Lots of restaurants offer condiments for customers to use freely, but how “freely” are they actually meant to be used. For example, one ramen shop in Japan had a poster offering to let customers take as much green onion as they want, until someone came in and did just that.

The patron piled on about two bowlfuls of diced scallions per single bowl of soup, because apparently that’s the way he likes it. After a few repeat visits the staff interceded and asked that the customer cool it with the onions.

So, who is in the right? Was the gluttonous customer abusing the kind offer of the restaurant, or should the shop stand by its explicitly written offer? Japanese legal website Bengoshi News called in a lawyer to find out.

The incident described above was told over an online message board by the customer. They wrote that during one visit a shop worker approached and asked “We’re trying to run a business here…could you refrain [from drowning your soup in green onions]?” to which the customer responded “Doesn’t the sign say it’s free? Am I not eating properly?”

According to lawyer Noriaki Nakamura the customer was indeed within their rights to eat lots of leeks.

“Legally, I think the customer is correct. Once a customer orders from a ramen shop they enter into a contract. The customer had fulfilled their end by purchasing the ramen under the promise to ‘take as much green onion’ as they wanted. When the purchase is made, both parties are bound by the agreement.”

Although the customer appears to have the law on their side, many online took the side of the restaurant, saying that you shouldn’t be allowed to take anything beyond a reasonable amount. Here are some of their comments.

“Jeeze, a normal person would not eat two bowls of green onions.”

“Let it slide the one time, but the next time they come lay down the exact rules first.”

“It’s idiots like this that are stifling society. Anything and everything will be full of notes and warnings.”

“Two bowls of green onion can’t be good for the stomach.”

Although Noriaki appears to sympathize with some of those sentiments he ultimately believes it’s up to the business to apply the rules at their own risk.

“Certainly the shop has the right to choose which customers enter their store, but after the order is made they can’t refuse. In this case the “take as much as you want” poster should be removed. It’s an unfair promise to solicit customers as it excludes large eaters.”

While Noriaki is probably right in terms of the legal responsibility, it would seem the end result would be the majority of ramen eaters being prevented from getting a little extra green onion with their soup. The civilized thing might have been for the green-onion loving customer to recognize that he tends to eat an extreme amount of leeks compared to normal people and perhaps offer to pay just a little extra for his highly unusual tastes.

That gesture alone would probably go a long way with the shop and maybe even result in them giving the onions for free in the end. It may not have ended so well, but as a general rule we should rely on the letter of the law only after every avenue of civil discourse has been exhausted.

Source: Livedoor News via Itai News (Japanese)
Top Image: RocketNews24