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When I was in my early 20s and living in Toronto, I started dating a guy who was from Calgary. He had moved to Toronto after graduating from university for a job opportunity. New to the city, he always wanted to explore and I was more than happy to join him. He turned me into a tourist in my own city as we visited landmarks and attractions I hadn’t been to since I was a kid and checked out all the newest, just-opened hotspots. RELATED: 5 Reasons People Eat at McDonald’s When They Travel

Every weekend, we ate at a restaurant neither of us had been to before. One particular weekend, we tried a high-end place called Senses. We were celebrating something, I think. Perusing the menu, my eyes landed on the caviar served with blintzes. “Should we try it?” I asked him. The price was listed as Market Price but we were celebrating and figured we could splurge a little.

We ordered it, we tried it, we hated it. I learned early on I’m not a caviar kind of girl.

The bill came and our eyeballs popped out of our heads. The shot-glass sized serving of caviar was $150! It was outrageously expensive and so upsetting because at the time, I had really wanted to see Andrea Bocelli at his upcoming concert in Toronto but at $500 for two tickets, my boyfriend and I had decided we couldn’t afford them. And here we had just blown a pile of money on something stupid and horrible tasting that we couldn’t afford.

Lesson learned: if you have to ask how much something costs, you probably can’t afford it! But the more valuable lesson: Never be afraid to ask how much something costs. Otherwise, you could be in for a stomach-churning surprise.

That’s what happened to American cruise ship captain, Captain Kate McCue, while traveling in Europe last summer. When Captain Kate became the commanding officer of Celebrity Summit in 2015, it was the first time that an American woman had been named captain of a mega cruise ship. Presently, she’s at the helm of Celebrity Beyond. She shares her restaurant experience in the TikTok video below and I definitely feel her pain:

@captainkatemccue This one tipped the “scales” for lessons learned. #travel  #tip  #oops ♬ original sound – captainkatemccue

I totally agree with her that there is no shame in your game if you have to ask how much something costs. It’s really just the smart thing to do. Some upscale restaurants don’t print the prices on menus at all, requiring guests to inquire unless they want to experience the stomach-dropping sensation that accompanies an outrageous and unexpected bill. RELATED: 12 Things I Learned From Traveling to Europe This Summer

I also remember dining at an exclusive restaurant in Bora Bora with only six tables and separate menus for men and women. The menu for women didn’t feature any prices assuming that the man would pay and the little lady didn’t need to worry her pretty little head about the cost. This practice of handing women a ‘ladies menu’ used to be a common feature of high-end European restaurants and some North American restaurants did it too but a court case squashed it altogether. You can read more about it here.

Anyhow, an unexpected bill, whether it’s 600 euros for fish or $10 for a can of Coke (which I was charged once in France), can leave you feeling taken advantage of and if you’re on a budget, can really throw a wrench into your financial planning. So never be afraid to ask how much something costs at a restaurant. That way, you can stomach both your meal and the bill.

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8 Comments On "Never Be Afraid to Ask This Question at a Restaurant"
  1. David Miller|

    Always ask – it is your money. If a worker gives you “a look” after you ask, just leave.

  2. Rich|

    This “woman” that Natalie refers to is the first female captain of a mega cruise ship and the most followed cruise line captain of all. People book cruises specifically if they know she will be the captain on the ship. She is currently the Captain on the Celebrity Beyond.

  3. Dee|

    Thank you for this public service announcement. Prices should always be posted. By not being transparent, they hope to humiliate people into not asking and therereby whacking them with the bill at an outrageous price. Let’s put a stop to this. Don’t be afraid. Ask. And yes, I remember being presented with a ladies menu 30 or 40 years ago in France. The boyfriend explained the premise to me. Even then I thought it was ridiculous.

  4. Natalie DiScala|

    Hi Rich – thanks so much for letting me know! I have updated the article to reflect this. Really appreciate you sharing this information with me :)

  5. Max Weber|

    If you have to ask the price, you cannot afford it.

  6. Meg|

    I always ask the price! Even if you can afford it, I can make an informed choice. I would pay $3 for a can of soda, but not $10…every person has different price points that they are willing to pay for something and should never be embarrassed to ask. I know a lot of rich people ask also. No one wants to be taken advantage of.

  7. K|

    Swiss Air allowed obviously sick person on international flight … who vomited the whole trip.
    Any rules on this & compensation?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      I don’t think so

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