An article has turned up on Huffington Post called “5 Ways Restaurants Get You To Spend More Money.” It was actually only a partial list that was culled together from another website called The Daily Meal, but since Huffington Post is the one that’s getting more attention, I want to focus on their version of the article. It was written by Dan Myers and here he is on Twitter if you want to tell him hello (Tell him The Bitchy Waiter sent you!). The first sentence that alerts me to the ridiculousness of the article is this one: “Restaurants bilk unsuspecting customers out of their hard-earned cash nearly every time they sit down…” News flash: restaurants are a business and they are there to make money. If you think going to a restaurant is the same thing as going to a food pantry or soup kitchen, you’re dead wrong. A restaurant is not a charity and the servers are not volunteering their time. Everyone working at the restaurant is there for one reason and one reason alone: to make money. We don’t wait tables because it fills a void in our otherwise empty lives or because we always grew up wanting to serve food, we do it because it pays us money.
Shall I reiterate the five ways Dan thinks we are “bilking” customers?
- “I would recommend the 2006…” The article says that customers are too embarrassed to order the cheapest bottle of wine on the menu so they order the second least expensive bottle which has oft times been marked up higher than it should be. Why is that wrong? If the customer wants to make sure they aren’t overpaying for a bottle, then look it up on your damn smartphone that you insist on leaving on the table, see how much it is and make an educated decision. Or just embrace your cheapness and order the bottle that costs the least. I don’t see how this is any different than a department store raising the price of a pair of jeans one week just so they can offer at 10% off the next.
- More Sneaky Wine Tricks. In my decades of waiting tables, I have never once done what they suggest we might do, which is bring the customer a cheaper bottle of wine and hope they don’t notice. I have also never lied to a customer telling them that we are out of the wine they wanted but I instead offered a similar bottle that is a lot more expensive. I don’t know any server who would do that. Sure, I might lie that the cappuccino machine is broken because I already cleaned it, but that’s not making you spend more money, is it? If you noticed that the server brought you a less expensive bottle of wine than you paid for, you have every right to be pissed off about it, but I resent that the article implies that we do that it all the time. Bullshit.
- Power Positioning. “Restaurants design their menu with a goal of ripping off their customers.” Of course the restaurant is going to highlight the items that are more profitable than others. That isn’t sneaky, that’s called advertising and it’s not “ripping off customers.” It isn’t any different than the grocery store putting cereals and candy on the lower shelves so they are eye-level for kids. Any business that is trying to make money is going to do whatever they can to make a profit. It’s how successful businesses are run.
- “Would you be interested in any appetizers or side dishes?” Oh, so restaurants are the only ones who suggestively sell? Why don’t I see an article anywhere about The Gap and how every damn time I’m in there buying a pair of jeans they try to sell me some new fucking socks? I also see no article about T-Mobile and how when I went to buy a new phone they made sure to tell me about the protective carrying case, the ear buds, the extra battery and the insurance plan. The restaurant is there to make money, so if you don’t want something that your server is suggesting you buy, here is how you avoid having it added to your bill: you say, “No, thank you.”
- “Gratuity has been already added…” Yes, some places are going to add the gratuity, especially for a large party. New laws have passed, so it’s not as likely to happen as often as it once did. If the menu says the tip will be added for large parties and it is clearly added onto your bill and the tip line says “additional gratuity,” whose responsibility is it to know that the tip has been added? The customer, that’s who. If the customer is too drunk or distracted to read a bill and ends up tipping extra, then it’s a bonus for the server. Of course, there is always the chance that three days later that customer will finally look over his receipt and then return to the restaurant with his tail between his legs and ask for that $20 back. The gratuity is not added to scam money from customers, it’s added to protect the server from having his section full all night with a 13-top who decides to leave a 5% tip.
This article is so full of shit and the writer thinks he has cracked some code that no one knew about. For instance, he wants you to pay close attention to the way the server treats you the next time you go to a restaurant. “Odds are they’ll be chummy, like an old friend, trying to help you navigate your way through the menu and order the best food you can. But don’t be fooled: you’re just a paying customer.” No shit, Sherlock, I don’t think any customer thinks otherwise. They know I don’t want to be their friend; it’s as obvious as my Chardonnay breath. I wonder how my tip would be if I treated the customer like a piece of crap? Hmmm, probably not so great, so I’d better be chummy instead. Genius!
This article is just one more example of someone who knows nothing about the food service industry, but is trying to write about the food service industry. Nice try, Dan Myers, but please try again.