Ask The Salty Waitress: Shouldn't This Lousy Drink Be Free?

Hello Salty! Last weekend my husband and I went to a brand-new nice restaurant that had only been open a few days. We had dinner at the bar area. Food was fine, but my cocktail was not what I expected at all. It was so sweet that I couldn't drink more than a few sips. It was still almost full when I gave up on it. When the bartender noticed my untouched drink, he said, "Was there a problem with this cocktail? Let me guess: It was too sweet, wasn't it?" I hadn't planned on saying anything, but since he asked, I said yeah, it was much too sweet and not very drinkable. He apologized and said, "Thank you so much for your feedback. Since we just opened, we're still tweaking everything to make it just right." That was fine by me, because I get it, new restaurants need time to settle. Later, when he rang up our final bill, he thanked me again for my input on the drink and apologized again. But then I looked at the bill and saw I was still charged the full $12 for the drink! I don't think I'm a demanding diner, and I'm not someone who expects freebies, but this felt odd to me, since the guy gave me every sign that I wasn't going to be charged. Was I wrong to be surprised by this?

Thanks,Guinea Pig

Dear Cavy,

Those bartending men with their tricky signals! It can be hard to read 'em right. You think you're getting somewhere and you won't have to pay for your lousy drink, and then whoosh! they pull the rug right out from under you, and that's 12 hard-earned dollars gone from your bank account.

But alas, sweet little pet, while it would have been the right thing to comp the drink you didn't drink (I would have), the bartender didn't owe you a damn thing except for taking the offending cocktail away from you. He solicited your opinion, and since you gave it freely and profit margins are thin, you're out of luck. Sometimes you get the comped drink, sometimes the comped drink gets you. So you live, you learn, and next time, you say, "What the hell do you think I am, some kind of focus group? You want my opinion, you're gonna have to pay for it."

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