To think that if you are going to charge a pound for a mug of hot water, you should make it clear?

(233 Posts)
pussycatwillum Wed 17-Jul-13 09:50:15

Yesterday I went out for lunch with a group of old ladies. One of them only ever drinks hot water. The waitress provided this for her. We then had lunch and asked for the bill.
The mug of hot water was charged at one pound.
The lady concerned was a) not happy to be asked to pay so much, although she did concede that she would have happily paid 50p as presumably they do have overheads to pay.
b) cross that nowhere on the menu was it mentioned and the waitress did not say 'There will be a charge of a pound for that, madam' which would have given her the chance to say no.
So was she being unreasonable?
It was at a place I have been to lots of times and when I mentioned that she wasn't happy the waitress immediately deducted the charge, but I think this was to avoid a scene.
Is it reasonable to charge for hot water, and is one pound a reasonable amount?

weisswusrt Wed 17-Jul-13 09:58:40

When I was at college, they only charged 5p for hot water, but when they saw I had bought my own herbal tea bags they upped the price to the same as tea or coffee! Just out of spite.

We started charging for hot water as we used to get elderly ladies coming in and ordering a pot of tea then asking for hot water and making more brews in the teapot. A few even used to bring their own teabags. They'd be sat at the table for hours for free when we were turning customers away who wanted to order food and eat it in the cafe. Tbh we very rarely ending up charging for hot water. It was more of a deterrent.

Birnamwood Wed 17-Jul-13 10:03:08

They should charge a small fee to cover overheads, but £1? That's ridiculous angry

My local shitty, extortionate soft play charges £1.40 for a slice of dry toast shock I can buy two loaves for that in my local shop!

Its not spite weiss. They have a business to run.

starfishmummy Wed 17-Jul-13 10:17:57

I have a friend who drinks herbal tea. If we are out for a meal, she will ask if they have it - some places do. If not she asks for hot water and has never been charged; however between us we have usually spent a lot on food and other drinks.

However she also does it in coffee shops, even if they have her "brew" because she is a skinflint objects to paying their prices for a teabag; she is completely oblivious to their overheads. I do believe that this is not on and make sure she goes to the counter herself!!

weisswusrt Wed 17-Jul-13 10:20:06

Yourma, but then why offer hot water for SALE at 5p then? What I do with my purchased cup of water is none of their business. I didn't even drink it in the canteen, I took it to lectures. They refused to stock herbal tea as well, I asked.

badguider Wed 17-Jul-13 10:22:19

well... given that you often pay up to £2 for a cup of tea, and a teabag obviously doesn't cost anything like a pound so I wouldn't be surprised to be charged a pound for a cup of hot water... there's the boiling of the water, the washing of the cups, the waitress...

Weiss they're offering it as a drink. Lots of people drink hot water. If you took it away from the cafe then fine. If it was in a plastic/polystyrene cup then they would have made a loss on your 5p.

weisswusrt Wed 17-Jul-13 10:42:49

The water came out of a big urn, into a plastic cup. I poured it myself, no work involved at all for the canteen staff. This was a college canteen, you know...for students, who are often skint! The bitchy staff members just felt like I'd got one over on them....and they'd show me for being an upstart!

weisswusrt Wed 17-Jul-13 10:45:51

Yourma, but.....they offered it FOR SALE at 5p, if that's a loss for them then they are stupid for selling things at a loss.

ClangerOnaComeDown Wed 17-Jul-13 10:49:17

Lol I thought you meant the water should be clear...and yes, yes it should <helpful>

Pennyacrossthehall Wed 17-Jul-13 12:30:53

It depends:

If all you want is a mug of hot water, £1 is fair enough.

If you (and others in the group) have ordered/paid for a load of other stuff, I would expect it to be free . . . . . and complain loudly if it wasn't.

pussycatwillum Wed 17-Jul-13 21:47:02

Penny the bill for the group came to around 10 pounds each, so it wasn't as if my friend sat there without paying for anything.

SantanaLopez Wed 17-Jul-13 21:50:19

YABU; I would have expected to be charged and I would not have expected the waitress to tell you the price.

FirstStopCafe Wed 17-Jul-13 21:53:17

Yanbu. I wouldn't expect to be charged for water

pussycatwillum Wed 17-Jul-13 22:07:18

YABU; I would have expected to be charged and I would not have expected the waitress to tell you the price. but everything else is clearly priced and the menu states that service is not included, so every customer knows where they stand for other items, so why not the water?

would you go to a cafe with your own food and ask for a plate, and get grumpy if you were charged a pound?

its just so blinkin' entitled. If you want to pay 5p for hot water, go home and boil it yourself. job done.

Just so you get the metric, the water would actually be costed at 25p for the water, 25p for the overheads, 25p for the staff and 25p for some profit. This allows you to sit in a lovely warm place with your mate and have what you want.

But it doesn't come free.

hot water is not a commonly requested item, therefore the manager will usually make a judgement call. If you did this every day, stay for two hours blocking tables and not buying anything else I would simply not provide it.

you would be amazed at the amount of off-menu requests cafes get, and they have to do a calculation pdq as to the right amount to charge.

I always remember the joyous occasion when a picky NY customer came for brunch at my cafe and demanded I change her scrambled eggs because she said all she could taste was butter (er, and the problem with that is?). Dutifully scrambled more pdq without butter she then demanded that I give it to her for free because I had not toasted another round of expensive sour dough bread for her.

I told her it was a cafe in Hackney, not the bleedin' Ivy.

She flounced.

All the other customers fell about laughing.

And just to remind you, the waitress is not authorised to cost out an item, she just takes the orders.

If you were going to drink the water just as it was, then I would be shock at paying a £1, I do think that asking for water and then using your own teabag is taking the p***!

domesticslattern Wed 17-Jul-13 22:40:23

Like Penny, I'd expect it to be free only if you were buying lots of other stuff. (Which it sounds like you were, if the bill was £10 each!).

Sounds like you won't be going back so the cafe owner loses out overall...

TeamEdward Wed 17-Jul-13 22:43:51

My nan drinks hot water, and we are rarely charged.
Cold tap water has to be provided free, so it's not much different to serve hot water (same cup/wait-staff/water costs, just the energy to heat it and in most places it comes from an urn already turned on)

Having said that, adding your own teabag is out of line.

babybearsmummy Wed 17-Jul-13 22:45:19

Seems a bit rude. I've been out to places that have given me whole bowls or jugs of water to stand dd's food in to warm it and I've never been charged a penny.


but Team, it costs more money to heat up more water once your nan has had hers! it is cost free.

having said that, I think a pound is a bit steep. 50p would be fair, and I would waive it for regulars. But certainly not for randoms who get huffy.

CottonWoolCandy Wed 17-Jul-13 22:52:49

I only drink hot water and it's probably about 50/50 whether I'm charged for it.
I think the most expensive cup of hot water I ever had was at Schipol airport where they charged me for a pot of tea even though they knew I only wanted water. hmm
Their view was that they didn't sell hot water. When I pointed out that their tea came as a pot of hot water with a teabag on the side of the saucer, they said I could order a pot of tea. tbh I'd just come off a long-haul flight and was so looking forward to sitting down with a cup of hot water I'd have paid whatever they asked blush

Exactly my thoughts Team. You would be outraged to be charged for cold water, why is hot water any different? Especially if cold water comes with ice and lemon.

Mintyy Wed 17-Jul-13 22:57:37

I just can't get over the fact that people drink hot water!

Why why why why why why why why why why why why why why oh why?

tap water is a legal obligation. Hot is not. and it costs to heat.

I stopped offering ice and lemon because I worked out it cost me £200 a month for ice, and £50 a month for lemons.

For a small business that can mean the difference between trading and going bust.

LazyMonkeyButler Wed 17-Jul-13 23:10:46

I only drink black coffee. Should I be paying less because I use no milk or sugar?

Given that a black coffee can be anywhere between about £1.80 and £3.00 (IME), and that a spoonful of coffee costs a few pence - I would say that puts my average spend on a cup of hot water at more than £1!

Cerisier Wed 17-Jul-13 23:11:20

An aside- but In Asia drinking hot water is normal, I had to get used to asking for cold water else I got given boiling. Apparently hot water is good for the health.

margins on food are extremely tight.

The only way a food business can survive is on the mark up on drinks.

I would always give a mum some hot water for a baby bottle (many won't, bizarrely, for health and safety reasons), and young baby food (but would be a bit hm if they wanted to bring food in for a toddler, if there was a kids menu.! most cafes I know do a kids combo which is good value).

For example, real butter in a sandwich costs approx 17p - 20p. that adds about 80p to the cost of the sandwich.

Places don't charge fortunes (unless they are tourist traps, and probably have huge rental costs)for stuff, they charge what they need to survive and the market will take.

MorrisZapp Wed 17-Jul-13 23:18:59

I'd expect a quids worth of water to be clear, yes.

I won't pay more than 10p for that murky stuff.

I think it also depends on the type of place. Anywhere with waitress service I would expect to have ice if requested and not charge for it. In which case i don't see how hot water is any different. I think in these cases the business has to absorb the charges but perhaps have a rule that they will only be given to paying customers. I have had customers complaining about having to pay for extra sauce/dressing or more fajita shells etc. so I think you have to pick your battles

you can have ice in drinks like coke and juices, but small local places might not be able to afford it.

I feel invisible on here. did you not read the ice post I did?

what you think, susu, is just rather greedy. You want stuff but don't want to pay for you do this to other businesses?

Can't imagine anyone going into M&S and saying, actually, this salad is a bit small, I want two for the same price.

Or, can I have two jumpers as this one doesn't quite suit me?

or a florists, ooh, those roses are lovely, but I think the buds are a bit small, chuck a few more in for me!

Ok. Susu, do you have a food business? or just work in one? I see you say have had customers complain...

mayoandchips Wed 17-Jul-13 23:54:31

I agree with MadameDefarge. A lot of customers do have a sense of entitlement about them. It's not the waitress' fault you have essentially ordered a cuppa sans the teabag. Tap water is not the same as water that costs money to heat up.

Especially when the customer is using their own teabag- I get this a lot at work. Tea costs 90p, so hot water costs 90p whether you want to pocket the teabag or not.

I work in a food court in a shopping centre, and we make it clear that we are not obligated to heat up baby food/ baby bottles (I do microwave food time to time), but people get pissy when they are told they have to pay for hot water! Not our problem! Bring a flask of hot water! You cannot have possibly thought 'I will go to the food court and they will give me free hot water to heat my baby's bottle' when you left the house hmm

<falls upon mayo's neck weeping grateful tears>>

I was beginning to think it was a weirdy conspiracy to ignore any rational explanation...

Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of charging for hot water, and any questions about the entitledness or otherwise of customers, I do think that the waitress should have explained the charge when the OP's friend ordered the hot water. Putting an unadvertised charge onto the bill is not ethical, imo.

As a student nurse, I went on a night out with a big group from my training 'set'. We ordered our meals, and the waiter offered us mushrooms as an extra, and quite a lot of us added mushrooms to our order. We were all paying individually, and were on a tight budget (student nurse wages were not high), so we all added up our bills carefully, and put our money into the pot, only to find when the bill came, that we were a number of pounds short - too large an amount to be a mistake - and when we questioned this, we were told that there was a charge of 50p for the mushrooms - which hadn't been explained when the waiter made the offer. Naively we had thought that, as we were a big party (20+), placing a large order, the restaurant had decided to offer us a little freebie - not that we would have objected to paying the extra 50p, had we been told in advance. We all paid up but it did leave a bit of a bad taste.

mayoandchips Thu 18-Jul-13 00:13:16

It's one of those things that it is at the managers discretion, and for those of you saying the charge should be mentioned, it could also be argued that it shouldn't be assumed that it is free. Double check.

er, yes, naive. why would you assume it was a freebie?

And as I explained upthread, it is not the job of the waitress to list the cost of every item, unless asked, and certainly not her job to calculate an usual request cost. That would be for the owner or manager.

The polite thing would have been to ask for the hot water and ask how much it would be.

would you go to a pharmacy and ask for nurofen for an ailment but the chemist suggests something more appropriate, would you not ask the price?

I daresay if you had read the menu carefully you would have seen the charge for mushrooms.

I cannot believe you thought you were getting a freebie and didn't query it.

BackforGood Thu 18-Jul-13 00:27:31

I totally agree with MadameDefarge. why does anyone assume a business should be providing you with anything for free ? confused

As others have said, you expect to pay £1.20 - £2. for a coffee or tea when you are out. Of course it's ridiculously expensive compared with making yourself one at home, but they've got a lot of overheads to cover. Of that, the teabag would cost about tuppence and the milk probably about 3p. By that logic, the hot water should surely cost the same as any other beverage less 5p, so £1 was a bargain. They still have staff to pay, rent or mortgage, loans on start up costs, heating lighting, toilet facilities, training and hygiene certificates etc., cleaning costs... it goes on and on... all of which every customer is contributing to with their orders, not just the ones who choose a certain beverage over another - you are not just paying the unit cost, you are paying to have a sit and a natter and use the toilet and shelter from the rain or heat of the day, etc.

MmeDefarge - we were naive, not stupid. The mushrooms were not on the menu.

And the way that the offer was made did make it seem as if it was a freebie.

MidniteScribbler Thu 18-Jul-13 00:41:16

I think a pound is pretty cheap rent for a couple of hours use of a table.

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 00:43:45

I think if someone asks for something that is not on the menu, waiting staff should give them a price for it.

SDTG, I hate it when waiters 'helpfully' suggest food and make no mention of paying. You get it in places where they ask "Would you like some bread?" with no clue as to how much it costs. It's a bit sneaky imho and can be very confusing especially for people who are used to eating in places/countries where bread would be given for free.

if the mushrooms did not form part of the dish then they would of course incur a charge. They were an extra vegetable. maybe fresh that day and not on the menu. If someone said how about some chips with that would you assume they were free too? Its part of a waitresses job to upsell, not give out freebies.

When establishments offer freebies they make a big song and dance about it.

I said you were indeed naive. I never mentioned stupid.

But it still clearly rankles years later, so I guess I won't persuade you otherwise.

oh ffs, what a bunch of babies. why would you expect anything free from a business unless it was specifically offered to you?

If you don't like how a business sector operates, just stay at home and don't use their services. The only things I think you can reasonably complain about is shit food and rudeness. Not the cost of things you have agreed to buy.

and if you don't know the price, just blinkin' ask!

wallison have you read anything I have written???

It is not there job...they take the order and give it to the kitchen or drinks waiter, the bill will be added up. If the manager has to make up a price they will do it.

If you want to know the price ASK the waitress or waiter, and they can go and check for you...

* their job.

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 00:53:19

^^why would you expect anything free from a business unless it was specifically offered to you?

Err, because there was no mention of payment? confused If there is a transaction going on, there should be a price stated. Also, some places do offer freebies - I've been in restaurants where we've been given bread, or olives even, and quite often if you go for a tasting menu they'll add in one or two extras just because they're available on that day - and not charge for them. On all of those occasions, a member of staff will suggest it, without any mention of price, and so you know it is free.

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 00:57:34

I have read everything you have written, yes, and I disagree with you because as I say there are restaurants out there where things like bread/extra items on the tasting menu etc are free. So it is reasonable to assume, when someone asks if you would 'like' something without telling you a price for it, that there is indeed no charge. So I think it is pretty sharp practice to 'offer' things to customers, make no mention of price and then suddenly the customer finds out, too late, that they are indeed being charged. Because in other restaurants they would not be charged.

bonkers. utterly bonkers. when they just put it on the table without asking it means its free. Its NOT free if they ask you if you'd like it, or better check. That's the basic rule. But like any business people do things differently in each establishment.

have it your own way. restaurants are all cunts out to rip you off except the nice ones who give you stuff for free. I get it. I really really do.

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 01:02:33

Are you suffering from heatstroke?

No, I am professional who is trying to show you why things happen the way they do. I get no knowledge of my efforts, just more whining on the same theme.

leaving now. You are the kind of customer who is never pleased unless you feel you getting something for nothing.

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 01:08:28

Yes, you are casting your eminently reasonably-worded pearls before swine, I can see that.

Incidentally, which profession are you in? Is it medicine, law or teaching?

Glad you realise that.

Not sure what you mean about my profession though. I owned a cafe if that helps.

Or are you suggesting, god forbid, I am fibbing? tsk!

MidniteScribbler Thu 18-Jul-13 01:14:40

So when a waitress asks if anyone would like some drinks, do you assume they are free as well?

If you don't know if something is free or not, then use your words and bloody ASK! Don't stick your silly head in the sand and then bitch when a business quite reasonably charges you for what you consume.

I think I love you Midnite!

wallison, want to explain your last comment?

if you want to insult me, make it clear what you mean, otherwise your post looks weirdly incomprehensible passive aggression.

Wallison, it's called up selling and most servers will be trained to do it in order to increase revenue.

Madame, no I don't own a business but I have worked in a number of different types of cafes and restaurants. I do agree with you in theory but I have found that people feel entitled to a lot more than water so maybe it is worth just giving in to avoid pissing people off. Then again I am in North America so maybe people here feel more entitled.

And you said it was a cafe you owned? In that case I think it is reasonable to charge for hot water or iced water.

CottonWoolCandy Thu 18-Jul-13 04:10:33

I always ask how much I'll be charged for hot water and I always offer to pay. It's not on most menus so I wouldn't assume that meant I would be given it for free. However, ime, as I said upthread it's about 50/50 whether I'm charged or not.

MidniteScribbler Thu 18-Jul-13 04:16:09

I think it would depend on the total order. "Hi, can I have a blueberry muffin, a sandwich and a cup of hot water" would probably mean most places wouldn't charge you. But if you're only ordering just the water, and especially if you think you can put your own tea bag in it, then take up one of their tables for an hour, then I think charging is quite fair.

Businesses are there to make a profit. They aren't a charitable affair. If you don't want to pay for hot water, then use your own kitchen and your own kettle.

Most things are an upsell. I get annoyed when I go to a kebab shop. I like just meat and a tiny little bit of cheese. No salad, not sauce. But I usually always get charged the extra 50 cents for cheese, even though I'm having nothing else, and about quarter of the cheese that they usually put on. But they're a business, they can charge what they like, and I can either pay or choose to go elsewhere if I wanted to be that petty about 50c.

CottonWoolCandy Thu 18-Jul-13 04:30:23

MidnightScribbler tbh I can't imagine ordering hot water for my own tea bag! I was a bit shock when I read that upthread! It does explain why some places charge much more than others for hot water if they expect you're going to be sneaking a tea bag into it.
I always order hot water with something else but then I'm the sort of person who offers to buy something if I need to nip into a cafe/pub to use a toilet with dc. I run my own business perhaps that's why I view it differently.

Roma2013 Thu 18-Jul-13 06:14:53

A bit off-topic but something nice happened yesterday in a cafe to me. Ordered a coffee and the realised I d forgotten my purse. Coffee had already been made. Told them I d nip out to bank to get some money. They said, oh just sit and enjoy your coffee. That's nice I thought and I replied that I'd get it immediately I'd finished to which they said 'oh just give it us next time you're in'. Anyway, I did get the money out afterwards and went back, explained to a different assistant that I was paying due money. She said 'oh I'll just charge you a takeaway price'. It was Neros and I guess I hadn't expected that from a high street chain. I'll definitely go back.

littlewhitebag Thu 18-Jul-13 06:27:45

My mum is an OAP. She drinks only hot water too she is more than happy to pay for her drink and is pleasantly surprised when, from time to time, she is not charged for it. £1 is cheap for a hot drink in a cafe.

TimeofChange Thu 18-Jul-13 06:53:38

£1.00 for hot water is reasonable.

Overheads of a business:
Website - maybe
PRS Music Licence
Another Music Licence (can't remember the name)
PL Insurance
Employer Liability Insurance
Equipment Insurance
Rubbish Disposal
Staff wages, including holidays
Credit card machine charges
Bank charges
window cleaning

Other cafe overheads:
Toilet Rolls
Sanitory disposal
Hand wash
Kitchen equipment

Goldensunnydays81 Thu 18-Jul-13 06:56:17

I run a cafe and often get people asking for hot water and a lot of the time will give it for free but sometimes it depends on the customer! If they are rude about the way they ask for it or just assume that I should give them 4 cups of hot water then I would charge a small amount!
We are slightly different in the fact that we are on the beach but the amount of cheeky requests we get is unbelievable! Can we have some ketchup sachets for our BBQ or can you give us a bit of bacon for free to catch some crabs with!

Piddlepuddle Thu 18-Jul-13 07:05:21

Pizza express asked us the other day whether we would like some olives and nuts while we were waiting for our starters to arrive. It didn't occur to me for 1 minute that they might be free!

As for the charge for hot water - I completely agree it depends on the rest of the order, so from what you have said I would probably have expected them to absorb it. But - it wouldn't have surprised me to see a charge and I probably wouldn't have challenged it.

ZillionChocolate Thu 18-Jul-13 07:44:46

I think everyone should pay for a drink if they're sitting down on a cafe/pub/restaurant. I tend only to order cold tap water if I'm also ordering another drink too. I think it would be nice to have hot water for free, but I'd expect to pay for it.

MmeDefarge - you said that the mushrooms probably had been on the menu - implying that not only was I too stupid to see it there, but that also all of the rest of the group with me were too stupid to read the menu too.

And, as I said, the offer was made in a manner which clearly suggested that the mushrooms were being offered as a freebie - and I was not the only one in the party who was led to believe this by the waiter - everyone else in the group did too. We were ALL surprised by the extra charge on the bill!!

I would also like to make it crystal clear that the incident does not rankle with me - I retold it here as a story that was similar to the OP's, in that no mention of payment was made until the bill was offered. The OP's story reminded me of this incident from my past - I haven't thought about it for years. What does rankle is being told I am stupid by someone who wasn't there and therefore didn't see the incident or the waiter's demeanor that caused ALL of us to make the same mistake.

Mumoftwoyoungkids Thu 18-Jul-13 09:09:13

I assume that you have to pay for everything (except tap water).

pussycatwillum Thu 18-Jul-13 11:39:48

To the person who said they have probably lost our custom, no, they haven't lost mine. I like the place, which is why I took the group there. I will go again, with other friends, but I suspect that the rest of the group will not.
This has been very interesting. I will try to get the lady concerned to understand that she can't take it for granted that hot water is free, although as far as I am aware this is only the second time this has happened to her. Most places do give it to her free, which is probably why she finds it hard to accept.

holidaysarenice Thu 18-Jul-13 13:42:16

In the instance here I think it would make business sense to be free.

Group of older ladies say 6 of them, all spending a tenner-ish = 60 quid. Old ladies also likely to gossip and spread good word of business.

Piss old ladies off over 1pound and bang goes 60 quid and repeat business and good name.

Sometimes it makes sense to play the long game.

martini84 Thu 18-Jul-13 13:53:51

Should cold water be free though. We brough a kfc bargain bucket once. I didn't like the drink with it so asked for tap water. They tried to charge me the same as they charged for a bottle of mineral water. I ended up with no drink on principal. Op yanbu

weisswusrt Thu 18-Jul-13 15:45:50

I agree mayo, but in my defense, the water was sold at 5p, it was written on the board, I poured it into a cheap paper cup myself, and drank it in class so didn't use their overheads or take up seats. I used my own teabag because the didn't sell herbal teabags. If I bought a plain bun, and then later on, far away from the canteen slipped a slice of ham into it, is this wrong too?

CuChullain Thu 18-Jul-13 16:48:18

Some pretty naïve people on this thread.

phantomnamechanger Thu 18-Jul-13 17:13:18

I can't believe some of the attitudes on here!

If you ASK for something, you should not expect it to be free - as seen above, many places will give free water for someone to heat a baby bottle but not as a hot drink - I think that's fair. Taking up a table with your cup of hot water and own teabag you are stopping another paying customer from ordering, or making potential customers walk by cos the place looks full.

If the McD's server says "would you like LARGE fries with your order" do you assume there is no upgrade fee? that it's a free bonus? What about the Italian place where you order pizza and they ask if you want any salad or garlic bread with that - does that mean those sides are free.

some places factor in the "freebies" to the main price - eg I know a sandwich shop where the salad is "free" on any baguette - but of course it is factored into the price of the cheese or ham baguette, based on the fact that most people will probably accept the freebie and those who don't want salad are ordering the plain ham baguette knowing the price.

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 17:23:48

^^some places factor in the "freebies" to the main price

Exactly. Which is what makes it confusing. Sometimes if a server offers you something, it's free. Sometimes it isn't. Ok so you should always ask and I always do, but I can see how people who are maybe used to things being free (bread is definitely free as standard in lots of countries) just assume that it will be, because in their experience that's what restaurants do.

are you going to explain your odd post about my profession yet Wallison?

Or are you just going to continue to claim that all food outlets should do things in the exactly the same way in order not to confuse poor little you?

I don't go abroad and expect the same experience as I get at home, and tbh honest I don't think many people do.

Woo woo. Bread is generally free in France. In England its not. shock trauma.

Hulababy Thu 18-Jul-13 17:35:49

No issue with a small charge for hot water if required but should be minimal.
However in most places you can't consume your own stuff on premises - so making your own tea with free/cheap hot water isn't really on.

I do think a pot of tea should come with an additional pot of hot water as standard though. In many places it does.

Hulababy, do,you mean I can't make my own herbal tea if a cafe is willing to give/sell me the boiling water to make it with? If they stocked the only herbal tea I like, I would buy it, and to be honest, if they want to charge me for the mug of water, that doesn't bother me.

But if you say someone can't make their own tea, then I am not sure what the point is of having the hot water (unless you want to drink boiling water of course). To be honest, if the cafe is happy to give/sell me the boiling water, why would it impact them negatively if I use a herbal tea bag in it?

because they do not get the mark up on the tea bag in order to make a profit and stay open.

If they charge you 50p for water, and £1.50 for herbal tea, they are losing £1. You are still taking up a seat, using all the facilities etc etc.

If you ordered toast, would you think it fine to whip out your own jam?

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 18:06:00

MadameDefarge, I just thought that when you said you were a professional, you meant you were a member of a profession. Clearly you're not. [shrug]

Ok. Well, I thought I had made it clear I was talking from the viewpoint of a food business professional.

Loving the passive aggressive shrug! I am cut to the core, truly.

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 18:11:13

I'd have a drink of nice cool water, if I were you.

Charge yourself for it though otherwise you'll go out of business.

Of course not. Did you miss the part where I said IF the cafe was willing to give/sell me hot water...? That would surely imply that they would be happy for me to sit at one of their tables and consume said hot water, no? And therefore it should not make any difference if I put a herbal tea bag in said hot water.

If a cafe is not willing to provide boiling water, that is their right and their choice - I am not going to complain, but I might choose to eat elsewhere.

I should also point out that I would never take up a seat in a cafe and just order a mug of boiling water - I would always have something else too. The cafes I have been to have always been happy to give or sell me boiling water as part of a bigger order, and no-one has ever complained at my using my own herbal tea bag.

I think I pointed out that making tap water available is a legal requirement if you provide sit down food. so that cost is ammortised into other pricing.

ie, in the 25% of the retail cost that is apportioned for fixed overheads such as water rates.

'Of course not' was in reply to MmeDefarge's question about whipping out my own pot of jam in a cafe.

I would be happy to sell you toast at say £1. I would be less than happy to see you then whip out your favourite jam and merrily spread it on. You are eating toast and jam which has a cost associated with it. I would charge for that. That's the contract. You come in. Eat and drink what is on offer or not as you choose. You don't get to bring your own food or drink, or tea bags in, unless your other purchases make it worthwhile overlooking, and you asked very, very nicely. If you want to eat your own jam, do it at home.

Different places make different informal contracts with their customers.

The group of mums who meet weekly and have coffee and cake can merrily feed their small offspring snacks they have brought.

The group of mums who order a cup of tea and bring out the full picnic at high lunch service and stay for an hour and a half are less so.

Ragwort Thu 18-Jul-13 18:21:38

Madame - I am genuinely interested in your views as a professional, I too have worked in the hospitality industry.

Re: your comments about butter, I get that it is expensive but I do feel that when you buy a sandwich out it should be made with 'real' butter; I was very disappointed recently when, at a fairly upmarket tea shop, I ordered a sandwich and it had clearly been made with 'spread' not butter. I didn't complain, because the description of the sandwich didn't actually say 'fresh buttered bread filled with ..........' or anything like that, but, just for interest, do you think I should check each time when ordering that the establishment is using 'real' butter?

Every place has a breakeven for the day figure...before profit.

They need to make that money in order to just stay open. They won't make it if every customer brings their own food and drink.

I agree, ragwort, and the price of the butter will be reflected in the price of the sandwich! I think you would probably have a pretty good idea when you go in what you might get.

A greasy spoon will serve bread and butter and charge say £1 for a round, using cheap bread and spread.

The fancier place up the road will serve some nice sour dough with real butter and charge £2.

they are both bread and butter, but you pay for the quality.

If in doubt, yes, always ask!

both are valid, just serving a different customer base with different expectations in terms of price and quality.

MmeDefarge - I do not want to bring my own fecking jam to your cafe or any other cafe, not now, not ever. I am not sure why you are going on about me wanting to bring my own jam, when all I am asking is why, IF a cafe is happy to give/sell me a mug of boiling water, it makes a blind bit of difference if I drink it unadulterated or put a tea bag in. No fecking jam, just a liquorice and sweet Egyptian spice herbal bloody tea bag, because I want a hot drink that isn't caffeinated or hot chocolate and can't stomach any other herbal tea!!

And thank you so much for according me the dignity of being a professional!

Ragwort Thu 18-Jul-13 18:27:33

Thank you Madame - and sorry to go off topic from the hot water subject. I will ask in future but feel a bit embarrassed as it makes me look poncey grin.

using spread instead of real butter when you charge real butter prices is how you lose customer confidence.

Its nice to get away from the war of attrition surrounding hot water on this this thread!

ST, for the umpteenth time, you shoud use the food outlets offerings or nothing at all. You are effectively stealing from them.

If they know you well and you are a good customer, many folk will waive the charge.

You do not have an absolute to right to be there, nor to be so cheeky as to save yourself money at the expense of the establishment.

That meant as a dig at me, MmeDefarge? Nice.

And ST , its the same principle. Thought it might make more sense if I changed the product.

How am I stealing from them if they are willing to sell/give me the hot water? Perhaps they should provide a proper range of herbal teas, to suit all tastes, if they are trying to provide a service.

And. Just. To. Spell. It. Out. You. Bought. Hot. Water. You. Are. Drinking. Herbal. Tea. Just. Not. Paying. For. It.

If you ask them first and they agree, fine. If not. Not fine.

I would happily buy my tea, if they sold it.

It might shock you but food outlets are businesses, . We like customers, because they pay money for what they consume on the premises. And so pay the bills and keep the business going.

It is not all about you, ST, either on this thread or in the real world of businesses struggling to survive when customers think they can do what they like and not pay for it.

But clearly logical explanations as to why its not really on makes no impression on you.

Well - you are the only food service professional I have ever come across who has a problem with this. And I suspect that we are both equally happy about the fact that I don't eat or drink at your fine establishment. Of course it is no loss for me, there are plenty of places I can happily eat and drink.

So - which is better for a struggling local cafe - customers who come in, place a decent sized order (which I ALWAYS do) plus a mug of hot water to make a herbal tea, or the same customer staying and eating at home because she cannot get the drink she wants at her local cafe?

One last time, if my cafe does not offer prawn sandwiches, it does not make us evil. maybe they are not profitable. If you come in and want a prawn sandwich and its not on offer, you can either buy another one or leave. What you can't do is order two slices of bread and butter, reach down into your handbag, whip out some nice prawny mayo from M&S and make your own.

Its the same principle, just because you think hot water is unimportant, it does not make it unimportant to the finances of the business.

Oh dear god. I am not talking about any fecking thing one might put on or between bread or toast, JUST hot water for a herbal tea.

SDT, RTFT. It's been covered ad infinitum.

I give up. There is no talking to some people.

probably best.

aftermay Thu 18-Jul-13 18:57:01

I understand the business side of things but it sounds barbaric that in a rich country like this people are charged for a mug of water.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Would you think it ok to do this with a normal teabag? Or is it just herbal teas that have special dispensation in your minds?

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 19:23:26

So. In amongst all of this chat about prawn sandwiches and liquorice tea, I think the main point I've gathered from this thread is that no-one should go to MadameDefarge's café because she's a bit shouty.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

glad you would find it funny to come to my business to undermine it.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 19:31:47

Heh, Beertricks. Never mind teabags, I would have taken in a frigging calor gas stove and heated up a tin of beans at the table.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

how old are you two?

weisswusrt Thu 18-Jul-13 19:37:40

I'm coming too! I have a biscuit smuggled in each cheek, and a herbal teabag in my cuff.

Hulababy Thu 18-Jul-13 19:39:03

I'm just surprised tbh. I have seen people bring to cafes snacks for babies and toddlers, but never people make their own drink. Would never occur to me to do so. If a cafe didn't offer what I wanted to drink I would just chose something different or find a different cafe.

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 19:39:59

Oh, I can be quick. [does impressive-looking ninja arm movements]

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 19:41:03

weisswurst, you are clearly a hamster and therefore exempt from all pricing policy.

MmeDefarge - I thought I had explained reasonably clearly that I only do this with the licorice and Egyptian spice herbal tea bags, and not with any other foodstuff, beverage ingredient, preserve, condiment, or sandwich filling (prawn/mayonnaise based or otherwise). Obviously I did not. My apologies - I will attempt to be clearer in future. <<despairs>>

I repeat, would you do it, without asking, with a normal tea bag?

Well, would any of you?

oh come, on, you must have some idea whether you would or not.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Yes and they would charge you for it. By bringing in your own stuff you are taking revenue from the outlet.

Are you incapable of understanding the principle of not bringing your own items in?

And if you do, making sure it is ok?

You are enjoying a product which you have not paid for.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

and did you not notice there many posts in which I said I would probably waive the charge if you asked politely?

Good manners. They cost nothing.

Assuming you can do what you like is very bad manners.

firesidechat Thu 18-Jul-13 19:57:29

We started charging for hot water as we used to get elderly ladies coming in and ordering a pot of tea then asking for hot water and making more brews in the teapot. A few even used to bring their own teabags. They'd be sat at the table for hours for free when we were turning customers away who wanted to order food and eat it in the cafe. Tbh we very rarely ending up charging for hot water. It was more of a deterrent.

I always thought that providing a teapot with brewed tea in it and hot water on the side to top up was fairly standard practice in most good tea shops. Anything else seems a bit mean to me. Bringing their own teabags was cheeky though.

just because an outlet does not stock your handpicked by himalayan yacks special tea does not actually equate to a woe stock of teas.


TheCraicDealer Thu 18-Jul-13 20:04:18

The waitress probably didn't know the price to tell the woman in the first place. She was more than likely putting the order through the till, said to her colleague/supervisor, "Here, this customer ordered a mug of hot water- what shall I ring that through as?" and was told, "Meh, charge her a pound". If you order off menu it's your responsibility to ask the waitress what they might charge if cost is an issue.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Eilidhbelle Thu 18-Jul-13 20:07:10

MadameDefarge, thank you for taking the time to explain more about your business, I've honestly learned so much from this thread! I'd DEFINITELY come to your cafe! And I liked your metaphors about jam and prawns, I understood what you were saying.

Cannot believe there are so many people who think taking your own stuff to a cafe is reasonable!

wouldn't know about teashops. Or coffee shops. I owned a food cafe which also served drinks.

firesidechat Thu 18-Jul-13 20:09:31

We eat out quite a lot and are always getting asked if we want bread, olives, garlic bread etc. I would assume that they were extras that we had to pay for. If they are genuine freebies then they usually just plonk them on the table with no comment.

It's a business trying to make extra money out of its customers and can't honestly see why that's a problem. They are just trying to stay in business. I often say no thank you and nothing more is said.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Thank you Eilidhbelle! was feeling a bit through the looking glass there for a wee while.

Beer, for the umpteenth time. If somewhere does not offer you what you want,choose something else, or go somewhere else. Do not assume you can sit in a proper paying customers place quaffing your own stuff.

Eilidhbelle Thu 18-Jul-13 20:15:40

BeerTricks, you must see the difference between a business that concentrates on food and one that concentrates on drinks?

Might I float the concept of a loss-leader - quite a well-known business concept, I believe, where the provision of boiling water for free, so that someone can enjoy their beverage of choice with their food might create a feeling of bonhomie towards the food cafe/restaurant/tea or coffee shop that might lead to further sales and/or return visits and good word-of-mouth, all of which might benefit the establishment.

And I did say that I would ONLY use my specific herbal tea bag. In my innocence, I assumed that you would realise that this meant that I would not use any other tea bag/infusion/beverage ingredient. Was I really wrong??

pussycatwillum Thu 18-Jul-13 20:17:58

*If you ordered toast, would you think it fine to whip out your own jam?*probably not, but my friend takes her own milk (for medical reasons) with her. Mind you she pays the normal price for tea and then says 'No thank you' to the cafe's milk so I suppose they are actually benefiting slightly. No cafe has ever objected to my knowledge.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Yes you are. If you were eating, I would probably waive it out of good will (another wellknown marketing ploy we use).

And you must know that the mark up on beverages is often the major contributor to the financial health of a food business.

You buy a cappuccino, say it costs the cafe owner 40p for the coffee beans and the milk. So even by the x 4 metric it still should be only 80p. Yet you will be charged up to £2.50 for it. Because that is where the profit lies.

Beer, you might find the minutae of running a business a tad dull, but it is very necessary.

And generally speaking, if you give something away, people don't value it, nor the giver. another well-known fact.

I will refer you back to every post in which I said I would not. But I that I would have the right to.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MadameDefarge...I have here a really nice wall. You are welcome to come and bang your head against it.

No charge!

idococktailshedoesbeer Thu 18-Jul-13 20:27:29

I don't really see the problem with charging for a mug of hot water and to be fair the waitress took it off the bill so they clearly value your custom.

Eilidhbelle Thu 18-Jul-13 20:28:01

BeerTricks.....because you said that thing about split hairs. Which I thought was strange, but to be fair, not as strange as the 'tepid tetley' and burgers thing.

But go ahead and justify taking your own stuff in. Just don't moan when your local goes out of business. I don't have an odd cliche for that, sorry.

I dont think its logical to infer visiting my gaff was a bad experience. suggesting it is rather unpleasant. Given you never actually experienced it. I would ask you to stop now, but I fear it would spoil your fun.

oh cutting, you are so kind! I need it. My own has crumbled under the onslaught!

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 20:38:53

^^if you give something away, people don't value it, nor the giver

Actually, I don't think that's true. I have worked in several bars, and in one in particular we always used to add ice and a slice of lemon to tap water. Along with being surprised and grateful for this, people would make comments like "That's cool" or "What a good pub" etc. to both us bar staff and their friends - these are the type of comments that you want people to be making about your business. They definitely valued the ice and lemon, it didn't cost much (most people don't go into a bar and ask for just a glass of tap water; they were ordered as part of bigger rounds) and I always enjoyed doing it to see their pleasant reaction.

pussy, that would be fine! One, because it would actually save money, but more importantly because we tried really hard to accommodate people with allergies, cooking off menu, running to get an obscure item from the deli if requested...

wallison, in most bars its standard to offer ice and lemon, and is costed into the cost of the drinks. But then you would not know that, as you would not privy to the costing metric drawn up by the owners.

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 20:43:12

Actually, in the other bars I worked in it wasn't standard at all. But it's true I know nothing of costing matrices. Woe.

and you will see that I said it cost me £250 pounds a month to do precisely that. Not a core part of my business, so withdrew that privilage. So yes, it does cost that much. And if you were doing it against the expressed wishes of you boss, then you were simply getting a feel good glow giving away someone elses money.

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 20:44:35

And clearly the customers in that particular bar were all raised by wolves prior to coming into it, since they hadn't encountered it in other pubs either.

at least have the good grace to acknowledge you don't actually know how these businesses actually make there money, rather than pretending that not knowing is no biggie.

wallison, argue a point, but not just for sake of disagreeing with absolutely everything I say.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

firesidechat Thu 18-Jul-13 20:46:47

The thing is, where do you draw the line? Which percentage of customers coming in with their own speciality teabags is acceptable? Food and drink establishments have huge overheads and very few make a decent profit.

I love having lots of choice when it comes to eating out and if that means I pay for a cup of hot water then so be it. It's not just a hot water, it's a cup which needs washing up, a clean table, comfy chairs and a nice place to relax. In other words, a service.

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 20:47:32

[shrug] you say it's standard. In my experience, my friends' experiences and in the experience of the customers at that bar, it isn't.

The manager told us to do it, btw.

Beer, you make so many assumptions. I would never make a cats bum face at a customer, whatever the circumstances, because that would be unprofessional.

Maybe Auntie Edna was not my core business anyway?

One of the things you also have to do is lose the customers who lose you. Which means catering to those who actually make you money.

If food is your core business, then becoming the centre for exotic tea is not going to pay your bills.

IncrediblePhatTheInnkeepersCat Thu 18-Jul-13 20:53:42

I have to admit that I carry tea bags with me; they aren't even herbal ones, but PG Tips blush. I use them when the only breakfast tea available is Lipton (normally abroad). However, I do explain to the staff that I want to pay for a cup of tea, but use my own tea bag.

In the USA every place was lovely about it and they all insisted on giving me the water AND a splash of milk shock for free! This happened in takeaways, cafes and restaurants.

I think your friend WBU to expect it to be free and as they were nice enough to deduct it from the bill, I'm not sure why they would want to avoid it in the future.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Oh yes, my mission is nearly over. soon all small cafes will go out of business based on my soon to be published book "how to make cakes an alienate people.

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 21:29:39

Is it quite a long book?

No. But the words are a bit big.

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 21:31:56



Itsaboatjack Thu 18-Jul-13 21:49:17

we always used to add ice and a slice of lemon to tap water. Along with being surprised and grateful for this, people would make comments like "That's cool" or "What a good pub" etc. to both us bar staff and their friends

^^ possibly the funniest thing I've read on this thread. Where did you get your customers from? I've been working in and running pubs for nearly 20 yrs and I've never heard anyone say they think its cool to get a slice of lemon and some ice in their water.

MadameDefarge I'm feeling your pain. Sometimes people just don't want to hear what you are actually saying.

Hulababy Thu 18-Jul-13 21:59:18

Always have ice and lemon offered for tap water and tbh any soft sink generally in the bars and pubs I go in. Even the local offers it!

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 22:00:18

^^Where did you get your customers from?

Islington. Obviously people in that deprived and unfashionable part of London are easily impressed.

I am a lone voice of reason in the wilderness of unreasonable expectations...

thanks Itsa!

Itsaboatjack Thu 18-Jul-13 22:06:42

It may be fashionable but it's still a shit hole. We left our pub in Islington (on Upper St) after 2 yrs as in that time there was a stabbing and a shooting at 2 clubs in the area, and we had 3 break ins.

But during those 2 yrs no one ever commented on the lemon in their water.

that made me laugh out loud, Itsa.

Islington is indeed a shit hole. You won't find many of the fancy pants owners of the lurvely houses hanging out on upper street...though they might venture to the duke of cambridge for some nosh. For some naice beer and soda bread with hand churned butter.

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 22:13:05

I was on Upper Street as well!

And yes I agree that there were rough elements but I wouldn't categorise it as a 'shit hole' exactly; it's just the same as lots of bits of London ie council on one side and v well-to-do people on the other. It was actually my favourite pub that I've worked in just because of the mix of regulars. And people definitely commented on the lemon/water thing to me. I even had people say "No, don't" and then I'd tell them I wasn't charging them for it and them be all happy.

Though I used to like Ruby in the dust when single many years ago...until they started watering the cocktails...(see? I can be a grumpy customer too!)

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 22:22:42

Used to go to The Garage after our shift had finished because they let us in for free. Was a complete dive but had some cracking nights in there.

nono, I mean cuba libra...god I am getting old.

honestpointofview Thu 18-Jul-13 22:23:19

Just to be clear not all premises have to provide free tap water. Under the licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Licensing Conditions) Order 2010 only licensed premises (ie to sell alcohol) and those with a club premises certificate have to "Ensure that customers have access to free tap water so that they can space out their drinks and not get too intoxicated too quickly."

Up by Highbury Corner?

what is was that tacky club just dow from the post office?

Oh, and the Kings Head was great too...

I lived there for quite a few years!

Ah honest, I thought there was also an A3 provision too...if you provide hot food to eat sitting down you must offer access to tap water.

Oh god the licensing objectives. How shall I support the licensing objectives? Is my personal license still valid?

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 22:29:23

Yes, Highbury Corner, that's the one. Sticky floor ahoy and full of people just wanting to carry on drinking, but after a shift behind the bar it was friendly enough and like I say free - nice to unwind a bit and nobody gave a shit what you got up to. Kings Head was good as well, I agree.

someone is smoking skunk nearby and its filling my living room.I'm on the sixth floor fgs!

I hate the smell of it. It does actually make me throw up. gah.

Itsaboatjack Thu 18-Jul-13 22:31:22

Used to go to the Kings Head a bit. I think it was Cuba Libra where I got glass in a meal once. Already had dc though when we moved there (thought it would be a nice area to move too) so didn't do much clubbing.

Was gutted when they moved the farmers market though, it was right on my doorstep when we first moved there.

Ooh, right by St Peter's Street? loved that road. went to some great parties there. back in the 90s!

I was on the Essex Road for a few years.

Had some good nights there myself...!

I mean the Garage.

Pretty hard to have a good time on the Essex Road! Though living by the Chinese Takeaway and opposite the Indian was great. The nightbus stopping outside my window not so great.

Happy days!

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 22:43:42

Always good to have a decent takeaway nearby, I find. We used to get discounts at the ones close to the bar as well - shit, I even used to get my hair cut cheap at a nearby salon, because the bar manager looked after their staff when they came in; lots of reciprocal things going on. It was a handy little job in that bar as it goes, all things considered.

yeah, we all looked out for each other round my way when doing the cafe. When the riots occurred all the Turkish boys at the all night supermarket stepped up when they were about to start on the cafe.

I had already sent ds to his dad's but it was pretty hairy. I couldn't possibly have defended it by myself. Unless I threw poncy tea bags at 'em!

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 23:09:07

You could have thrown hot water at them. You'd have to have charged them for it though. Then things would have got tricky.

In all seriousness, sorry to hear you got caught up in the riots. That must have been pretty damn scary.

well,i think they were going to do the bookies next, so maybe they would have been flush with some winnings...

Yeah. It was. One of the reasons I gave up the business. I couldn't face that again. Horrible thing is, you know they are your neighbours, and possibly even customers.

wonder if the real reason for the riots was actually anger at being charged for hot water???!!! hm.

Wallison Thu 18-Jul-13 23:21:57

Yes, people didn't travel to riot, did they? I think that was the worst aspect of them; it was directed at people around them, people who owned shops and other businesses in the same place as they lived.

Anyway, I'm pooped now so must go up to bed. I often think with fondness of that and other bar jobs though - I would be a barmaid again in a heartbeat if it paid better and I could get the childcare to cover it - I wouldn't even mind working unsocial hours, because it's such a sociable job.

it is great, I do miss it.
Sleep well.

pussycatwillum Fri 19-Jul-13 09:38:12

wonder if the real reason for the riots was actually anger at being charged for hot water???!!! grin

I think we're done with the hot water discussion now, but I was a bit surprised to see that this thread has evolved into a discussion about the joys of Islington confused

Probably a bit late to say this, MmeDefarge, but I suspect most of us would have applauded if you had gone and thrown up ON the antisocial skunk smoker - myself included. We can disagree on hot water/teabag provision, but there is nothing I hate more than the smell of someone else's smoke in my space.


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