Hot Water Please – Part 1

Not too long ago, I brought my parents to a well known restaurant and bakery chain and what a surprising experience we had.

A casual night out

It was a Saturday night about 9:00PM and my parents just arrived at the airport. Searching for a quick bite to eat, we soon realized nearly every restaurant along the airport strip was packed due to the Anime convention in town. There was only one restaurant left to check and sure enough the family restaurant down the road had empty seats.

Upon arrival, we were greeted and seated quickly. As usual, my parents requested hot water and lemon as their choice of beverage while my wife and I shared a pot of coffee. Soon after, we placed our orders; a seafood platter, a fish hoagie for my wife and a tilapia and cod dinner for my parents.

9:30PM. No food yet!

Thank goodness my parents were there to fill in the 30 minute waiting time with conversation. I was surprised our food was out yet, so my wife decided to speak to the manager. Two minutes later, our food came out. So I waved across the restaurant signaling for my wife to return. No apology was given for the wait time, but at that point, we really didn’t care and just wanted to eat. Forty-five minutes later, we were done and decided to get the check.

Arrival of the bill

My father insisted he would pay for the dinner. Now just to tell you briefly about my father, he is far sighted and his eyes are getting worst. I saw him squinting at the check and slowly moving his head side to side reviewing each item.

Then suddenly he blurts out, “I can’t believe they charged us for water.”

Oh boy, here we go again; my father must have read the check wrong. I took the check from him and there it was on the very top in clear print; $4.40 for hot water. I couldn’t believe it. Was this some joke? There was not a chance I was going to pay for hot water. I quickly spotted our waiter and pointed out what believed to be an error.

The short slender waiter looked at me with a face that said it all. It was not an error, it was true. The waiter said he could do nothing about it, but admitted it was wrong to charge customers for hot water. He recommended speaking to the manager which I did.

A conversation with the manager

I went to the front of the restaurant and found the manager sitting down watching TV in a separate partitioned room. A bit odd which also was a sign of poor service? Interrupting him, I jokingly questioned about the charge in way to confirm it was an error of some sort. He said,

“No Sir that is correct.”

“Are you kidding me? I asked. You have to be joking to charge $4.40 for two cups of hot water. My parents didn’t even order any tea!”

“I’m sorry sir, this is our corporate policy.”

“I don’t understand, why would you charge for water?”

“You would be surprised sir as to how many restaurants are charging for hot water in the city.”

“Oh really, well I haven’t heard of any. Please name me some!”

Pause……

“Well, we have to charge for hot water because as a restaurant we get charged. You know our water comes from a hot water dispenser. Each time you pull the lever we have to pay. It’s all part of operating a restaurant.”

“Whoa… Look! I come from a restaurant background and there is no way you can tell me that is the reason. I hope that it isn’t because it isn’t my problem that you can’t cover your utility bills. Look, I don’t think we should be paying for the water especially since we were not told about this policy at the beginning. Why don’t you simply tell people upfront about your policy?”

“They would get mad.”

“Well, would you rather them come up to you each time like I am doing right now?” I questioned

“Why should I tell customers we are charging for hot water? Should I tell them that ice water is free? Should I tell them that coffee is not?”

“What! What are you talking about? Obviously not! First, ice water is free and second, coffee is a product I am purchasing. I think you are missing the point. Ok, fine you have a policy, but the least you can do is either place fine print in the menu or to actually inform the customer when hot water is ordered. So in this case, because we were not informed, I think the charge should be removed.”

“Sorry sir, that is our policy and I can’t do anything about it. I understand you are not happy as I would feel the same way. I am just following orders from corporate office. I have no control over the policy.”

“I understand that you may not have any control of the policy, but you can do something about this bill. You obviously have a staff training and management problem. In fact, if you wanted to charge me $10 for hot water and I really wanted it, I would pay for it as long I was informed about it. Well if that’s how you want to deal with it, I guess I will have to leave it at that.”

We quickly paid for the bill and left in a hurry. This was not the end of it. In most situations, I would normally forget about the problem, but this time I just had to take it to the next level.

Image credit: andybutkaj

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8 Responses to “Hot Water Please – Part 1”

  1. Richard Says:

    Good on you for standing up for consumer rights. I can’t wait to hear Part 2.

  2. Joy Says:

    I’ve never been billed for hot water. That’s awful. I’ll be waiting for part 2!

  3. LadySkyeFyre Says:

    What a terrible experience.

  4. Mr. Cheap Says:

    I’ve been charged for water a couple of times, and it makes me FURIOUS.

  5. ME Says:

    I dunno…you seem like you’ve got a stick up ur bum…sorry

  6. whatever Says:

    you can’t just expect things to be free. i saw four people today, sit down in a nice cafe, and only order 4 glasses of tap water, no intention of eating whatsoever. that’s bad enough, but imagine had they asked for hot water with coffee mugs, lemon, sugar etc… yeah, pay up, there’s no free lunch.

  7. Joe Says:

    whatever, it’s obvious that the 4 ppl were taking advantage. But what if the 4 ppl ordered a $100 meal? Would you expect the water to be free then?

  8. Weekend Reading - June 20, 2008 | Million Dollar Journey Says:

    [...] The Restaurant Blogger was dining out with his family one evening and his bill included a $4.40 charge for hot water! What would you do? Would you let it pass? Find out what The Restaurant Blogger did in his article “Hot Water Please.” [...]

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