It's a classic restaurant gamble: The server announces the specials, but doesn't tell you how much they cost. Eager to try something new, you have two choices -- either you can ask for the prices and risk looking like a cheapskate or you can take a chance on something new, but risk getting a nasty surprise when the check comes.
Alan DeCew chose door No. 2. While visiting a Cheesecake Factory (CAKE) in Chestnut Hill, Mass., he took a chance and ordered one of the restaurant's specialty margaritas, in spite of the fact that the server hadn't told him the exact price of his cocktail. But later that evening, he was shocked to discover that his tasty tipple rang up at an exorbitant $11.
Faced with this sort of margarita misery, most patrons would grumble to themselves, vow never to buy another fishbowl-sized Cheesecake Factory cocktail, and swallow their irritation. But DeCew, a staff member at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, decided to take the war to the Cheesecake Factory. Enlisting the help of his friend, attorney Ross Mitchell, he used the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act -- which outlaws "unfair or deceptive conduct in the marketplace" -- to demand that the chain post its drink prices.
In this epic battle between the dipsomaniacal David and gustatory Goliath, the little guy won: The Cheesecake Factory has agreed to post its drink prices at its seven Massachusetts restaurants. Having spoken up for the Bay State's closet cheapskates, DeCew is moving on. His attorney, however, will continue to fight the good fight: As he told the Boston Herald, "we're looking at other national chains ... we're going to go after everybody."
Of course, if he really wants to protect consumers, Mitchell might want to take on the Cheesecake Factory's insanely fat-laden menu.
Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at@bruce1971.
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