Pissed enough to write an addendum to my original review of Turtle Tower Restaurant. It’s the third most-searched review on SF Food, and up to this point, I have happily recommended the place, featured it in my book, and have personally contributed an obscene amount of money to the establishment by feasting here two, sometimes three or even four times a week.
With three locations throughout the city, they’ve done incredibly well. And it’s well-deserved, as the chicken pho is quite delicious, though the remainder of their food doesn’t even rank on the food radar.
But today, on the second day of 2012, they announce via their Facebook page that they will no longer be accepting debit or credit cards.
Up to this point, I’ve watched them raise their prices, shrink the portions down considerably — and refuse to take multiple credit cards for dutch payments. The latter is understandable, considering charging $10 – 12 to 12 cards is a chore and a waste of time for them during their busy hours. I can live with this, even if the majority of establishments in San Francisco honor split payments.
But now – they will refuse credit and debit payments and instead, provide an ATM at which we can pay the $2-3 charge they will inevitably charge (of which a percentage is theirs). And they state it’s for our convenience.
On what planet is THAT convenient for me?
And if you take cash to evade taxes – then why are we, the customers, paying taxes nonetheless?
So let’s break this down.
Currently, a large (and keep in mind, “large” is relative, especially compared to what it used to be) bowl of #10 Pho Ga Long (chicken soup w/ chicken giblets) is $8.20. I usually order an additional plate of giblets but let’s forget about that for now, and let’s just say I only order water/tea, and no drink.
Let’s also factor in that to get to Outer Richmond, it will cost $2.00 on MUNI, or metered parking at $2.00 per hour. In fact, the lot right next door to them charges $2.00 per hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and given the lack of convenient parking in this area — parking will almost always cost $2.00 per hour.
My bowl of pho is immediately $10.20.
Now, let’s factor in taxes — and calculate it at an additional dollar for ease of calculation, which now makes for a $11.20 bowl of chicken soup and noodles. And in all honesty, I can’t remember if they charge us for Healthy San Francisco….which would add an additional percentage, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say they don’t.
But wait – I didn’t have cash on me, so now, I have the *convenience* of using their ATM onsite, and since I haven’t used it, I will guess the fee they charge me will be somewhere between $2-3 — perhaps around $2.50. My bowl now costs $13.70.
To add insult to injury, upon coming home, I will soon become painfully aware that my own bank has charged me $3 because I used a non-bank ATM at Turtle Tower.
That damn bowl just cost me $16.70 to eat.
There’s no bowl of pho that is worthy of that cost.
Turtle Tower — I get that business is good, and I get that even if you raised your prices more than a dollar in the last year, the people kept coming. I get that in your first store, the rundown Larkin location, you were able to accept only cash and the people still came.
But this is offensive. The incremental charges you pay for each charge is nothing compared to how much you make. While I get that you don’t want to pay that, I also know I don’t want to pay fees just because you decide to stop taking credit cards, or because I forgot to stop by my bank’s ATM on a lazy Sunday while en route to your establishment. I also don’t feel like paying taxes to you when you won’t be sending them to Uncle Sam. If you don’t pay — I shouldn’t have to pay it either. Under no circumstances should you be able to pocket cash intended to pay taxes while continuing to charge your customers that amount.
In this day of mobile, emerging and contactless payment solutions — deciding to go all-cash for your benefit only with an utter lack of consideration for your patrons is absurd.
I reiterate: there is no bowl of pho worth $16+ — not even yours, Turtle Tower.
Shame on you — I’ll find something else. Thanks.
Grace Keh is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to San Francisco" and the critic, editor and photographer behind San Francisco Food. In her regular day job, she consults for corporate clients in marketing and event strategy. Once the sun sets, she's on the hunt for great food in what she considers to be one of the world's greatest cities, San Francisco.