Readers’ Unpredictable Responses

For anyone wishing to study human nature, my “mailbag” would make an interesting research center. I get tons of email and snail mail, however rather than arriving in a steady flow it comes in waves. I’ve given up trying to predict which columns will prompt responses from my readers.

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Take a column on the inherent dangers associated with debit cards. I wrote about the relatively weak law that regulates them as opposed to the much stronger law that protects users of credit cards. It was, in my humble opinion, empowering information worthy of some measure of positive response. Or at least a few angry challenges from loyal debit-card users. Surprisingly, responses to that column were nearly non-existent.

Another time, I included in a tip column what I found to be a clever, albeit not exactly earth-shattering, tip having to do with lemon water. (“When dining in a restaurant and the waiter brings you water with lemon, give those slices a little squeeze, add a bit of sugar to taste and you’ll have a tasty free lemonade.”) Oh my. Angry emails and letters poured into my computer and office.

The most heated responses came from servers who insist this dreadful practice cheats them out of a bigger tip because patrons fail to order a high-priced drink with their meal. One letter berated customers who dare to order “just a salad and water, please,” and then proceed to drop in a slice of lemon and packet of sugar. I read stories, opinion pieces and criticisms by the score. I took a lot of heat because of that lemon tip, which quite frankly I find surprising.

The way I see it, at most restaurants the lemon and water are complimentary, the sugar is sitting there for my use along with salt and pepper. So what’s the big deal? I’ll admit that at the worst this practice might lean toward being a bit tacky. But dishonest? Unethical? Abhorrent? I just don’t see it.

I would be remiss if I did not report as well the subjects that bring trays of positive, encouraging and heartfelt notes. Thankfully these kinds of mail surges occur more often than those that are negative. And while I am hooked on the convenience and speed of email, the beautifully handwritten notes and cards I get every day—those prepared with so much love and care, are so appreciated.

Now and then I’ll get a message from a reader who turns out to be an old college friend, a cousin from faraway Alaska, or yet another person who shares my somewhat common name. I even got a letter from a long-lost relative of Charlie Lester who was the subject of a past food column (Charlie is the fellow who came up with Turkey Pot Roast!) asking that I put her in touch with him. I did and a reunion followed.

I’ve decided to be grateful that I cannot predict my readers’ responses. It keeps me on my toes and makes mail time quite interesting, if not entertaining.

Keep your emails, cards and letters coming!

QUESTION: What’s your opinion of adding lemon and sugar to your water while at a restaurant? Join the conversation here


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  • Lennie

    Before I read your tip on lemon water I had already been doing it! I thought it was one of those common sense things that many people did. It’s obvious that the water sits there for a while before drinking it. Eyes wander and notice the sugar packet and the connection is made… for some of us I suppose. Especially when most lemonade isn’t even as good as the one you can make with your own water. Sometimes, I ask the waiter for extra lemon and they bring me almost a whole lemon cut up. Wow… can you imagine?

    • Edith

      If lemonade is on the menu, and you’re adding sugar, then it’s dishonest. If you’re adding Splenda, that’s a different story. It’s only cheating the restaurant if what you’re making it the table is something on the menu.

  • wordsilk

    It’s dishonest. If you’re at a restaurant, order the lemonade. At restaurants, your meal is prepared for you — that’s the whole idea. If you’re preparing your own meal or beverage, you’re cheating the restaurant and the server. It’s tacky as well — are you really THAT cheap?

    • jen

      Dishonest? I think that is a bit of a stretch.

  • Patrice

    Water w/lemon is my only option when it comes to restaurant meals. Caffine after noon keeps me awake at night, sugar does the same. Most restaurant sodas have one or the other. I always tip generously and I am not there to support my server’s family. . . I am there to enjoy an evening out. Since when do servers decide what I ‘should’ eat and drink when I am paying for it?

  • susan yoder

    I can see where the restaurant employees would not be happy about the lemon and sugar since a glass of soda costs them only a few cents each and the rest of the $2.50 charge is free money to them. However I also do this many times to save money and calories and/or to save from putting unnecessary chemicals in my drink. On top of that when I see practices like what Applebees is doing as in taking the vacation time away from it’s employees, I feel justified in taking a bit of money away from the restaurant since I feel the charge for drinks is not justified. Also why do they give $1 beer nights at so many places but not $1 soda nights?

  • Cathy in Puerto Rico

    I agree that you should be free to make your own “lemon water” – I always ask if the lemonade has sugar in it and invariably it does…so someone who is diabetic needs to have this choice. I have a friend who brings her own special tea bags and asks for a cup of hot water so she can enjoy her tea and we have never had a problem with service. We are always careful also, to tip as well as we can and to thank the server for their special attention.

  • Jene

    Did you see the report on 20/20 about how lemon slices are handled in the kitchens of the restaurants.? Might make a person a little leary of asking for lemon. Yet, isn’t lemon a natural disinfectant? Be brave and when you get lemons….make lemonade..

  • Kay

    I happen to like lemon water, no sugar, with my meal. I also like unsweetened tea and cokes but they want to charge the price of a box of tea bags or a 12 pack of soda for the drinks. I’ll drink my lemon water with my meal and stop at the gas station for a huge fountain drink on the way home. If the restaurants aren’t happy about the customers ordering lemon water then don’t make it available to them. I’m sure we could do without a drink from time to time or find another restaurant that offers cheaper drinks. I have also noticed that when you order lemon water you don’t get the refills like the coke and tea drinkers do. I guess it’s all a matter of priorities.

  • govthorses

    People are upset over lemon and water and a little bit of sugar? The world is at war in most places, over 2 million of Americans live in poverty, and they worry about lemon and sugar water? Get real people!

  • BarbieJo

    I see both sides…My daughter has been a server for many years and I would never cheat her out of a bigger tip. However, my beverage of choice is water. I drink it at home, at work and everywhere in between. But I have had some nasty restaurant water over the years and have had to add a little sugar and lemon just to cover the taste. We live in a rural area and some restaurants are using well water that just doesn’t taste that great. And, if the water is nasty, so is the soda or tea or lemonade that’s being mixed with that same water so I see nothing wrong doctoring it up for free. Why pay for the same yuck.

  • BabaMartha

    I add lemon to water so it tastes better – I’m used to well water and city water tastes funky to me. Turns out, though, lemon slices in restaurants are a huge source of germs. Who knew? In any case, I usually leave a nice tip because I know how hard servers work.

  • Grace

    I always leave a pretty good tip too. It is either the water and lemon to save the price of an expensive drink or the tip, one or the other. It is the only way I can afford to eat out. My sister is a waitress and she makes a hundred dollars or more in tips on a good night. I don’t feel that me ordering water will make or break them but in either case I have to live too. If I can’t just have water with my meal good bye restaurants.

  • Eileen

    I have been with people who ask for extra lemon and use it for lemonade.
    I think that is a bit much.
    We all need to drink more water.
    The drinks do add a lot to the price of a meal.
    I think drinks should be included in the price of a meal.

  • Beck

    If the water and the lemon are free and the sugar is like the salt and pepper – free then what is the issue? I don’t see one.. Most places charge way too much for a drink of any kind when it comes to sit down meals. I wonder how much more business a free drink (nonalcholic) night would make if each restaurant had one once in a while? If you ask me McDonald’s in our area has $1.00 drink any size for colas, coffee, and sweek tea and that to me is a great deal compared to paying $2.50 at sit down restaurant. If a person tips 10 -20 % if they feel so inclined they could tip a little extra for the water since they didn’t buy a drink but I don’t think you have to since there was no charge for it.

  • bobbi

    I also drink water with lemon-and get the lemons from my kids’ water since they don’t like them-because I can’t drink regular soda or I will be up all night-very rarely do restaurants have caffeine free diet drinks. I also balk at paying so much for a soda that I could purchase a 12 pack-

  • ‘Sunlovinmom’

    I don’t usually order anything to drink and I enjoy the water with the lemon slice. I hope you mostly get positive responses, Mary. A big problem I have with Internet responses is that people think they can be rude because they can be anonymous. I find that disgusting. I enjoy the tips you share! God bless.

  • Sheri Parker

    I am diabetic and have a sensitivity to caffeine after noontime. If I go to a restaurant to dine after lunch and feel that caffeine would not be a good idea, I ask for a a sugar free/ caffeine free alternative. Often times I hear, “Well we have, um, let me think …oh, water!” Hence my ordering of lemon in water. Yes, I use the Splenda on the table to make a diet lemonade sometimes, too. I tip very generously despite what the bottom line of my bill is. If the restaurants would get smart and think about a wider variety of soft drinks that are diet + caffeine free, they would get my business more often. In this economically depressed environment right now, “eating out” has become a luxury, not a weekly happening, and is often paid with accompanying coupons or gift certificates!

  • sonshine

    It is called going above and beyond serving people. That used to be something to be proud of and drew in customers. Now greed has business and servers being picky about what they serve you and how they accomodate you. A tip for better service has become an obligation. It is so sad that our world has become so greedy and self centered.

  • Pat Hunt

    We always do. Try finding a sugar free, caffeine free alternative in a restaurant. If the wait staff justifies it I type generously regardless of having not ordered an overpriced drink that I didn’t want nor didn’t need.

  • jen

    I think this is a non-issue. I cannot believe people have the audacity to gripe that patrons are ordering lemon water? Really? I have been a server & never thought twice when a customer ordered it, I have ordered it as a patron, and I will continue to order it. I have no idea why this bothers me so much, when greed runs rampant through this country, I should not be surprised that people think they are going to be cheated out of a good tip. Here’s a free tip: If you are an excellent server you should not be worried about your tips.

  • Lilly

    You walk into a place for lunch with $10. You order an $8 salad. Do you order a $2 drink and no tip or leave $1.6, maybe $2, tip? Servers, you do the math. Smart servers bring pitchers of water.

  • pegmr

    Since it’s complimentary I leave a bigger tip. I enjoy hot water with lemon in the winter…no sugar. my favorite waitresses are most accommodating and bring me a pot of hot water.

  • Kristine

    I always have to chuckle when a dear friend asks for lots of lemons to add to his water, and then makes a production of getting every drop of lemon juice into his water glass. He is not cheap, the lemon juice is a natural preventative for gall stones which most men will tell you is not an ailment that they would ever want to endure a second time if they had experienced the pain of passing a stone! My friend’s lemon water is his way staying healthy. I agree with the other poster who watched the Dateline story which showed that the lemons are not very sanitary – knowing that does make me think twice about dropping the lemon into my glass so I just squeeze out the juice and set it aside.

  • Brandy

    A friend does that all the time. I personally wouldn’t do that, I’ve read more than once how dirty the lemons are in the restaurants and the various germs they carry. I also wouldn’t order an iced tea that costs almost $3.00. I only take a couple of sips to wash down the couple of pills I take before meals. To make the tap water more palatable I bring the individual packets of Crystal Lite.

  • Debbie

    Considering they are all but robbing us on the price of drinks – I say use the lemon AND the sugar and enjoy every sip! Enough with the customer being intimidated by how much to tip, what we can and can’t use on the table! Hey – if we quit eating out because of the outrageous prices – they won’t have a job, so maybe they should be a little more grateful we are even there.

  • Donna

    When a guest is provided water, lemon, and sugar, how can it be wrong to drink the water, lemon, and sugar? The only way I see it as wrong is if you drink it and then leave without ordering anything from the menu.

  • landrhill

    For servers afraid that a smaller bill (free water and lemons) will result in a smaller tip–I tend to leave a bigger tip for the server who gives me water and plenty of lemons with a smile and keeps checking back to refill both.

  • LoisTheGreat

    $3.50 vs 0. Hmmmm…..No brainier for me.
    As I am a generous tipper, I feel no remorse. I get the
    same attitude when I don’t order alcohol at a nice restaurant.
    Would whipping out a home brew kit at
    the restaurant table be considered tacky?

  • Ellen

    I believe that those who normally buy drinks in restaurants will continue doing so, but my family normally just asks for water. If it comes with lemon, fine, if not, fine. However, I’m a bit edgy about putting the lemon in my water because I don’t know if they really scrub those lemons first?

  • I have been doing this since I was in my early 20’s and couldn’t afford much. But, it never stopped me from leaving a tip if the server provided me with good service. I never have believed in leaving a blanket tip. If I am provided with good service, they get a tip. If I am provided with crappy service or no service at all, I respond in kind. And I let them know why.

  • Kay

    I think you just need to read jen’s reply. I feel the same way she does! So well said by the way, jen!!
    I make sure I tip generously. I don’t drink enough water but can do this with a meal!

  • Anne

    Water and lemon is my only choice at restaurants – no sugar added. Soft drinks and juices are too loaded with sugar.

  • Guest

    I always order lemon with my water. Not to make lemonade but to make my water taste better or at least drinkable. Most water tastes horrible now a days, with all the chlorine and just bad taste. Should only drink purified water but when this is all there is….. add lemon!

  • Shirley

    Very interesting. I do it all the time. Our restaurant brings a small bowl of lemon slices so several of us have enough lemon to make the lemonade.
    We always leave a large tip, so the waitress seems very happy!

  • debk

    The group we frequently go out with mostly orders water with lemon for their beverage. A couple make lemonade (1 is a diabetic), the rest just drink it as it is. No matter what we get to drink, we always leave a good tip. Maybe it’s because we eat in family friendly restaurants here in the south, but no servers are rude. They always check back and bring extra water or ice…..My mom was a waitress ( not server!) for years. She always stated that good service was the basis for a good tip, NOT the total of the bill! Hmmm, imagine that.

  • SB

    Truthfully! Really?! Is it that horrible for a customer to order water with a bit of lemon with their meal? Wow… That really is too bad.

    I LOVE water with a slice of lemon. Not because it is inexpensive but because I LOVE it and it is much better for you. What is the purpose of ordering a lettuce salad (lower in calories) if you are going to chase it down with a glass of fountain pop. Seriously…. Would the waiter/waitress prefer I stay home and not dine out at all?
    I think it is petty of the waiter/waitress to be offended by their customer ordering water with lemon. I can stay home and eat my salad at home and not worry about offending the waiter/waitress. I enjoy a salad out because they taste so much better when dining out. LOL… There simply are times I prefer to dine out. Does that mean I cannot eat my lettuce and water with lemon too?
    Waiters/waitresses have to keep in mind. I try to leave a tip in regards to the service. If they end up refilling my lemon water and having to work a bit more for my low cal/healthy drink then I also take that into consideration when I am tipping them.
    On the other side of the table. I have gone to a mexican restauarant craving chips and salsa, deep fried ice cream. Now are they offended when that is the only reason we go into the restaurant? I just stop their after a morning of shopping because I am craving a sweet treat yet not wanting to eat a full dinner. Does this make me a hateful customer as well? I am guessing it does. I guess I will take my business elsewhere.

  • I almost exclusively drink water at restaurants, with rare exceptions of coffee, a beer or glass of wine. I prefer to save my calories for my food, and I just prefer water to soft drinks anyway. But I don’t make “lemonade” out if it.

    One thing that I can tell you IS both cheap and dishonest is when at coffee shops, people will order just a shot of espresso but want it in a large cup, at which point then go over to the condiment bar and pour most of the milk or cream pitcher contents into their cup. If you want an iced latte, you should really order an iced latte.

  • Cathy

    Until restaurants offer caffeine-free, sugar-free beverages for dinner, I will continue to make my “free lemonade” at the table. I agree with others that good service always promotes good tips from me. Besides, a $2. + beverage does not generate much of an increase in a tip.

    • mbestrn

      AMEN!!!! If I have to get up early to go back to work the next morning, and I just got off from a long day, I surely can’t drink caffeine–and I don’t drink ‘sugared’ drinks! (If I’m going to consume that many calories it’s going to be in the form of dessert–not a beverage ;-). I always ask them, ‘what do you have that is caffeine free and sugar free?’. VERY rarely they will have a caffeine free diet Coke, and, if so, that’s what

      I order, but most often they think for a moment and say, ‘we don’t have anything”. I then say, “Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to have water with lemon…I can’t have caffeine this late.” So, if I then use some sweetener in my lemon water, they have only themselves to blame!

  • Ann

    I often order a salad & water with lemon because I need to be gluten free. Many restaurants leave me few choices and I don’t drink soda. Iced tea is often poor quality(not freshly brewed-it’s premade with powder or whatever). I wish I had more choices. I really wish they would quit thickening soups with wheat that I never thicken at home and never did even before the wheat problem occurred.

  • TammyKat

    I’ve been on both sides of the table, being the waitress and being the customer. In both positions, the bottom line is to give the amount of tip for the service rendered, NOT the total of the check. As a waitress, it takes the same effort to bring a glass of lemon water to the table as it does a glass of soda or a cup of coffee. If it is presented with a smile, and a positive attitude, then the tip should reflect the service received.
    We live in a society where soda and caffeine are not the prime choices we want to maintain our health, meaning more people have turned into water drinkers out there.. When I dine as a customer in a restaurant, I bring my own natural, plant-based sweetner, and occasionally real-lemon powdered lemon or orange packets to make my water taste good just in case I forget to ask for the lemon. If I could, I’d bring filtered water as well, but that would give us another whole column to debate! Remember, always tip for the service you received, not the total of the guest check. That way, everyone is happy and healthy too!

  • Stephanie Swalwell

    I live in a place where, half the year, the water tastes like insecticide. People say, “The lake is turning.” I’m going – turning what? Rancid? Lemon is the only way to take some of the chemical taste out – of water or Soda. I’m not paying 2.19 for pesticide tainted Coke. IF restaurants filtered the water, like Olive Garden (who has the best tea in town because of it), I’d pay for a drink… or not use lemon… but regardless, I tip my server based on service, because I usually order cheap – but as someone who waited tables to pay my way through school, I tip big for good service… which leads to my family being remembered, and excellent service the next time as well.

  • Josephine Eckert

    I’m a senior and usually go out to eat with fellow seniors. I’ve done the lemon, water and sweetener at times, but usually get hot tea. I noticed that the seniors that I go out with, all order the water & lemon. If the ordinary drinks and I don’t mean mixed drinks were priced reasonably, then I bet more drinks would be ordered. I must tell you this story. I was in a seafood chair restaurant chain and ordered hot tea. My friend ordered coffee. When I asked for another tea bag and water, the waitress said she would have to charge me again for the second cup. Now, that didn’t seem fair, since coffee and soda refills were free. I wrote a letter to CEO of that restaurant and was very please with their response. In their letter to me, I was notified that the policy of charging for additional cups of hot tea will no longer be their policy and I got a card from them giving me 10% of every time I visited their establishment. That was better than getting a certificate for a free meal, free dessert or free appetizer. This was a good thing, since I frequent this restaurant quit a bit and also do take out from there.

  • Junia13

    For health reasons, I rarely drink anything but water, and I’m not a big fan of lemonade or other fruity drinks. However, I tried your suggestion of squeezing the lemon and adding a bit of sweetener, and found that I really like it. It doesn’t affect my health in a negative way. If the restaurant wants to charge for that, it would probably have to be a $1 or less which would mean the server would get $.20 at best. I guess I’ll have to make sure to leave 2 dimes the next time I have one of those drinks. I reckon the servers probably aren’t too happy when we share a meal either. We live on a tight budget and mostly eat out at fast food places anymore. If we go to a nicer place, we can’t afford the drinks and the extra tipping so we just don’t eat at many places where you are served. I hear now that servers are expecting 20-25% instead of 15-18%. I think it’s a shame that the restaurants pay so little to their staff, and get away with that legally!

  • Dev

    What’s the difference between adding a little lemon to your water and not ordering a drink and just drinking the plain water and not ordering a drink, they are both free. I don’t like lemon water but i rarely order anything to drink except water, the servers don’t seem to mind when i tell them just water.

  • Kiwis Girl

    When I waited tables while in college, we had poor/homeless people come in and order a coffee (free refills) and then proceed to make a meal from the saltines and catsup on the table. It was really very sad to watch and we never said anything to them – the manager told us just to bring them another basket of crackers and keep the coffee coming. Often these poor souls left a tip of a couple of quarters. Why is the world such a petty place now? What is wrong with you people in cyber land? It make me very very sad to see so much hate.

    • Dinah

      Kudos to your manager. I’m sure he was blessed back for his/her kindness.

    • Emily Booth

      Your manager not only followed the Golden Rule, he or she was also a role model. What a beautiful person!

    • citygirl1122

      This is the type of restaurant I would go to knowing the heart of the owner. We have ended up buying meals for the homeless in restaurants to bless them and the owner since it is very kind and courageous to let them stay.

  • Flo

    My husband and I ALWAYS order water with lemon! We don’t need either the extra (usually high) cost of drinks, nor the calories. We also frequently split a meal, adding an extra salad. We usually tip 20%, more if the service was really good, less if we felt neglected! I try to remember to tell the good service people that s/he has done a good job. They so rarely hear praise!

  • maryk

    I’m with you on the lemon-ade. I consider it a nice condoment. As for tips, if the waitress serves me well and is very nice and considerate they still get the same tip even if I order just salad and water; or a full 3 course meal. They are never fogotten.

  • CJ

    I have no problem with people doing it. My Mom would do this with either cold or hot water. My hesitance in doing it relates to the healthiness of the lemons as studies have shown that they get easily contaminated with bacteria after they are cut up and sit for so long. For this reason I pass on the lemons altogether.

  • Kelli

    Puh-leeez! When I dine out it’s to enjoy good food and company NOT pad someone’s pocket. All those items are included in the cost of my meal and are there for my benefit while I’m patronizing that establishment. If servers want good tips then they need to make sure they’re giving good service with a good attitude.

  • Nana

    I read your newsletter and learn a lot from the good ideas you share to help us spend less than we earn. I look at lemon water as a special amenity that is a perk of eating out. I tip as generously as possible given my income, and I will continue to enjoy lemon water along with you. Go Mary!

  • Marilyn in Florida

    I wish I had thought of that.

  • atlassfay

    I see nothing wrong with making your own lemonade. I tip on service not what I buy. You give me good service and you’ll get a tip, even if all I’m drinking is free.

  • Mamaw

    I don’t think that “instant lemonade” is any different from “instant tomato soup” made from a cup of hot water, several packets of catsup and salt and pepper – also complimentary!

  • LGJ

    This is fine unless you do like some ‘regulars’ my nephew had once…two related families would come in every Sunday and order water and insist on BOWLS of free sliced lemon so they could make their own ‘real’ lemonade. When they needed their glasses refilled, they wanted more bowls of lemon. This was/is ridiculous! Lemons cost money, too, and if you want that realistic a lemonade then pay for it!

    • kaetra

      I agree with this.

  • jojojo

    Would you take your razor and shaving cream to their restroom and use it because the water there is “complementary”? No, that would be tacky. Ditto making your own lemonade. If you can’t afford it, do without. Save you money on the meal or skip dessert.

  • SoThere

    Drinking water with lemon in it is bad for your teeth long term. Also, I remember seeing a show on TV in which the slices were tested for bacteria, and, although I don’t remember the percent, bacteria was high. Lemons are sliced early on and servers reach into the container with bare hands hour after hour. I ask for water without any lemon.

  • Mary

    I am retired and live on a very low income. On the few times I do eat out (usually a special priced meal), I ask for lemon and use sugar if it is on the table. If there is no sugar, I drink lemon water. I was raised in a restaurant and worked for many years as a waitress and never felt I was being cheated out of a good tip if my service was good. The problem is drinks have become so expensive ( I have been told that is where eating establishments make their money) that I cannot afford to order a drink. I know of only one place (McDonalds) that offers a senior discount drink for fifty cents (coffee or a small soda). Maybe if restaurants would have a senior priced drink they would sell more drinks but I still base my tips on the service and quality of food I receive and not on the total cost of the meal. Maybe restaurants should improve the service and quality of food and include a reasonable tip in the total cost of the meal.

    • LGJ

      You should always ask what the senior discount is…some places it’s 10%, some it’s a free drink (small), some it’s nothing, but it never hurts to ask!

    • Amen! I am in the same boat and feel the same way. We are not all in the same income bracket. One size does not fit all.

  • Dorothy Grant

    Since seeing several reports on TV about unwashed lemons/lemons handled with unwashed hands I NEVER use or ask fro lemon slices! Water is good for us!

    • Except it’s full of chemicals. I see no good way out of restaurant eating being hazardous to your health, one way or another. My problem is that all my friends like to use eating out as a way to socialize and spend time together. How do I say no? If I were able to keep my house neat I would love for us to meet in each other’s homes. We don’t have to clean from top to bottom and serve a gourmet meal. Tuna and chicken in salads, pimento cheese, low fat cookies and crackers – and a good glass of tea or lemonade that doesn’t cost 3.00 an ounce.

  • I wish I knew at what restaurants those angry servers “jipped” out of their tip worked because I don’t want those type of people serving me. My dining out should be my pleasure and not for their benefit…just shows the selfish mentality that exists in some. These servers sound like the vengeful type to add a little extra to my meal for free that I would rather not have!

  • Tim A


  • Midwest Firefighter

    Really Readers? Who cares. When I ask for hot green tea and all they serve is black tea my response is ” just bring me hot water.” Sometimes I plop my own tea bag in and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I even pay for the tea and give them back their black tea bag. Life is stressful enough. Why worry about a lemon slice and a little sugar.

  • triciatx

    I have started doing this at restaurants, just leaving out the sugar, as I feel I always need to drink more water and adding a lemon slice makes it s “foo foo” water! I even started buying lemons cutting them up and keeping a pitcher of lemon water in my fridge. I find it very refreshing!!

  • hsmom2009

    I know some people think this is cheap, tacky, etc. I am extremely sensitive to caffeine and can’t eat or drink anything with it in it after noon. This means I usually order water if we eat out for supper. Many times restaurants do not offer alternative drinks with no caffeine and that are low calorie. Hence, I order water with lemon. I also order water with lemon because in many places the water tastes terrible and the lemon helps to cover the taste.

  • Lorraine

    I don’t see anything wrong with ordering lemon and water, I do it all the time and use stevia since i am a dieabetic. it is healthy for me. I have a low income and like to go out to eat once in a while, and Im not paying for a drink that is unhealthy like soda. so I enjoy a lunch out once in a while that is not too expensive, i also use tru lemon and take it with me where ever i go and add it to the lemon water which makes a good lemonade. personally I don’t even tip on the tax..and that’s not being cheap, uncle sam gets enough of my money. I always thought it was wrong for employers not to pay enough for employees in restaurants.that they have to have tips. it’s a job like any other job. no offense to the employee, but how that stated many manymany years ago I don’t know. you should be paid to work like any other job and if you got tipped it should not be part of the jobs pay. that is your reward for being a good employee.doing your job. If you are worried about the health of the lemon have them give it to you on the side, Ive done that also. nothing wrong with that.

  • Pearl

    I see nothing wrong with using the lemon & sugar. I wish servers would ask before serving me a lemon in my water, since I have a medical reason for avoiding citrus fruit.

  • Elle

    2 things: One, my family is on a VERY tight budget. Two: I believe in tipping servers well if they provide good service. So it boils down to this: If I ordered drinks for my whole family there wouldn’t be enough $$ to cover both the meal and a good tip, so we’d forgo eating out all together. By ordering water with lemon, my family can enjoy an occasional meal out, and both the restaurant and server receive money they wouldn’t get otherwise. Kind of seems like a win/win to me.

    • kaetra

      Exactly! Great comment!

  • Kitsy

    Hi Mary,

    I always ask for water without the lemon after I watched two TV news investigative reports that showed that the lemon slices in water glasses in restaurants tested positive for e-coli bacteria! Apparently, if the kitchen or wait staff use the restroom and don’t use soap to wash their hands or wash them well, e-coli bacteria can get transferred to the lemon slices when they add them to our water glasses. Forget the free lemonade….protect your health and just drink plain water!

  • Five_blessed

    I do it all the time! Has anyone ever stopped to think it might be for health reasons? Or, better yet, maybe there’s not enough money in the budget for berry berry blast! Either way, I can’t see that anyone has the right to say anything. There’s too much in life to be concerned over! And just maybe I used the money that I could have spent on a fancy drink to send to an orphanage that needs to put food into a child’s mouth, ( which I do).

  • PhinsGal

    I must admit, I live on both ends of this argument. I am a bartender (and have been a server), and yet I also love water with lemon (and yes, I add a packet of sweet-n-low). Please know this, just because I order water does not mean that I will not tip generously, it just means that I don’t want any of the other drinks that your establishment offers.

  • HeatherDP

    We almost always order water for two reasons. One, my husband constantly battles kidney stones, and the acid in the lemons helps break up the stones. Two, my daughters (4 and 6) both prefer water over any other drink (except chocolate milk). I agree with other readers that if the service is good, the server will see a good tip no matter what we drink.

  • Dan

    I have a friend who has done this for years and everyone who sees him do this comments on how cheap he is. If you do not want to pay for a drink, just skip the sugar and drink the lemon water.

  • howie

    I am so with you on this Mary. If the restaurants did not charge so much for their drinks, then no one would do this. I don’t drink soda and only water like a lot of people so I feel this should be a complimentary thing and would make me a happy customer. Happy Holidays and thank you for all your hard work. I enjoy your column.

  • Dan

    Oh, I just remembered, order a hot cup tea, save the tea bag for use later at home, squirt in a goodly amount of ketchup, and you’ve got tomatoe soup.

  • JLFleet

    Ah, come on. It’s okay to squeeze that lemon and use that sugar. What’s NOT okay is what my brother used to do (I hope he doesn’t still do this): ask for several lemon slices and squeeze them all into his free water. That’s just tacky. And remember, servers, that people who do such things aren’t going to tip you what you deserve anyway.

  • Making lemonade like that will get you asked to leave the restaurant I work in. Another restaurant here has a sign up that says if you do it you wool be charged. It is a really tacky, cheap thing to do.

    • kaetra

      I think asking a customer to leave for something so trivial is the “tacky” thing, and the sign is incredibly so. Those businesses must not like having customers. That’s OK I’m sure those customers will have no trouble finding somewhere else to spend their money.

  • Brenda

    I have grown very weary over the years of complaints from servers/waiters about how they are “cheated” out of a bigger tip for whatever reason. Most of them make anywhere from 1 1/2 to 2x minimum wage for taking my order, bringing my food, and occasionally refilling my drink. That’s pretty good money for such tasks. Not to mention the fact that I would gladly order a drink with my meal if 1) I actually drank enough at a meal to warrant such, and 2) if the profit margin on drinks was not roughly 90%. And there is nothing unethical about utilizing those things which are complimentary in any establishment. Waiters, if you can find a better job for the money, go for it!

    • kaetra

      In Illinois “Tipped employees
      must be paid minimum wage, but an employer may take credit for the
      employee’s tips in an amount not to exceed 40% of the wages.” Because of this law, in Illinois waitresses typically get paid 40% less than minimum wage. Each state is different though.

    • Where the heck do you live that servers make 2x minimum wage? In most states they are paid a very low “tip wage” that is much less than minimum.

  • Karen

    I do not drink anything with sugar, and I can’t handle any caffeine after 2 pm any more, most restaurants do not offer any drinks that contain no sugar or caffeine, so I order water! The restaurant certainly does not add that slice of lemon for a decoration! So I use it (or more often than not I ask for lime) to flavor the water… which can taste pretty bad in some areas.

  • I don’t think servers should worry so much about this. When I dine out (rare as it is), I tip a little over what is expected, especially for service above & beyond the basics. So the absence of a paid beverage doesn’t affect the amount i tip.

  • margaret

    No big deal My friends and I have been doing this for years and not just because it is more economical but it is healthier too.

  • Sigrid

    Don’t see a problem with the lemon water. I tip on the service…an attitude will decrease the tip.

  • kaetra

    I would be much more likely to order a beverage if restaurants didn’t charge so much for them. Some places charge $3.00 for a soda!

    I’m a fourth generation waitress. A family of four that tips 15% is “saving” $1.80 in tip from the beverages, so I guess I can see why some servers would be irritated by this practice. However, a family of four is typically spending about $40-$50 on dinner at your average place (without drinks) which is still around a $7 tip. I think giving someone $7 to serve you is quite fair.

  • krazyqwilt

    I never order anything but water when eating out. I tip based on the money spent but do not just order a salad either when I do go out. I earned as a waitress for many years so there is a point at which its gets over the top as a customer but give them enough to be reasonable.

  • Sally

    I have made “at the table” lemonade only once, using my own sweetener packets & lemons already provided in our water glasses. I tip well under all but the most extreme circumstances, so I did not feel I was shorting the server on her tip. I have to tell you, though, every time I eat at a restaurant that does NOT offer caffeine-free diet sodas or even caffeine-free iced tea (a rariety), I am very tempted to create my own drink. The caffeine-challenged amongst us are sorely overlooked! Thanks for your column, Mary–it’s interesting and inspiring.

  • Mary too :-)

    Whatever happened to “The customer is always right?” How many of us go out to eat just to provide a living to the wait staff? They are there to wait on us and to provide good service. We are there to order what we want and enjoy a good meal. I rarely order a beverage because of the exorbitant prices, and always order ice water. No lemon because I saw that show about the bacteria on the lemons too. I never “cheat” a waiter or waitress out of a tip because the tip is MY CHOICE. Just like everyone else, good service means a good tip, regardless of what the bill is. I can’t believe some wait staff actually think that customers are obligated to give big tips. I could go on and on, but I won’t. It really is a non-issue.

  • jyallen

    Several members of my family cannot drink caffeinated beverages; so water with a meal is their only sensible choice, and yes, they sometimes create “free” lemonade although one of them brings her own Mio or other liquid flavoring and doesn’t ask for lemon. We absolutey never shortchange servers – in fact we usually over-tip because we know how poorly they are paid. If a restaurant wants to charge for lemon, that’s fine with me – after all, they’re becoming more expensive. Also, the amount of lemon juice from a squeezed slice definitely doesn’t create lemonade! It’s more like lemon water! I believe that labeling customers as “cheap” is very short-sighted in view of dietary restrictions. If servers want more generous tips they should provide more cheerful and attentive service! I’m happy to be generous with those who do.

  • I have diabetes and usually no one has sugar free drinks. I usually explain this to the server. I see nothing wrong in having lemon water and add sugar sub. We tip generously and it’s not like we came in just to drink free lemon water!

  • You know minus the reasoning that it looks tacky or whatnot, I have been ordering it lately because I am pregnant and do not need the caffeine or calories another drink would give me. I think waiters would have a lot of nerve judging me for that.

  • lifeisshortsmile

    Husband remembers dining regularly with a very wealthy Las Vegas businessman in the 1970’s at upscale restaurants that would serve small bowls of lemon water for finger dipping. He would do the same with those. So, who’s to say, an etiquette faux pas perhaps but it didn’t bother him.

  • Tracy

    I always order water with lemon, for the health and frugal reasons. I will on occasion add sugar for a “poor mans lemonade”. I also tip on the service not always on the bill. Thanks for the great tips and offers.

  • Carol

    My friend and I dine out often and she always asks for water and lemon. The servers don’t seem to mind at all. I’m thinking I could bring one of my Watkins flavorings and have raspberry or some other flavored drink. Now that might be tacky.

  • MrsG

    It might be tacky in a 5 star restaurant but otherwise I don’t see anything wrong with it. And I tip 20% for acceptable service and more for really good service so if the complaint is that the server is losing out on a tip becasue of it, my tip more than makes up for that. I think servers tire of me when I drink soda because, bad as it is, I drink ALOT!! If I were a server, I’d rather have 50 cents less than have to do so many refills. Also, if my soda is not kept filled up it could affect the tip.

    It is funny though how you might predict comments and they don’t go as expected. I think people comment when they have a strong opinion either postitive or negative or they just like to be heard.

  • Debbie

    We ONLY drink water in restaurants (we are retired and don’t want to spend the high prices for tea or soda and feel water is healthier anyway). We add lemon, never sugar, but it certainly isn’t just to avoid ordering a different drink. We also tip well. As mentioned in a few others comments, if the service is good, the tip is good 🙂

  • This reminds me of the time years ago that I mentioned here I would be traveling to NYC. My trip coincided with a DPL Spend-Free Challenge and I mentioned that it was going to be very challenging but that I’d figured out how to do it. I can’t recall all the details now, but it was doable as all of my expenses were being covered. But that didn’t stop one reader from unloading on me for the fact that I would not be leaving the hotel housekeeper a tip. Comments were flying and not many of them were, shall we say, pleasant.

    Where do you stand on tipping a hotel maid? If you do, how much? On the last day of your stay? Any hotel housekeeping staff out there? Do most customers leave a tip?

    • kaetra

      For our family of 3, I generally tip $4 or $5 each day we get maid service. I leave the tip in an envelope clearly marked “Thank You Housekeeping!” on the day of service. For multiple day stays I skip maid service, via the “Do Not Disturb” sign, unless we really need it. Since we hang and re-use our towels we usually only need service every 3 days or so. I always leave a tip on our last day.

  • Janet

    I don’t understand the problem either. I don’t drink much with my meal so it makes no sense for me to order a $2+ glass of tea or soda. However, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be able to drink something with a little flavor! I’m not real fond of plain water. I tip based on service and I tend to be generous if I’m served well so that 40 cents is a non-issue as far as I’m concerned.

  • Connie

    I rarely do the lemon but often drink just water as the markup on soda is extreme even at non-alcoholic restaurants as is the coffee. I haven’t a problem with this as the lemonade served has too much sugar and artificial ingredients. What ever happened to less is more?

  • Doris

    My husband and I are not allowed to drink carbonated beverages as per our physician, so we opt for water. If I want to put lemon or fake sugar in it, that is my business, although I drink the water plain anyway. I am in the restaurant to eat, not to worry about how much tip I will leave. I am generous with my tipping to start with because I know that servers don’t get decent salaries so perhaps I sometimes overtip.

  • Michele

    Until I first read about this idea in your column, it never occurred to me to “make my own lemonade” at a restaurant. For years I have usually ordered water as my meal beverage, and I have often asked for lemon with it because I love that little bit of fresh flavor in my water, instead of just plain. I agree with the prior comment about the greediness of servers who would begrudge their patrons asking for lemon [and maybe some sugar] with their water. Be an excellent, non-greedy server and you will usually be rewarded well.

  • Picky Consumer

    I stopped getting over priced drinks because the sodas offered are always nasty, and while that is not the fault of the wait staff; I will not waste my hard earned money on dissatisfaction.
    If they would rather, we can all stay at home!!!

    Picky consumer, Fort M

  • LilyAnn05

    I’ve been doing this for years….LONG before Mary suggested it! I’m allergic to citrus, so a full-fledged lemonade would make me break out. I’m a very low-income senior and simply can’t afford $2 – or far more – drinks! If they don’t have lemon pieces, I drink the water with my meal. Doing this allows me to eat out a little more frequently…once a month or sometimes a bit more. If a server is going to begrudge me that, it’s too bad. I leave a nice tip on what I buy, before the tax is applied. That’s another tip to folks who eat out. (I’m from California, and our tax is 7.75% and going up January 1st!)

  • Kei

    Confused. The lemon, sugar, salt and pepper are on the table to enhance the food i am purchasing. They allow it to be there for my use w/o charge. So they have no right to complain what i put it on or in. Seems everyone is on edge these days, and it isn’t going to get any better as our country declines. No sign so far it is going to either.

  • Nelson

    I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. If the servers don’t like it, they should stop providing me with the ingredients to make lemonade. However, they should realize that, considering the high cost of going out to eat, I consider the free lemonade to be my little bonus.
    Take away my freebee, and I won’t return.

  • Dinah

    My husband has done that since I met him. It’s actually an unclogging healthy thing to do. Soooo I’m on the support side, score one for health and free choice Mary.


    Non-issue for SURE! I enjoy your ministry in trying to help us not waste what the Lord has given us! Put the money saved by using your tips from your books into the offering plate where it can really do some GOOD!

  • Karyn

    We love iced tea, but don’t want the caffeine. We’ve started adding “MiO” sweet tea flavoring to our free water. It leaves more money for a tip. ;). In Europe, even water is expensive. It’s common to pay the equivalent of at least $2 for water there, and in France we were charged 6 euros (about $9) for a liter of water–the smallest bottle they had!!

  • JPF

    Restaurants make much of their income from beverages, with or without alcohol, and these are ALWAYS overpriced! It’s certainly possible that a customer may be diabetic (no sodas, please) and/or may not use alcohol. I am one of these. To begrudge the occasional “free lemonade” because it means a lower tip is regrettable. I tip based upon good service and normally leave a 20% gratuity.

  • I agree, non-issue in terms of “cheating” a restaurant. However, I would NEVER EVER use any lemon pieces/slices offered up in restaurant after learning about hygiene issues with them. (We’re talking germs! People handling, re-handling. UGH.)
    If a venue is so desperate for income/revenue that they begrudge you free hot water, I don’t even want to think about what goes on in their kitchens. And FYI: A server who has an issue with this? THAT will affect your tip negatively.

  • Chemi

    I have a friend who does this all the time; she’ll ask for extra lemon and then proceed to make herself some lemonade by squeezing the lemons into the water and adding some sugar. Is this wrong?

  • Elaine Marie

    i am all for saving money any way I can — the restraurant can cut out the lemon and sugar if they feel so strongly about it — if prices get too high consumers won’t dine out as often and the server won’t have any tip!

  • QBSue

    I ask for water with dinner because most restaurants don’t offer a cold low/no-calorie, caffeine free beverage to drink and I want to be able to sleep that night. I tip well (at least 20%) and I expect the waiter to keep my water glass full. I no longer ask for lemon wedges. The question begs asking . . . how do you know that the rind/outside of the lemon is clean enough to be in your drinking water? I don’t know if it’s an urban legend or if it’s true, but I’ve read and heard that lemons served by some restaurants aren’t necessarily clean.

  • Teresa

    I read somewhere that Lemon Rinds can be pretty dirty even tho they have been washed. So even if you are just squeezing the slice(and not putting the whole slice in the glass) there may be contamination. Any comments?

  • Emily Booth

    The cost of everything a restaurant serves including water, salt, pepper, sugar, lemons, etc. etc. is included in the menu. In other words, nothing is free. Servers who are complaining about customers who drink water , with or without lemon, need to understand the concept of service and why they have a job.

  • MJK

    I agree that this is a non issue. I think the people that are angry about this have way too much time on their hands. I drink water at almost every restaurant because it is free and I still leave a good tip. I appreciate good service and reward it. It isn’t cheap to order water with lemon, it is just being a good steward with my money. I enjoy complimentary water and lemon just like I enjoy the free bread.

  • LBO

    Water with lemon is a refreshing, healthy drink! Smile and enjoy it! Be sure to reward your server with an appropriate tip for good service

  • Stacy

    I am surprised that anyone would be upset by the act of ordering water with lemon. Not only is it a healthy alternative to sodas, etc., but it is frugal (the whole purpose of this column). In regards to tips, I will usually leave a larger amount if the server was attentive. So, it’s not the amount of the bill but the service provided that often determines the tip.

    • Janie

      Who pays for the lemon? It’s not included in the free water. Most Mom and Pop restaurants go out of their way to please and keep customers, but they have to watch every food item that is served. At one time in our establishment, the customers started asking for “a side of ranch dressing” for their chips or fries, but weren’t willing to pay for it. Please understand, in small businesses, everything is counted. The sugar and the lemon in that “free” lemonade wasn’t free for the business owners.

  • Karen

    I’ve been doing that for years and was so glad that you also had the same idea – Great minds think alike. (PS – I don’t like soda, so think it is just the natural drink – and they offer it so why not?

  • Sara

    My husband and I are on a tight budget, so we do water with lemon in some restaurants where sodas are $1.69 or more. Where I live, McDonald’s has all sizes of their soda for a $1.00. Also, Taco Bell gives free senior drinks. Needless to say, we make it a point to eat there when we go to town.

  • Kathleen

    Messy to squeeze lemon wedges at the table !! Other than that , go for it!!

  • Carolyn

    I have something different. A nice restaurant I go to does not have spoons on the table, just knives and forks. If you order coffee, they’d bring a spoon with it. If you order just water (or with lemon), there’s no spoon on the table to make the lemonade, i.e. unless you want to stir the sugar with your knife or fork. It would be hard for me to ask for a spoon if I wanted to make some lemonade.

  • Fisherwoman

    Water, lemon, sugar . . complimentary for doing business in their establishment, a healthier alternative & a saving on my fixed income. The server’s tip depends on their service – the better, the bigger.

  • Lue

    I often order water with lemon and sometimes add sugar or Splenda. I don’t drink much liquid with my meals and cannot justify leaving a full $2.00 glass of tea or coke. It never dawned on me that I was cheating someone else.

  • ktk in Idaho

    i just don’t think i could get enough juice out of one lemon slice to make lemonade. i actually love a slice of cucumber much better anyway, but not all restaurants will do this for me….oh well to each his or her own.. either way the tip would be the same.

  • Jan Olsen

    It is my opinion that beverages are overpriced in most restaurants and, therefore, it is my custom to regularly ask for lemon for my water…and yes, I
    sometimes make lemonade. A glass of wine always costs more than a bottle
    of my favorite chardonnay, so I have my glass at home before or after dinner.

  • Carolyn

    I personally don’t see anything wrong with ordering water with lemon. Neither does my family. We’re honest, moral, and, yes, Christian people. Adding sugar is a bonus. It’s on the table for our use, as Mary noted, whether we add it to our water or sprinkle it on a steak (just making a point here). A number of years ago I used to frequent a cafe/restaurant within a business where I worked. Every day I would order water w/lemon for my break, then add sugar when I sat down at a table. Of course I always ordered food as well. After a couple weeks of this, I was sternly told that if I continued this practice I would be charged for lemonade! I started bringing my own drinks and food for breaks. Their loss, my gain.

  • citygirl

    Two weeks ago , I was invited to birthday party at a restaurant. I gave her a gift and ordered a salad and lemon water even though I ate at home. I could have ordered nothing . I left a tip of $2 which evened my entire bill to $10. 2 Little Ceaser’s Pizzas would have cost the same and fed the whole group. Perspective.

  • Many restaurants greatly inflate the price of drinks as a way to increase profits. When a customer bypasses that by only drinking water (whether doctored up with a lemon slice and sugar or not), it is that much less money for the restaurant, and if you tip based upon a percentage of your bill, to the server, as well.

  • It’s possible that the people dining out don’t have a large budget. This means of economizing helps them to eat out more often. The other alternative is for them to stay home and cook their own meal. How much tip will the server get then?

  • Charlene@APinchofJoy

    I order lemon water — to me there isn’t enough lemon fla

  • Nelda

    I nearly always do the water with lemon. If they charged a reasonable price for a glass of tea I would drink that but 2$ for a 15 cent glass of tea i find a real rip off.

  • No caffeine, please!

    Because restaurants usually don’t offer any cold. decaffeinated drinks, I often have to just drink water. ( I don’t ever drink sugary soft drinks and can’t tolerate the caffeine in iced tea ). Many times the water is not palatable, tasting very chemically-treated. Squeezing in a bit of lemon and adding a half packet of sugar will make the water taste better. If restaurants want me to order something to drink, they need to have low/no calorie/no caffeine options. I know there are many people like me who would enjoy beverages like that if they were offered.

  • Karen B

    I usually prefer plain ice water over soda, but tip as though I’d ordered soda, especially if the waiter or waitress offers to refill it rather than being asked.

  • Nama

    My mother had a very wealthy friend who was very cheap! She always ordered water with lemon to “make real lemanade”, then never leave a tip more than 10%. She had been born long before the Depression and could squeeze a penny! Mother hated going out to eat with her and finally told her that if she couldn’t at least stop making lemonade that was the end of their dining togerther. She would also take all the sugar packets. She even searched trash cans the night before garbage day to find shoes! She once took a dress mother concidered a rag out of my mothers garbage can! She was the widow of a doctor and sat on the board of a state college!

  • Yvy

    I do feel that the wait staff thinks this is a stingy thing to do; BUT, on the other hand, I am not going to order iced tea for $2.00 a glass with my 5 or 6 dollar lunch. So with or without the lemon and sugar, I’m still going to order just water. I do leave at least a 20% tip or $1 a person if that is more than 20%. I had rather put the difference in money in a tip than the outrageous price for a drink. The wait staffers are hard workers in need of all the tips they can get.

  • My husband and I have been doing this for years…I NEVER thought about it as being unethical and I’m very careful about ethics!! Good heavens, as you say, they bring you lemon and water and the sugar is on the table. Should I pay a tip on the salt and pepper also? I never ask for lemon, but if they bring it, I use it! Should I maybe put it on the side unsqueezed so they can serve it to the next customer? Sheesh. Keep up the good work, Mary!

  • cmct

    Silly subject to get upset about. I don’t order lemons, and don’t make lemonade, but if that floats your boat, it’s fine by me. Did the servers consider that if denied the opportunity to made lemonade, you would probably only order water anyway, and not an expensive drink? I don’t see this as an either/or situation on what you drink. You have a budget for dinner and you stick to it. I must admit I’m a bit reluctant to order lemon slices at all because I suspect they rarely wash them before slicing and serving them.

  • cat

    When I was a food service manager, my job depended on profit performance. One table of could we-have-16-more-free-cut-up-lemons-for-our-water lemonade-making folk could use the whole box designated for the next 4 days customers until a truck delivery came. And no, we weren’t allowed to just go buy more at the supermarket. However, sugar is cheap, and no reasonable server should bat an eye at a lemon-water order. Our state has laws regarding use of bare hands to handle fruit, but compliance doesn’t always happen. Most of the servers I know hardly ever wash their hands. Yes, even after using that cloth to wipe up after the dirty looking group that just left. How clean is the ice maker? Do they filter the water? Do they ever change the filter? I like bottled drinks, but hey, you can’t avoid all germs, so whatever works for you.

  • Sarah

    Re: lemon/water When you order tea, etc. it can add as much as $5.00 to your bill. I go one step further, I take a packet of crystal light flavoring to add to my water.

  • nancy

    Hmmm, most of these comments are two years old! Should I join in or not… Well, since I’m here… I feel like there is nothing at all wrong with this practice and it’s a cool idea. If not getting a glass of wine with my meal, I typically do not want anything more than water, since most other drinks are not healthy anyway. In fact, at home I’m the same way. Mostly water with a meal, if anything. I drink fruit juices and tea or coffee throughout the day, as I feel thirsty; but, frankly, with dinner water seems the best choice, and to flavor it with lemon and sugar is just an extra treat! I can understand how servers would be a bit up in arms about the suggestion, but this is a column on frugality after all! Thanks for all that you do, Mary! Love reading your column.

  • 64susie

    I am currently a server and was a server over 25 years ago. I’ve always felt you should eat out based on your ability to pay for the “whole bill” which includes tipping at most restaurants. If you can’t afford to eat at a restaurant where tipping is appropriate then chose a different place that fits in your budget. If it offends your sensibilities to tip then again go somewhere that tipping isn’t required/expected.

    If out with friends then order an appetizer or dessert. There’s nothing wrong with that.

    Some will say that the tip is based on how good the service is…in theory it should be yet in actuality that is hardly the case. Many times the service is not only fine but above and beyond yet the tip does not reflect it. That is a sad fact of life as a server. With that said the level of service should never change based on what kind of tip you feel you may or may not get. I do feel it’s appropriate to tip more than 15% on smaller bills as
    there is the same time and effort that goes into taking care of you.
    If you have been sitting at a table for any amount of time and leave $1.00 then that’s not adequate. If you are with a party of people I can guarantee you regardless of the bill a $1 per person is not adequate. That’s my opinion and I rarely go out without leaving at least $3 for
    anything less than $10 or $5 less than/up to $20. If I’m out with several people I make sure the tip is an appropriate amount for the entire table regardless if separate checks. On the flip side If the service is
    lacking the tip drops and a chat with the manager/management is in
    order. That is the only way to indicate your dissatisfaction with the service. If there is a problem with the food then keep in mind that needs to be addressed to the management as well as it is most often not the servers’ fault and shouldn’t be taken out on them.

    One thing that I do find aggravating and does impact expenses for restaurants is when someone or a table full of someones requests a lot of extras which many times they don’t use and often have to be thrown away after being placed on the table. By the way we aren’t allowed to touch the lemons, they are not “re-served” to anyone else and they will be thrown away if leftover at the end of the day…if we run out then we run out. So bottom line order all the water with lemons that you want.

  • Lois

    I would like the name of the stain remover or the website where you said it could be ordered that you wrote about in last weeks column in the paper. I really need it!