Buy A Gift Certificate From Restaurant.com, Sign Up For A Recurring $14.95 Monthly 'Service"

Note: this post is about restaurant.com, not restaurants.com. The two websites are not related. Tracey emailed us today to let us know that she just found a mysterious $14.95 fee on her credit card. It turns out a company called Shopping Essentials is now billing her as a monthly subscriber, and all because she bought some gift certificates via restaurant.com in December. To make matters even more shady, Shopping Essentials never contacted Tracey to let her know she signed up for anything, or to send her information about their services, or to call attention in any way to the fact that she now pays them a monthly fee.

I bought some gift certificates over the holidays from restaurant.com. I planned to use them as gifts for those in other cities, since they could be easily printed and mailed with a card. This morning, I noticed a charge of 14.95 had been made to my account for yesterday. Turns out when you buy a gift certificate, they do you the ‘favor’ of signing you up for a monthly service, or at least a monthly service fee, from a shady company called Shopping Essentials.com. You can find additional details from additional victims here: ripoffreports.com

Since you occasionally feature restaurant.com as one of your “morning deals” I thought you might like to know this- in fact, I bought the gift cards after seeing them [in the morning deals on] the Consumerist!

I’ve been trying to contact someone at restaurant.com for restitution, since their scammy-third-party partner is not gonig to assist me. They have so far placed me on hold and hung up twice, then told me their supervisor was ‘in a meeting’ and they’d have to take a number and call me back.

So, restaurant lovers, beware this nasty house of scam! And restaurant owners, know you’re only as good as the company you keep. I know I certainly plan to contact the restaurants in my city that advertise with this company and let them know this is not an association they want to make.

Our apologies, Tracey. We should point out that we don’t accept advertising; it may sound like we’re splitting hairs, but we don’t want any readers to think the morning deals are sponsored in any way. They’re not!

We agree with Tracey, if you know of any local restaurants that use restaurant.com, you might want to let them know that they’re affiliated with a website that has earned numerous complaints about shady monthly fees.


Update: A lot of readers have pointed out that at best, this is only partly Restaurant.com’s fault. We agree up to a point, and take back our suggestion that you should get local restaurants to drop them.

But here’s the deal: those “offers” are designed to capture erroneous clicks, and in some cases to actually trick the user into agreeing to something he would otherwise reject. There are as anti-consumer as you can get without breaking the law. Shopping Essentials and its parent company are indeed a Super Fun Craptastic type of marketing company that should be wiped off the face of the earth—but that’s not how we feel about Restaurant.com. I’ve subsequently changed the headline to more accurately reflect what happened.

However, that doesn’t absolve Restaurant.com from responsibility, because they make money off of their partnership with Shopping Essentials or whatever ad broker is connecting the two sites. When a naive/inattentive/dumb customer (hey, it takes all kinds) “accepts” a Shopping Essentials membership, Restaurant.com provides the credit card information that allows the billing to take place.

They’re not the only company that does this, and I’ll soon be posting another story that focuses on all the companies that betray customer trust to make a quick buck from sites like Shopping Essentials. But that doesn’t mean Restaurant.com doesn’t deserve criticism.