Check the Check, Please
One night last week, three friends and I were walking around Dupont Circle searching for a reasonably priced restaurant for dinner. After all, we were four journalists on tight budgets. So we settled on Beacon Bar & Grill.
My friends Daphne and Zach opted for the chicken and penne pasta entrée which was priced at $16 on the menu. (I had the chicken salad. Our fourth dining companion had macaroni and cheese).
When the check arrived, Daphne took charge of calculating what everyone owed. “Wasn’t the pasta $16?” she asked Zach.
“Yes,” Zach responded.
“They charged us $18 each,” she said. “I know it’s only $2. It’s not a lot. I hate to make a fuss, but we shouldn’t have to pay more than what they advertised it as.”
Plus, she calculated, on a $16 entree, the $2 amounts to 12.5 percent of the price. When you add 25 percent or more for tax and tip, those couple of dollars actually end up costing you even more.
Zach called the waiter over and asked him to double-check the price.
“We are in a recession," I said. "Every dollar counts.”
The waiter returned and apologized. The price of the dish had increased, he said, but the menu had not reflected that yet. He brought us a new check with the $16 charge for the chicken and penne.
As we all threw down our credit cards and cash, we wondered how many people had ordered that dish thinking it would cost them $16, only to be charged an extra $2? How many people had even caught that mistake? I have to admit, in pre-recessionary times, I had not thought as much about money as I do now. Often, I would pay my restaurant bill without even looking at it. I think many people out there take for granted that the waiter will charge them correctly. But you shouldn’t, especially now, because it’s one of the easiest ways to lose money.
I returned to the Beacon yesterday to speak to a manager. Kamran Vakili, the food and beverage director, was happy to explain what happened. The waiter had not given us the correct explanation, he said. It turns out that the restaurant changed its menu last week, but not all the prices were programmed correctly into their computers. Two new dishes, including the chicken and penne pasta, were listed in the computers with incorrect prices for just one day, he said. “Nobody caught the error,” he said, until my friends and I showed up.
Vakili apologized and said the menu and the computers were now in synch.
The moral of the story is: Never assume you will be charged for what you’ve ordered at a restaurant. Waiters are human and make mistakes Always look at your check before you pay it.
A couple of dollars might not seem like much, but if you lose a couple of dollars every week, think of how much money you’d lose by the end of the year. That could pay for many more lunches and dinners.
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