Prices, Please 

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A few weeks ago, restaurant owners, waitstaffs and diners nationwide were abuzz about New York Times writer Bruce Buschel’s “You’re the Boss” columns listing “100 Things Restaurant Owners Should Never Do.” Buschel, who is in the process of creating his own restaurant, did a terrific job, giving discerning diners some righteous vindication and no doubt raising the ire of more than a few restaurant owners.

In the midst of all the buzz about the columns, I was jolted back to my more assertive self by an incident involving Buschel’s “Bad service item number 64: Specials, spoken and printed, should always have prices.”

When an otherwise excellent server at a popular Italian restaurant offered dessert and proceeded to recite a few tempting options without mentioning prices, we simply said, “OK,” and ordered one innocent little dish of pistachio gelato and two spoons. When the check arrived, the single serving of gelato rang in at $11.50. Ouch. I could have been politely assertive and asked the price when the waiter recited the dessert choices. But should I have to? Absolutely not.

Diners should have zero tolerance for restaurant owners who coach servers to put us (and them) in that unnecessary and uncomfortable position. It happens at far too many restaurants—usually when it comes to entrée specials. They always cost a bit more; that’s why they’re special. But why the evasive tactics?

For the heck of it, and for some more gelato, I checked out Dolcetti Gelato and found that an entire, tightly packed pint of its artisan-quality pistachio gelato could be had for a mere $9. Of course, it’s not all about the price. By not offering the prices of select menu items, written or verbally, a restaurant speaks volumes about its basic integrity and respect for its customers.

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Virginia Rainey

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