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Sunday, March 10, 2013

A new pet peeve: Restaurants that round your bill up

Recently I had what I would consider to be one of the most surprisingly negative restaurant experiences I've ever had on my first visit to the Blush Raw Bar & Lounge in the San Pedro Square Market in downtown San Jose. The market is a consortium of a multitude of restaurants with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating and indoor stand-while-you-dine high tables with no chairs. Below is my one star Yelp review of my experience.

It takes a lot for me to write a one star Yelp review and even more for me to create a negative blog post here on my blog. You can bet when I do it's because I'm looking out for you somehow.

The last (and first) time I wrote a truly negative review was about the Van Halen concert. The tickets were expensive, the sound quality awful, and David Lee Roth lost his ability to sing less than halfway into the show and before he'd sung their biggest hits. So I wrote the negative review to tell people to save their money and wait for the next tour when his voice had recovered. And, someone sent me a comment saying they wished they had been sitting next to me so they could have punched me in the face. Hopefully that won't be the case this time.

I'd give San Pedro Square Market 5 out of 5 stars. I love the concept.

My Yelp review:

Today I stopped by the small order-only booth in the San Pedro Square Market and ordered a Molten Chocolate Lava Cake dessert. The girl working the booth was very nice and friendly. My issue is not with her as I'm certain she is not the one who sets policy.

Since there was no kitchen or food I asked how her booth worked. She replied that I could place an order and the food would be prepared on the restaurant side across the patio and would be delivered over. I was given a vibrating buzzer that would let me know when to return to the booth to pick up my cake.

The price was listed as $8.00 on the menu board. With tax she said it was $8.67. I gave her a $10.00 bill. Instead of giving me back $1.33 she handed me back a single dollar bill and explained "We don't give change." What??? She could tell I was confused so she reiterated that they don't give change, they round all purchases to the nearest dollar. She said since the amount of coins I was due was less than 50¢ I didn't get any change. If it had been more than 50¢ I would have received back a full two dollars.

Seriously? I asked if this was legal because I found it hard to believe it is. She said it was and that was their policy. I asked if I gave her exact change ($10.67) she would give me back $2.00 in bills? She said yes. I had no pennies so I gave her 70¢ and she kept the 3¢ I was due.

If this policy was posted it wasn't obvious enough for me to notice. I also think people should be told this before a cash order is rung up, not after.

I went back to my table and the buzzer never rang. Almost 45 minutes later I went back to her counter. She apologized profusely and said that she had tried to buzz me but the buzzer was broken. Odd, because she tested it when she handed it to me and it worked then.

I have to say the cake was delicious (though by then it was tepid, not molten) but I won't order anything from them ever again. I think it's ridiculous for any company to round up in 50¢ increments. If every company did this you could lose dollars a day by the time you buy a couple of meals out, a drink on your coffee break, groceries, dry cleaning, etc. Even losing a cumulative dollar a day would mean losing $365.00 by the end of a year.

Normally I would contact a business first with a complaint but since this is their policy I didn't see the point. Instead I wanted to warn other cash paying customers beforehand to either have exact change or expect to be short changed if you didn't hit the magical over 50¢ back mark.




But I can't end this post on a negative note (it's so not flirty) so I'll share with you that I did patronize two other restaurants that day and had great experiences. First I went to Cre Paris where a lovely woman with a beautiful French accent sold me a Fizzy Lizzy no-sugar-added cranberry soda.

CaliDog has meat and vegetarian fusion gourmet hot dogs.

Then I went to the CaliDog hot dog stand and ordered their Asian fusion namesake, the CALIdog with a vegetarian option (soy and wheat gluten) faux hot dog. Their menu also includes the Latin SALSAdog, Vietnamese inspired SHAKINGdog, a CHILIdog, and BREAKFASTdog. Not a vegetarian? No problem. They also have beef hot dogs, Chorizo sausage, and Bratwurst.

I'd seen Asian style hot dogs before in Vancouver Canada at JAPADOG, and in Seattle at Gourmet Dog Japon but hadn't ever tried one. What I've learned is Japanese fusion dogs have sauces on them like miso sauce and wasabi and teriyaki mayo. And their toppings are things like toasted seaweed, bonito flakes, tsukemono, and oroshi daikon.

Seattle's Gourmet Dog Japon menu sign board.

My CALIdog was topped with roasted seaweed, teriyaki-onion sauce, Japanese mayo, and was sprinkled off with a little chili for heat. The bun was a soft, fresh roll, not a traditional hot dog bun. It was delicious and I will definitely go back again both to CALIdog and the San Pedro Square Market.

If you want to visit here's what you need to know:

San Pedro Square Market - website
87 N. San Pedro St.
San Jose, Ca 95110

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