The Pushers

When I ate dinner at Bank Jean-Georges with my daughter, the waiter asked if we wanted fizzy, still or "Houston" water. I asked for the Houston. Oddly the water here is served in petite stemware more appropriate in size for a glass of port. And since it was 90-something outside and I was quite thirsty, I quickly drained the glass.

"Was that water good, sir?" the waiter mocked.

"Do I detect a note of sarcasm in your voice?" I asked him. In some parts of Houston, the water isn't good, he lectured.

"What do you get for a bottle of still water here?" I challenged.

"We are actually one of the most expensive in town," he noted. A bottle of Voss goes for $7 at Bank.

"And how many bottles does the average table go through?" I asked.

"Two or three," he said.

"So what's your tip on $20 worth of designer water?"

"About $4," he said.

"Okay, I'll give you your $4, and you can cool it with the water," I offered.

He obviously took offense. After I drained another glass, he took the goblet away and replaced it with the stainless-steel water pitcher. With a flourish, he inserted a straw into the top of the pitcher.


I will put up with an awful lot for a good dinner, but this bottled-water bullshit is getting ridiculous. Offering it is all well and good. But attempting to embarrass people who won't order it is unacceptable.

Restaurants are running a scam. They're marking up water out of all proportion to its cost. And they sell it by impugning the quality of tap water. Well, guess what: It's the purity of bottled water that is suspect.

In the article "Despite the Hype, Bottled Water is Neither Cleaner nor Greener Than Tap Water," which appeared in E/The Environmental Magazine ( last fall, author Brian Howard cites independent testing that shows some bottled waters contain contaminants, including arsenic and other carcinogens. And the U.S.'s $7.7 billion bottled-water industry, he explains, is frighteningly unregulated. Tap water, on the other hand, is subject to constant testing and must meet rigorous standards.

Hmm, let me see: $7 a bottle for who-knows-what, or free tap water.

Make mine a "Houston," please.

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