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Aroma Cafe – A New Way to Gouge Customers

So, I’m not a foodie by anyone’s stretch of the imagination. With all of my food allergies and (ethical) restrictions, there’s just no feasible way for me to be one. I do, however, love well-prepared and tasty food, just like the rest of the world. If there’s one thing I don’t mind spending money on, it’s eating out. I do it way more than I should, according to my (badly kept) budget.

A friend and I went out to Aroma Cafe on Sunset Blvd. tonight after a long, hard day of a writing class in the morning, watching Olympus Has Fallen (review to follow!), and shopping (she just got an awesome job). Now, I’d never been to this place but she had raved about the souffle, which was all she was going to get. Well, that and beer. hehehehe. I was a little surprised at how few vegetarian options there were, given this was LA, and there were no vegan ones, so I altered an existing dish. There were problems with the souffle, but they made that right by not charging her for the twice done thing. We weren’t thrilled with the speed of the service, but the waiter was a nice guy. All around, I wouldn’t have put the experience as memorable in any fashion… until the bill came.

There was a 15% “Service Fee” after the food charges, but before the subtotal. Puzzled, we tried to figure it out. First we thought they’d just automatically put in a tip. Irritating, but whatever. Then we thought, “No, that can’t be right there’s only 2 of us.” But we were seated at a larger table and thought, “Maybe because we took up a bigger table?” Finally, we called over the waiter and asked. He said that it was a management fee and we went, “What the fuck?” (not in those words, we weren’t going to curse him out, after all) So he asked if we wanted to talk to a manager and we went, “Hell yes.”

In the few minutes it took the manager to come over, we stewed and cursed and then realized there were small children nearby and apologized for not noticing earlier. So we cursed softer. The manager came over and confirmed that yes, it was a “dine-in” fee and it had been in place for TWO YEARS! It was also, she said, on the menus. Again, we went, “Excuse me?” and she went to get a menu. There it was, in tiny, italic font at the bottom of the first page on a 20-ish page menu, I shit you not. (I should’ve gotten a pic of that, no doubt, but was too pissed to think of it at the time)

Apparently, there was absolutely nothing she could do about it, despite being management and the fact that we were kicking up a pretty big stink. So we paid the god damned 15% service charge and let her know we would not be back and would spread the word all about that little fee. I mean, our bill was relatively inexpensive. But if you’re there with a few kids or friends, and you get dessert and have drinks and your bill comes to $80 (food there ain’t cheap to begin with), then you’re going to get a pretty hefty fee, just because you ate in their restaurant.

Let’s face it. That “service fee” is because we took up space in their place of business. They are charging us to eat at their restaurant. That is complete and utter bullshit. I don’t know if it’s legal, but it sure as hell isn’t right. I mean, come on. As far as I know, even Gordon Ramsey doesn’t do that. (I could be wrong, I can’t actually afford to eat at his restaurants so there’s no confirmation on that. Plus, he likes to mock vegans a little too enthusiastically for me to risk it. ;o))

So. Just a heads-up. If you’re in LA and looking for a place to eat, don’t got to Aroma Cafe unless you want to pay them for the privilege of sitting in their restaurant. I’ve enclosed the receipt here for your viewing pleasure. (pardon the finger shadows, I’m terrible at avoiding them)

Aroma Cafe receipt

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About Nancy M. Griffis

Author and screenwriter who loves scifi/action/adventure/urban fantasy genres. I have two published novels, Mind Games and Eternal Investigations, as well as a short story published for charity called "Home Fires Burning." All are available through amazon.com and barnesandnobles.com.

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Nancy at the Tim Burton exhibit in L.A.

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