Free Becomes Fee at Some NYC Hot Spots

The New York Post brings you a bit of nasty news you can use: Restaurants are sneaking hidden charges onto bills to buffer their recession-battered profits.

Charges for filtered tap water, bread, butter, and takeout orders nickel-and-dime cost-sensitive customers in a way that Citysearch restaurant editor Josh Ozersky describes as “counterproductive and stupid.” One particularly outrageous incident mentioned in the story: a $3 charge for bread and an additional $2 for butter at Co.

“No cost was mentioned when bread was requested and delivered to a Post reporter last week — and a waiter refused to give a refund. ‘Bread and butter are not hidden charges,’ restaurant spokeswoman Danielle Pagano said. ‘They are both affordable menu items.’”

Way to defuse the situation; instead of acknowledging that many customers would quite sensibly regard hidden charges for bread and butter as repulsive and shocking, Pagano just sells them as “affordable menu items.”

Stealth charges are not a new phenomenon, of course; a 2006 article from Zagat details such sneaky fees as a 75-cent ding for a sprinkle of cilantro atop a dish.

For its part, Eater defended the “sneaky” restaurateurs by printing a letter by Carlos Suarez, owner of Bobo, which was lambasted in the Post article for its $1 water charge.

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