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Since You Asked

What is the best course of action to take when a restaurant tries to charge you a different price than the one listed on the menu? This happened to me for the third time, both at drive-through and sit-down restaurants. When called on it, the restaurant employees all have the same line: Prices went up and they just haven't updated the menu yet.

Some restaurants will allow you to pay the menu price while others insist that you must pay the higher price. If you offer to pay the menu price and they won't accept it, can you just leave without paying?

— Scott, Medford

If complaining to the restaurant's management doesn't get you anywhere, you can take this issue to the Oregon Attorney General's Office.

Spokeswoman Jan Margosian recommends that if you've already consumed the food, pay thebill and then file a complaint for the difference with the Attorney General's Consumer Hotline (call 877-877-9392 or e-mail consumer.hotline@doj.state.or.us).

"The place to battle that out would not be in the restaurant," Margosian said, adding you should never leave without paying.

"You can't just walk out on a bill."

Such complaints go on the restaurant's record with the Attorney General and — particularly if a pattern is identified — restaurants could be fined up to $25,000 for each violation of consumer-protection laws.

Restaurants need to inform customers of price changes when food items are ordered, Margosian said. If patrons were notified before food was prepared, they don't have any basis for a complaint, she added.

"It's not up to the consumer to ask all the time if that's still the price," Margosian said.

Drew Baily, Southern Oregon's regional representative to the Oregon Restaurant Association, said customer word of mouthcan inspire restaurants to be more forthcoming.

"That would be a very poor business practice for any business — restaurant or otherwise," Baily said.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com.