Archive for the ‘Restaurant’ Category

Service of Junk Fees Galore: Did You Want Wheels with That Car?

Monday, June 24th, 2024

This post about junk fees and transparent pricing is a cousin of the one I wrote recently, “Service of the More You Pay, the Less You Get—in Sneaky Ways,” and of another one I wrote in February, 2022, “Service of Irritating Add-On Charges.” In the former I wrote about expensive stationery and socks with cheap envelopes without glue and holes after a few months, respectively. In February I mention airline and digital news subscription surcharges as well as exorbitant charges for popcorn and drinks at movie houses.

Marisa Lagos wrote on npr.org: “In July, a new state law in California will require businesses to disclose all costs up front — a ban on so-called ‘junk fees’ on everything from hotel rooms, to concert tickets, to restaurant food.” California has always been ahead of the pack.

Here are my observations.

Isn’t the Interest from My Money Enough?

I have a savings account at a retail bank but no other account there. I was charged $10 for the clerk to cut me a check.

Include it With the Prayers, Please

I am having a mass said for a friend’s mother who is recovering from a terrible accident. I’ve ordered these from Catholic churches all over the place, mostly after someone has died, but for the first time, I had to pay extra for a mass [card to send my friend].

Charge Less for Seconds and Use a Bigger Glass

This example would have been a better fit for the February post. At a pricey Manhattan restaurant, at lunch, I was charged full price for each of four iced teas served in tiny glasses. The same week, also at lunch, at a Hoboken, N.J. restaurant, we were offered free second glasses of soda. The first glass was a nice size. Good for them!

Pass the Bread

Some restaurants no longer serve bread unless you ask for it and often, there’s a charge for what came with the meal in the past.

Two Tickets, Please, Drop or Reduce the Fee

When I take up an organization’s invitation to attend an event, and I sign up online, I resent being charged a juicy surprise fee when I’ve done all the work—chosen the seat, printed the e-ticket.

Fees and Taxes Sneak Up on You

Somehow a $1.49 bottle of water bought at a drugstore on a boiling hot day cost well over $2.00 due to the bottle fee and tax.

Have you been hit with charges that, like wheels on a car, should come with what you’ve bought?

Service of Comping—Yes, or No?

Thursday, May 9th, 2024

You be the judge in these instances which could go either way: To comp or not?

You have costly theater or concert tickets and your companion can’t come at the last minute. If you ask a friend or acquaintance to take his/her place, do you expect the person to pay for their seat or should they get a freebie?

You’re producing a networking event, with speaker, in elegant surroundings, serving Dom Pérignon and catered nibbles. Based on RSVPs in hand, you’re concerned that not enough people will come to duly honor the speaker, so you plead with some members to attend. They normally pay for membership as well as for each event. Do you comp or charge the ones who are doing you a favor by attending?

Your kitchen was slow in food prep and the waitstaff was thrown off its game. Service plummeted. As a restaurateur do you offer free desserts/after dinner drinks to the guests who were impacted, simply apologize or don’t mention anything?

Where do you stand on comping others or being comped? Can you share other examples?

Service of Cancellation Fees

Monday, March 18th, 2024

The New York Times ran a recent article by T.M. Brown, “When Canceling Your Reservation Costs as Much as Dinner.”

I’d addressed one restaurant reservation reminder run amok in “Service of Follow Ups and Reminders.” I’d received daily notices a few days prior—as though I was scheduled for brain surgery–and then “You have half an hour to arrive at XYZ.” I was so turned off. I didn’t appreciate the pressure and arrived in a grumpy mood.

I guess these irritating reminders aren’t enough. The subhead of Brown’s article was: “Fed up with no-shows and last-minute cancellations, restaurants are increasingly charging fees as high as $100 a head. And some diners are pushing back.”

According to the reporter, one man cancelled his reservation 23½ hours before his wife’s birthday dinner because their son was in the emergency room. He protested the $200 fee they charged his credit card.

Brown wrote that according to one reservation service, cancellations jumped from at least one in 4 percent of participating restaurants in January 2019 to 13 percent in 2023 and this year, 17 percent. Another reported “that 28 percent of Americans surveyed admitted to not showing up for a reservation in the last year.”

Fees range from $10 to $50+ per person wrote Brown. Some managers charge “on a case-by-case basis.”

Does it make you want to avoid restaurants like this? Have you forgotten to cancel a restaurant reservation, or, for that matter, a doctor or hairstylist appointment? Were you charged a fee?

Service of a Perfect Evening Enhanced by Stellar Customer Service

Monday, March 11th, 2024

Great service turned a wonderful evening into a spectacular one.

It began with an excellent dinner at Fiorella’s, an enormous, popular restaurant across from Lincoln Center that’s hopping with happy patrons especially before performances. It nevertheless serves excellent food and provides professional, top-notch service.

Next we went to hear the Quartetto di Cremona at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in Alice Tully Hall. The two violinists, a cellist and violist chose to play pieces by Dmitri Shostakovich, Osvaldo Golijov and Franz Schubert.

The Italian town of Cremora, known for producing fine violins, is in Lombardy, on the Po River’s left bank, 85 miles from Milan. One of the violins played by the musicians, a Cremona, was made in 1640. The other instruments were made in different Italian cities and dated from 1680 to 1758. But I digress.

As Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 8 began, I asked myself, “what tip did I leave the waiter?” followed by the realization that I’d not signed the check, that my credit card remained in the folder and my heart sank.

I dashed out of Alice Tully Hall during intermission and asked the guard to remember me and let me in again. He laughed and reassured me that there would be no problem.

I sprinted back to Fiorella’s, the host opened a drawer with a bunch of credit cards, and there was mine between an American Express Gold Card and a silver card of some sort. The host found the waiter who had the check, I added a tip—I was upset about this omission as well–and hurried back to Lincoln Center. The restaurant was clearly used to lamebrain customers like me and were not concerned that they had been stiffed.

At the end of the concert, after a standing ovation, we started to descend the stairs towards an exit when an usher rushed over to say that there would be one—maybe two—encores. If we left the auditorium, he said, we couldn’t get back in. The quartet’s choice of Puccini was divine. We were grateful to the proactive usher.

We learned something on the 68th Street crosstown bus where a bunch of us, who had exited Lincoln Center, started to speak. One woman kept referring to her “group.” We asked her “what group were you with?” She explained that she was an usher and that each usher is responsible for a portion of the concert hall. That explained why “our” usher raced down the stairs to inform us of the encore. She also told us why we enjoyed only one. “You didn’t clap vigorously enough!” She debunked what a coat check staffer told us—that there was only five minutes left according to union rules so it didn’t leave enough time for more music. She said, “They don’t know anything.”

Do you rejoice when perfect service enhances a flawless evening? Does it happen often?

Service of It’s Dinner Time

Thursday, February 22nd, 2024

We ate dinner at 7 or 8 PM when I grew up and because of work schedules, I segued into similar timing in my own home, inching up to 9 PM on many a night. A bonus: Once he retired, my husband became a spectacular cook.

The pandemic has changed countless habits one of which is the time many white-collar city workers–who are not on a strict nine to five track–eat dinner. Restaurants acknowledge the change: Six PM is the new 7:00 or 8:00 PM crush for reservations in NYC as the city–famous for being insomniac–discovers sleep.

Thanks to the saved commuter time I suspect remote workers who didn’t get home from work until 7 or 8 PM, eat earlier these days too.

I wonder if the time change has altered the dinner table menu. Is less pizza and Chinese ordered in? Are there more home cooked meals? Has your dinner hour changed too?

Service of When “No” Doesn’t Need to be “No”

Thursday, February 15th, 2024

Image of bar stool by Daria Nepriakhina from Pixabay

A rule stickler

An out-of-town acquaintance in her 50s went to a favorite restaurant in NYC near her hotel.  It was late and the moderately expensive restaurant wasn’t full. She asked the hostess if she could sit at a table and the 20-something told her that because she was alone, she could either sit at the bar or in the lounge. She chose the bar even though she doesn’t drink.

She returned for dinner the next night asking a different hostess, an older woman, if she could sit at the bar and the woman asked, “would you prefer to sit at a table?” Hmmm.

Administrator will determine when your appointment will be–not you

At almost the same time another friend got a call that his imminent cataract surgery was rescheduled for a month away. He wanted it over with. He tried to persuade the receptionist to do better. “Not possible,” she said.

During his lunch break he walked over to the doctor’s office and one of the technicians measured his eye and did the pre-op procedure and rescheduled him for two weeks away. He learned that something had come up for the doctor the day he was originally to be operated on.

Is a declaration of “no” and inflexibility a sign of power for some? Do you push back when you hear “no?” Has “no” turned to “yes” more times than not?

Service of Can You Believe This Still Happens? Women Treated Like Second Class Citizens in Restaurants

Thursday, September 7th, 2023

After all the work to secure–and publicity to foster–gender neutrality in the workplace you’d think that some of the fairy dust would have landed in restaurant culture in a city like New York. Apparently, it hasn’t.

A friend who eats out three to five times a week brought to my attention something I’ve noticed on occasion: Women are still treated like second-class citizens in some restaurants.

Just as we were finishing our delicious meal last week, we told the waiter we wanted to bring home what we couldn’t eat. We subsequently overheard a man at an adjacent table say the same thing. We were handed containers to fill with our leftovers. His plate was taken away and the unfinished food was placed in a container–and in a shopping bag–for him.

Ironically, my friend had just shared her experience at a restaurant last week where she was meeting friends—all women. They were ushered to a terrible spot and they asked for another table. Two seats at the second table faced a giant, ugly blank wall. They asked for a third. The host was annoyed and told them—when they asked–that the better tables were for people with reservations. My friend piped up, “I have a reservation!” This doesn’t happen when she’s with her husband.

I had the same experience years ago at a restaurant I’d frequented often with my husband—and never returned after being seated in Siberia next to the bathrooms when celebrating a friend’s birthday without him. I thought we were over this discrimination against female customers behavior especially now that so many of us have expense accounts.

Is such bias a thing of the past where you live or eat or is it alive and thriving?

Service of Perks Denied

Monday, August 28th, 2023

This restaurant charges for [very tasty] bread.

The custom of offering free coffee, iced tea or soda refills has never been universal and differs between communities and restaurants but I’ve always enjoyed it when it happens. In 2010 in “Service of Bonuses” on this blog I remembered books of Lifesavers sent to my mother at Christmas time because she was a stockholder. I’ve never received any goodies from corporations in which I hold stock.

And who doesn’t love encores at a concert?

In The Wall Street Journal Dawn Gilbertson wrote “This Hotel Perk Used to Be Free. Not Anymore. Visitors wanting to check in early or check out late are surprised to find they have to pay up.” It can cost from $25-$150 depending on the venue, she reported.

One of my friends goes nuts when she’s charged for a cup of tap water and ice after she’s bought a substantial number of sandwiches and chips at a deli.

Restaurants used to provide a basket of bread and butter or olive oil with a meal. In many NYC restaurants you must now ask—and pay for—bread and even extra sauce.

Five years ago Beth Landman wrote “The most outrageous restaurant overcharges,” in the New York Post. There’s a notation that the article was updated since 2018 but it doesn’t specify when. Still, you get the idea. She reported:

  • $12 for freshly grated wasabi at Tetsu
  • $2 for a [homemade] marshmallow on hot chocolate at City Bakery
  • $9 per person for bottled water at the Pool
  • $3 for steak sauce at BLT Prime
  • $6 to $7 for bread and butter

My credit card rewards seem to have shrunk while my charges have increased.

Have you noticed that you are now paying for things that once were free?

According to a customer review on Yelp, The Smith offers both still and sparkling water free of charge.

Service of Custom-Made Fast Food at Pain Quotidien

Monday, May 15th, 2023

On my way to pick up a friend who had a few pulled teeth and surgery on her jaw requiring anesthesia, I remembered how she liked the yogurt at Le Pain Quotidien. She didn’t realize what she was in for. The day before she suggested that after the procedure we have tea at this, her favorite place. Knowing we’d not be going for tea after such an ordeal I didn’t want to alarm her, so I said “sure.”

Dashing in to buy some—a last minute thought because there’s very little that she will eat under any circumstance, soft or not–I stopped when I saw the granola on top. I knew that granola would be an insurmountable hurdle for her that day and probably that week. As luck would have it, a young man—Martin–was adding sandwiches and straightening the offerings at the branch on Third Avenue and 44th Street.

This isn’t a deli where the counterman or woman can leave out the onions in a salad or add mustard and mayo to a roll or slice of rye. Salads and sandwiches are made to grab and go. I hesitated to bother Martin and am glad I did. Turns out he is a chef. I asked if it would be possible to remove the granola and explained why. He agreed about the circumstances and didn’t hesitate. He said he’d have to ask the manager about the price and disappeared in the back.

Minutes later he returned with just what I’d requested.

I’m not a fussy eater and have never asked for an adjustment in an establishment like this. I was happily surprised at how accommodating Martin was. Do you have similar examples of custom treatment at a fast-food restaurant?

Service of Kismet or It’s a Small World

Thursday, May 4th, 2023

A friend who, like me, doesn’t answer a phone call from an unknown name or number, did one day. Long story short, the person on the other end of the line became his girlfriend.

Last weekend I went to a smashing performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” produced by The Blue Hill Troupe. It was magnificent. Founded in 1924, the troupe’s mission is to create enjoyable theater performances for New Yorkers and make money for NYC charities. Members range in age from 21 to 100 and they put on two shows a year. So many actors want to participate that they had two for every major part—the chorus stayed the same– and divided up the performances.

As I arrived early, I spoke with the woman next to me who was there to see her son perform. After a few minutes it was clear she wasn’t from these parts so I asked her where she lived and she said New Hampshire. I mumbled that my stepdaughter lives in New Hampshire. Turns out this woman is the postmaster of that town, population 1,600.

But that’s not all.

There was a two-page spread in the playbill featuring troupe member pets—dogs, cats and a bird [photo below]. I mentioned that I was charmed by it and we began to speak about pets. She said that her son, who lives on the Upper West Side, had taken her to The Black Lab Café for breakfast. Here dogs bring their human partners for coffee and light refreshment. It’s also a great place for those without dogs who long for one to pat or scratch behind the ears. Most four-legged guests play along. Guess what? My New Hampshire-based stepdaughter had sent me a gift card to this café where I recently enjoyed afternoon tea with a friend! According to thecookingworld.com NYC has some 27 thousand restaurants. Some coincidence–right?

Do you have any memorable examples of kismet or evidence of how small our world can be?

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