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Water, please!

We were out of town the other day, and we decided to stop and get a bite to eat for dinner. We had frequented this restaurant many times before, and we knew the food was great, reasonably priced and quick. We ordered, and within just a few minutes, the food was served. We ate, and at just the right time, the waitress appeared with the bill.

I didn’t mention it, but this wasn’t a prissy restaurant. Rather, it was the kind of place where you can go in a pair of jeans and feel totally comfortable and at home. While there’s a place and time for fancier fare, this was just one of those down-home places that always delivers a good meal.

Let me preface this by saying I never mind paying for good food. It’s even better when I don’t have to cook it, and particularly great when I don’t have to clean up after it. All in all, I consider it money well spent.

But something kind of got me the other night when the waitress delivered my bill. The food total was right around $15 — clearly a bargain for a good meal, where we certainly weren’t going home hungry.

But then I looked at the total for our drinks — two Diet Cokes, which they served in what I believed to be 12-ounce glasses. Are you ready for this? The total for our drinks was ... $4.80. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that’s $2.40 each. Taking it a step further and ignoring the fact there was probably about half a glass of ice— that’s 20 cents for each ounce.

Stay with me, folks.

A two-liter bottle of Diet Coke at the grocery ranges in price from 99 cents on sale to $1.69 regular price. I don’t have any idea how much a fountain drink costs a restaurant owner, but I have to believe it’s far less expensive than a bottled drink.

But here’s the kick: Doing the math ... If that two-liter bottle of Diet Coke was priced the same way as the drink I was served that night, well ... many of us wouldn’t be buying much soda, since that two-liter bottle of Diet Coke would cost $12.80, using that 20 cents an ounce scenario.

What the heck!

OK, I’ve never confessed to being a quick learner, and this confirms it. About a week later, I added some salt to my mealtime wound. Out to eat again in that same town, we ordered two cups of decaf coffee instead of those Diet Cokes.

My fault. I really didn’t even look at the price on the menu. I mean, come on! How much could a couple of cups of coffee really cost? The answer: $5. No kidding. It was OK coffee, but at $2.50 a cup, I should have been at Starbucks or Neiman Marcus on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. I don’t mind paying that at Starbucks or a prissy restaurant, where I might get a great cup of Kona coffee or the like, but this was just a little nothing cup of coffee ... for $2.50 each. I won’t do the math again, but you get the idea.

At the risk of having somebody spit in my next bowl of soup when I’m dining out, let me say I wouldn’t want to own/operate a restaurant. OK ... I might want to own a restaurant, but only for about a week. After that, the fun would be gone. In other words, I tip my hat to restaurant owners because I know it’s a thankless job and the profit margins are slim, not to mention the work involved. Please don’t write me letters about how tough it is to own a restaurant; I get it, but I guess I’d rather you charge me an extra $1 or $2 for my meal, rather than the blatantly overpriced drinks.

But it’s a restaurant’s prerogative to charge whatever they want ... So I guess it’s up to us, the consumers, to decide how much is too much. As for me, I’ll still go out to eat, but when it comes to my drink order, I think I’ll just pocket that extra $5 and say, “Water, please.”

Note: Remember ... your waiter/waitress don’t set the prices. Please remember to tip these hard-working folks.

BCR Editor Terri Simon can be reached at tsimon@bcrnews.com or you can follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bcrnews.tsimon.

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