General Discussion

Wanting prices for "Specials"- tacky? or insulting?


General Discussion 52

Wanting prices for "Specials"- tacky? or insulting?

Chris VR | Apr 17, 2002 10:19 AM

In a discussion of the "water scam" on the Boston board (link below), the topic of waiters giving the price on specials came up.

JMW said "Regarding specials, I find it tacky to say the price, UNLESS it is outside the range of the regular menu items. For example, where I work entress run from $28-42 and specials usully from $32-38, right in the middle, so there is no need to discuss price, which I believe to be poor form in a fine dining situation."

And Winemark said "to many diners, particularly at a place like the Federalist, the idea of saying what a special costs is insulting. If you are at a place like that you know ahead of time that you are going to spend some dough. Ask yourself this question, when a wait person offers you coffee at the end of a meal do you ask how much it costs?"

I am a bit taken aback by these two statements... I am somewhat price conscious, and when I look at the menu, I also look at prices. Not that I wouldn't order an expensive item, but I want to make sure that what I'm ordering is worth (to me) what I'm paying. And when I hear the specials (90% of the time without prices) I always ask the price of whatever sounds interesting to me so I can make the same assessment. I guess that makes me tacky. I'm certainly never insulted when the waiter gives the price... I just see it as part of the information on the special, and nothing to be ashamed of. But then, I'm pretty secure with myself and not afraid that the server or my dining companions will look down on me for asking the price. Often, after I ask, others at the table will ask the prices of other specials, as if they were afraid to ask and now that I've opened the door they can ask too.

It seems that, with not telling specials' prices, servers are playing on the same vanities in the diner that they are playing with the water scam. Diners are afraid of looking cheap, or want to impress their companions, so they grin and bear it when then get pricey bottled water when they really wanted the free tap water. Same with the specials. If the diner has to ask, they risk looking cheap. The whole thing seems to contribute to the adversarial experience that terryc mentions in the first post about the Federalist.

But maybe I'm in the minority here, and the server is just trying to make the dining experience more refined, which means that money is a crass, gauche topic that will mar the fine dining experience. And when I ask, I ruin the effect. Oh well, I can live with that...

So I'm curious- do you think specials prices should be discussed? Or is that insulting/tacky?


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