Do Rhode Island restaurants have to post their prices?
May 19, 2022 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Does a walk-up business (i.e., no indoor seating) selling ice cream have to post its prices?

An ice cream place near us removed all the prices from their sign this spring. When asked how customers should determine costs, the employee said that they could look up any price you need in the computer.

Is this allowed? How do you know if the bill is wrong? How do you know if you brought enough cash along, or if prices changed, or....anything?
posted by wenestvedt to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, it's Rhode Island... you could tell them that you'll ask about this practice with your "friend" who works at the top of Smith Hill in the Albert Cianci Jr Memorial Office For Truth and Transparency In Commerce.

All nostalgic jackassery aside... the only other thing I've got is, is this a temporary thing while they are getting new signage, or rebranding? Or is the one behind the window a worker bee who mightn't know or care why because of their pay grade?

Does Del's also do this? Because if Del's does it, you're hosed. :-)
posted by armoir from antproof case at 8:24 PM on May 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My guess is that they want to use demand pricing like Uber.

When it’s really hot outside, or when a nearby event lets out, people will be willing to pay more, but if you post those prices, your store will be empty most of the time.

I think social media will kill it, though.
posted by jamjam at 9:11 PM on May 19, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Never encountered this in RI, but in Cambridge in the 90s there was one coffee shop that at one point tried to go this route. My assessment was that they were going after the pre-millennial early-tech-boom hipster types who were rich enough to not care what the price of their latte was. Very annoying and I don’t think they survived much longer after that. (A pity since they had started out as such a good place.)

If the menu is fairly simple for walk-up (one scoop / two scoops / three scoops, sugar cone / waffle cone) they could probably get away with it — but I don’t see the benefit of not just posting an unobtrusive price list somewhere unless they’re trying to get people to mentally commit to having ice cream before they find out the specific price, at which point only the really price-conscious will be deterred. Which strikes me as a bit of a dark pattern.
posted by sesquipedalia at 10:13 PM on May 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Possibly not. This seems to be the relevant statute, which doesn't require pricing for ice cream and also doesn't require pricing by establishments with less than eight full time staff and only one outlet. But there may be other relevant regulations that could apply.

You could ask the Department of Business Regulation.
posted by ssg at 10:23 PM on May 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Whatever the actual rules - people can ask, in fact they can be really annoying and just stand at the front of the queue and ask before joining the queue. And they can walk away from the ice cream if they dislike the answer. So this measure may not be as effective as they seem to think it is....who wants to look up prices for ice cream on the internet....
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:04 AM on May 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: The prices were on a sign only two years old -- so removing it all was a deliberate choice.

I also suspect the owner hopes to be able to change prices unobtrusively when/if costs climb.

It's a very popular local spot, frequented by families and sports teams in the summer, but I can imagine people getting angry and opting for the competition.

Thanks, all!
posted by wenestvedt at 4:12 AM on May 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Many small restaurants are experiencing near-constant price increases from suppliers due to inflation, and some have stopped posting prices (and printing menus with prices) because of this.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:57 AM on May 20, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I have seen a similar establishment remove the prices from the board and print out and laminate a price list on a daily or almost daily basis. You can look at the card when it is your turn to order. On the other hand, gas stations seem to find a way to change their prices as often as they want.

If it were me and there truly was competition, I would simply go to the competition.

What's the old joke/saying? If you have to ask the price, you probably can't afford it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:24 AM on May 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Why don't they write their menu on a whiteboard/chalkboard? (My favorite ice cream place, now gone, used to have very elaborate chalkboard menus.) They could change the prices every half hour if they liked, but still everyone ordering could know the price. I would go to the competition.
posted by LadyOscar at 10:01 PM on May 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: JohnnyGunn: If it were me and there truly was competition, I would simply go to the competition.

Which isexactly how we chose to handle this. :7)

Down with Lincoln Creamery! Viva la Ice Cream Machine!
posted by wenestvedt at 12:57 PM on June 16, 2022

« Older Best standing desk!   |   Parents of little ones: What do you wish you knew... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.