Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Corked

Can you explain to me why a restaurant would charge a $10 corkage fee when they don't have a liquor license and don't even uncork the wine for you?

That was the story last night at Mangosteen, a new restaurant in the Tenderloin that's had a buzzy (though not boozy) opening: mostly enthusiastic reporting in the Chronicle and lots of foodie chatter.

My friend T met me there, toting a bottle of wine. I was wary, given the day's wine drinking, but I said I'd have half a glass. T asked the waitress for an corkscrew. The waitress came back with it, saying she'd have to charge us $10 for, "uh, bringing the wine."
"But you don't have a liquor license, right?" I asked.
"Right," she said.
"So it's not like we're drinking our own wine instead of drinking your wine."
"Right," she said.
"So why charge us for bringing something you don't have?"
"It's for the opening of the bottle."
"But you didn't open it for us. We opened it."
"Um, let me call my boss."

When the food arrived, we went ahead and opened the bottle, since our waitress had disappeared and we weren't getting any water. Then the bill arrived, with a $10 "appetizer" tacked on. We paid it, but for the first time in my life, I didn't leave a tip.

Looking back, I'm not sure it was the right way to handle it. The service was really bad, surcharge aside. Still, they did bring the food to the table, and probably should've gotten a token 10% just for that. It was just a lousy experience, and we were pissed off by the end.


21 comments:

Jeff said...

I don't think that restaurant has a very sound business plan. I'd like to see if they're in business in 6 months.

Aloha,

Jeff

McPolack said...

I would have paid the bill minus the ten bucks added on but might have still tipped, but then, I am a tipping softie.

Amy said...

Until last night, I've always been such a softie: 20% unless the service sucks, and then %10-%15. Once you've been a waitress yourself...
I was kinda hoping after we left that the waitresses would pocket the $10, since we paid cash.

The Creative Death said...

Understandable, I wouldn't have tipped either.

Reg said...

For a corkage charge, you should receive some sort of service, i.e. opening the bottle, providing glasses and returning to refill the glasses. I'm a server and if you charge for something the customer should get something. Just because you got your food delivered doesn't mean you have to leave a tip. Bad service equals bad tip. Period. Great job on the blog!

Maier said...

You did the right! Thanks god, we don't have such problems in Germany.

Liz said...

Amy- Thanks for posting this experience. I'm a softie too, and I'm also on a budget, so when I go out I want everything to be perfect. Or at least really good.
Their version of "customer service" just plain does not scan and rather than condone it by tipping as generously as you usually do, you let them know you were not pleased and that is permissable.

Liz said...

Question (sorry, thought I could add on, but apparently not) how was the food?
(By the way, they didn't bring or offer water? Is that a Cali thing?)

Salbert said...

I had an experience like that in St. Augistine, Florida. I was charged for something I didn't order. Bad service too. I think it will be in business no more than 4 1/2 months.

Amy said...

Hi Liz-

Oh, I forgot to mention the food. It was good, actually. Nothing on the level of, say Slanted Door, but we had an appetizer and 2 entrees, and all were good.

As for the water, we did ask for it right away; they just didn't bring it until we asked a 2nd time halfway through the meal.

Thanks for weighing in, everybody! It's great to hear some other perspectives.

Mona said...

Wow, that's pretty ridiculous. It'd be one thing if you were drinking your own wine vs. their wine..but NOT EVEN in this case?!?! That's one for the record books, and I totally understand how you were pissed off. I would have been too!

S said...

Wow! I think you did the right thing by not leaving a tip...I wouldn't have. It sounds like the service sucked & I can't believe you they would charge you $10 for bringing your own wine. And if that was really their policy then why would it say "appetizer" on your receipt. Sometimes I think restaraunts/servers will do anything to make a few extra bucks. Twice I left a tip only to have the waitress alter it! And I always leave 20% unless it's terrible service!

M.S. Wells said...

Hmm, yeah that's definitely a rip-off. Lots of hotels in Cali do that too, like how the 4 Seasons Beverly Hills charges everyone for parking, even if they don't have a car. Check out my blog, it's about eating!

Dianka said...

I can't believe that! I would definitely do the same, NO tip. That's just unacceptable.

lol said...

Why even go to restaurants that don't serve wine?

Crazy Gypsy said...

Personally I think that's what tipping is about. We tip in situations where personal service matters but where we'll have to pay even if the service is lousy. Having worked in restaurants quite a bit in my younger years, I'm generally both generous and patient, but I definitely would have deducted the $10 from the tip in this kinda case!

bulemic said...

Having personally had the experience of working at a restaurant I will tell you that the waitstaff has absolutely fuck-all to do with the way in which the restaurant is run. We have to do all the crazy shit out managers require, keep track of the needs of everyone in our section simultaneously and every so often, attempt to explain to customers such as yourself why our managers make us do stupid shit like charging a $10 corkage fee. It's not our fault, I swear. We don't care if you open a fucking bar at your table as long as you plan on tipping us well. We try to do our best to make your dining experience pleasant, and sometimes, we're just having a really shitty night. We're sorry. But unless your waiter/waitress/busser is ACTIVELY unkind to you, remember that they get typically get paid around $2.63 an hour and if you don't tip them, they may not be able to eat/pay rent. Please consider this before not leaving a tip. Waitstaff do not have pleasant jobs, they are on their feet during their entire work day and their entire livelihood is depended on their manager's and customers' sanity or lack thereof. Be kind.

bulemic said...

plus, your waitress probably didn't bring you water because she was so embarressed that her boss was making her charge you $10 for absolutely nothing that she hid her face in the kitchen the rest of the meal.

Clay Court said...

You did the right thing. Our recent experience was at a well known establishment for which we were given a gift certificate. The establishment charged us a 10% gift cerficate processing fee. On the bill I wrote "tip processing fee" and reduced the tip by the restaurant's fee. I then reported the restaurant to the Consumer Protection Department. That type of behavior is unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

I know some people who would have stolen $10 worth of stuff from the restaurant, done $10 worth of vandalism, or picketed in front of the place for a few hours warning people not to eat there.

IncognitoJoe said...

Tough call on the tip thing. In my opinion, if you get bad service, they get no tip!

They can take the $10"appetizer" charge and use that for a tip.

Speaking of tips, thanks for the heads up, I'll be sure not to take my business there!