FEELING THE PINCH:Many city diners feel that restaurant operators are overcharging patrons for a glass of plain water
HOW much are you willing to pay for a glass of tap water? Those who frequent Mamak stalls and restaurants in the city have on and off been complaining about the "unreasonable" charges imposed by eatery operators.
An NST reader recently wrote a letter to the editor complaining that while watching a Euro 2012 match at a kopitiam in Shah Alam, he was charged 80 sen for a glass of warm water.
"Though this issue was highlighted last February, surprisingly, eateries like kopitiam and cafes are still charging their customers such a high price," said the reader.
"It is just not acceptable to be charged such a price for plain water. They get the water at a cost of only RM2 per 1,000 litre and they charge 80 sen for a glass."
Following the reader's complaints, Streets carried a random survey at various eateries and found that the price for a glass of water varies in different locations and outlets.
While some Mamak stalls and restaurants in Taman Desa in Jalan Klang Lama charged 30 sen for a glass of water, others gave it for free with meals.
In upmarket Bangsar, a glass of water can cost anything from 20 sen to RM1, depending on the outlet. Some places even put the price of a glass of water on their menu.
Most of the people Streets spoke to agreed that plain water should be given free with meals.
They said eateries should not charge exorbitant prices for water.
Marketing manager Terence Philips, 38, said it was ridiculous for food and beverage establishments to charge for water.
"I'm already paying the six per cent government tax and 10 per cent service charge. I don't see why I should be paying for plain water, too," he said.
Philips urged the authorities to do something to prevent outlets from charging for plain water.
"It doesn't cost much for a glass of water. These establishments are taking the people for a ride. If I get charged for ordering water, I will shun that establishment," he said.
Entrepreneur Melisa Ali, 28, agreed that outlets should not be charging for plain water. She said that it was absurd to pay premium prices for a glass of plain water.
"Charging for a glass of water is daylight robbery. The reason outlets are charging high prices is because there is no control from the authorities. These outlets just do as they please and we have to suffer," she said.
Accounts executive Kalsum Suradi, 28, said: "I am not willing to pay for plain water and it should be free. But, if I am charged for the water, I expect the water to be served in a large cup and it should be refillable," she said, adding that if unavoidable, she would not mind paying 20 sen for a glass of water at the Mamak stall or 50 sen in an upscale restaurant.
Kalsum also said that the authorities should conduct checks on the quality of water served in the restaurants and Mamak stalls.
"We are paying for water and don't know if it is clean. Bacteria can spread if the water is not boiled properly," she said.
N. Raja, 36, who visited a restaurant in Bangsar, was upset at being charged RM1 for tap water.
"We had spent more than RM100 and the outlet still charged us for plain water. This is not fair. The outlets should consider those who are spending a lot for their meals and give the water for free," he said.
Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) president Datuk Marimuthu Nadason said outlets should not go overboard by charging exorbitant prices for boiled tap water.
"Restaurant operators should be reasonable when charging for a glass of water, 20 sen or 30 sen is a sensible price," he said.
Marimuthu also understands the plight faced by some Mamak and high-end restaurant operators in providing the extra service.
"We know that some restaurants charge high prices for water to deter those who only order water and use the free services such as Wi-Fi or sit there for hours to watch football on the television screens. The business operators also have bills to pay and they cannot be giving out free services. But, the operators should charge a reasonable amount because it is only boiled water," he said.
National Consumer Complaints Centre (NCCC) senior manager Matheevani Marathandan said that currently no agency is regulating the price of plain water.
"There is no standard price for water. We believe that the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism should take a stand and regulate the price of water. They should come up with a recommended price," she said.