Chili’s doesn’t list drink prices — and other musings

Last week, I was rummaging around in some drawers and found three $5 Chili’s gift cards and a $10 Target GC. I think they were stocking stuffers from my mom last year.

Anyway, money was tight — more on that in another post — so we decided to go and just share a Triple Dipper. Since Tim has chronic dry mouth, he was debating a drink.

That’s when I noticed that there are no drink prices by the sodas. I also checked the cocktails section. No prices are listed there. I even grabbed the drinks menu from the side of the table. Nada.

I think it’s something of a comment on society. We’re still surprisingly oblivious to the details that matter. Given that the average soda price is $2-3, isn’t that something we should automatically be checking?

But most people consider soda a de facto part of the dining experience. So I suppose it doesn’t matter what it costs. Short of being $4-5, people just don’t care. Of course, since we apparently don’t check, we’d just be outraged at the end of the meal.

Similarly, if you’re going to order an alcoholic drink at a chain restaurant, you know about what you’re going to pay: $6-8. Still, I’d want to know just where in the spectrum my drink falls.

So how is it that, after all that’s happened in this economy, customers seem not to notice (or at least don’t care) about something like missing prices?

Does this mean that Americans are still careless about money? Well, we spent $8 billion on Halloween (about $80 per person) this year. Of that, $370 million was on pet costumes. Pet. Costumes.

So, yeah, I’d say that as a nation we’re still a tad sloppy with our money. I think part of the problem is that we start to care less once we know we’ll spend the money.

Out at a restaurant? Might as well spend on a soda. (In my case, maybe a strawberry lemonade, which is pricier than soda.) Getting great deals? What’s one more, if it’s a great deal?

Or maybe we’re just too hungry to worry about what that soda will cost.


  1. take_flight says

    I think there are still many American's that really just don't care. They just throw it on a credit card without thinking.

    Not me, I ask. I have no problem asking for the prices, even for "add-ons".

    As far as Halloween goes, I spent zero…yes, zip…zilch…nada. I have 1 child that's still young enough to Trick-or-Treat, and she wore a dress up costume that we already owned, (with Sandy on her way, we weren't even sure there was going to BE Halloween this year). We live in the country, so we don't get Trick-or-Treater's.

    I would like to note, though, that many of my friends spent upwards of $40 for a costume for their children. I used to be one of them. I did note to one friend about how when we were young, we used to make our own costumes, and the fact that I've seen too many costumes that are homemade AND super cute.

    I think despite the economy, American's still have that "buy" mentality. You have to keep up with those Jones', you know. What would everyone think if you didn't have a new-er car or the best mass produced costume?

    On a side note, my daughter needed new PE clothes and the first place we went was the thrift store. I told her that she didn't HAVE to get her clothes at the thrift store, just that we were starting at the cheapest place. She got a pair of Nike athletic pants, a sweater, and a t-shirt, affording her additional pair of yoga pants and a t-shirt at Target. That's my mentality.

    • says

      It sounds like a second kid is on the way, so congrats!

      Especially for younger kids, I think it's important to at least try to go homemade. There are just too many adorable possibilities — especially with the Internet mom and frugality blogs around. But I do still love the picture one of my friends has of her one year old in a lobster outfit… playing with a stock pot. It was so adorable and so very wrong.

      Also, I'm impressed that you started at the thrift store, but didn't force her to get the items there. I think it's the best way to get a kid used to finding deals without making him or her resent thrift stores later in life.

    • Paradox says

      So, you live in the country and don't get trick -or- treaters, and therefore spend zero (pat on the back- how FRUGAL), but you take your daughter somewhere to get candy from folks that DO spend. Nice. Maybe that "buy" mentality of some Americans works out pretty well for others.

  2. says

    Umm…I’m one of those people who bought a costume (a silly hat) for my dog. I don’t have kids to dress up, nor do I put up decorations on the house, though, so my only other Halloween expenditure was candy for the trick or treaters.

    When I go out for meals I rarely look at drink prices. I don’t care for soda so if I get a drink besides water (and I always must have water because I drink a lot of it) it’s usually unsweetened iced tea. While it’s probably better for my waistline, I’m sure it’s no cheaper than soda, though.

    That’s a good observation about lack of drink prices on menus, and one people should really pay attention to! I’m going to be on the lookout for other restaurants that do that now.

    • says

      Well, so I guess you still came in under the average of $80. And it sounds like you didn't succumb to the $30+ pet costumes I saw this season. (Though I have to admit, I "awww"ed at a lil dog velociraptor costume. Stupid adorable pet accessories.)

  3. carrie says

    My husband and I don't buy sodas with our meals when we dine out. It's ridiculous to pay $3 for something we can get much cheaper at home. Plus, I've noticed when I do get a soda (when I'm completing a mystery shop and it's a requirement), it fills me up – no room for my meal! There's nothing wrong with taking a doggy bag home of course, but where's the nutrition in a Diet Coke for dinner?

    Also, we decided this year that we're not succumbing to the nonsense that is Trick or Treating. Candy is ridiculously expensive (for what it is), not to mention that we never know how many visitors we'll get so we used to buy more than we needed (which we ended up eating ourselves). Granted, we don't have kids, and I'm sure those that do aren't ALL in it for the candy. But it certainly seems that it's all about the candy to most. So we're just not perpetuating that!

    • says

      Carrie: I'm not a big soda drinker m'self. Tim has the chronic dry mouth issue, so I don't fight him on such things. So I generally try to just get water. Sometimes I'll get a lemonade (Red Robin and sometimes Chili's). That said, yes it absolutely does fill you up, which can mean wasted food.

      This year, we didn't have the wherewithal or interest in doing the candy thing. So we put up "Sorry, no candy" signs that could be seen as you started up the driveway. And one of the door for good measure.

      I felt a little guilty, but meh…

  4. Elizabeth says

    I've noticed this about the frequent lack of printed drink prices. I'd consider ordering a diet soda if it's $2 or less. If a printed price is even $2.50, I don't order it. If there is no printed price — increasingly common — I'm too self-conscious to ask the price and then not order one….so I just NEVER order a soda when the price isn't printed. It bothers me, though. I may start emailing restaurants where I notice the lack of printed price, explain that I refrained from ordering based ont that fact, and ask what the price is, for future reference.

    • says

      Yep, it is embarrassing to ask about something like that. I felt sheepish just asking how much the lemonade was. I think it would be good to let companies know. Although it seems like the profits outweigh the few pissy customers (ie, us).

  5. says

    I guess I'm 50/50 today. I didn't spend anything on Halloween, but I have been frequently guilty of ordering sodas at restaurants. I had recently noted that they were $2.50-$2.99 and I did muse upon the outrageousness of that cost… So, I need to stick to my plan of getting water from here on out.

    • says

      I didn't grow up drinking much soda. Sometimes I'll have a root beer or a Mountain Dew — usually with a combo meal but sometimes at restaurants. Then I see the bill and get annoyed at myself. So the occasional lapse usually rectifies itself.

      That said, I love Red Robin's strawberry lemonade. Horribly overpriced, but I get it every time.

  6. jestjack says

    Soda is a VERY big profit item sometimes more profitable then the meal itself at restaurants. Say for example you a bought from the "2 for $20 menu"…getting two soda jacks that bill by about 30%, At our Chili's the waiters always try to "start you out" with a cocktail….big profit. DW and I always have water with lemon.

    • says

      You're right about the profitability. Soda is cents a glass — if that. But I think servers also ask that because we, as a society, drink a LOT of soda. So most of us would be annoyed to not have a drink by the time we want to order. It just happens to also make the company a tidy profit.

  7. Catseye says

    I don't eat out at "sit-down" restaurants much lately, but I have noticed the lack of prices on menus. I think the practice started in the previous decade and I HATE it. I really like iced tea with meals, so I'll order a drink but I hardly ever order dessert.
    Speaking of dessert, they practically twist your arm to get you to order it to go. I won't do that unless someone else is paying. Not a real common occurrence for me any more. ;o)Salad used to come standard with most restaurant meals, now you have to order it seperately and it's usually just lettuce and salad dressing. The first time that happened, I almost sent it back with the message that it's missing some ingredients!
    Despite all that, I hope you and Tim enjoyed the date.

    • says

      Hmm I've never had anyone push me to take my dessert to go. Then again, I'm usually too stuffed to bother with dessert. Maybe I'll have to get some — you know… as an experiment. Because food in the name of research doesn't have calories.

  8. MoneyMasterMom says

    I can't believe the average per person spending is $80 for Halloween. I have three kids and I don't spend that much. I buy the costumes used for a few bucks each, and then I get the candy on sale the day of Halloween so I don't have time to eat it all and have to buy more.

  9. says

    I wondered the same thing just a couple of weeks ago! I was working on a tight budget for dinner and set out to add up my meal total based on the website menu before leaving the house. No drink prices there either! I was so frustrated, but I think you're right that people just resign themselves to paying for it regardless. The last time I looked at a drink price on a receipt, it was $2.29 for a sweet tea, and I just about lost it.

    I'm really shocked at the Halloween spending numbers! $80 per person? That's astronomical! Especially when you think about some people (David and I were two) spending $0 on Halloween. It's entirely possible that many people are spending triple digits on Halloween. Wow! And pet costumes?!?! Looking at these numbers, I'm thinking, "What recession?"

    • says

      Ah, dinner math is unpleasant. At least you thought to do it at home. It's worse when you're doing it at the restaurant.

      The Halloween numbers shocked me too. I know decor can add up and parties are a big part of the season. But mainly… yikes!

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