. S~

    They should charge for no shows and not eating all the food you put in your plate at buffets.

    August 10, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • tifoso

      What if the food is just plain nasty tasting?

      August 11, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
  10. ModSquad

    So people pay a few bucks for fast food, toilet turds and then complain about condiment packets costing a dime or two? Maybe it's time to reassess what you're wasting your money on.

    August 10, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
  11. LaLa

    my peeve? I don't/can't eat pork....It's an allergy. When you get a burger without bacon, the cost is the samea s WITH bacon. ADD it to any sandwich and it's 2.00 more????/ Doesn't seem right.....

    August 10, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
  12. Jmichael

    I get charged an extra .10 for ONLY getting mayo on cheese burger at local McDonalds. So to not get lettuce, onion, pickles or ketchup and get mayo cost more???

    August 10, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
    • cadet

      When I use to work at McDonald's, mayo was not a standard condiment on a regular cheeseburger; cheeseburgers came with mustard, ketchup, pickles and onions. So if you would go to a franchise McDonald's that charges for extra condiments, then yes, you would be charged the $.10 since mayo would be considered an extra condiment.

      August 11, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  13. swestey

    I asked for extra tartar sauce on my Filet O' Fish at McDonalds yesterday and was told that it would be 30 cents extra! Yet they give you 8 packets of ketchup and 10 packets of salt for your fries.

    August 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • Nemo

      At a pizza parlor one time I asked for oregano. The server didn't know what oregano was and asked in kitchen. She brought me a few sprinkles of the delicacy and the pizza place charged me $1.50 for the extra ingredient. I still go there once in a while for convenience, but order baked dough with melted cheese, tomato sauce, tomato, onions, etc. I don't call it pizza unless there's oregano (or basil).

      August 10, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
    • justsane

      i'm astounded that you needed to ask for additional tartar sauce at micky d's – those fish sandwiches are generally dripping with the stuff. i usually have to scrape some off...

      August 11, 2013 at 11:13 am |
  14. chas

    When I go to a restaurant with 10 people, we get hit with the automatic tip. But if it's busy and we split up into two tables, tips are not added. Same number of customers. Same amount of work for waiters. What's the difference that warrants an automatic tips in one case? I don't begrudge waiters the tips, but I want to decide what how to tip based on service.

    August 10, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • Valerie

      Because when the bill comes let's say the total is $500 (when in fact 10 people would be more than that usually) 20% of that would be $100. MOST people are stingy and would feel that a server shouldn't get $100 for serving food.

      I have never worked in food service but I feel adding the gratuity in is very fair. If you don't like it, why don't you stay home?

      August 10, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
      • Shawn G

        And lets say the meal was only $50, so that'd be $10. Did the waiter at the $500 restaurant do any more work than the waiter at the $50 restaurant? Why should their tip be based on the price of the meal at all. Percent based tipping is frankly ridiculous.

        August 10, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
        • Nathan

          Unless you actually know what they did or didn't do behind the scenes, saying that percent tipping is ridiculous is pretty ridiculous. I've worked in higher and lower end restaurants and yes, I did do a lot more at the higher end places–much of which the customers never saw. For example, riding the kitchen on my customer's behalf to make sure they get their food in a timely manner and even rejecting dishes not cooked properly. At Chili's, half that food comes out of a bag or mix made and sent to you from corporate. You get some lame looking chicken fingers then tough. That's what the pre-breaded frozen bag sent to us had in it. Tough. But at a higher end place where the slice and bread their own chicken, you can, as a waiter, send back unacceptable pieces and demand recooks on behalf of your customers. Things like that.

          August 11, 2013 at 12:19 am |
      • Godot42

        That's because a server DOESN'T deserve $100 for serving food. I'm getting to the point where I'm done with tipping on the bill. A $2 tip per person at a cheap place, and perhaps $4 or $5 at a nice place is enough. If I'm sitting there with my family at a nice place, there are four of us, and we stay for about an hour. The server then gets $20 in tips. That's more than a private school teacher, so that's more than enough for someone that did not have to earn a college degree to get the job. While it takes people skills, and a fair amount of timing, it isn't a job that requires any real professional skills. $20 an hour for a server at a fine restaurant is more than enough. I hope tipping on the amount of the check is becoming extinct. It's a remnant from the era when waitressing was the only decent job a woman could get and support a family on. That era is over, and it is no longer necessary to provide a career-level income to servers. It's a temporary job while you become an actor, or go to school, or something like that. Times change, and tipping practices should too.

        August 11, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
      • bob

        i agree with godot – unless a server goes WAY above and beyond the call of duty, how can you possibly justify a 100$ tip for a large party? a dinner might last what – maybe an hour? even if the server was dedicating 100% of their time to your party (and they arent) and your party alone thats 100$ an hour. thats an effective salary of 200k$ a year for the time they are waiting on your party. is that really a reasonable expectation? thats why tipping a percentage makes little sense.

        I have tipped a few dollars on a 100$ meal before because the bulk of the cost was an expensive bottle of wine. I have also tipped 20$ on a 6$ order of chili and grilled cheese because I got service that was above and beyond. I think this is a much more reasonable way to go.

        August 11, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
        • Godot42

          Bob, I couldn't agree more. Nice post.

          August 11, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
        • Nathan

          And yet waiters at any restaurant are NOT making $200k a year showing how silly your calculations are. This is spoken like someone who has never waited a table in their life.

          August 11, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
        • bob

          nathan, i know servers arent making 200k$ a year. thats my point. why compensate them for a huge tab as though they were expected to make that sort of $$$$ ?

          if a waiter worked 5 tables in an hour and got 5$ out of each of them pulling in $25 for that hour – then worked your table plus 2 more in the next hour, should they get 110$ for that same hour of work just because it was fillet mignons all around? of course not.

          August 12, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Nathan

      It actually isn't the same amount of work, big parties are a lot more. At a minimum, restaurants strive to deliver an entire table's worth of food at once. That means the kitchen has to coordinate what meals–and parts of meals–it is making when so that one guy's salad isn't done and wilting for 10 minutes while another guy's well done steak is cooking. Rather you have to start the steak and remember in 8 minutes to make the salad. So when you are at a table of 4 or 5, that is a lot easier to keep straight and coordinate–and to mix in with orders from other tables cooking at the same time–than a party of 10 which requires much greater coordination and can even lock out the start of cooking for other tables and add to other table's wait times.
      Additionally, statistically, larger parties tend to take up tables longer. Because the group is larger, perhaps, there is more socializing. So while a table of five may leave after 45 minutes, a table of ten may stay an hour or more. And waiters make money by flipping tables. If you and your wife come in, order $40 of food, and decide to tip 15% ($6), then your leaving in 30 minutes is far more beneficial to the waiter (who can get another table to do the same, netting them $12 that hour) than your lingering for an hour and still only leaving $6. Larger groups tend to do the latter. So the auto gratuity–often set higher than 15%–helps compensate for that.
      Also, large groups, especially when paying separately, almost always skimp on the tip. Perhaps people assume someone else down the way tipped enough so now they don't have to. Who knows. But having worked in multiple restaurants, between the coordination involved, the table time, and the lower tips without an auto-gratuity added...I've yet to work in a restaurant where anyone actually wanted to take the large party that walks in the door. Waiters usually want to avoid them–except for the guaranteed tip.

      August 11, 2013 at 12:16 am |
      • Godot42

        I'd like to see tipping practices change from being a percentage of the bill to being a set amount per person. A cheap place (like a Denny's) can be a $2 tip per person. A nice place can be $4 or $5 per person. There is no reason servers should be making more money than teachers, nurses, cops or firefighters, but they routinely do in fine restaurants. That's just wrong. I can't justify leaving a tip based on a percentage for someone that just brought me my food. If I'm in a really nice place, and the server is doing some table-side prep/cooking, that's totally different.

        August 11, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  15. Tron

    A fee to split a plate is an automatic stand up and walk out of a restaurant (and never return) for my family.

    August 10, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • innersixx

      Many people tip based off the total price of the bill. Splitting a dish reduces the bill and takes away from the tip. The waiter/waitress is basically doing work for something they wouldn't get tipped on.

      August 10, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
      • Palaniappan Rajaram

        So, if the 2 people were going to just order 2 house salads, that'd be ok. But, if one orders the house salad and the other orders a filet mignon and gives a bite or two to the person with the salad, that's punishable? As the author said, it'd be understandable if the request was to split the entree into 2 entrees, dressed up and served. The charge can be justified that the waiter or the cook had to do additional work for the same price. Otherwise, you'd be charging for "you might have eaten a more expensive meal" which is ridiculous. Are you going to charge a person for ordering the cheapest meal in the menu?

        August 10, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
      • Godot42

        "Doing work"?!? No, the server is not doing extra work. The chef might do a little by plating on two dishes, but the server is only carrying the dish from the kitchen to the table. The idea of charging more for the same amount of food is ludicrous. If you split a plate and it includes additional sides and extras, that is different and should be charged for, but not if there isn't any extra food. You don't get to charge for every last little thing you do. Well, you can try, but I won't pay. See you in court.

        August 11, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
  16. D Tracewell

    I was in Rome a couple of years ago and while walking toward the Vatican on the Via Della Conciliazione where there are many small restaurants, my wife and I decided to stop and get something to eat. We found a nice little deli and looked at the posted prices. A cheeseburger, fries, and a coke for me, 3 pieces of toasted biscuit and bruschetta for my wife was going to be about 30 Euro ($ 45.00) expensive, but we had a great view of the Vatican. We sat at a small card table with two folding chairs and ate lunch. When we got our bill, it was 50 Euros ($ 75.00). Remember, this was for a burger, frys, 3 small pieces of toast and a couple of sodas. We were told that the prices for sitting down at our table cost more. Lesson learned: Beware of eating in the tourist traps of European cities!

    August 10, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Tron

      That's what you get for ordering a cheeseburger while in Rome. Ridiculous!

      August 10, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
      • BobInIrvine

        Get Judgmental?

        August 10, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
        • Frank

          "Get judgmental"? Whatever happened to an actual, simple sentence?

          August 10, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • Mike

      In Italy it is customary in restaurants including coffee shops to charge a table charge if you sit down instead of eating at a counter standing up. Is is called a "copperto" charge.

      August 10, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
      • ukidden

        Yup. Cappuccino is best enjoyed standing :)

        August 10, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
    • Mary Jonas

      When I was in Rome they. Told me if I stand up it's one price for dinner but if I sit down it doubles.

      August 10, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • ukidden

      Wait, you were in Rome and you got a cheeseburger and fries?? If I was your wife I would ask for a divorce!

      August 10, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
      • tifoso

        Ordering a cheeseburger and fries in Rome, Paris, or anywhere outside the US is simply gauche. A large part of the joy of travel is sampling the local cuisine. But a cheeseburger? A cheeseburger? In a city with wonderful food? Sigh.

        August 11, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • Godot42

      Solution: stiff them on the bill, and have them try to collect once you're back in America. Yeah, good luck with that one! lol

      August 11, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
      • Cgh

        Can you say "cheap" or are you just a cheap attorney?

        August 11, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
        • Godot42

          I am not "cheap" because I don't want to pay $50 for a burger, drink and some chips. What planet do you live on? If they tell me the price beforehand, then I get to make an informed choice, and I have to pay. If they increase the price after I've already made my selection they can go screw themselves. Why should I pay? Just because they said so? So what? Who the heck are they? Just because it's their restaurant doesn't mean I have to listen to them in such a situation. Again, if you tell me beforehand, I should pay. If you want to charge me extra after? lolololololol, sorry, not a chance.

          August 11, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
  17. equality

    To charge for not completing a meal is as dumb as the way restaurants put way too much food on each individual dish.

    August 10, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • Palaniappan Rajaram

      It is understandable in buffets, to prevent wastage because people do go nuts at the buffet. Sushi buffets charge you for leaving rice behind on the plate.

      August 10, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
  18. Come to Jesus

    Global famine, severe food shortages will soon follow . . .

    "When He opened the third seal,

    I heard the third living creature say,

    ‘Come and see.’

    So I looked, and behold, a black horse,

    and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.

    And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying,

    "A quart of wheat for a denarius,

    (A denarius was equal to about a full day’s wage)

    and three quarts of barley for a denarius;

    and do not harm the oil and the wine." (The rulers will still have their luxuries)

    (Revelation 6:5-6)

    August 10, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • Petri

      You think famine will hit? We just created a burger in a petri dish... please do explain.

      August 10, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
      • ThereIsNoGod

        Agree. Combine that with the 3D printer and give it 10-15 years and we'll have Star Trek's replicator. Everything is made up of the elements of the periodic chart. You just need to combine them in the right proportion and a machine that can do it and that's it! We will need cheap and abundant energy however.

        August 10, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
  19. TravelSheryl

    I walked out of a restaurant one time when they wanted to charge me for something ridiculous. I had been a regular and I never went back. I can't even remember what it was. It was about 20 years ago.

    August 10, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • TravelSheryl

      I estimated that I had spent at least $5000 over the previous 15 years. I hope they missed that $1 they wanted to charge me. Even wrote about it on the Internet at the time.

      August 10, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
      • ANNIER

        I would have done the same. I just hope that you TOLD the owner/manager before you left! That's the only way they'll learn the stupidity of their actions.

        August 11, 2013 at 1:55 am |
      • carolina lawyer

        I just read a marketing book called "Stick Like Glue" by Jim Palmer that discusses this kind of managerial stupidity. He points out that successful businesses look at the potential lifetime value of each customer, and treat the customer accordingly. A restaurant that does that would never loose a regular customer over a $1 surcharge, because they would not be nickel and dimeing you to death to begin with.

        August 11, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
  20. teerandaz

    This guy is getting carried away by his own article. Of course, the buffet restaurants should charge for food that is wasted, and no, I don't see a "million" reasons for not finishing every morsel, except in the rare case of a guy who suddenly got ill in the middle of his meal, or was forced to leave due to an emergency. Without bringing in the orphans of Somalia who go hungry every night, commonsense dictates that while you are getting a good deal on pigging out, you are being served the food to throw it away. Whoever is trying to show his "class" by leaving food on the plate should be prepared to pay for his high tastes.

    August 10, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • tifoso

      Buffets factor in to their prices that a certain proportion of their diners will take seconds, thirds, or more. What if a diner takes one plate, takes a normal amount of food on that plated, then cannot, for whatever reason, finish it, why should that person be gouged?

      August 11, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  21. Mike

    Anyone who asks for steak sauce deserves to get charged extra for ruining a fine piece of meat. And if it's not a fine piece of meat, order something else.

    August 10, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • Godot42

      My father believes the same thing. I routinely tell him he's wrong about that. For you to have an opinion like that about how OTHER people eat is too stupid to describe. If you don't like steak sauce, fine, but for you to comment on how other people eat is both arrogant and rude. It's false snobbery, since some of the finest sauces can go on steak. I find your attitude to be plebeian and totally lacking in epicurean sophistication. (sticks tongue out at you and goes pffffttt!!) Okay, so much for MY maturity, but then I'm a hypocrite. :)

      August 11, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  22. Julia

    I used to love to go out to eat, but lately not so much. Between the spotty service, poorly prepared food, crowded conditions, and outrageous prices as well as fees for parking. I am choosing to stay home and prepare my own meals these days. I know I won't be missed. Also, I won't miss noisy restaurants, disappearing service personnel, poorly prepared food. Most of all I won't miss the prices, I can prepare the same thing at home for a mere fraction of the price and aggravation of going out.

    August 10, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • ThereIsNoGod

      Agreed. You can go out for a steak dinner for four and spend easily $100 to $120. I can cook just as good a steak on the bbq with salad, baked potato, veggies, bread, cake, wine and coffee for $35 or less.

      August 10, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
  23. Steve Chernick

    If the 'Steak Sauce' is a labor intensive bordelaise, I understand an upcharge. You have to emulsify bone marrow into it, and processing that stuff is a chore. The charge for a rocks pour I get too, because it is extra product the bartender is pouring. Asking the restaurant to eat the extra half ounce of a premium liquor is like asking the guy building your house to eat the extra cost of premium fixtures.

    August 10, 2013 at 12:33 am |
    • Palaniappan Rajaram

      What is the problem with measuring the drink before pouring it in a glass neat or over ice? If the customer complains that he sees less in his glass compared to the next guy who had it 'on the rocks', then give him a grade school book on Archimedes's principle.

      August 10, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
      • cadet

        You must have gone to school in a different decade than me... my elementary school didn't teach about Archimedes's principle; come to think about, it wasn't discussed in my h.s. either.

        August 11, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
  24. Joe's Pasta House

    As a restauranteur I am very intrigued with this blog & your point of view. On a side note, really love that you are reminding people of etiquette, there seems to be a loss of it these days. My husband & I have had extensive discussions about many of your acceptable & unacceptable surcharges – as customer's we prefer an all inclusive price for our entree (including the side, perhaps a salad & bread service in the price of the meal); that of course depends on the type of restaurant you are choosing to experience. An automatic gratuity for parties of 6 or more should always be pointed out to the guest – we leave it up to the discretion of our servers (if they choose to always add gratuity they may miss out on a better tip, if their service warrants – but if they add the tip they had better present it to our guests). When Joe & I sit down for our late dinner tonight (so goes the nature of our business), we will no doubt have a very interesting conversation over your blog post – thank you!

    August 9, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
  25. msp

    It is just what you are used to, no right or wrong. In a lot of restaurants in Asia, you actually pay for the hot tea and the rice separately. Each bowl or rice and each cup of tea cost extra. People are used to that way of paying and do not think anything of it.

    August 9, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
  26. Hannover

    OK some of those extra charges do suck but I actually get the Meal Splitting one. I've done this many times and pretty much anywhere I've done it, they did not just split the meal down the middle and serve it on two plates. Both of us got a full serving of the side dishes and it was only the main dish that was split in half. Not sure the author did their research on this one. It sounds like one of those things they heard about but never actually looked into.

    August 9, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • Woodrow

      We went to Rudy's Teller House restaurant in Silverton, CO and ordered an adult meal for our 2 year old twins and asked for a second plate. It was an empty plate. They added $6 to the bill. Nobody ever mentioned that they'd charge us that amount. I would have declined and had them share the plate (which would have made a bigger mess for the server, btw).

      Not cool.

      August 9, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
      • Mark v

        Bringing two, 2-year olds to a restaurant.... Not cool

        Do you tip extra for the massive mess your little cuties leave behind? Somehow I doubt it.

        August 10, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
        • Palaniappan Rajaram

          Does the restaurant specifically prohibit 2 year old kids? Then, he is perfectly alright bringing his children AS LONG AS they are not creating a ruckus and spoiling the experience for the other patrons.

          August 10, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
        • Woodrow

          2 year old kids in a 100% tourist town at lunch. Not an unusual sight. And no – no 'No Kids' sign outside. And no – I didn't tip extra because a) they added a tip to the bill that they overcharged us on by $20 already, and b) they didn't leave a mess. Rudy didn't have a problem with the kids, except to charge us $6 for an empty plate. His problem was that he was adding charges to the bill because he knew we were tourists and didn't care whether we'd ever come back. 20 years ago he would have been right, but today – too easy to provide feedback to warn others.

          Why so eager to back a lousy restaurant? It makes me wonder about where you work.

          August 12, 2013 at 1:02 am |
      • Ken

        Next time try the Brown Bear Café in Silverton. Best burger I've ever had!

        August 10, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
        • Woodrow

          Lol – that's where we were going to go, but it was closed on Mondays! We then tried another and found the same. Teller House was our 3rd choice. I'll bring a sack lunch next time we're there on a Monday! :)

          August 12, 2013 at 1:03 am |
        • Woodrow

          Btw – problems didn't start or end with the $6 plate. The owner was SO rude, they got our order wrong and then charged us for more than what was ordered. The waiter had been there just 3 days and told us that the owner was 'that way' a lot, so for him to have that feeling after just 3 days...dang. They then added an 18% tip to the bill.

          August 12, 2013 at 1:11 am |
      • J.B.B.

        Woody,

        Rapacious animosity hidden behind the faceless mask of anonymity.

        August 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
        • Woodrow

          J.B.B. Sanctimonious self-righteous indignation based on ignorance.

          August 12, 2013 at 12:57 am |
        • Woodrow

          Btw – feedback also given face-to-face to the owner as well. Not nameless. Not faceless.

          I've been a waiter. This was a simple lunch order. We didn't even ask to speak to the owner. The waiter told him that the order was wrong, and he came out and started shouting that he'd be adding charges to the bill for the correction (beyond the cost of our original order). The extra $6 for an empty plate was just the icing on the cake.

          August 12, 2013 at 1:19 am |
  27. jkflipflop

    The really funny part is that all you untalented low lifes that are stuck in these menial serving positions with this inflated ego thinking you DESERVE this extra compensation – and every single one of you went instantly to the "we're gonna spit in your food" threat.

    That tells me none of you deserve any sort of compensation from me at all.

    August 9, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • aznology

      Well i guess u better believe in magic.
      Because people are doing sh!t for u thus they must be paid. If u believe in magic then the drinks will pour themselves and plates will clear themselves and food will arrive.

      If you cant afford to tip then eat at home. Dont go half assed and expect to be treated like some king because in reality you're probably lower then a server.

      August 9, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • Mike

      Says the troll.

      August 10, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • J.B.B.

      Rapacious animosity hidden behind the faceless mask of anonymity.

      August 10, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
    • Valerie

      You must be very naive of the world. I have never worked in food service but I happen to know MANY people work as servers through college or they are actors/dancers/ etc....the hours in food service allow for flexibility and is fast easy money.....perfect for those going to classes or auditions etc....

      August 10, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
      • LaLa

        Just FYI Servers do NOT make "easy money" YOU admittedly have never waited tables, therefore YOU HAVE NO CLUE about how easy/difficult the job may or may not be so shut the hell up. I'd never spit in your food...I'd spill it all over your ungrateful ass!

        August 10, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
        • Valerie

          WOW. I didn't mean to imply the job was "easy", I just meant that you could make a decent dollar not having to work "regular hours"....you sound like a very angry person and I am not sure why.

          August 11, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  28. BillCA

    Surcharge, fee, fine, tax, nickle and dime, bait and switch, it's all the same unethical ways of robbing you of more money from you than you expected to spend. I'll never dine in a San Francisco restaurant again after finding city surcharges on the bill, it make the restaurant an accessory to a crime of theft. By the way, the city banned criminal background checks for it's employees. Now you know who runs the city of San Francisco.

    August 9, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  29. Cheektastic

    And you people wonder why we spit in your food....................

    August 9, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Woodrow

      So, because we don't like you to cheat us and toss surprises into our bill, you spit in our food? You're a pathetic human being and I'm glad you'll spend your life working at McDonalds. Now go back on strike and demand more pay for no work!

      August 9, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • Thomas

      It is difficult to consider food services as a profession when members of that industry post that they spit in food.

      If you want to be treated as a professional, you need to act as a professional. That means doing your job the way it is supposed to be done despite how the customer treats you. That's what a professional does.

      August 10, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  30. Donald Mendel

    whiners
    I have been paying the normal prices while order my food plain or do without ketchup, mustard, pickles, lettuce, tomato etc

    August 9, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
  31. Dustin Collett

    Tightwads. All of you.

    August 9, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
  32. Linus

    I really don't understand why so many people seem to be getting so bent out of shape over a surcharge. Who cares? Just look at the total bill, and ask yourself if it was worth it. If it was, go back. If it wasn't, don't. Why make your life more difficult than it needs to be? Unless you're the kind of person who isn't happy unless you have something to whine about.

    August 9, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • SWood

      I guess you enjoy flying then.

      August 9, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
  33. Scott Deaver

    Not one mention anywhere of the disgusting habit of calculating or charging tip ...ON THE TAX! Yes, restaurants now present the bill total without telling you how much of the bill is tax (here in Houston, 8.25%) and then pre-calculate 20% tip on the total with the tax included (some require you pay the tip regardless of the actual quality of the service).

    I do not tip at all when they do that (yeah, yeah, servers have to earn a living, true, but they are not required to do it working at THAT restaurant). If I wanted to tip my government, I'll do it directly rather than to a restaurant that never seems to quite get it forwarded on to Uncle Sam.

    August 9, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • Jon

      Servers in Texas make $2.80 cents an hour. They're expected to make up the difference between that and the state minimum wage through their tips. If they don't make the minimum wage, then and only then the restaurant will make up the difference in minimum wage, but usually the restaurant will fire them instead. This can occur in as little as two or three days, and since lunch shifts earn less than dinner shifts, due to people ordering essentially snacks and generally slower traffic, a server can lose their job in as little as a week. Think about that the next time you're indignant about your tip being calculated for you on your receipt, something the server would have no control over.

      Source: I waited tables for five years.

      August 9, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
      • bad service

        Get a job that pays a living wage or give good service. Extortion is not an workable option.

        August 9, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
        • Jon

          I did. A long, long time ago. And to be honest, Texas is one of the very few states that does this. Most other states pay their waiters the state minimum wage and tips aren't as critical. My point being that you're punish a waiter for a restaurant policy he has no input into is asinine, and how punishing the server for a petty line on a pre-printed receipt is not going to punish the restaurant that is committing the actual affront to you.

          August 9, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
        • Frank

          Says the selfish moron who will continue to take advantage of the slave-wage earners.

          August 10, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
      • JennyLee

        Since you've been in the trenches and survived the wars, I tip my hat. However it is one heck of a business model to expect your customers to directly pay your employees wages and then fire the employee and hold the customers responsible for failing to make up the difference. I have only ever worked in hotels where the wait staff have all earned minimum wage plus what ever arrangement of tips (usually 80% to the wait staff and 20% to the cooks/busboys).

        August 9, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
        • Woodrow

          What do you think a sales or consulting job is. Try 100% commission. You accepted a job where you're given a base rate plus. If you don't like it, find another job or make one.

          August 9, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • Linus

      OOOOOO!!! So you're actually tipping 21.65% instead of 20%? How horrible for you!

      August 9, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
      • Thomas

        That's a very good point!

        August 10, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • Bill

      What a nasty attitude you have. If restaurants were forced to pay their servers what they made in tips, your food would be costing much, much more. I waited table tor 8 years, The 2nd time someone such as yourself was seated in the restaurant, everyone working the floor would know all about you.
      and would provide the service you deserved.

      August 9, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
      • Palaniappan Rajaram

        Oh please!! We have heard this cr@p pseudo concern from the waiters before. "Oh, your food will be much more expensive if you don't tip" ... just imagine I said it with a heavy sarcasm. You worry about your own paycheck and let the customers worry about the price of the food. If the price goes up so that you people get paid fed min wage which in turn leads to no tipping, then we are all up for that.

        August 10, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • BridgetH

      If the tip is not included, do you calculate the 20% (or whatever) on the total bill, or the pre-tax bill? I've always calculated it based on the total, which amounts to the same thing.

      August 10, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
      • Palaniappan Rajaram

        The difference is marginal but people who raise it as an issue do so on the basis of principle. Nothing else.

        August 10, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
    • carolina lawyer

      Really? A 20% tip on the 8.25% tax is 1.65% of the bill. That is a mere $1.65 on $100. Talk about nickels and dimes.....

      August 11, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
  34. Diner

    I have seen many restaurants adopting malpractices to shell out extra bucks from customers. Tandoori nights in Gaithersburg (Kentlands) charge rediculously double tip with different names like servce fee and gratitude fee etc if we use groupon or restaurant-dot-com certificates. Their entrees do not come with anything, and then they charge extra for every grain of rice or bread they serve.

    August 9, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • Palaniappan Rajaram

      Two questions... why do you return to that restaurant? Why do you pay those additional fees without protest? Tandoori nights is cr@p! Try Minerva at the intersection of 355 and Shady Grove. It is a THOUSAND times better in quality and service. Tandoori is charging exorbitant prices because of the location. It could be justified if the food and the service were good. When they first opened, I ordered a few very different dishes and I couldn't tell one from the other. That's how bad it was.

      August 10, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
  35. Marge

    I do understand some of the charges, and have paid a number of them, but certainly not all of them. One that I do understand but still disagree with is the automatic tip for large groups. If they are going to do it they should never have it at 20%. I could see 15%. Typically for standard service I give 20% rounded up. For exceptional service I leave more like 25-30%.

    I have had many recent experiences when with my coworkers at a business lunch where they added the 20% tip, but I would not have left a 20% tip. One recent trip we had 7 people, wound up being there for 3 hours, and didn't have dessert or anything. It took over an hour to get drinks. More than half of us didn't get what we ordered, and the waiter argued with one of our people that she had ordered wrong! One person got ice water spilled down her front. We tried to flag down the waiter and were ignored. We were there at a prime time and there was only 1 server, but we were the only people in there, other than the hostess. Now we know why! Had there been a manager we would have argued the charge, but there was no manager and we wanted out of there. The waiter had to add 20%, we certainly would not have.

    I have also had the experience when in college where everyone put in what they believed the owed and left. As the last one there I wound up paying over $50 for a side salad and water because other people didn't include the cost of drinks, taxes, or tip. That's why I understand automatically adding the tip.

    I like it when the bill comes with tip guidelines at the bottom (i.e., 15% tip equals a certain amount, 18%, 20%, etc.). I do the math in my head, but it makes things quicker, and there's no doubt how much you're leaving. I would never walk out without tipping. If the service is really bad and you need to make a statement, you leave a very small amount. Otherwise it looks like you just forgot.

    August 9, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • LaLa

      Marge, I agree that hidden fees are awful but let me tell you my experience as a server in a buffet type restaurant when they DO NOT add 20% I customarily serve large groups of people from 8-40 and sometimes more. The owner of my business DOES NOT add gratuity. It is NOT uncommon for the guests to ASSUME it was paid and leave no tip at all. So, now you have a server (and it's not just me) that certainly isn't going to do a stellar job if she thinks she's not going to get paid....and YES, WE ONLY MAKE $2.13 AN HOUR! So what is the answer?

      August 10, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
  36. tammy collins

    Dresden, TN Mcdonalds charged me extra for saying hold the pickles but add tomato. We were charged 25 c for the tomato charge and also $1.69 for a glass of ice water. BAD BUSINESS

    August 9, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • Jon

      Some context in the timeline of this is needed. There was a severe tomato shortage in Florida due to floods a few years ago, and McD's was not the only one to either charge extra for tomatoes or to have the customer request tomatoes specifically due to fast food restaurants being primarily affected by this supply shortage.

      August 9, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
  37. Bob

    SImple I just won't go to those places and if they all do it no problem because I am a good cook. Many people are yelling about unions but just ignor big business raising prices. The rich folks income has gone up 400 percent in the last 5 years while yours has either stayed the same or gone down.

    August 9, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • tifoso

      Where do you get that income tax for "rich folks" has gone up 400%? Nonsense.

      August 11, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
      • tifoso

        Sorry. My misreading.

        August 11, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  38. Geezer Choi

    Every time I have some surcharge that I don't think should belong on the list, I just cut the tip to zero percent.
    And usually, they (restaurants) end up loosing at the end. At least from me.

    August 9, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • Mac Arther

      What if it is the restaurant's policy to include these surcharges? You are penalizing the waiter/waitress for a restaurant's mismanagement or ill policy.

      August 9, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
      • Geezer Choi

        I ask the server every time something like this happens. I also consider extra for additional rice at Asian restaurants unacceptable. Raw rice costs about 10-15cents per bowl.

        August 9, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • Jay

      You should be ashamed for shorting the server that way! It's not the server's fault that charge is there. If you can't afford or don't want to pay a charge for your food, the answer is simple: Cook at home.

      August 9, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • John

      When BS charges are added like that, I just deduct the BS charge off the tip. I refuse to pay a "split-plate" fee when I just get an extra plate

      August 9, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
      • Jeremy

        Oh i get it. Sooooo instead of punishing the restaurant for the Policy you punish the waiter??? What you and Many people fail to realize is that the TIP does not go AT ALL to the restaurant. It goes to the server. The TIP should be based Solely on the service you received from the Server. Not on the dumb policy of the restaurant. If the restaurant has a policy that you do not agree with, then don't go. Its not the waiters fault. That's like going to a restaurant and complaining to the waiter about the prices. "Oh this is ridiculous price" Ok, so what? can the waiter change that price? oh so i guess since the price is ridiculous, cut it from the tip, right? even if you receive great service. Am I a server?? No, I never have been one. But i am not a moronic idiot. If there is something that i don't agree with at a restaurant I wont eat there, other than eating there, take up one of the servers tables for a good hour, complain about it to the server, who has NO say so in the matter but is simply doing there job, and then take the money THEY DESERVED from their income. Whether or not you pay for a tip does not affect the restaurant they already received their pay in full from your plate.

        August 10, 2013 at 2:39 am |
  39. Margaret

    A group of about 10 of us went out for dinner and had the absolute worst experience with restaurant staff , especially the waitstaff. We were able to convince the restaurant manager to remove the automatic 18% gratuity so that we could leave a tip that was more fitting of the service we'd received that day.

    August 9, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Jay

      This article isn't about service.

      August 9, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • Geo

      If you don't want to tip, don't go out. While I do sympathize with someone getting bad service, in my experiance, those that complain about tips being included in large parties are typically the people that are the reason that policy is in place.

      August 12, 2013 at 6:19 am |
  40. TJ

    When I go out and they play these games it comes directly out of the waiter's tip. Same with delivery charges. If they charge for delivery, that's coming out of tip. Wedge of lemon for my water? Tip. Refills? Tip.

    I'm sorry. I leave 20% almost everywhere I go, but I only accept this hassle and harrassment from the phone company.

    August 9, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • Jay

      Then, TJ, you really shouldn't be eating out. It's terrible that you penalize the waitstaff for restaurant policies that they have NO say over. I would spit in your food.

      August 9, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
      • Woodrow

        Someone that says they will spit in someone's food doesn't deserve a tip from anyone – ever. Grow up.

        August 9, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  41. Kalcifer5

    There is a very good pizza place by my house. I love their food but they charge $1.50 to put fresh rosemary or thyme on a pizza as they consider it a "premium topping" They also use such a tiny amount it's maybe 5 cents worth. I stopped eating there because the extras were just crazy.

    August 9, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Thomas

      And that's what it really comes down to. If the customer does not like the extra charges, the customer can choose not to go to that establishment. If enough customers so choose, things will change. If the extra charges don't bother the majority of customers, things won't change.

      August 10, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • mdo

      noy returning does nothing, you have to tell them why

      August 10, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • MS

      If you love the food, why don't you bring your own spices? It's cheaper and you can add the exact amount you want.

      August 11, 2013 at 11:55 am |
  42. J

    Restaurants should probably spell things out more clearly. For example, if there's a problem with people eating 3 bowls of complimentary salad and then sending the food back or taking it home, set a policy and put it on the menu.

    As for the customers... They need to realize that when they go to a restaurant, "it is what it is."
    Don't like the music or atmosphere?
    Don't like noise from other paying customers?
    Don't agree with the tipping system in the USA?
    Don't agree with extra charges that are clearly spelled out?
    Then don't go to the restaurant. It's as simple as that. You can't just show up and expect them to change rules because you don't like them.

    August 9, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Jay

      I'm with you, except for the noise factor. Depending on the restaurant and atmosphere, there's an acceptable amount of noise that should be coming from any given table. It's rude to approach or exceed that level, i.e., no yelling and screaming at a fine-dining establishment.

      August 9, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
  43. Linus

    At the bars I frequent (in Chicago), neat drinks definitely do have more alcohol in them than a normal shot. So (to choose an analogy that a person with the author's level of sophistication can probably understand), just like it's okay for 7-11 to charge more for a Super Big Gulp than for a regular Big Gulp, it's okay for a bar to charge more for a neat drink than for a regular one. Furthermore, anyone who knows what a neat drink is should be aware that they contain more, but even if you don't, once it is explained to you, how can you complain about paying an extra dollar or two? Oh... and by the way, there is no such thing as a neat "cocktail" because a cocktail contains more than one ingredient, so if the author doesn't even know what a cocktail is, how can he presume to criticize bar pricing?

    August 9, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Jon

      You realize that you're getting charge five dollars a drink at a minimum for what costs the bar/restaurant less than a dollar to make for you, correct? Restaurants and bars make more profit off of drinks than they do off of food, this is a truism known to people even who haven't worked a bar or tables. To state that you're all right being charged more for a drink "neat" is an interesting statement to make, as a "neat" drink doesn't contain any more alcohol than ordering it with a mixer.

      August 9, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
  44. HEM

    I am a server, and these extra charges are understandable. You might try blaming this on greedy, cheap, and what can I get for free people. We serve bread, not all orders come with bread especially if you get sandwiches but still they expect them and we don't charge them, same with jelly. We also lose work hours because of food costs. I would love to charge everyone of these cheap asses, its totally not going to affect my tip because they are not the ones that do the tipping!

    August 9, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • edpeters101

      I would love to be able to deduct a percentage of my meal due to inconsiderate staff. Looks like a wash to me, and yes I have left pennies for a tip when I felt it was justified.. YMMV

      August 9, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
      • restaurantmanners

        Clearly you've never worked in a restaurant before. It's understandable if your server is a total idiot and messes up your entire order, then yes, leave no tip. But people who go into restaurants looking for reasons to NOT tip are awful. You tip because your in a restaurant and these people (who are not YOU) are literally bringing you food prepared the way you ordered to your table. The money you pay goes towards the cost of the food and preparation. The servers are paid minimum wage and whatever tip they do receive gets deducted out of their already tiny pay check. So what you leave on the table is what they go home with. You can argue that when you go to Europe you do not tip, and why why why do we tip in the US? For the cheapos out there that loooove to cite this factoid, here's your answer – Servers in Europe get paid way way more per hour then servers do in the US. They get paid so much that serving jobs are actually considered a decent and reliable way to make a living. And to tip on top of it would be insulting. But here in the US, that is not the case at all, and our country has a different way of doing it. Trust me, I wish it was like Europe so I could avoid cheap unkind people who try to find any reason why they shouldn't tip. What I love imagining is putting these people in a server's shoes for an hour and seeing how long it takes them until they cry and run home. Sincerely, your Ivy league educated server who is funding grad school with a restaurant job.

        August 9, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
        • edpeters101

          Your inability to read/comprehend is astonishing. You also have a vivid imagination, or I would really like to get some of what you are smoking.

          August 9, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
        • Emily

          Another fun fact about Europe, or at least France, is that tip is factored into the bill. Some restaurants don't even make it clear that it's a tip. So they love American tourists who come in and leave 20% because they didn't know the tip was already added to the bill

          August 9, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
        • restaurantmanners

          edpepters101 – Please enlighten me on what I have not comprehended based on what you have written in the comment above. Your stance on tipping seems pretty clear – "I would love to be able to deduct a percentage of my meal due to inconsiderate staff." So basically, what your saying is you'd like to pay less for your meal then what it is actually worth based on what you deem to be bad service... Firstly, anyone who goes on CNN and proudly admits to be being a bad tipper is someone I think anyone could justly question his/her ability to "comprehend" what good/bad service actually is. Secondly, your logic here is not accurate at all. What does the food quality have to do with service? You could have an amazing server and terrible food or terrible service and amazing food, but as far as your concerned, if you deem someone a bad server, you should pay less for the actual food then what it is worth? That's like saying you'd like to pay less for a burrito at a taco truck because the taco truck driver was rude to you. As far as comprehension goes, It looks as if your the one who needs a refresher. Lastly, I don't smoke.

          August 9, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
        • mike

          it always amazes me that some people like yourself think you deserve to be tipped. i have worked at restaurants when i was younger, and I enjoyed the tips I received, But I NEVER expected a tip, nor would I call someone cheap for not leaving one. Not in public, not in private, and not online. You tried to justify your feeling by saying the servers only make minimum wage, SO WHAT. That is what the job pays. When I worked as a server it was 4.25 an hour. Yes that is low, No you can't support a family on it or even yourself, but I TOOK THE JOB. I didn't expect anyone else to give away their hard earned money because I didn't make much.

          The price on the menu is not just for the food and preparation, it is also for the rent, and the utilities, and the napkins, and yes the hourly wages of the servers. I don't always tip, but I do tip regularly. I tip when the service was good and the server kept in contact to see to my needs. But by no means is a tip required, or automatic.

          I have been to places that charge 20% gratuity for groups larger than 5, really 5. Me, wife, 3 kids, anyone else and I have to add 20%. maybe we are taking my Mom and Dad to dinner for a birthday... that makes 7, add 20 percent. So i made two reservations for tables next two each other, the same server tended to both tables, and there was no automatic tip. My point is adding a tip based on group size is rediculous. because you will still serve the same number of people, they will just be in 1 party, or in 2 or 3 parties.

          Tipping is not a requirement, serving food does not make you a saint for doing so at minimum wage, it makes you employed. Very few professions are associated with tipping, and it is always voluntary. But go ahead and keep judging people and calling them names because they didn't tip, or don't altogether.... because you are the one that looks ungratful, with your hand out demanding something more than the paycheck you work for. Go ahead and try to make people feel bad because you feel the pay is too low, many of your customers know the pay is low, but you don't tip the guy at walmart for telling you what was on Aisle 4, and you don't tip the lady at the grocery store for letting you know the soap you are buying is buy one get one free. Many of these workers also work for minimum wage, and work just as hard with no expectation of a tip.

          Be grateful, but judgemental.

          August 9, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
        • dlwteacher

          Servers are often paid well BELOW minimum wage- many states have kept them at $2.13 per hour. The tip is by far the bulk of their income. There is virtually no other job where the customer determines the rate of pay so totally. The cook is paid by management, regardless of whether food is burned or undercooked. If they perform poorly, they may lose their job but they cannot NOT be paid for hours they are clocked in. This is true in any job- workers are not docked pay at the sole discretion of the customer who may or may not "believe" in paying for services rendered. Great! If the guest is a doctor, I will decide to dock their pay because of the long wait in the office. A lawyer? They did not get me the settlement I wanted- I will deduct money from their fee. Boy- this is really fun- the POWER!!!!!!! I see why people do not want to give up tipping. It makes them feel important. Sigh. Really?

          August 13, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
      • ORChuck

        You can. On the "tip" line on the card slip, just write a negative number and subtract it off. The manager is probably going to want to talk to you about why you felt the need to do that. But, if you have a good reason, then it's justified.

        I've only done this once. The manager listened to what I told him and then tore up the slip and comped the entire bill. On the way out, he met us with gift certificates for a return visit which was very smart on his part because it encouraged us to come back and give his establishment a second chance.

        August 9, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
        • Jay

          What would ever possess you to do something so disrespectful as to write in a negative tip? Christ. Why not, instead of being a sarcastic ass, just TALK to the manager. But no, you have to make a big drama show out of it. Provided the server didn't jump up on your table and do the Harlem Shake on your plate, I see no reason to ever go so far as you did.

          August 9, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • anahadwolves

      From my experience, a waiter or waitress who is guaranteed a tip due to the size of the party is simply sleepwalking through the service aspect of the meal. If he/she knows in advance that they will receive a 15 to 25% gratuity...regardless of their level of service...then, there is no incentive to offer great service that EARNS that automatic tip.

      Every time I or my friends have encountered that "party of six required gratuity" language on a menu, we have asked the manager to waive that mandatory charge; if he does, we stay and eat and generally will leave 25% for excellent service. If he declines, we get up and leave and never return.

      Simple as that.

      August 9, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • Woodrow

      And why would that not just be factored into the price? It sounds like you work for a restaurant that isn't run properly.

      If the owner(s) doesn't have the total cost of their meals, figuring in the 'extras', then they aren't on top of it. Thinking of charging for jelly is nuts. Personally, I just don't like surprise costs, and that makes the restaurant look cheap. If someone added $.20 for jelly I'd figure they were hinting that they didn't care about me being a customer and I wouldn't be back.

      The space, table, and utilities that I'm using is factored in. The utensils and washing of them is factored in. The wait staff, cooks, and bus service is factored in. So to think of a piece of bread and jelly as being unreasonable when, from what it sounds like, that's a common request is nutty. Time to talk to management about upping the price of the meal to cover the cost.

      August 9, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  45. SactoNana

    Folks, this is the age of the internet. And, America is a competitive place, especially in the restaurant business. I suggest some enterprising technokid set up a website providing comments from customers about eateries which have practices of charging for all these little extras that have been traditionally included in meals. Quickly enough, they will likely disappear and go out of business!

    August 9, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • ORChuck

      Ahhhhhhh... it's called Yelp.

      August 9, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
      • adam

        Seriously, who hasn't heard of Yelp?

        August 9, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • Crystal

      Have you never heard of Zagat?

      August 9, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  46. Bob

    My biggest gripe is pizza joints that charge full price for toppings that I only want on half of the pizza. So I want a pizza with half sauaage and half pepperoni. They charge for 2 toppings. It takes an extra 2 seconds to switch from putting pepperoni on the pizza to putting sausage on the other half. And it's no more difficult to cut a pizza like that.

    So I'm paying for two full toppings... Why can't they at least put twice as much on each half?

    August 9, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  47. akiko

    My parents own an Indian restaurant in NYC. They never require nor get pissed about people leaving tips or not. Nor will they add an extra 20% for people who eat there. Especially if they ever see students eating there, they give them a discount and never take tips. Here in NYC if you go to eat some places charge you extra just to sit on their chairs. I don't see why I have to tip a waitress that gives me shitty service too.

    August 9, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Pumbaa

      Indian food is superior to Chinese food but I can find Chinese food restaurants everywhere but not so for Indian. Good for them.

      August 9, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
      • SlapHappy@Pumbaa

        Both Indian and Chinese are absolute swill compared with Japanese...

        August 9, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • So.Simple

      THat's superb!! That's 'caring for the customers' And that's why they'll be successful. They know how to operate a business.

      August 9, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Palaniappan Rajaram

      It is amazing that your parents do that. But, please ask them to make sure that they are not taken advantage of. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished.

      August 10, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
  48. Chris

    This is why I don't like eating at restaurants. I always cook at home.

    August 9, 2013 at 11:33 am |
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