Sunday, October 7, 2012

Weekly Whine: Rice

It bugs me immensely when restaurants charge you extra for rice with dishes that basically must be eaten with rice.

For example, when we get Chinese food, my husband usually orders chicken with broccoli. This is a very saucy dish which is always eaten with rice. But many times, the restaurant does not automatically provide that rice. The rice will be, like, two dollars extra.

Why do that? I guess it's to make the dish appear less expensive. But any deception achieved by subtracting the cost of the rice from the dish is eliminated by my anger at the fact that the rice isn't free. I mean, rice is really cheap. It should be free. They don't charge you for the butter when you get lobster.

But the absolute worst thing is when you get takeout from one of these restaurants, they don't inform you the rice isn't included, and then you open the brown paper bag and discover you have no rice at all. And then you're forced to, like, make your own rice or something.

Please, just give us the rice for free. Everyone will be happier.

66 comments:

  1. 1. Rice is not free.
    2. These restaurants are overcharging for rice so that they can undercharge for the rest of their menu.
    3. Would you be ok with paying $2 extra for each dish even if you didn't eat the rice?

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    1. I have to believe that rice, when bought in huge bulk, does NOT cost $2 for a small portion. I don't see how that's possible. I can buy a huge box of rice at the grocery store for like $3 and make 20 portions from that.

      Basically, it's a TRICK on their part. They undercharge on the dish, then charge $2 for a box of rice that costs them ten cents to make. And the dish is something that is eaten with rice by 99% of people. It's like going to a restaurant and saying a dish costs $5, but it's $10 if you want it served on, like, a plate and not slopped on the table in front of you.

      I wish they'd just be honest and not use this trick. And I do find it especially annoying when the person taking the order doesn't know about the trick and I end up having an incomplete meal delivered to me, and now I don't have rice at all.

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    2. God forbid you have to make rice!!! If it's so cheap, then why don't you buy some next time you're at the market and make your own rice. I mean, rice is not THAT hard to make in the first place, especially if you have a rice cooker.

      Also, if a doctor thinks it's too expensive to pay $2 for rice, then what would others think?

      Aren't you in the midwest? What kind of fancy restaurants are you hitting up anyway? Either that, or you must be elsewhere in the US.

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    3. Yeah, the entire midwest is a shithole that doesn't have anything as fancy as *Chinese food*. What a bizarrely angry comment.

      When I get takeout, the whole point is that I don't want to cook, that I'm exhausted from working a long day and I've got cranky, hungry kids. I don't think it's unreasonable to want the entire meal included.

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    4. Fizzy -- You completely overlooked points #2+3. They are overcharging you for rice to make up for undercharging you for the other dishes. This is not unlike what fast food places do when they charge you $2 for a soda, which costs them $0.05. Perhaps you consider it a "trick," but like I said, you could be charged $1.95 extra for food, and then $0.05 for rice. Maybe you'd prefer that, but maybe others would not.

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    5. But say that only like 1/4 of the dishes on a menu would be ones you'd necessarily want to eat with rice. And maybe half the people you offer rice to might not get it because they don't want to pay, or maybe they didn't realize it didn't come with the dish. So effectively the price of the dishes are being "raised" by $1 each, and it's only like 1/4 of the dishes. So probably if you raised the price of everything on the menu by like a quarter, which is almost negligible to an individual customer, they'd earn the same revenue. And it wouldn't piss off customers as much.

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    6. I'm with you on not wanting to cook your own rice. First you have to happen to have some in the cupboard, then hang around for it to cook whilst your dinner gets cold, then wash the rice cooker up... You're right- almost defeats the purpose of getting take out. They should at least ask you when ordering whether or not you want rice.

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    7. It's like the lazy people convention over here...

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    8. Right. I'm lazy. Most of the week, I work a 10 hour day, then go straight to daycare to pick my kids up, then cook them a meal while simultaneous attempting to keep my infant from sobbing hysterically and my older girl from begging for food because she's SO hungry. And then on the days when I'm so damn tired that I get takeout, I'm lazy because I don't also want to cook part of the meal I just paid for.

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    9. I'm with you, Fizzy. On rare frantic days, I pay out the nose for take-out so I don't have to cook or clean up, like I do the other 29 days of the month, and I expect to be able to eat the moment I get home. Its ridiculous to go pick up take-out, and then spend 30 minutes making rice before you can start eating. "Do you want rice with that?" should be a standard when you're placing your order. I don't get why they don't ask---if they are charging extra, they'll make more money if more people order rice (duh!)

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    10. Well, Fizzy is complaining about the price more than anything else. If it's too much of a hassle, leave your rice cooker on earlier so by the time you all have to eat, it's ready. What is so hard about putting rice in the rice cooker and letting it MAKE ITSELF?

      It's not like the days that you're tired you sit all day and lie in bed all night. Rice practically makes itself. If you want to save 2 dollars, then buy the rice yourself. It's not that hard.

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  2. These are the same people who charge for a cup for water

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  3. Where do you live that rice is never included as part of the meal? This has never happened to me or anyone I know. Maybe they've forgotten to pack it or they charge for another serving, but I've never been charged for the first serving of rice separately. Weird

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    1. It does vary city to city. Where I live now, restaurants don't seem to charge for it, but the two cities I lived before that, one only 30 miles from here, did charge extra for rice. It seems to be completely random.

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  4. Don't forget that they also had to buy their most likely industrial size rice cooker. You're also paying them for their labour so you're not forced to, like, make your own rice or something.

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    1. I just looked up that an industrial rice cooker only costs $200-300. Not very lofty spread out over thousands of customers.

      So, doing some math here: I discovered a 50-lb bag of rice at a store (not even necessarily wholesale) is less than $20. There's 2 servings of rice per pound. So that's 100 servings of rice per $20 bag. That's under 20 cents per serving. NOT $2.

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    2. Yes. Plus electricity/garbage disposal/water; rent (or purchase for land+building); wage for cashiers, cooks, possible delivery drivers and other staff(you support at least minimum wage, right?); other commercial kitchen implements (not all of which cost $200-300); advertising expenses; and the boxes and utensils used to package your to-go food. The ingredients are often the cheap part of a restaurant business.

      From a business standpoint it makes sense that they would undercharge a main meal - attract more customers - and overcharge on rice. Unless they are specifically advertising rice with the meal for one combined price, there is no deceptive trick. Clearly, the market is able to bear the practice and you are willing to pay for the convenience.
      Jasmine

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    3. It might attract more customers initially to charge less for meals, but if they piss off their customers by tacking on what is basically a surcharge at the last minute, they won't get a lot of repeat business. And as I explained to someone above, since only a small portion of people probably order rice, they could probably raise their overall prices only a tiny amount and see the same revenue.

      The proof that I'm right is that the vast majority of restaurants DO include the rice. That's why it's especially irritating when you encounter places that don't.

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    4. Yes....if most customers got really annoyed about having to order rice separately and then never returned to that restaurant, that could affect business; but, beyond this blog post, I've never heard of that occurring. (Doesn't mean it doesn't occur, of course, but if some businesses are able to sustain a practice of selling rice separately it must not be happening too much. Or it's a regional conspiracy. Probably the conspiracy). As to especial irritation.....I would say that depends on the customer. Last time I got upset at a restaurant was...wow. Can't remember when.

      As to proof you're right - right about what? That rice should be included in the price? I don't see that as any proof other than it is a common practice. Perhaps the conspiracy of rice surcharges just hasn't had a chance to spread coast to coast. And as someone who prefers chicken and broccoli without rice, I can only say that it can't happen fast enough!
      Jasmine

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  5. That is horrible. I've never heard of chinese places not including rice in their delivery/carry out. If I got home and found that I had no rice I would be PISSED. If the food was really good, I would just write a note in the menu to always ask for rice.

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  6. I actually prefer restaurants that charge for the rice separately, as then I can get (and pay for) exactly the amount of rice that I want. Many restaurants in my city that include rice send way too much per dish, and then I'm generally left feeling guilty about wasting food. As well, if I'm ordering something starchy (e.g. noodles) with my meal, then it drastically reduces the amount of rice that I want to eat.

    As for the cost of rice, it's no different from the cost of pop, which is pennies for each drink for which they charge dollars. It's all part of an establishment's way of making money. If they didn't mark up an item like rice, they'd have to mark up something else to maintain their profit margins.

    As for the deception component - you're a smart woman Fizzy! You should be able to figure this out.

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    1. I don't think they should provide rice with noodle dishes or anything. Only with dishes that have a lot of sauce and are generally always eaten with rice. And I can understand charging if a customer asks for EXTRA rice, but I think a small container should be free.

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  7. When I go to the restaurant with a large group of people, we always order less than the number of people there, because some people don't eat as much rice and can share with someone else (e.g. kids, elderly) or want to eat noodles. Makes sense to me, and we end up eating what we order.

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  8. Ok... I see your point that since the item ordered has to be eaten with rice, they ought to make it an automatic add on...
    take a look at it from the original perspective... an Asian cultural perspective ...I see no anomaly in the practice from that view.
    Like you rightly pointed out rice is cheap...(It also takes only 15 mins to prepare) So most of the ethnic population for whom these food items constitute staple diet normally have it at home all the time. When they buy it if it was automatically added on they would complain that they are being forced to buy something they do not need (a luxury perhaps?)...if you tell them its free they would then ask for a discount and ask that you minus the rice! (please feel free to exchange 'they' for 'me' in the above line...typing on the mobile is fun but not when editing!)
    So in essence I submit that the present system is pro choice and the alternative is unfair to poor people (like me)...last I heard these outlets carter mainly to the cost conscious crowd anyway ;-)

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    1. Yes, but I'm talking about something that happens in America where the majority of people DO expect to be served rice with certain dishes. If an American company opened up a restaurant in an Asian country with primarily Asian customers and charged extra for something consistent with Asian eating, that would be just as bad. (I don't know enough about Asian culture to think of an example, but maybe you could.)

      And furthermore, the rice is still extra if you eat IN the restaurant. Presumably, Asian people don't carry around a supply of rice in their purses.

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    2. But you see the company running the business I presume is Asian and therefore will run their business in a manner that makes sense(business sense?) to them.
      That being said, I also guess that if there was sufficient feedback they would automatically change their script to "...and do you want rice with that?"(excuse the pun :P)

      Furthermore, if coke and fries cost extra at take away then it should stand to reason that the same applies to dine in.

      Be that as it may, your blog is fun to read and in the end thats what matters :)
      (it does not matter that you were wrong this time ;) :D)

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    3. I don't think it's the same as taking away coke and fries, because those are optional components. You can eat a burger without fries. Nobody here is arguing that these saucy dishes shouldn't be eaten with rice.

      It's more like if you went to a burger place, ordered a burger, then got home and discovered there was no bun on your burger. And then when you called the burger place, they said, "Well, I'm from Weirdonia and the custom there is that burgers don't come with buns. Everyone just has buns in their home. If you want a bun on your burger, it's $2 extra." And if you pointed out that this not the custom in the country where they're currently serving food, and they said, "Well, since I'm Weirdonian, I'm going to run my business in a way that makes sense to ME," would you ever eat at that place again? Or would you give your business to some other restaurant?

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    4. Sorry but you have to accept the fact that it IS Wierdonian cuisine. So they decide what is or isn't included.
      Just because people in America are used to having sandwiches we cannot make pizzas with bases on the top and bottom! Then is not a pizza...its something else... so I submit it is the cuisine or their culture that makes the rules not the market(although the market can modify the original rules to suit their tastes as is evident all over the world.)

      Look at a scenario like this, imagine you are at the supermarket and every supermarket you have been to 'sells' you FREE lighter fluid with your coal for the barbeque, lets say at $5.
      But, a new one opens up advertises a cut in the price of coal for everyone to lets say $3. Now they say those of you who want lighter fluid need to pay $2 more. Essentially they have just un-bundled the offering but their costs, their profits and everything else remains the same(even for the customer who needs lighter fluid every time but needs to make a 'great' effort to buy that as a separate item now).

      But I'm with you on the matter that any restaurant that does not bother to cater to the customer's needs is either too successful as they are or are on the road to running out of business.

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    5. Incidentally I just remembered "The Soup Nazi" :D
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJyGJQx2Fgk

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    6. Well, one of the things that annoyed me about this is that the restaurants don't always alert you that the rice is not included. Presumably if you were buying coal, you'd realize if the fluid was not included. You wouldn't get home and be surprised that you only bought coal.

      Just un-bundling things usually sold together doesn't bother me. But you might be annoyed if that same supermarket, say, dropped the price of ALL its merchandise by like a quarter to pass on the un-bundling savings. For example, if your coal was now $4.75 and the fluid was $2. It might work out fine if you were buying tons of stuff there, but if you mainly just wanted coal, it's not a good deal, so you'd shop somewhere else. I've noticed that in restaurants where the rice is not included, the prices of the dish in question is NOT correspondingly less. (And frankly, I don't think ANY of the dishes cost less.)

      Businesses are of course welcome to serve whatever they want in whatever way they like. But it doesn't mean they'll stay in business. Pissing off customers is not a great business model. Businesses originating in another country often have to cater to American tastes.

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    7. About the extra for the rice part, my take would be like - here is my $2 for the rice but this is the last time I'm coming here because I know other places that give me a better deal than you can/I feel your business is unfair(my feeling is only my opinion not necessarily a fact but that is what I base my buying plans on sometimes).

      I totally agree that I too would be downright angry at someone who did not warn me that there was no rice in my order when I had a reasonable expectation that the item usually comes along with rice as I see in your particular case.

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  9. It's simple. They're trying to rip you white people off.

    They don't do that here in NYC. Rice is always included. 5 bucks, beef and broccoli with rice.

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  10. Everytime my boyfriend and I eat out Chinese we *always* comment on how empty the restaurants are and start scheming as to how they can afford to stay in business ( besides living in the upstairs of the restaurant ). Maybe its the inflation on the rice.

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  11. I've never heard of a Chinese take-out place NOT including rice. We get Chinese take out too regularly (we feel it at least pretends to be healthier than pizza or fast food!), and we always have too much rice given to us!

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    1. I had never heard about it growing up. That's why it was a shock to me the first time I was asked if I wanted rice and told it would be extra. I think a lot of people have that experience and I think it ends up isolating customers. That's probably why either all restaurants in a city do it, or none do it.... b/c you couldn't get away with it if you were the only restaurant to charge extra.

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  12. After traveling through China, I KIND OF get why. I'm not saying anything about charging extra for it, but it is thought to be insulting to include rice when it wasn't specifically asked for. The logic behind it being that you only served rice to your guests when you needed to provide extra filler and didn't have the money to buy more meat or what not. So when we went to restaurants we had to ask three or four times before we got a bowl of rice.

    So idk. Maybe you are hitting up some really authentic places. Or some places just want to charge extra. :)

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    1. I don't think it has to do with the restaurants themselves but rather the towns. Like I have lived in towns where every place did this (no matter how crappy they were), and towns where no places did this. It's like some general consensus they reach, where they decide they're all going to make rice extra.

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  13. It is like ordering soup and having to order and pay for crackers, a burger and having to order ketchup for an extra charge, or ordering a salad and having to order an pay for dressing.

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    1. Crackers, ketchup, and dressing aren't cooked, they already come ready to eat.

      When you pay for the rice, you aren't paying JUST for the rice. You're paying for the effort and energy made to cook the rice.

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    2. The effort and energy to throw rice into an industrial cooker and scoop out a small portion is minuscule and a very large number of restaurants do NOT charge for rice. The only reason that restaurants don't charge for crackers, ketchup, and dressing is because they know they can't get away with it. McDonald's has now started charging for BBQ sauce. Is that because of the energy that goes into making the sauce? No, it's because they can somehow get away with it.

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  14. Has this happened to you once or many times? Because if it's happened more than once, then it's probably your fault for not learning your lesson. If not, you could always go to another restaurant that does have free rice. Yelp helps. :)

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    1. Not learning my lesson that....? How does a restaurant charging for something ridiculous mean that I haven't learned a lesson?

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    2. You didn't answer my question.

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    3. It's happened to me multiple times that I've encountered restaurants that charge for rice.

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    4. Learning your lesson that they might not include free rice and that next time you should be ready to pay 2 dollars for rice.

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    5. Even if I "learn" that lesson, it doesn't irritate me any less.

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  15. Wow, I didn't expect this post to be so controversial.

    Why on earth would anyway get take-away food and then go home and cook their own rice??

    I completely agree it should be included in the cost of the meal.

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    1. Seriously! I thought this post would get maybe one or two comments max. I'm baffled that there are people who are telling me that I'm lazy because I don't want to cook my own rice when I get takeout food. I feel like I'm on crazy pills here.

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  16. possibly my favourite thread in a long time!

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  17. Lol. If they know you're going to pay for it... they're going to keep charging it.
    Asians like to get money where ever they can and do not want anything "wasted" by giving it away.
    And it might make you even more angry to know that those dishes that seem "cheap" because it's about $10.00 ... costs maybe $1.00 to make.

    I am seriously not being racist, my mom owns an Asian restaurant ... and we're Asian (if no one could put two and two together).
    For example, making the waiters/waitresses pay a nickel every time they drop a straw or napkin.

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    1. I think *anyone* running a business wants to get money wherever they can!

      I'm not surprised that the dishes cost $1 to make. And the rice probably costs pennies. That's why I say we're not paying for labor or raw material costs. They're making the choice to charge a lot (comparatively) for something that's essentially free.

      But really, it's not the actual cost that bothers me so much as the deception involved or getting a dish delivered to me without rice.

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    2. Deception? The restaurants are advertising the dish with rice and chicken+broccoli and the advertised price specified that it included both rice and chicken+broccoli? Or, you asked the server and he said, "Yes, we sell the rice and chicken+broccoli together?" Provided that a separate price is provided for rice and the chicken+broccoli, I would argue that even displaying the two together in a picture is not deception.
      Jasmine

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  18. @fizzy: Found my way over from your facebook page. Vitriol is an understatement when its over something so... ummm... un-vitriol-worthy?

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  19. This is how I feel about sushi places that give you ONE tiny packet of soy sauce for an order of sushi. It drives me nut - there is NO way one packet is enough for anyone (except maybe those that are gluten intolerant). Whenever I ask for more I get charged like 25 to 50 cents extra per packet. I actually DID start buying my own soy sauce just because I hate paying that much for something that like you say, is practically free.

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  20. I'd be annoyed if I ordered a dish, expected rice and did not get any.

    Granted, I don't like rice, but it's the principle of the matter. You can have my rice :P

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  21. I think we have to buy it separate here in Sacramento. I never thought about it. And then we get so much that even if everyone eats some of it we still have to throw some of the leftovers away.
    (PS Ignore the trolls (anonymous that is mean, rude, and just trying to provoke you.)
    You are awesome and I love your blog.

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  22. I totally understand the disappointment and frustration. Imagine ordering nachos and discovering tortilla chips aren't included.

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    1. Wow...that is definitely not the same. People really are off with the analogies on here.

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  23. My family buys chinese take out from time to time. We do pay separate for rice. And it is our cheapest family meal ever. My husbund says cheaper than coooking a meal your self. One small box of checken/brocolli and two small boxes of white rice/brown rice feeds 4 in my family.

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    1. I don't think I could feed my entire family on just one small order of chicken and broccoli...

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  24. I enjoy eating take out (college student!). Some times the rice is included, some times not. I either look at the price as it is being rung up, ask the cashier, or look at the menu prices; cannot say I have ever ordered a dish and did not get my rice.
    Jasmine

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  25. I don't understand. I really don't get why the dish has to include the rice. In my mind it's like ordering just the burguer and getting free fries. Sometimes those things are bundled, sometimes they are not. I don't understand why do you assume rice is included if it's not stated anywhere.

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    1. Because it's included at 95% of Chinese restaurants?

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  26. I realize this is way behind the times and all, but as a fun fact: this...

    It's like going to a restaurant and saying a dish costs $5, but it's $10 if you want it served on, like, a plate and not slopped on the table in front of you.

    ...is actually exactly what they do in most places in Italy. It's called "coperto" and they basically charge for providing plates and cutlery. It's usually about €2 or around €0.50 for a take-out box.

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