‘No doggy bag’ rule a bit unfair

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Johannesburg - So you’re the best? Prove it. If you can’t prove it, don’t claim it. That’s what the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has essentially been telling advertisers for years, but still there are those who feel entitled to make a boast despite a complete lack of independent, credible proof.

Sometimes it’s should-know-better naivety, as in the case of the group-buying company which advertised a kettle on its website earlier this month as “Kettle of the Year 2014”.

Whose kettle of the year? Um, well, ours, they told me. Just a bit of marketing. The claim now reads: “Our 2014 Kettle of the Year (so far)”.

Then there’s the restaurant that claimed in an advert to have the best steaks on the East Rand.

Consumer Lionel Schultz lodged a complaint with the (ASA) against an advert placed by Boksburg’s Parrots Restaurant and Coffee Shop in the Boksburg Advertiser last September, in which it claimed to have the “best steaks in the East Rand, as voted by consumers”.

Schultz argued that there was no indication of any quantitative research having been done to back up that claim.

It appears he was right. The restaurant owner told the ASA that the best steak claim was true and accurate as all his customers had said so.

Unsurprisingly, when the ASA Directorate met to consider the case last week, it concluded that as the best steaks claim wasn’t based on an independent survey, it was unsubstantiated, thus couldn’t be made again.

That advert made another statement which Schultz also objected to, but it wasn’t within the ASA’s mandate to rule on.

It read: “No doggy bags.”

Parrots Restaurant contended that it was its prerogative to state whichever terms and conditions it felt comfortable with.

Schultz argued that consumers had the right to take home food they hadn’t consumed, as they had paid for the entire meal.

It’s a tricky issue, this.

It seems to me it would be a fair policy in respect of those eat-all-you-can buffets, in order to avoid patrons abusing the unlimited supply of food on offer.

But in a restaurant which serves a specific portion for a specific price, the owner would have no legal right to refuse to allow a patron to take home an unfinished portion.

What they could do, though, is refuse to supply those polystyrene take-away containers, as they are not in the business of take-aways.

So if you were to defy such a policy, you’d have to go armed with your own bag or container, which, I would imagine, would make you feel a bit like one of those ultra stingy folks on that DSTV series Extreme Cheapskates.

If you have a small appetite and you can’t bear to leave half an expensive steak on your plate, rather patronise restaurants that are happy to give you a doggy bag.

Interestingly, when I did an internet search on the subject, I landed up on the Government of Western Australia’s website which focused heavily on the hygiene aspect of doggy bags.

It states that restaurant owners may not refuse a customer’s request to take home their leftovers, but does warn consumers of the potential dangers of this practice, given the lack of temperature control.

Here’s its leftover advice, to avoid food poisoning: Discard food not refrigerated within two hours of preparation, and reheat refrigerated food to steaming hot for at least two minutes before eating.

The Star


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