Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Dan Berger: Bait and Switch

 Sometimes it's simply just a mistake, but it seems always to backfire against the consumer.

        And sometimes it is a nefarious strategy intended to put one over on unsuspecting diners, almost always with the intent of making a lot of money.

        It's about wine "bait and switch" in restaurants.

        This column is not aimed at casting suspicion on all restaurant owners or to imply that many are simply highway robbers who figure that the likelihood of being caught is very slim.

        And besides, what they're doing isn't exactly against the law. It's simply unethical and could lead a savvy diner who discovers the tactic to decide never to visit the establishment again.

        Bait and switch is the conscious act of putting something up for sale that appears to be valuable and replacing it with something that has none of the original intended value, but which is priced to indicate that it's authentic.

        Sort of like a street vendor selling an "Onega" watch for $30.

        Obviously, the more you know about wine, the more you are likely to avoid such situations. But when you're dining in a good restaurant, you're hoping to have a good time and the last thing that crosses your mind is that chicanery may be afoot that requires action on your part.

        Most people accept the insult rather than dispute the charge.

        For the purpose of this article, I won't use real names, but some of the most iconic wine brands in the world are often involved. 

      A very visible Napa Valley cabernet producer whose wines usually sell for $80 a bottle and up has frequently been seen on restaurant wine lists at about $60 to $90 a bottle.

        Savvy wine buyers easily see this as a scam because restaurant prices are almost always higher than their retail prices, and $60 to $80 almost never refers to the Napa producer's "Napa" wine. The restaurant clearly is serving one of the Napa winery's "lifestyle" cabernets, with a suggested retail price of well under $25 per bottle.

        At $80, it's a bait-and-switch rip-off.

        Which would be evident to the purchaser once the bottle is brought to the table unopened and the waiter shows the diner the label -- to be certain this is the wine he or she ordered.

        In most cases, unsophisticated buyers will nod approval perfunctorily, not noticing that the region from which the grapes came is "California," and not "Napa Valley."

        But even when the "wrong" wine arrives to the table, another issue arises: having to send it back, request the wine list one more time, make another selection and wait for that new bottle to arrive.

        This is time-consuming and meanwhile the food might have already arrived with no wine on the table. It has happened to me many times.

        Bait-and-switch tactics are frequently the subject of stories about all kinds of image-based consumer goods. It is one good reason to shop in wine retail stores where you can actually pick up bottles, look at the back label and assess the condition of the liquid (is it right up to the cork level or has evaporation occurred?) and the cork.

        One final idea: When ordering a wine by the glass, I always ask to see the bottle from which it came. I can't tell you the number of times the bottle differed from what the waitstaff had told me the wine would be.

        To find out more about Dan Berger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at



Anonymous said...

This is a terribly written article....not at all concise. So let me try to follow with my comments/questions in parenthesis.....a wine that;
"usually sells for $80 a bottle" (Where? Is this the MSRP?)
"been seen on restaurant wine lists" (How is it presented on the list? Winery X Cabernet?)
"lists at about $60-$80" (This would NEVER be a wine that MSRPs for $80)
"The restaurant clearly" (If its clear, where is the bait and switch?)
"serving one of the Napa winery's "lifestyle cabernets......well under $25" (Typical markup is well over 100% in a restaurant so I would be surprised if a sub-$25 MSRP wine was any less than $60 in a restaurant)
Article seems miserly.....everyone knows you are going to pay 100-150% more for a bottle of wine in a restaurant.

Anonymous said...

Dude is cheap

chris said...

I feel like its less bait and switch and more customers not being knowledgeable about what they are purchasing. For example, La Crema produces a pretty popular pinot noir. Most people don't know that they make it in three different regions (Sonoma, Willamette Valley, and Monterey) and maintain the same exact label with the exception of its location of production marking. Those three wines are are three different price points ($15, $25, & $35 at wine shop). But you go to restaurant and the wine list says La Crema - Pinot Noir 2018 - $45. Maybe you think its the top quality Willamette Valley, but in reality its most definitely the lowest quality Monterey.

If its location isn't marked, or maybe you don't know which is the best, google it. or get an app. You can quickly see what any bottle on any wine list should be selling for and what its generally rated.

Anonymous said...

I thought this article was going to be about liquor stores that put the wrong bottles underneath the display bottle on the top rack. Most people expect the same kind of wine to be stored underneath the display bottle on top and tend to just grab the lower bottles without looking at the labels. Nothing worse than getting home with what you think are 3 or 4 bottles of a chosen wine, only to discover that one or two of them are some trash garbage that you don't want.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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