Service of Perks Denied

August 28th, 2023

Categories: Bonus, Hotels, Perk, Restaurant

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.

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17 Responses to “Service of Perks Denied”

  1. EAM Said:

    CVS will no longer give you a bag unless you ask for one and same for Barnes & Noble. I do not think there should be any charge for condiments (unless maybe it’s Truffle butter).

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    EAM,

    Most stores charge for bags these days. I think if the bag has the business’s logo or name on it, there should be no charge as the customer becomes a walking billboard for the brand.

    I agree re. condiments that usually go with food. Steak sauce is a good example. My word.

  3. lucrezia Said:

    I don’t look for perks, so can’t complain. I don’t drink water with meals but will ask my favorite deli owners if they charge, and if so why. Any reply should be interesting.

  4. Dawn Gour Said:

    A few days ago, I was sharing with a friend of mine how some benefits of the good old days have changed in the modern world, especially credit card rewards or points, free refills for coffee and soda, and being charged for bread that is not artisan.

    The hotel check-in / check-out timing does make sense since housekeeping has very limited time to clean up people’s messes and get the rooms ready for the next guest. Most hotels do get fully booked during the summer months and don’t always have the flexibility to check in earlier than 4:00 p.m. However on a recent vacation, I called the front desk to politely ask if it was possible since I was exhausted from a long trip. Guess what? I was able to check in early at no extra charge.

    It depends on the owners and how they value repeat business and customer experience, to be willing to go the extra mile.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    I suggest we take perks for granted until they disappear. If you’re used to getting a free second cup of coffee or of soda or basket of bread with dinner you may notice if you see a charge on your bill. If it happens and you expect it, you might not notice.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Dawn,

    Marketers are sheep. Once something becomes a trend, such as charging for early or late check-ins, many jump on board. How is it that guests were not charged before? When we went abroad on vacations every year, I remember aching for a nap due to jetlag waiting for 2:30-3:00 p.m. check-in at some hotels and being shown to our rooms on our arrival at others. There was a room or there wasn’t.

    While usually easily bamboozled, I can be cynical. For example, we read and hear of worker shortages in certain industries, such as hospitality. I maintain that some restaurants and hotels are taking advantage of this and are not hiring perfectly appropriate candidates to keep expenses in check and telling their customers that service is slow due to the shortage. So the “perk” of good service goes out the window.

  7. Debbie Kunen Said:

    Debbie on Facebook: small businesses are monetizing wherever and whenever they can . . . many businesses are now adding a fee to cover the fees THEY PAY to use credit & debit cards. Cash is making a comeback. Buyer beware!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Debbie,

    Often a business protects itself by asking for a minimum purchase in order to use a credit card and I think that is fair because the credit card people charge them a lot especially if they don’t have a high volume of orders so they can’t negotiate a better rate.

    I have also been asked for cash instead of using a credit card, which I think is illegal especially if the tax isn’t added.

  9. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: Extra fees for using a credit card. Crazy and annoying.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Linda,

    I don’t remember when I stopped carrying much cash. When it happened, I thought the transition–and I’m not alone–must be hard on beggars as they are asking for something people no longer have much of with them.

    There are cashless businesses which, I guess, may be because they don’t want to be held up.

    I like using my credit card as much as possible for an obvious reason: At the end of a month, I know what I’ve spent and where.

  11. Merry Mabbett Dean Said:

    Merry on Facebook: Parowan is a small southern Utah town of just over 3,000. We are at the base of Brian Head ski resort so we get people coming through. So have 7 restaurants. One serves Mexican and traditional but charges for chips and salsa. I am not sure they understand that for Mexican most go to the other because one can have refills of the chips and salsa for free. Also not sure about being asked about tip for pick up and take out.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Merry,

    I’m surprised that the restaurant that charges for chips and salsa–that also arrive free at your table in every Mexican restaurant I’ve been to in NYC–doesn’t notice the line outside the competition (if there is one). That said, following in the footsteps of the restaurants who charge extra for bread, I wouldn’t be surprised if a charge for chips and salsa isn’t in the works.

    Drives me nuts when I’m asked for a tip when someone has popped a few muffins or croissants in a bag. We easily pay $4 each for the goodies…. Jeanne to the owners of these bakeries: “add a quarter and pay your staff a decent wage.”

  13. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: I’m too cynical to give cash to street beggars so that’s not an issue for me. And NYS law requires so-called cashless businesses to accept cash. I recently had a costly, unexpected AC repair and don’t keep that much cash at home. Credit card fee added up!

  14. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Linda,

    Wow—so you were charged $X for the repair and because you didn’t have cash on hand the repair person added a fee?

  15. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: Precisely. And same thing with hot water heater replacement, which hasn’t happened yet but I was forewarned about if paying by credit card. Presumably it helps cover fee vendor pays to credit card company, but still annoying to me/customer.

    I’ve also recently noticed more and more restaurants and food places offering discounts for cash payments. Owners really don’t like paying fees to credit card companies.

  16. Nancie Steinberg Said:

    Nancie on Facebook: Btw, restaurants in southern states think we are nuts in the East for not giving free refills of drinks like soda and lemonade/iced tea like they do! At $4/$5 a pop (no pun intended)I think refills should be implemented here too.

  17. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Nancie,

    If you are well known at a NYC restaurant some do give seconds on iced tea I’ve noticed. Not soda I suspect.

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