When Should You Warn Others Away From A Business?

Nathan wonders: if a company makes repeated errors, then attempts to make things right, should you still warn others against patronizing them? He tells Consumerist that a chain pizza place failed to apply his coupon on four separate orders. He failed to notice at the time, and the restaurant manager offered a refund and free pizza once he called them on it. But should he recommend the place to others? What would you do?

Question for you and other Consumerist readers: If you discover repeated overbilling by a company (in this case, failure to apply a coupon), report it to the company, and the manager tries to make it right, would you still give the company a bad review to warn off other consumers? Or would you let it slide because the manager has done all he or she can do?

Here’s my story: We order the same pizza from our local Round Table Pizza whenever we have friends over. We always tip the driver the same amount (we overtip because our house is a pain to reach and we are always nice to the driver and the person taking the order, so it’s not that they’re getting revenge on us or anything like that), and the bill is always exactly the same. We always use a $3 coupon from Round Table’s website and clearly state at the beginning of the phone call that we’d like to use that coupon. We always use the same credit card to pay for it, and we pay over the phone. Yes, we are very predictable.

The most recent time we ordered, I noticed when the driver got to our house that the $3 coupon hadn’t been applied. When I looked back through my credit card statements, I saw that the coupon was not applied the previous three orders over the last few months, for a total ripoff of $12.

When I called them on it, the manager apologized profusely, credited us the most recent $3, and gave us a coupon for a free pizza to make up for the $9 from earlier months that she claimed were too old for her to credit us back coupon amounts. I said that was fine (I’m aware I could have pushed for the $9 instead, but didn’t feel like arguing over it given that the coupon will be more of a $20+ value anyway). Now I’m going back and forth on the question I wrote above: Do I warn people away, given that the repeated nature of this screwup suggests others are going to face the same issue? Or would that be vindictive of me, as there’s really nothing else the company can do?

Comments

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  1. ChuckECheese says:

    Yes

    • Liam Kinkaid says:

      I think you’re biased.

    • SWBLOOPERS says:

      I would warn them to check their receipts but don’t see a reason to “warn them away” from the business. Unless it continues to happen.

      • Leksi Wit says:

        Exactly. Just tell your friends and family to check receipts, which we should always do regardless of the business. Screw-ups happen, even by honest retailers.

  2. shadowhh says:

    It was fixed. Whats the problem?

    Now, if it happens again after making the manager aware of it. Then there is a problem.

    • Alexk says:

      The problem is that when it happens on four orders in a row, it’s reasonable to assume that it’s an unstated store policy. You shouldn’t have to catch them at it to get relief. It shouldn’t be happening.

      To quote an old pulp novel, once is circumstance, twice is happenstance, three times is enemy action.

      • sonneillon says:

        Maybe the coupon is not functional, and they just haven’t fixed it because it is kind of a pain in the butt.

        • JulesNoctambule says:

          Is it enough of a pain for them to choose not fixing it over potentially losing customers over it?

          • nbs2 says:

            I’d question their awareness of the issue. If people aren’t checking their receipts closely, they may miss the extra charge and thus not bring it up.

            My local dairy delivers our milk, and offers milk crates with a $7.50 deposit. Their system was double charging the crate deposit, something I didn’t notice until we got our second crate and I looked at the invoice. Going through my archives, I noticed the same problem nearly a year earlier when I had gotten the first crate. Calling them yielded a fair result, they credited us $15 (one for each crate). But, I needed to walk them through the transaction, as this was the first time it had been brought to their attention. Would it have been better if they had caught it? Yes. Should they have refunded all their crate-ordering customers? Perhaps (I don’t know if they did or didn’t. Was it a reasonable error that didn’t cost me more than a few minutes to bring to their attention? Yes.

      • coren says:

        It happened 4 orders in a row and was never once brought to their attention. If they’re as regular as the OP says, maybe they’ve been regularly getting an employee who doesn’t know how to, forgets to, or for whatever other reason just doesn’t apply that coupon.

    • longdvsn says:

      I think an appropriate review online would state that there were issues (explain them) and that the restaurant made a good effort to fix them. The OP seems happy with the end result and should note that in the review – but also making a note that it wasn’t a completely flawless company might remind others to keep an eye on things should they choose to order there.

  3. cspschofield says:

    I’d take it on a case by case basis. I’m aware, for instance, that any combination of coupons and point-of-sale-systems is likely to abet confusion. If a business gives me generally good service, and satisfactory goods, and TRIES to let me use coupons, I’d be willing to let coupon trouble pass for review purposes.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      Yeah. They can’t conduct business properly but they “try” so let’s give them a pass and let them mess up over and over again.

  4. caradrake says:

    I would give the review that “X and Y is good, but they have problems with Z.” If you like the pizza, and the service, I’d continue using them and would tell my friends. I wouldn’t say “stay away completely” but “be wary if you want to use a coupon.”

    • Jevia says:

      Yeah, I wouldn’t completely ding a place for issues with the coupon, but I would mention it as a caution.

  5. calico says:

    I wouldn’t warn people away. I might if it continued to be a problem after you brought it to their attention, but it sounds like they made things right.

  6. anarkie says:

    He missed it, they missed it. They fixed it. What’s the problem. I give more credit for the business doing right, and making up for past errors like that. I’d recommend them more, since they obviously care.

    • Gramin says:

      Agreed. I might even share this story with friends. They made a few mistakes, once I noticed it and made the manager aware, she was more than willing to make up for it and offered me a free pizza.

      As far as I’m concerned, that’s great customer service. Gives me more of a reason to visit them, though I would double check from now on to make sure they include my coupon before I get off the phone with them.

      • myCatCracksMeUp says:

        The didn’t apply the coupon discount four times in a row. That’s very sucky, and most likely their policy – only apply the coupon if the customer notices.

    • greggen says:

      If it happens again then the bad reviews IMO

  7. tailspin says:

    The manager more than made up for the error; if she had given him a hard time, that’s a different story. It could have been a computer glitch that no-one noticed, or an employee training issue, who knows. If the problem continues, then maybe warn people about the coupons. But if you’re getting good pizza and good service otherwise, it’s crazy to drive business away from them for a $9 mistake that was fixed.

  8. outis says:

    Why not tell people a condensed version of the above? “They often forget to apply coupons but will fix it when you call them on it.”
    I mean, if the pizza was crap too then yeah, but since you seem to enjoy it, it’s seems like a personal call if you want to do business with them.

  9. Straspey says:

    For me, the response by management and/or customer service is extremely important in deciding whether or not to continue patronizing a business and if I would recommend it to others.

    In this case, I am impressed by the swift and positive response by the manager of the pizza shop – the fact that he immediately accepted responsibility, was sincerely apologetic, and found a creative method to recompense the OP for his “loss” of the $9.00 – all score very high in my book.

    I would continue to order pizzas from this place, and would tell my friends that I had encountered some errors in their coupon/rewards program – but the manager has always been happy to correct the error in a timely manner.

    I would also add that my local pizza shop offers similar coupons and I always politely mention them at the time I order if I have a valid one at that time. The guy taking my order over the phone usually applies the credit immediately and there are no problems.

  10. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    There’s no evidence that the pizza place was deliberately trying to scam him out of $9. It just means that maybe the person who put in the order each time got it wrong. Nathan should be honest about his entire experience with his friends. It’s contradictory to keep ordering from the pizza place and then warn your friends from doing it as well. Either stop ordering and warn your friends, or keep ordering but still warn your friends so they will be diligent to make sure the coupon has been applied.

    Also, why not just pay in cash to avoid the problem altogether?

  11. Rachacha says:

    If the OP decides to warn people away, he should indicate that they failed to apply a coupon but when approached on the issue immediately and without hesitation rectified the situation (don’t mention what the compensation was, don’t make a huge deal out of it. You are warning others that if they decide to use a coupon that they should scrutinize their bill, but advising that the restaurant resolved the issue and you will continue to do business with them.

    Now, if they continue to fail to apply the coupon after you had advised the manager of a potential systemic failure, THEN scream all you want.

  12. kylere1 says:

    I would do neither until I had successfully ordered more something at least once without them messing it up. You do not have the data at this time to praise them, and you have very little to condemn them.

  13. Thassodar says:

    “They FORGET to apply coupons?!?!”
    “I know!”
    “That’s bullshit, I’ll never eat there again although nothing is wrong with the product at all!”
    “And how!”

    • Thassodar says:

      “And you mean to tell me they had the AUDACITY to try and rectify the situation once brought to their attention?!”
      “Yessir!”
      “That’s…that’s downright blasphemy! Wait until I tell my Youth Group about this!”

  14. P=mv says:

    This is a first offense situation. Even though there are multiple instances, this is the first time this customer has brought the problem to the business’s attention, and apologies and recompense were offered and accepted. Therefore, I’d caution people to make sure their coupons are applied properly, as should always be done when using them.

  15. Blueskylaw says:

    A string of errors thus a pattern makes.

    Bank of America?

  16. AngryK9 says:

    No, don’t warn people away. You can let them know of your experience if you want to, but allow them to decide for themselves. Somehow I do not believe that your friends will need you to hand-hold them through a decision as unimportant as where to order pizza from on a Friday night. :)

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Who to order pizza from is a very important decision!

      • nbs2 says:

        That’s why we only order from one place (if in Frederick, il Forno is the only sensible option). Our biggest challenge is figuring out what to get. Although, we have noticed that the breadsticks and fried pickles are significantly better if you eat there.

  17. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I would say they are great, the manager is good, but watch them when you use a coupon.

  18. cybrczch says:

    I’d give an honest recommendation – “The food is great, but you have to watch the receipt”
    There are many companies I use that I have had no problems with that I’ve heard (and read) about horror stories from others. Conversely, some of my friends have no problems with the companies that give me the biggest headaches.

  19. George4478 says:

    If they made it right I may warn people ABOUT but not AGAINST.

    A ‘watch for this’ situation instead of ‘stay away’.

  20. Feezybeezy says:

    Instead of warning others away from the business, why not just share your experience with your friends and allow them to make their own judgments?

  21. backinpgh says:

    If you would have noticed the first time, presumably the problem could have been corrected right away. Perhaps they have a new employee who didn’t know how to apply the coupon to your order. Since nobody was ever made aware of the problem, and apparently nobody else complained, they had no opportunity to correct the problem. Why tell people to stop patronizing a business that has a problem they didn’t even know about?

  22. dudski says:

    If you’re going to keep ordering from them, then no.

    If you’re done with them because of this or if you keep ordering from them and they keep screwing it up even though you’ve brought it to the manager’s attention, then warn people away if you feel it’s necessary.

  23. Rube Goldberg says:

    Here’s an idea: If you are using a coupon, confirm the total for the order before hanging up the phone.

    If anything, I would recommend this place because they went the extra mile to resolve the situation.

  24. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    I am constantly amazed that people don’t reconcile their credit card statements to receipts or Quicken or MS Money or something. Not to mention signing for a credit card transaction without verifying the amount.

    The manager apologized, made up for the error, and possibly taught the order-taking monkeys how to correctly apply the coupons. Does the OP want a pound of flesh as well?

  25. anime_runs_my_life says:

    You mean Round Table Pizza is still in business? Amazing.

    The manager tried to make it right. If you want to be petty about it after the fact, that’s fine. But don’t be surprised if suddenly you’re no longer allowed to order for some reason, like your place is hard to get to. Just let it go and made doubly sure when you place your order that the coupon is applied. It’s pretty simple to figure that the total will be X minus $3 – making adjustments for taxes and delivery fees, if there are any, of course.

  26. Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

    You say: “I like their pizza, good service, good delivery. However, they don’t always apply the coupons correctly, so make sure you double check the bill amount.”

    You’re not necessarily warning people away, but you are warning them of what they need to watch out for.

  27. Tyanna says:

    If that’s the only thing you have to complain about then I think you should give a good review, but give a helpful warning to check your bill to make sure the coupon is applied. Also say that the manager is willing to work to sort out any problems.

  28. GMurnane says:

    Businesses and their employees aren’t perfect. How they handle the situation is just as important (if not more important) than the frequency and scale of their mistakes.

  29. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Questions:

    1. Does the pizza place require the driver to physically collect the coupon from the customer and turn it in to the shop with the payment?
    2. Is the coupon appearing as a refund a little after the original charge?
    3. Is this just a training issue (failure to key the coupon properly, failure to train the driver to pick up the coupon)?
    4. Might there be some sort of fraud on the cashier’s part, or collusion between the cashier and the driver, to pocket the amount of the coupon without the manager’s knowledge?

  30. Papa Bear says:

    This is not a yes/no situation. If this business has made good, has a quality product and promises to cure the problem, then why not recommend it. Warn your friends of the problem and let them choose, but do not outright condemn the business because of the mistakes of an order taker who may just be an overly busy 16 year-old. On the other hand, if the problem was not addressed, even if it is a quality product, I’d tell my friends to stay away.

  31. drmk says:

    Warn people that they need to keep an eye on their total, but not that they shouldn’t do business with the company.

  32. Home_Economist says:

    Like all good consumers, we should be looking at our receipts and addressing errors immediately. I relaize we all (most) have very busy lives, but it is necessary. If you took the time to search for coupons, cut tem out, call the correct pizza place, attempt to apply the coupon, then ensuring the coupon was applied should not be that much of an inconvenience. No one cares about your money more than you do.

  33. aja175 says:

    They did more than a lot of places would do to make it right. I’d call that a good customer service experience.

  34. Ben says:

    If the bill’s always “exactly the same,” why didn’t you notice the overcharges?

  35. PKRipper11 says:

    How good is the pizza?

  36. Buckus says:

    One mistake, I could forgive. Repeated mistakes like this and it’s probably a scam. Ignore the coupon for everyone and refund anyone who complains. Only a few people complain, so it’s cheaper to “make it up” to people who complain than it is to honor everyone’s coupon.

    I have had similar experiences with billing. I reduced my landline service by removing some features. Well, I still kept getting billed for them. I would call every month and complain, and they would say it’s fixed, and then next month they would charge the same amount. They finally refunded me after four months when I realized I only have one head and already had a cellphone. I called to cancel and that’s when a “Retention specialist” or whatever refunded the dough.

  37. Azzizzi says:

    I find it hard to fault a business for four ocurrences when he didn’t bring it to their attention until the fourth time.

  38. framitz says:

    Depends, it seems the manager tried and did make good on the errors.

    So it comes down to quality of the product for a decision as weather to recommend or not.

  39. Cosmo_Kramer says:

    I wouldn’t warn them not to do business with that place, I’d warn them to check their receipt. You obviously like the pizza, so it seems like the only thing to worry about is being charged the correct amount.

  40. wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

    I would warn them OF the business, but tell the story truthfully- they eventually made right. Then it’s buyer beware and caution to make sure the coupons are processed.

  41. idx says:

    Finally, someone is asking the tough questions.

  42. TerpBE says:

    Just hand people a print-out of this article and let them decide for themselves.

  43. Hi_Hello says:

    i would tell ppl to pay in case so this doesn’t happen. if that’s the only problem and the pizza are good, drivers are good. delivery on time… it’s all good.

  44. Thorzdad says:

    When?
    According to many of the free-marketers on this board, the answer would be “never.” It seems many here subscribe to the idea that a consumer’s only recourse is to simply take your business elsewhere, and not utter a peep about the problems you may have had with a business.

  45. DerangedKitsune says:

    I would take the middle ground and remain non-committal until someone wants to do business with that company; then I would warn them of my experience and warn them check that any coupons used were being applied and that billing was correct. Of course that assumes that the food on its own is good enough to earn endorsement.

    Unless this company makes some truly bitchin pizza, better than could be purchased from a competitor in the area, I would also no longer do business with them. I shouldn’t have to make sure that the company’s employees are properly doing their job when I make a purchase from them.

  46. Froggmann says:

    The way I see it if the owner or management makes it right without an argument then I’ll actually recommend people to the establishment.

    Now, if they are like All Ford Wrecking yard in Placentia, CA who charged me a 50% restocking fee on an axle ($300 so I only got $150 back) that I removed from their rack and put back on their rack for them, then yes I steer people away from it as much as I can when I can. True, it was listed in their policy, at knee level behind a trash can where you’d never see it. Yes, I’m still bitter about that 15 years later.

  47. skakh says:

    The reoccurence is the issue. Once, maybe twice, is a mistake. More is a pattern. People should be made aware.

  48. Zydia says:

    I would tell people – not as a warning, but to share my experience, as it is noteworthy. They can take it however way they want.

  49. Red Cat Linux says:

    I’d only warn people if the pizza place continued to do this. Then I’d indicate exactly what the problem was to make clear it wasn’t the pizza.

    I stopped ordering from Dominoes when they made it abundantly clear that they thought cheese was a garnish and not an integral part of the pizza.

  50. rayblasdel says:

    ~.~ And this is why I hate living in America. Experience a single discomfort, and what is our first reaction? Retaliate, blame someone else and inflate our sense of entitlement. Ignoring the fact that humans involved, we expect everything to work and act perfectly with no exceptions. When it doesn’t, even if someone tries to correct the issue, we are mortally offended.

    I’m not saying it bad to warn off people from truly bad places, but this both feels petty and spiteful. All for $12. Even emailing this story to a consumer watch group, that at least in my book is pretty low.

  51. Firevine says:

    This pizza thing could be an honest mistake, or it could be good for nothing high school kids that don’t care. I can’t comment on that, but, if the problem occurs again, I think it’s fair to let people know, even if the manager handled the issue very reasonably.

    That said, I warn a LOT of people about the tactics of all the scumbag printer manufacturers, let them know about any lawsuits against those manufacturers, and give them info on which ones are less scuzzy than the others. I am more than happy to tell customers very frankly, to never put another dollar in XXX’s pocket again. Plus, if I can keep even one person from renting from my old apartment complexes management company, then I am a happy man. I’d post to Consumerist about them, but I kinda screwed up too there at the end.

  52. Donathius says:

    They owned up to the mistake and offered compensation. What’s the big deal?

  53. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I doubt I would warn people completely away, given that this could be an issue with their computer system or something. Especially if I really liked the pizza and otherwise got good service. I would tell them to double check their receipts, however.

  54. Razor512 says:

    The real question should be when should consumerist stop redacting business names and locations.

    warnings are useless if no one knows what the warning is about. Imagine if the media announced this on tv (essentially pulling a consumerist)

    “what ever you do, don’t go (redacted) today”

    “due to heavy snow we recommend that you avoid (redacted) on your way to work as we are looking at 3-6 hour delays”

    “The government is warning all (redacted) residents to get to shelter as over 9000 category 6 tornadoes are expected to hit the small town of (redacted) between 4PM and 6PM”

    “Due to bad weather, all schools in the area of (redacted) are closed, along with the select few schools in the NY area whose names are as follows (redacted), (redacted), (redacted), (redacted), (redacted), (redacted), (redacted), and lastly, (redacted).”

    “There is a nation wide recall on all products sold by (redacted), due to salmonella, mustard gas, nerve gas, anthrax, toxic waste, and swine flu contamination. If you or anyone you know has eaten any products in the last 30 days from (redacted), please seek immediate medical care.”

    Anyway businesses that constantly fail at something and offer rewards to those who are very vocal about it are still scamming people.

    It is cheaper to offer a sale or good coupon and not honor it and give a free item to people who complain, than to be honest and offer sale or coupon for all customers. Many businesses do this, you get a item from the shelf, you wait in line 20 minutes, you see a different price, after waiting so long, most people will not be skip the item and will pay the higher price, the store profits in the end and for the more vocal shoppers, they simply refund them the difference and they get the actual promised sale price, this keeps the vocal shoppers happy while the less vocal sheep silently become angry but accept being scammed.

  55. dourdan says:

    no, especially if it is a place you go to allot.
    no.

    forgive and forget

  56. Matzoball says:

    I would just warn them that when using a coupon make sure they apply it properly. I have had X number of problems with them handling the procedure properly. The good news is when i brought it to their attention they responded appropriately.

  57. tz says:

    No, but if you review the company you should note the company is sometimes inattentive so they should check to insure the coupons were applied. I tend to do this automatically.

  58. Brunette Bookworm says:

    Well, since YOU didn’t notice it and they corrected it once you did and brought it to their attention, I would say not to warn anyone…yet. If they forget to do it on your next order, then maybe warn others they aren’t good about coupons but are great otherwise.

  59. madderhatter says:

    We did the same thing with our local Papa Johns basically. They completely messed our order up but it was still edible. I sent them an email the next day and got a coupon in the mail for a free pizza. I used it the following weekend, no problems. Then the next time we went to order they said “cash only” as we had been marked in their system as bad check writers. WTF ? They certainly cashed all of our checks and we’ve never written a bad check to them or anyone else. So the manager got mad because we got a free coupon from corporate and he flagged us in the system. I’ve been boycotting them ever since and will Never order from Papa Johns again.

  60. D-Train says:

    For me it’s not so much the mistake, but how they choose to handle it.

  61. kross10c says:

    Merchants have no excuse when it comes to money.Then again neither does the costumer.

  62. JadePharaoh says:

    If the company is sincerely trying to set things right with their customer, it would seem extremely juvenile and petty to continue bad-mouthing them.

  63. Luca says:

    The manager fixed the problem when she was made aware of it. Why would you warn people not to eat there?

  64. Anaxamenes says:

    I think you should only warn people about the possibility of the problem, and tell them to watch their receipt just to be sure that their discount is applied appropriately. They deserve to know the story, but the manager should get a lot of credit for helping you to the best of their ability. You should also get a lot of credit for not blowing up, and being willing to accept the $3, instead of $12.

    Receipts are issued to prevent accidental errors such as this. People make mistakes, computers make mistakes, your receipt allows you to politely ask for the mistake to be corrected. I applaud you for being so civil though, many people would have just gotten upset, which this doesn’t really warrant.

  65. FrankReality says:

    One screwup may be an accident or untrained employee, but 4 times with the same problem is a systemic and is likely a deliberate “problem”.

    If I were charitable and liked their product, I’d give them another try and if the problem recurred, they’re either incompetent or crooked – in either case, I’d dump them and advise others to do the same.

    If I weren’t charitable or their product was mediocre, I wouldn’t give them a second chance.

  66. bumblefoot2004 says:

    Round Table has excellent pizza. If the manager gave them a free pizza, worth more than the coupon discounts, then I’d be a happy camper.

  67. SteveinOhio says:

    I answered no, but the real answer is to just include the entire experience in your review. Mention that you like their food, you like their deal, you had a billing issue come up multiple times, they were very gracious about fixing it, and you still eat there as a result.

    Just put the entire story out there and let people decide what to do with it. Most people give the benefit of the doubt if they know the restaurant was cool about handling their mistake.