Tricky substitutions


On Saturday, my wife and I decided to try out the new location of our favorite breakfast place, which just opened a few weeks ago. As we placed our orders, the waitress mentioned that we could swap out the usual toast or pancakes for an order of french toast. I haven’t had french toast in a while, so my wife and I both took her up on the offer.

All was fine and good until the bill showed up. They charged extra for both orders of french toast. I told the server this didn’t seem right, since french toast was presented as one option among several, rather than an extra-cost item. She refunded the additional cost, and now I’ve learned not to trust any substitutions the server recommends without confirming the cost upfront.

This experience points to a bigger issue. Namely, whenever you present customers with a series of options, you have a duty to inform them if certain options are going to impact the cost. This is quite easy when you’re talking about online stores, but gets more challenging with local stores and restaurants where orders may be taken verbally.

My advice is this: if the proposed option or substitution involves an extra cost, make sure the customer knows about it upfront. This is good business even if the customer asks for that item on their own, without you ever having mentioned it. By outlining the costs upfront, everyone is happier when the bill arrives — and you won’t get stuck with angry people who think you misled them into choosing the priciest option.