We Don’t Need No Stinking Soda!

“May I get you something to drink?” I ask the teetering octogenarian on table 17.

“Gimme a soda with no ice,” the old woman snaps.

“Of course madam,” I reply.

“And I want ice on the side,” she screeches.

Not so loud Grandma. Turn up the hearing aid.

“Of course madam.”

“Don’t forget – no ice in my soda!”

“Of course madam.”

I depart the table, my faith in the elderly as the repository of good manners utterly shattered.

I go to the back, dispense some cola into an empty pint glass, stick a straw in it, and fill a tumbler with ice. The straw, without any ice to hold it in place, tips over and lays horizontal on top of the glass. Not a good presentation.

I return to the old lady’s table, place the soda gingerly in front of her, and start reciting the specials. By the time I’m finished grandma has slurped down her soda.

“Another,” she says, almost belching.

“But of course madam.”

“And I don’t want any ice,” she repeats.

“I remember madam.”

“You get more soda without ice,” the old woman says, almost to herself.

“You are very perceptive madam.” I reply.

“Yes,” she says, “I like to get what I pay for.”

“I’ll be right back with another soda.”

“No ice,” she blurts.

“Yes madam.”

I head to the back to get another soda. Now, I get this “no ice in my soda” request all the time. The reasons vary. Some people, a vast minority, don’t like cold soda. Maybe they have sensitive teeth. But senior citizens, especially the dwindling number that remember the Great Depression, often want no ice because they get more soda in the glass.

You might chuckle and say this woman’s cheap. But she might also remember when Coca Cola was a six ounce bottled treat that people couldn’t afford everyday. Maybe the no ice thing is a vestigial response developed during a time of scarcity. Or she’s just cheap. I don’t know.

But high end restaurants often pull a scam when it comes to soda. We live in an age of free refills at Burger King and Mc Donald’s. But fancy places, desperate to improve their profit margins, will charge $2 or $3 for each and every soda. When customers, accustomed to free refills, get the bill, they’re shocked to discover their kids have sucked down $30 worth of sugar water.

My bistro has free refills. Sure, we charge $2 for a soda, but at a food cost of pennies a glass, Fluvio makes a profit whether you drink one soda or a gallon. Some servers like to charge for each soda because it inflates the bill, but I can’t stand that sort of shit. Why? People expect free refills and are aggravated when they don’t get it. Aggravation leads to lower tips. Plus, if a restaurant’s nickel and diming customers over soda – they’re probably nickel and diming their servers too.

I’m being paranoid you say? This sounds like complete bullshit? Au contraire! There’s a place in Manhattan where, if you order a glass of soda with no ice, you’re charged more money! That’s right folks! This place makes you pay for the extra volume the ice would normally occupy. Next thing you know they’ll be charging for ice on the side too.

On principle I wouldn’t want to eat in a place like that. I understand owners need to make a profit. I understand margins are tight. But it’s the quality of the FOOD that brings valued repeat customers back, not the soda. If a restaurant’s depending on soda to make their bottom line – they’re in trouble. Maybe they’re in trouble financially. Maybe their food sucks. Who knows? But no one patronizes a high end restaurant to enjoy a glass of Sprite.

The Bistro I work at has great food. In fact, we have some of the highest ratings in the area for food and service. We don’t need no stinking soda!

I won’t bullshit you. Fluvio’s raised prices. He has to. Have you seen the cost of heating oil lately? But when he raises prices it’s on shit that matters, high quality meats, fine wines, artisanal cheeses and my salary. He doesn’t skimp on the important stuff! He stands by the quality of his food and staff. And since we’ve buried so many competitors over the years, he must be doing something right.

Soda is just that – soda. Take a look at your bill next time. Maybe Grandma knows something we don’t.

But I wish she’d turn up her hearing aid.

22 thoughts on “We Don’t Need No Stinking Soda!”

  1. Julie says:

    I waited tables at a place that charged for each soda. It was terrible. You want people to know that they’re going to be charged, but it seemed uncouth to say something like “Just so you know, the restaurant’s policy is to charge for each soda.” The owner told us to say “would you like another soda”, instead of “more soda”, and somehow the customers were supposed to figure it out from that. Nobody wins when there are no free refills.

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  3. Sydney says:

    Normally, I get Dr. Pepper, without ice. To me, it tastes better without ice. Anything else, I want ice.

  4. arkanabar says:

    When a patron asks for something that is free in many places but not where I’m working (e.g., bread), my stock response was, “I’ll add that on.” My wife, who was better at waiting tables than I ever was, flat out told her patrons, “There’s an additional charge for that; would you prefer water?”

  5. bec says:

    in Australia, that’s common policy for patrons to pay for every soda

  6. barb says:

    Love your honesty. In the frugal books & blogs that I sometimes read, they almost always say to not order soda with a restaurant meal, as it’s going to cost extra for not much value. I always used to get water, although no, I never made my own lemonade! I read your description of that & thought “wow, thought I was cheap!” I am cheap, so I just don’t eat out anymore, but when my husband was alive he enjoyed eating out, so we did sometimes, but always tipped 15% – 20%. Almost always 20%. Somehow I want you to know that. I can’t afford to eat out now, so I just don’t. No measly tipping for me.

  7. cristina says:

    you couldn’t be more spot on about your theory that if the management is nickle and diming customers over soda, they’re doing the very same thing to their staff. where i work they charge for every soda and guess what? they scam us for all we’re worth. they make us tip out the general manager and a lot of my co-workers haven’t seen a single tip out from expoditing shifts they worked over a month ago.

    i love reading this blog, it makes me realize that i’m not alone in all the restaurant bullshit…however, it’s making me realize more and more that i should really find a new job.

  8. Kristine says:

    Personally, I order soda without ice because I take my time drinking it, and I don’t like watered-out soda. Also, in Norway free refills aren’t the norm, so if I don’t drink it slowly, it can get expensive to order more drinks through dinner.

    What aggravates me, though, is when I ask for no ice – and I *don’t* get more soda. Apparently some places place the exact same amount of soda in the glass, ice or no ice. And if I’m paying for each and every glass, the least they could do is fill it up properly, bloody hell.

  9. AZ says:

    Previous post said you quit the Bistro, and yet this post puts you back with Fluvio and the Bistro, what’s up?

  10. Put upon says:

    WOW AZ, you are so not up to date….Yes, he has quit the Bistro and become quite the hero amongst put upon servers everywhere. It’s an old post.

  11. Joakim says:

    Shut the fuck up, Put Upon, don’t take your anger for your customers out on your fellow blog commentators. I’d explain what you misunderstood but you probably thought about it for a week and figured it out yourself.

  12. Tom says:

    Late comment, but where I work a “Glass Pepsi (7oz)” is exactly that. You get 7oz of pepsi for £1.10, whether or not you have ice. If you want a full 10oz (half pint) you have to pay £1.30.

    The amount of people that complain about that is a joke.

  13. Audrey says:

    I don’t mind paying for more soda, but I was somewhere last month where they asked “want a refill?” and only when I got the bill did I discover the “Refill” wasn’t free. That’s tricking the customer, if you ask me, and I never went back.

    My favourite Chinese buffet charges per glass. I know this in advance and I’m ok with it. I have one wonderful server though who, when I ask for an other soda, says “too expensive! I get you water”. Cracks me up all the time. 🙂

  14. megen says:

    Yesterday our owners decided they were going to charge us, the servers, $1/day for soda whether we drink it or not. In addition thinking it is ludicrous that I am now paying them to come to work, I think that it is a bad move on the owners part. Unhappy servers are not going to provide good service; keep the servers happy and then you keep the customers coming back.

  15. Ted says:

    Get a better job then you won’t have to put up with that. Customers are paying your salary, so suck it up and stop acting like a crybaby.

  16. craig says:

    The minute the customer orders a soda with no ice, you can bet you won’t get a tip.

  17. JustAnotherBloke says:

    craig, you might be able to bet on the percentages, but it’s not always true. I lunch with a friend every week, he orders no ice, and tips 20% or over always.

  18. kharl says:

    hey! wait a minute. I thought you left the Bistro? now you’re back working there?? what gives?

  19. OddJobb says:

    In some countries when you ask for a soda, they bring you the bottle and a glass (with or w/o ice). They don’t have the soda dispenses that mix the syrup and carbonated water. So that each time you ask for a soda, each bottle is added to your bill.

  20. Shadow says:

    JustAnotherBloke is right Craig.

    Just because some of us order soda without ice doesn’t mean we don’t tip. I don’t order ice mainly because I hate watered down soda. Too much soda gives me one hell of a sugar rush, so I try to drink my sodas slower to limit my intake. Doesn’t mean I don’t tip my waiter. Friend of mine does the same thing and, like me, he also tips.

  21. saxojon says:

    When diners (or guests, as we call them) repeat themselves like this I’ve noticed its often because they seem to think that Im a bit retarded. You know, since Im a waiter and all.

    The worst are those who pulls a joke on your behalf in front of the table (and you) and they believe that the point of the joke went way over your head. Unless I can conjure up an appropriate response right back at that snarky fuck that will put him/her in place (without even showing the slightest signs of rudeness) within the two-second window after something like that. In that case, yuppie just made my day..

  22. Jim says:

    But I thought you didn’t work at the Bistro anymore???

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