Not About Food 7

Service/billing ethics

Food Tourist | Jan 25, 200808:30 AM

Two issues arose recently. What would you think or do?

#1 Nine of us ate dinner at a Spanish tapas restaurant, in a rather dark and loud environment (live flamenco). I was asked by the guest of honour to do all the food ordering for our group. With the server's advice and help, I ordered 3 of each small dish, plus 2 cheese platters and 3 large paellas. A friend at the opposite end of the long table ordered 4 bottles of wine, and at dessert time, I told the waiter to take individual orders in case some people did not want to share or eat dessert. When the bill came, it was placed in front of my wine-ordering friend, who did the math and told everyone that we owed $96 each. The server took the money and credit cards, and returned saying that we still owed $4 which my wine friend graciously added to his bill. As I always do, I asked to keep the bill to be able to write a CH review, and once at home, I looked it over. I noticed 3 mistakes immediately: a) The serrano ham was $2 more than listed on the in-restaurant menu (so we were overcharged by $6 total) though the price we were charged matched their website menu.
b) We were charged for 4 each of five different tapas, instead of only 3. For example, instead of receiving 3 orders of octopus, we may have received and definitely were charged for 4 orders, thereby paying $9 more. (This happened with 5 different dishes all varying in price.) The reason I know for sure that I ordered 3 and that the waiter heard "3" is because we were charged for 3 (not 4) of the other tapas that were served and I was thinking the whole night, "each tapas is shared by 3 people". My friend at the opposite end of the table does not currently remember seeing 4 dishes EVER served to our table and I am just unsure as I think at one point I may have noticed 4 of the same dish arriving.
c) Finally, the 15% gratuity was automatically added, but calculated on the grand total, rather than the subtotal before taxes. (We have 5% GST, 8% PST, and 10% liquor tax, so we were required to tip on the taxes.)
We received very good service throughout the evening and would have tipped him well anyway.

Dilemma #2 - won a gift certificate for one person for a 2-hour cooking class (in a group of 10, not private class) worth $75 (or $75 towards a multi-week course or private dinner) from a previously-unheard-of cooking school/private dining company who donated it to a charity auction. The cooking school's website was not updated so I emailed the chef-owner. The chef-owner did not return my initial email inquiry and I called him about a week later to be told that he didn't yet know the winter schedule. A few months later, I checked the now-updated website. Phoned at least two weeks in advance to book a reservation for me and a friend and spoke to the chef-owner about my certificate. The friend had to reserve her spot with her credit card and she phoned the day before the class to do so. When we arrived, we were excited by the beautiful atmosphere and were greeted by two gracious servers who offered to take our coats and offered us a glass of choice of chardonnay, sauv blanc or shiraz. We were then able to seat ourselves at the cooking bar, received our glasses of sauv blanc wine, were offered water, and upon asking her "what kind of sauv blanc am I drinking?", the server then brought over the bottle of sauv blanc so I could see its name and origin (Italy). The class began once everyone else arrived. The chef explained the class outline, pointed out the washrooms, and said that a glass of wine costs $5 and that pop and water were free. Throughout the evening, the servers offered to refill our wine glasses, and we refused, hoping to save the $5 charge. We were served a 5-course meal as the class proceeded. At the end of the evening, the chef said goodbye and also reminded everyone that wine costs $5 and left the room. Nobody received a bill. Everyone was confused about the welcome glass of wine. The server was then unable to tell us if that meant our first glass was included or not, so she went to find the chef to ask. The chef-owner came back out and stared at us. So, I asked if the first glass which was so graciously offered to us on our arrival was included. He said no. When I tried to explain our confusion, he made some cold comments about how could we think wine was included in a cooking class and nobody ever includes wine in a meal. He said the wine was not included in my certificate since the value of the wine was over and above the cooking class value. Then he left again. One server, trying to be helpful and compassionate, asked if we had received a course package in advance outlining the evening. We had not. The other server then said that they didn't have change for $20 bills and not to worry about it. We gratefully left. Both of us agreed that we would have been happy to pay $5 for a glass of wine (what a deal!) if only the servers had told us (upon arrival) the price and given us a choice of pop, water or wine at the outset! It's the principle of the thing, right? When I checked their website last night, it clearly says that non-alcoholic drinks are included and that wine is also available by the glass.

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