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Lifestyle & Human Interest

Diner That Charges Patrons Extra for Asking Stupid Questions Goes Viral

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In a modern world of sleek, sanitized and scalable, you have to really search to find a place to eat that is truly unique or locally owned. Most restaurants now are updated constantly and don’t have the weight of history behind them.

But Tom’s Diner in Denver has character and then some. It’s what you would expect of an old-school American diner: stone walls, funky-colored booths and a little bit of sass.

Tom Messina, who started the place, had some interesting additions to the standard diner menu, and one of those charges has been making people chuckle.

On Dec. 30, a Reddit user shared a photo of a receipt that showed an unusual charge nestled among the standard ones: “Side Mashed Potatoes $2.99,” “Chick Tenders Basket $9.00” and “Stupid Question $0.38.”

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“It’s meant to be playful. It’s good to keep things light in today’s world,” the general manager, Hunter Landry, told NBC’s “Today.”

While the charge was put into rotation around 20 years ago, it used to cost a whopping $0.48 until it was reduced to its current amount. While it might seem insulting to add, Landry explained it’s all in good fun.

“When we have a good fun table that engages with us or when they ask about the charge, it’s always fun to add it on,” he explained.

“The majority of people really get where we’re coming from and understand it’s meant to be playful. Over the years, maybe a few people have been perturbed, but the response is generally positive.”

Some have become so accustomed to the charge that they’re upset when they don’t see it. Others see the charge and start legitimizing it by asking inane questions.

The menu features other charges as well, including, under “Healthy Options,” “Skip Your Next Meal: $ Money well saved” and “Walk Home: Priceless.”

There may be more additions on the way, including “‘Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously” and “Love Each Other.”

According to the Denverite, while the diner building itself is now owned by a real estate company, Messina will continue to run the restaurant since the building was recently deemed “officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.”

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One Reddit user who commented on the photo claimed to have been an insider during the diner’s final days under Messina’s ownership.

“Nice! I was a line cook at Tom’s Diner during the spring/summer of 2018,” the person wrote.

“Servers didn’t actually put this on the bill unless a customer requested it. It was on the menu for entertainment value. A lot of times, customers would be disappointed at not being charged for asking a stupid question so they’d ask and a server would then add it.”

“The ultimate stupid question, ‘Why didn’t you charge me more money?'”

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Tom's don't play.

A post shared by Russell Lopez (@copendejo) on

“Today” confirmed that servers are trained not to add the charge in any case where it might be taken poorly or when a customer genuinely asked a question that seemed stupid.

“It’s all about not taking yourself too seriously,” Landry said. “We’re not here for a long time, so let’s enjoy ourselves and try to make the most of this life.”

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking