When you order food at a restaurant, a glass or cup of water is usually free. But not at all restaurants these days.
A recent policy change at some McDonald's, in various parts of the country, is upsetting some customers, who used to assume that a cup of water was always complementary.
Debbi Bonar is one of them. She was stunned recently when she asked for water with her cookies, at a McDonald's drive-thru.
The large cup of water, that she says used to be free, was now $1. She even has a receipt showing the dollar charge for water.
"I said excuse me? I want just a large cup of ice water," Bonar said. "But the cashier told me they have to charge now."
So the next time she visited, she asked for a small water, but was charged again.
"I asked for just a small cup this time," she said, "but that was 50 cents for a small cup of water."
To confirm, we made a purchase at the restaurant's drive-through window, requesting a small water with our food order. Sure enough, we were hit with a fee, 50 cents for a small cup of water
In McDonald's defense, plastic cups are not free, and they would lose money if they handed out large soft drink cups all day long. But Bonar thinks it's a common courtesy to hand out complementary water when someone orders food.
"I think it's really sad, really sad," she said.
What's the policy?
It turns out the McDonald's corporation has no water policy, telling the consumer advocacy group Travelers United that "each franchisee determines pricing for their individual restaurants."
The particular local franchiser told us their policy at their 14 area McDonald's is to charge a small fee for water in a standard fountain cup, the same cups used for Coke and sweet tea.
The cups cost the restaurant money, as does the filtration system they use at the drink fountain, a spokesman said.
However, he said you should still be able to get a free water, if you ask for a "courtesy" cup, which is a tiny paper or clear cup just for water (the exact cups vary from restaurant to restaurant).
Bonar feels that on a hot day, a customer should be able to get a decent cup of tap water at no charge, with a meal purchase.
"I thought it was against the law to charge for water," she said.
But in most cities and communities there is no law, and no right for a free water cup when you dine out.
Some McDonald's will continue to supply water free in any cup size, but more and more are now charging for the larger soda fountain cup.
One other reason for this, according to McDonald's employees on Reddit, is that too many people were asking for large cup of water, then filling it with Coke at the fountain.
So if you want free water, be sure to ask for a small "courtesy" cup, so you don't waste your money.
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