Free drinking water starting to disappear in Switzerland
I went to the renowned Sprüngli pastry shop in Zurich a few months ago with my chocolate-lover soul-mate, Tina Daub. Not having been there since our college days, we were excited and our taste buds were tingling at full speed before we even sat down.
We ordered our pastries and tea. Her sons ordered ice cream instead of pastry, so they were thirsty afterward and asked for a glass of water. (We all know that ice cream can make you thirsty, don’t we?) The waiter said we would have to order from the water menu.
This really rubbed me wrong. I said I’d never heard of a restaurant or café in Western Europe that refused to give you a glass of water free of charge. We argued about it, and he asked if I would like to speak to the manager. “Of course,” I said.
He promptly went off and after some time, returned, telling us the manager would allow us to have one glass of water for the whole table, informing us that normally he should be charging us CHF 5 for the glass, but he was going to be generous today and give it to us free of charge. There was about 20 deciliters of water in that baby glass, enough for one sip each.
So much for Sprüngli’s. We won’t be so excited if there’s a next time.
The incident raised my curiosity.
When I returned to Geneva, several café owners told me there was talk of charging for tap water. I can understand that if you take up their table, you should spend some money. But for instance coffee, like ice cream, tends to make you thirsty. So if you’ve bought a cup of coffee, will they still give you a glass of water free of charge?
Free water is no longer the rule
20 Minutes reports that the supermarket chain Coop has decided to remove water fountains and free carafes of water from its restaurants. They give problems related to hygiene as being the reason, saying distribution of free water gives rise to the spread and proliferation of bacteria.
Not everyone is following suit however. 20 Minutes goes on to say that the more upscale chain Manor refuses to follow in Coop’s footsteps. They see the availability of free water as encouraging purchasing, as well as providing a service they want to continue offering their customers.
Migros: free water on a case-by-case basis
The decision regarding free water is to be taken at regional level for the Migros supermarket chain. Some regional managers, such as Neuchâtel Fribourg, are quite clear about the matter: nothing is going to change. Water fountains and plastic glasses will still be available free of charge in their restaurants. Other regions do not have such clear-cut policies.
Migros Neuchâtel Fribourg says it has never had any incidents related to public health due to distribution of free water.