DEAR HELOISE: About 10 days ago, I was out of town on a business trip and took a party of five people out to lunch. When the bill arrived, I looked it over and noticed that there was an additional amount of $5 for "employee health." I had no idea what that meant, so I asked the waiter, who told me it was for employee health insurance.
I asked to see the manager and told him that employee health insurance was his problem, not mine, and I refused to pay the $5. I didn't make a scene, and I spoke in a quiet tone so that I didn't disturb anyone else in the restaurant. The manager was very polite, but explained that if I didn't pay the bill as it was, he'd call the police.
He also asked why I felt the amount was too much. Since this was an upscale place with prices to match, I said it wasn't the amount. It was the audacity of his establishment to tell diners that they have to pay for employee's health insurance. Thankfully by this time, my guests had left and gone back to work.
The entire time, the waiter would make remarks such as, "If you can't afford to pay $5, maybe you shouldn't dine out." I found this insulting and crude. I paid the bill, then turned around and told the waiter he got his $5 but lost a $50 tip!
Is this a new trend in restaurants? I resent it and can't help but believe other customers will resent it, too. What are your thoughts on this matter?
-- Henry J., Boston
DEAR HENRY: If this is a new trend in restaurants, I sincerely believe it will anger customers. Dining out at a nice place is usually a little expensive, so adding an additional charge won't be well-received by most people. Then, to be insulted by the waiter on top of it might especially drive customers away. So, let's hope this won't become a trend because it could cause more people to eat at home instead of dining out.
DEAR READERS: Fall weather will be on its way soon, which means your pets need to be brought indoors as the weather gets cooler. They may also need a little more food than they do in the summer and need to be brushed more often. Better to have gathered pet fur on a brush than inside your pet's stomach or on your furniture.
Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5000; fax to (210) 435-6473; or email