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Colmar:restaurant Wistub Brenner ABUSE and OVERCHARGING

First, we sat down and waited 10 minutes while others who came after us were asked their drink orders before us. We asked the waitress(es) attention and were treated with "attitude"...and had to wait some more (we have learned NOT to ask for service, at least not so far in France; you must wait until service is presented to you). Then, we ordered a standard "menu" of entree, plat and dessert and asked to divide between us both. The elder of the waitresses took our order and the food came slowly but that was okay with us. When she presented the bill, she charged us for each individual plate, 7Euros more than the menu price for 3 courses, and said (only then) "'s not possible to share a should know that." Needless to say, we were outraged and told her so. But no satisfaction and no reduction in the bill. So, be aware that this restaurant has no issue abusing tourists for a few extra Euros.

Posted by
9363 posts

While I agree that they could have been kinder, I don't consider this abuse, either. Waiting 10 minutes is hardly abusive, and it was presumptive of you to assume that you could split a meal between you without clarifying beforehand. Chalk it up to a cultural difference and move on.

Posted by
3193 posts

You've had your experience; but for the future, or for others reading this thread, here's my read on what happened. It sounds like you ordered a menu; that is, a set meal with three courses, usually, but not always including limited choices for each course. If so, there are rules, with which Americans may not be not familiar. No substitutions is a big one. A menu is often bargain priced; and, for that reason, may be offered at midday only and not on weekends. Again, because of bargain pricing, sharing may not be allowed. When we can agree on choices, my husband and I get around that problem by ordering one menu and one other entree or plat. By the time he has a glass or two of wine and an espresso, the restaurant personnel are satisfied with our expenditure. The only fault I can see on the waitress's part is not alerting you to the charge for sharing. However, 7 euros also doesn't seem an outlandish charge. It was 7 euros, not 7 more for each course, wasn't it? Sharing has become much more common in Europe in recent years. We recently spent a month in France and Italy, and usually shared some part of our main meal. Not once did anyone act reluctant to accommodate our request nor did we ever incur a charge for doing so.

Posted by
3589 posts

It's unfortunate that you had what you consider to be a bad experience, but I agree with what Rosalyn said.

It sounds like some cultural differences coming out here, especially considering your comment about learning to not ask for service. Most of the incidents I've heard of similar to this, or that occur in shops, seem to come from people who are not aware of the differences in culture between where they came from and where they are going, and it doesn't only happen in France. The cultural differences just may be different ones in different countries.

Frankly, if we had something like you describe happen to us, we would chalk it up to our own ignorance and consider it a learning experience perhaps only relevant to that restaurant, and we would not have argued about the small increase in the bill. Fortunately, we have never had anything like that happen to us. That may be because we can never agree on which menu to get! We do trade plates sometimes, or eat off of each other's plates to verify who made the best choice. Probably bad form in some places, I'm sure, although we've seen it at other tables where people are speaking the local language.

As to the specifics of this incident. We have been in many places in the world, including right here in the old USA, where we had to wait to be noticed, where the waitstaff was inattentive or surly, where there were misunderstandings about the price, where it was common to not split the bill out among a group of people or to charge extra for plate-splitting or for substitutions or to not do substitutions at all.

Having been a waitress at one time in my life, I understand how all the things that happened to you can happen. It's a hard, often thankless, job and the waitstaff is on the firing line. Sometimes it is their fault, but more often what happens is beyond their control.

I hope your food was at least good. A couple of years ago, I figured out that it would cost us about the same amount of money to spend a month in the UK or in France. Sorry about this to all those who live in the UK and participate on this forum, but I asked my husband which he would prefer. His comment was, "I'd rather eat than communicate." So we went to France. I'm not much for repeat visits to places, but we haven't nearly done France justice and I hope to get back again -- after Greece and Scandinavia and, and, and...

Posted by
7879 posts

This is the first time I've ever heard of two people splitting a menu. A menu is already a parred down version of the carte items. Splitting it is consider somewhere between tacky and an insult. That's why the waitress said you should know that: she was probably shocked at you. But you didn't know the culture. Like Roslyn, if I'm not too hungry I just get one dish while my husband eats his fixed price dinner. If they split this onto two plates for you, seven is a bargain. I can imagine her bold title headline on her helpline complaining about the American tourist. Cultural difference.