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What's The Upper Limit on Free Refills?

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How many is too many? [Photo: Carey Jones]

When I go to a particularly unappealing sort of chain restaurant (or chain-style restaurant), as I happened to do last night, there's one thing I know I can count on: free soda refills. I mean, if there's nothing else you can look forward to in a meal at a huge American bad-burgers-and-taco-salads restaurant, at least you can look forward to getting your soda topped off a few times, right?

But I always run into a question of conscience: How many soda refills is too many?

After I finish one, the server is pretty quick to offer another. After I finish a second, well... am I really getting a third soda? And I can usually deal with that third soda without feeling too weird about it, but then that one's gone and the self-consciousness kicks in.

I realize that any sort of chain restaurant doesn't actually care whether I get two refills or four; it's all pennies out of the eventual check to them. But after awhile, I feel like I'm being That Girl trying to scam them out of soda. Given my tendency to drink endless amounts of diet Coke when it's in front of me, I don't actually know the answer: How many free refills is too many? Or is there really no limit?

About the author: Carey Jones is the Senior Managing Editor of Serious Eats. Follow her on Twitter (@careyjones).

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