Refill charges may apply


While visiting Vancouver last week, I noticed something strange on the restaurant menus. No, it wasn’t the high sales taxes that I expected from being in a major Canadian city: GST was only 5%, which is less than half what we pay in Chicago. Rather, the odd thing was that some restaurants charge for refills of basic drinks like coffee and soda. I asked the waitress about this while she refilled our coffee. She said they have the fee to discourage people from sitting there all day after paying for one coffee, but she had never once seen a reason to apply the charge.

Personally, I think it’s great to set reasonable guidelines for how long someone can stay at a table, nursing one meal or beverage. It’s not fair to the restaurant or other patrons if one customer hogs that limited space all day long. With that said, I was initially turned off by the idea that they charged for refills. After all, who only drinks one cup of coffee at breakfast? I thought the restaurant was just being cheap, when in fact they were being quite sensible.

To strike a proper balance, they should change the phrasing on the menu from “Refills: $0.80” to something more accurate. For instance, they might say “Up to 3 refills are free, but we reserve the right to charge for refills after that.” Normal customers will read that and think nothing of it, while the troublemakers will see the message and pick someplace else to loiter all day.