Should Restaurants Be Able To Restrict Diners To Pricier Groupon Menu?

Getting a great deal using online deal sites that issue vouchers for local businesses can be pretty sweet. But by now, many customers are finding out that there are plenty of trials and tribulations involved when it comes to redeeming deal vouchers, as businesses scramble to keep up with the onslaught coupons.

One couple relays a story of epic ridiculousness on their LiveJournal blog, after dealing with a restaurant that imposed a limited menu on its Groupon customers. While a limited menu is all well and good, actually doubling the prices for someone using a voucher is really not acceptable.

They were expecting some limitations, as avid users of online voucher programs, and decided to call ahead and make sure everything was squared up before dining. The $50 Groupon Now! voucher was for use the day after its purchase, and included a 5-course meal for a party of two for that price. Calling ahead was a good idea, as the hostess explained that there was a separate menu, with a few things excluded from the usual menu. Great! All systems go!

We go to the restaurant tonight and the first thing I tell our hostess is that we’re using a Groupon. She informs us the Groupon is only for yesterday, and that it expired and can’t be used today. I had to pull the original deal and the voucher up on my phone to prove to her that yes, it WAS for today, she called over the front manager who also looked at it, agreed and said fine, we could use it. Again, no biggie.

We also tell our waitress the deal with the Groupon and that we were told we had to order off a special menu. She left the regular menus with us, then hunted down the Groupon-only menus. We started perusing the regular menus just to see what they had to offer. The waitress brings back the Groupon-only menus, takes our drink orders, and leaves. The very firs thing we noticed when we started looking through the Groupon menu was that EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING, was MORE than double the price on the regular menu! So say the regular menu has pasta faggioli for $14, the Groupon menu had it priced for $32. Never mind we wouldn’t have even known had the waitress not left the regular menus with us. WHAT!

Whatever, the voucher is supposed to cover the entire meal, and it’s not a price thing. We confirmed this with the waitress when she came back with our drinks, and she assured us that yes, the voucher covers everything and she really didn’t know why the prices were on the menu or why they were more expensive. Okay… I’m a little nervous, but I figure she knows what she’s talking about.

Dinner goes great, the food was awesome, and our waitress was a sweetheart; there were maybe 2 tables besides us, so she would sit and talk with us about whatever while we waited for the next course. All in all, a really good experience, and we both agreed we’d definitely come back, Groupon or not.

And then the bill came. The front-end manager brought it out to us instead of our waitress, dropped it and said someone would be back shortly. I said something about how we had a Groupon, and he yelled back that the waitress would handle that as he was walking away. Okay.. so we open the bill, and low and behold, we’re being charged DOUBLE THE PRICE OF THE REGULAR MENU for our ENTIRE meal, $156!, when it was supposed to be covered by the Groupon! Our waitress comes back and we explain the situation, and she apologized profusely and went to find the front-end manager again. It took 15 minutes for him to finally make it out front, and which point he explained that the Groupon was for $50 off of our meal, not for the entire meal. I pull up the voucher and again show him what the terms of the deal are, and he literally waves his hands like he’s brushing me off and says, no, Groupon is wrong, this is what the deal is. Okay, so wait, I paid $50 for $50 in credit, and you’re charging me TWICE what you would charge me if I DIDN’T have a Groupon? He says well, we have to cover our expenses, we can’t just give away free food to anyone with a Groupon. Uh, yes you can, because that’s what your Groupon says. And he just walks away again, no apology, no resolution, just.. whatever, you’re on your own.

Our waitress comes back and asks if everything’s settled, and obviously, it’s not. My husband gets this bright idea that if we nix the Groupon voucher, we should hypothetically be charged the regular price for our meal ($78) and we’ll just get a refund from Groupon later. The waitress, who already has bent over backwards trying to make this work for us, agrees that this makes sense, and immediately goes to fix our bill. Magically, the front-end manager suddenly appears again and is now irate that we’ve apparently “worked the system.” My husband lied and said that the Groupon thing was a mistake – it actually did expire yesterday, so we can’t even give it to you to use it, and it was our fault, sorry for causing so much trouble, we just want to pay the regular price and be gone. The waitress backed him up, said she read it herself, she tried to enter it in the computer and it came back expired, etc (god bless her). After a few minutes of back-and-forth with the manager, he finally relents that since we don’t actually have a Groupon, it would be fine for us to pay “regular price” if we don’t apply the Groupon to our bill and that’s that. Thankfully, we had enough cash on us, so we pay our bill with cash just in case someone tries to get creative and add more charges to our card, leave the waitress a huge tip and a thank-you note for jumping in unprompted and essentially lying to her boss for us, and go out to our car to go home.

So there are multiple levels of shenanigans going on here. The couple called Groupon and got their money refunded back to their credit card, and found out there was already another complaint against the restaurant. Perhaps there should be a formal Groupon rule against raising prices for Groupon customers — after all, it is supposed to be a deal.

Bad Service [LiveJournal]

Comments

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  1. Kensuke Nakamura says:

    Can we just call it a livejournal and not a livejournal blog? I think that’s redundant.

  2. Captain Spock says:

    “businesses scramble to keep up with the onslaught coupons”

    So I can use a coupon now for my ‘onslaughting’

    • longfeltwant says:

      If I were these diners, I would have simply left. If the police call, I would simply point out that I did in fact pay for the meal, and here’s my credit card payment (to Groupon) and receipt (Groupon coupon) to prove it. Then, I would blog about it all over the tubes. Any further action by the restaurant would result in a small claims filing. Fin.

      • George4478 says:

        Or the cops show up at your house, side with the manager since he showed them your bill, decide to let the lawyers figure out who’s lying, and then you and your spouse/significant other both get arrested. Spend the night in jail, hire a lawyer, get bailed out, spend waaaayyy more than $150 bucks, etc etc. Fin.

        It might not go anything like your supposition.

        • Slatts says:

          Better yet: lay the Groupon and the $$ on the table and tell that manager take it or leave it or, call the cops if you like, we’ll wait right here. Then order another drink from the nice waitress. In all likelihood, in order to avoid making a scene and exposing his scam, he’d probably have simply told them to get the hell out and don’t come back.

          Or, if he actually obliged them and the cops showed up, they’d point to the Groupon and the $$ lying on the table that the manager refused to accept. The cops would be annoyed by the (possibly illegal) double menu scheme, and would in all likelihood conclude that this is a somewhat complicated civil contract dispute, and not a criminal matter (and thus outside of their purview) and leave.

  3. voogru says:

    Groupon should just ban the restaurants that engage in this practice.

    Problem solved.

    • regis-s says:

      I guess I’m an idiot. I would have thought this would already be prohibited.

      I wonder if that waitress still has a job?

    • DanKelley98 says:

      Groupons are typically used by new customers to an establishment with the hopes that they’ll come back. Events like this are self-defeating.

    • Doubting thomas says:

      no problem not solved, future problems with particular establishments avoided, nothing solved

  4. GMFish says:

    I’m confused. The whole purpose of a business using Groupon is to get new customers in the door. Why would a business owner then immediately chase them away by being an absolute prick? You’d think that would hurt the business in the long run.

    • Derigiberble says:

      It could be that the business owner has read all the reports of the atrocious repeat business rates of groupon customers and decided to just go ahead and fleece as much money out of them as possible since they are not likely to come back no matter how well you treat them.

    • HoJu says:

      Could be buyers remorse on the part of the restaurant owner.
      “What did I get myself into?” turns into “What did Groupon make me do!!??”

      and then anyone with a groupon is automatically associated with the company that screwed them into buying a groupon package.

      Totally wrong, of course, but like so many other businesses, the assumed pre-requisite for opening a restaurant is merely the ability to cook and not the ability to run a business.

      • meltingcube says:

        Businesses who use groupons really don’t have any business sense in the first place. First off typically the discount is at least 50% off their normal price, and then Groupon takes a 50% cut of that. This results in the business only getting 25% of their normal revenue when offering a Groupon.

        Groupon approached my Dad regarding offering a Groupon for his business but it didn’t make sense for him. The 25% he would get off his normal pricing wouldn’t even cover his expenses. Business owners seriously need to accept that when doing a Groupon, you WILL lose money. Those who don’t realize and accept this fact probably won’t be in business much longer anyway.

        • HoJu says:

          Look at all those $50 restaurant.com gift certs that I buy for $2! I KNOW the restaurant isn’t eating that.

          Not in the way I am, at least.

          • dilbert69 says:

            Actually, I believe they are. Restaurant.com gets your $2, and the restaurant agrees to give you $50 worth of food for nothing

    • Geosama says:

      he was just a manager it would seem…maybe not the owner

    • Geosama says:

      he was just a manager it would seem…maybe not the owner

    • bluline says:

      There is a certain online business that I patronize ONLY when a Groupon is offered because I can’t afford to pay the regular price for its product, which I love. I’ve done it numerous times, and they don’t seem to have an issue with it. I’m sort of surprised they haven’t limited Groupon usage to counter people like me. Either they are losing a ton of money on me (and others like me) or their product is seriously overpriced to begin with.

    • Geekybiker says:

      You would be shocked at how many places act all pissed off when you use a groupon. I guess there are some issues with tipping and the like. I know one place had a 18% of the original bill tip added. I think that a lot of people are cheap and don’t understand you tip pre-discounts.

      • Mark702 says:

        “that you tip pre-discounts”? No I don’t. I tip based on the final charge, and based on the servers performance along with food quality. The rules aren’t set in stone. Maybe that’s what you don’t understand.

        • ban-annie says:

          So the server should get a smaller tip for doing the exact same amount of work because you used a coupon? I don’t think that’s how it should work.

          • Hi_Hello says:

            hmmm… what if… I order an entree…one plate to bring out… that cost $5. the next day, I order an entree, one plate to bring out that cost $10. Same type of work… should I tip base on the $5 or the $10 ?

        • jylcat says:

          aaaand that’s why they hate Groupons. You tip on the cost of the meal. Groupon itself tells you this.

      • selianth says:

        I bought a Groupon last fall for a mani-pedi at a local salon I had been thinking of trying ($15 for a specific service that usually costs $30). When I called to schedule, she immediately asked me “Is this with the Groupon?” because they were only scheduling those on certain days. I ended up waiting over 45 minutes after I got there for the pedicure chairs to free up.. the manager felt so badly she ended up giving me a $15 gift certificate that was good on any service there. THAT’s how you handle it when you get overwhelmed with a Groupon – my first experience may not have been stellar but they made it worth my while to come back again. They gained a customer in me with good service.

        • selianth says:

          I also meant to mention that I still tipped on the full $30 amount. The girl certainly did just as much work even though I only paid half that.

    • tooluser says:

      Very few small business owners have even a single clue about how to run a business.

  5. Telekinesis123 says:

    I’ve had so many bad experiences with redeeming these coupons with various sites I have stopped buying them and recommending them to others.

    • Telekinesis123 says:

      I also must note, unless the stipulations are declared before purchase, they are not part of your contract. That means, higher prices, separate menus, delayed booking, etc. Anything demanded after the fact that was not declared before is a breech of contract and is cause for an immediate no question asked refund. Demanding that they must be met, or followed to redeem is fraud.

      If it was declared before hand then you have no complaint as it was agreed to, the problem is they do not want to, and from my experience do not declare any of these things until they have your money as to make the deal seem more appealing then it is. It’s nothing but contract fraud and bait and switch, plain and simple.

    • synimatik says:

      Seconded. Not only is is just a giant paid in the ass, but the staff often treat you like a criminal for trying to redeem it.

      • Telekinesis123 says:

        Here’s just *one* of my bad experiences and what I wrote for a refund, I’ll remove the name as it’s local and don’t want to get Consumerist involved:

        > Hi,
        >
        >
        > I bought these vouchers a while back: [redacted] for [redacted]
        > Japanese restaurant. I bought them becuase the restaurant is only about
        > 10
        > blocks away and of course wanted to use it as an opportunity to try it out
        > and go often if liked it since it was close. I bought one of them to take
        > my father out for his birthday but I let him call me up when he wanted to
        > go, though his birthday was quite a while ago he called me this afternoon
        > to
        > go. I saw that there was a stipulation on the voucher to reserve
        > beforehand
        > so I planned and did so but first I thought I’d look at some reviews and
        > see
        > what was some good dishes. Well what I found was not pleasant as many
        > people were having problems redeeming their voucher and being denied
        > seating, receiving lesser quantities of food and general poor service when
        > the voucher was mentioned. Link to
        > reviews:
        > [redacted]
        > >
        > I mentioned this to my father back and told him about this and we went
        > through the terms and nowhere does it say we have to tell them beforehand
        > we
        > have a voucher for it to be redeemed nor was that a term we agreed to. He
        > recommended not mentioning the voucher when making the reservation. I
        > called and made the reservation and just as the reviews said they asked
        > whether I was using a voucher, I wanted a seat so I said no and also it’s
        > irrelevant as its not a stipulation I agreed to. We got to the restaurant
        > and my father noticed there was a sign on the door in all caps stating you
        > have to tell you have a voucher beforehand which we thought was ridiculous
        > and rather rude then when we got in there was a sign on a stand in the
        > middle of the walkway where you wait to be seated repeating the message, we
        > then were asked when we were seated if we had one again, my dad said no
        > becuase we didn’t want our evening ruined by bad food as some reviewers say
        > happened and technically *he* didn’t have it :) (sad we have to resort to
        > that). We were then asked again by the waitress.
        > So already asked 3 times not including the signs. The plan was I was just
        > going to tell then at the end I had a voucher but I could tell by their
        > attitude it would have just been a problem and I just wanted my father and
        > myself to enjoy the evening so I decided to just pay the full bill amount
        > and not use the voucher.
        >
        > Needless to say I had high hopes for this restaurant as I did buy two
        > vouchers but I feel a cannot even use one without being treated like a
        > second class citizen, and that was not the plan when I bought them :) So
        > basically my reasoning on this refund is Yamato is in breach of contract as
        > they are not performing their end of the deal and are adding stipulations
        > onto it after the fact.
        >
        > I attached a picture here showing the full bill amount that I paid and the
        > voucher that I brought with me but feel I could not use without being
        > harassed, so I would please like a refund of my original purchase amount.
        >
        >
        > Thank you,
        >

        I did get the refund, but I had to write another letter, writing these letters, attaching files is a huge pain in the ass and all you’re trying to do is get a refund so you can get back to the broke even state you started off with so you have a loss of time and a bad experience.

        I have a few other letters like this, one was me trying to get the hair salon to honor their agreement and actually cut my mothers hair, I had to get dealfind’s customer service involved and many letters later she finally got an appointment and with the level of stylist they promised. Not only was this embarrassing for me it was a trial for my mother as I bought it for her as an out of the blue gift. She actually ended up getting her hair cut by this very person, nothing like good intentions turned to crap with the help of vouchers.

        should tell you about the time my step dad was defrauded by a junk removal company. Not only at the end of the day were their prices 250% more expensive with the voucher then using another company without one (due to inflated voucher prices), after a few months they started charging his card with mystery charges of $30 to $60 hoping he wouldn’t notice. We were told many poeple were having this problem with this company. He had to go talk to their fraud department and open up a case and all that entails. Fun hey guys. I could go on, really.

        • etz says:

          you should use the edit button to redact the other instance where you mentioned the restaurant name. Oh, wait…..

          • Telekinesis123 says:

            Lol, oops. Should have used ctrl-f. Or maybe a part of me wanted to, I can’t say (j/k). Anyways at least the city is not known, not even the country, and doing a search for the name reveals lots of duplicates.

            • caradrake says:

              Why are you so worried about redacting? Personally, I’d want to know the restaurant and where it is.

            • VeiledThreats says:

              Nothing a little google couldn’t fix. I’m not bothered, I don’t live in your country anyway.

            • Mark702 says:

              People should be afraid of voicing their opinion just because it’s a negative experience. Those are the ones I want to hear so I can avoid them. Taking out the name makes your post pointless and worthless.

  6. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Why doesn’t the article name the restaurant?

    • Anathema777 says:

      I think the original writer was trying to protect the waitress who helped them.

    • milkcake says:

      It’d be bad for the waitress who lied to the boss, but was kind to the customer.

    • ajaxd says:

      Because none of this is verified. Every story has 2 sides; not only we get to hear only one side but it also can be a complete fabrication. The blog can be sued for defamation if too much information is posted and it turns out to be false.

  7. Stevea1210 says:

    Special menus are rarely something done in the diners best interest. It is something the restaurant is using to make more money.

    I use groupons on a somewhat regular basis, and will be sure to check the details to look for this behavior. If it says anything about a special menu I will NOT be getting that groupon.

    • ARP says:

      They’re usually done as a part of a prixe fixe dinner, or special events like Valentine’s day or New Year’s to be more efficient (and yes, make some extra money).

  8. dragonfire81 says:

    Don’t the restaurants set the groupon cost themselves?

  9. CurrentGeekSquadEmployee says:

    Yes, they should be allowed to adjust prices as they see fit. If you don’t like it, don’t eat there.

    • deejmer says:

      If your name “CurrentGeekSquadEmployee” is a real-world reference to your life, I am not surprised at all that you’d feel this way.

      • StarKillerX says:

        He can’t be a member of the geek squad, as I doubt any of them know enough about computers to actually get online.

      • CurrentGeekSquadEmployee says:

        Because that has anything to do with this discussion. Pathetic.

        • Jack Doe says:

          Actually, it’s fairly germain to the argument. It shows that you exist, and perhaps thrive, in an environment which screws its customers as a standard business practice, just like the [redacted] resturant in the article did.

          • Jack Doe says:

            germane, damnit. Where’s my edit stick?

          • CurrentGeekSquadEmployee says:

            Actually, it has nothing to do with the article or my comment. The fact that you defend their nonsense just shows you have nothing to add either. A few children feel need to spew venom while hiding behind the anonymity of internet. Feel free to continue comparing your virtual peen sizes.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Adjust prices as they see fit? Okay. Charge one person one price and another person a different price. Not okay.

    • Telekinesis123 says:

      Anything not disclosed before they contract, is not part of the contract. If it does not say “they can adjust prices as they seem fit”, they have no lawful right to do it, and in fact they can be sued. You have no idea about even the most basics of contract law. If your theory was correct then Dell or something could send you a bill for another $500 a month after the purchase becuase they are “adjusting prices as they seem fit” If it said they could do this beforehand then fine. The world and business would literally not function under your understanding. That this has to be pointed out and on consumerist no less is very disheartening.

      • CurrentGeekSquadEmployee says:

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but we don’t actually know what the Groupon said. All we have is the OP’s word for it. Why would they have a Groupon offer to draw customers in and not honor it?

        And it makes perfect sense. If you don’t like how I handle your Groupons at my place of business, take your business elsewhere.

        Now, at this restaurant the OP being told they would honor it and then not is definitely a problem, bu that was not the question that was asked.

    • Eyeheartpie says:

      Adjusting prices is fine, but adjusting prices for a subset of your customers is akin to fraud, or bait and switch. “Oh, you’re paying with Visa card? OK, you have to order off of this menu where the prices are 2.5 times higher.”

    • MMD says:

      Too little too late if you’ve already bought the Groupon and the special menu wasn’t disclosed in the Groupon purchase agreement.

      And isn’t the point of offering a Groupon to gain exposure and win new customers? This restaurant totally failed Groupon 101.

    • Auron says:

      Let’s take your analogy to where you work. 2 customers both come to the Geek Squad counter asking to have memory installed. There is a stated flat price for this service. Your manager comes up to you and tells you that person 1 gets to pay the stated price, but the 2nd person needs to pay 50% more because he says so. It’s fair for your manager to require the 2nd person to pay an increased cost just because they said so?

      • Auron says:

        I meant to add in that the price the 2nd person had to pay is after the memory in their computer has already been installed. That makes the analogy perfect, being told that one person gets to pay the stated price, but the 2nd person has to pay an inflated price just because someone says so after the service has been performed,

      • Rocket says:

        That actually sounds like something Best Buy would do.

  10. gman863 says:

    The OP should print out and mail a copy of this letter (along with a photocopy of the Groupon) to their state Attorney General and to Groupon with a note a copy of it was sent to the State AG.

    This was a case of fraud and deceptive advertising. I’d love to be a fly on the wall the day the restaurant owner gets an official letter from the AG asking him/her to explain things.

    • HeatherLynn30 says:

      Yep.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Yeah, that way my thought exactly.

      I could see a justification for a limited menu but increasing the prices is simply an attempt to defraud the customer.

      • Jawaka says:

        It’s likely that Groupons aren’t covered by any laws yet since it’s still pretty much a new service. I agree with a poster above however that Groupon should ban the restaurant from any further business. But of course since Groupon makes their money through these sales its unlikely to happen.

    • Eremis77 says:

      Yeah, wouldn’t this be a pretty clear example of Bait and Switch?

      • SBR249 says:

        I doubt this is technically a bait and switch. I think for a bait and switch, some specific product has to be advertised at a specific [low] price to attract customers and then either be unavailable or priced differently all so that the customer could only order something more expensive.

        In this case, the Groupon was probably in the form of a credit applied to the total bill. That means if the it says “$50 for food at Restaurant X”, you’ll still get $50 in credit. The problem is that a $20 entree may suddenly be $40 and thus your Groupon is significantly devalued.

        On the other hand, this is price discrimination which unfortunately is not illegal.

        The only thing that may run afoul of the law may be false advertising but this still doesn’t make it clear who is at fault. It could be Groupon’s responsibility for ensuring correctness of the ad or the restaurant’s problem for not being clear.

        • Jezz1226 says:

          If the Groupon is actually as the OP states it is, $50 for a five course meal, and they were charged $170+ for a five course meal then that actually does count as bait and switch I think.

        • gman863 says:

          If you purchase a $50 coupon or gift card for Walmart, it’s worth $50 worth of goods at the posted shelf price. If you buy a coupon or gift card for Kroger, it’s worth $50 worth of goods at the posted shelf price.

          The Groupon issue in question is about the restaurant doubling the “shelf price” – pure fraud.

  11. ClemsonEE says:

    Which is why I limit my groupon purchases to golf only. (speaking of which, time for some more golf deals Groupon!!!)

    I’ve never had a golf course give me problems with my groupons.

  12. rpm773 says:

    So the customer isn’t happy. And the restaurant probably isn’t happy, if one is to presume all these after-the-fact limitations are a result of it being over burdened by the all the people who jumped on the deal.

    I’m beginning to think Groupon may not be long for this world.

    • frank64 says:

      Well the restaurant got a customer for free, depending on how the reimbursement goes with Groupon.

      They probably didn’t understand the deal with Groupon, and tried to reduce thier loss. Not smart, because that would stop me from ever going there.

    • wenhaver says:

      The LJ post goes on to say “It did say they sold 38 Groupons, though, so I just wonder how many other people had the same experience we did and ended up having to pay double for a meal that was SUPPOSED to be free.”

      So. I guess it depends on if they (the restaurant) thought that 38 groupons was an overburden. Additionally, the couple should have been let know before they ordered that the restaurant would be applying it as a $50 credit and not for the terms of the deal.

    • amuro98 says:

      So how is this any different than other cases we’ve seen where a company has refused to honor a coupon that was issued by corporate, or even by the owner himself? This isn’t Groupon’s fault that the restaurant in question was going to pull such scummy practices.

      • madanthony says:

        the difference is you’ve paid for a groupon. If I go to a restaurant with a coupon I cut out of the newspaper and they don’t take it, I’ll be annoyed, but I don’t really have any skin in the game beyond my time. With a groupon, you put money out for it, and you are at groupon’s mercy getting a refund.

      • rpm773 says:

        It’s not Groupon’s fault, but it’s still Groupon’s problem. Remember what the business model is here…connecting customers with vendors. The customers get deals, the vendors get more walk up business and possibly future business. If either set has a bad experience during the transaction, they may feel it’s no longer advantageous to do business with Groupon as a result. That hurts Groupon.

      • Telekinesis123 says:

        It is their problem becuase they agree to make good on it in their guarantee. They guarantee the voucher can be redeemed, bound only by the stipulations stated on the deal page beforehand.

    • MrMagoo is usually sarcastic says:

      Their refusal to sell out to Google for $6b has got to be one of the dumbest business decisions ever.

      • Bsamm09 says:

        +eleventy billion…Initial shareholders of groupon would make out like bandits. Probably could have received some google stock for a portion of their shares too (discounted, of course).

  13. The Happy Homeowner says:

    Sort of sounds like the Restaurant.com scam where they weren’t actually reimbursing the restaurants whose gift cards they were selling for $2/each. It’s lovely to buy one and then find out the restaurant refuses to honor them…

  14. chiieddy says:

    Some states have consumer protection laws about this. She should also contact her state’s and the town the restaurant’s in’s consumer protection agency and lodge a complaint.

  15. mramos says:

    There’s something a bit off here. Group Now! vouchers are always for the day of and are refunded if not printed. The fact that it came up as expired cements that fact.

    The worst experience I’ve had was using one for a 3 course meal. The restaurant had a 3 course prix fixe which was ~$30 however when using the groupon they charged us for each item individually which came out to over $50. Since you’re responsible for tax and tip I ended up having to pay 40% more for tax and tip then I should have had to realistically.

    • SerenityDan says:

      They didn’t come up expired, the waitress said that to her boss at the end to back up the customer’s idea to just pretend it was expired to pay the regular price.

      • mramos says:

        Looks like groupon now has changed quite a bit since I used it (launch). I’m wrong on all accounts.

    • Jules Noctambule says:

      Some Groupon Now voucher are actually valid for next-day depending on the start time of the voucher sale and the hours of the business.

    • foogati says:

      We bought the Groupon Now! on a Sunday, for use only the next day — Monday. Perhaps Groupon lists Now! deals a day early when they’re for Monday? I really don’t know.

      The Groupon wasn’t actually expired — we were told that when we first arrived, but the Groupon clearly stated it was for that day. Further, we never printed it — the iPhone Groupon app allows you to pull up your Groupons under the “My Groupons” tab, and there’s a barcode and a number for the business to scan and/or write down. It wasn’t until we received the bill that we decided to forget the Groupon to get the cheaper price. We anticipated an issue from the manager, so we lied and said the Groupon had expired the day before and couldn’t be used. The waitress then lied on our behalf to confirm it, so we wouldn’t be charged double for a meal that should have been free with the Groupon.

      I know it’s a bit confusing, but I hope that explains it better.

      • Mark702 says:

        I’d have taken photo evidence that I left the groupon on the table, pics on a digital camera or even a video clip as I set it down, told the manager I’d never be back due to his shitty customer service, and walked out, without putting a penny down. No tip, nothing but the groupon.

  16. psm321 says:

    Absolutely unacceptable. Even a limited or different menu is unacceptable unless stated up-front in the Groupon deal.

  17. humphrmi says:

    I signed up for Groupon and then promptly told them to shut off the daily email thing. So while I’m a member, I’m not using it. I’m not reading anything anywhere that makes me want to change that.

  18. yabdor says:

    It’s called “full disclosure”. If you didn’t make it ahead of time you get to use the regular menu.

  19. thomwithanh says:

    Should Restaurants Be Able To Restrict Diners To Pricier Groupon Menu?

    Absolutely – as long as this is made clear at the time of Groupon purchase.

  20. dourdan says:

    that is the most awesome waitress ever! she is a hero. i really hope she diden’t get fired for what she did.

    • Cicadymn says:

      I would hope if she loves that style of business that she would open her own restaurant. It’d be the kind of restaurant that you go to all the time. Then your kids grow up eating at, and then their kids grow up eating at.

      Because when you have an owner that genuinely loves their food and work, people will love the place too.

  21. Sarahlara says:

    We had a similar problem with a local music school essentially double charging us by cutting the length of our sessions in half. The manager also yelled at my husband that Groupon cost him too much money to honor it as written.

    As frustrating as that experience was, getting our money back from Groupon was a breeze. I was very happy with how Groupon handled everything.

    • Telekinesis123 says:

      Why are they bashing you, do they expect us to donate to their business as a charity and not redeem? Are these people little children that they don’t know what they are getting into before they agree to it and they don’t understand the concept of taking responsibility for their business decisions?

      • Cicadymn says:

        The answer to all of those questions is “Yes.”

      • vastrightwing says:

        Exactly, I’ve talked to many business owners who used Groupon and they all don’t like them. But they knew ahead of time how it worked. They tried Groupon as an experiment, didn’t like the outcome and won’t use them again. But they didn’t make the customers suffer because of it.

  22. Such an Interesting Monster says:

    Y’know, I should be upset with this but I’m just not. I find grouponers to be just a hair above extreme couponers and as such, their trials and tribulations in attempting to game businesses and failing simply garners no sympathy from me.

    • bnceo says:

      Sorry, but nobody forces a business to use Groupon. If they are so high and mighty above it, then don’t. For you to call users border-line extreme couponers is pretty damn inaccurate.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Not sure how you compare it to extreme couponing as with groupon the business itself agrees to a single specific offer, and people pay for the coupon, which makes it completely different as far as I’m concerned.

      If a business is overwhelmed by an offer they agreed to that is their own problem, not that of the customer and trying to change the deal after the fact and actually charge extra for those using the deals is not only false advertising but also fraud.

    • RedOryx says:

      How are we gaming the system? The business agrees to the Groupon. If they are overwhelmed, they should take it up with Groupon, not the customer. Plus, couponers get those coupons for free: I pay for my Groupons.

    • Telekinesis123 says:

      The coupon is *designed by the business owner, by the will of the business owner*, voucher users have no input yet you claim they are responsible for the outcome? Absurd, what exists on the voucher page and all stipulations are the sole creation of the business owner and had its stamp of approval or it would not exist. Yet you see here the voucher buyers abiding by the directions and instructions the business owner told them to abide by …and it’s the voucher users fault. Wow.

    • MMD says:

      Yeah! It’s ridiculous to buy an offer that a business enters into willingly and then expect that offer to be honored!!

      • Such an Interesting Monster says:

        No, but it’s also ridiculous to expect to pay less and get the same or better service. If you want top-notch service you need to pay for it. If you want a bargain, then don’t be surprised when you get bargain-priced service with a ton of restrictions and limitations.

        If the deal sounds too good to be true then it probably is. I think it’s something the entitlement brigade needs to be constantly reminded of.

        This is not to say that it’s right for businesses not to honor their offers. They should. But this whole groupon thing is out of control, and I think a lot of business get into something they don’t fully understand and then find themselves quickly overwhelmed by the budget brigade that like locust or vultures is gleefully willing to wipe them out and then move on to decimate the next business that got suckered into offering groupons. The enemy here aren’t the businesses, it’s groupon.

        The grouponer’s attitude is the same as the extreme couponer’s — they don’t care who they screw so long as they get their deal, which quickly makes it difficult or impossible for others who don’t try to abuse the system to benefit from it in any meaningful way.

        • finbar says:

          Unless the coupon states “we will treaty you as second class if you use this voucher” than the person purchasing it has every right to expect the same service anyone else would get. If the business owner is unwilling or unable to that they should not use voucher marketing.

          All in all a very lame attempt at blaming the OP.

          • Such an Interesting Monster says:

            If this were the case why would you be required to inform the restaurant in advance that you were using a groupon? The fact is that groupon users are generally considered to be second-class patrons by their inherently cheap nature, and as such are required to announce themselves *before* being served so as to get the “proper” level of service; i.e., service commensurable with what they’re paying. Like it or not that’s just the way it is. Left unchecked, grouponers will expect the most and pay the least, which simply isn’t a sustainable model for any business.

            Many, many years ago I worked in a chop shop hair salon that every week would put $5 haircut coupons in the local paper. And those coupons very clearly stated that it must be presented prior to service. This is because the $5 haircut did not include a shampoo, style, or blowout, and needed to be done in 15 minutes or less. So while one indeed was getting a haircut for $5, and boy did we do a ton of them, it was by no means the same service one would get if they opted for the $15 haircut. While the salon loved doing them cause it was easy money, the stylists absolutely hated it cause it brought in the worst class of people you could possibly imagine who couldn’t be bothered to bathe, let alone tip, but demanded first class service anyway.

            • daynight says:

              Your hair cuts were defined up front as lower quality. They groupon coupon did not say “we will serve you day old bread and rotten meat.” If you say what you mean, live up to it. Don’t try to sneak it in after the fact. There are lots of racial and religions stereotypes that define certain peoples as cheap/lazy/etc. Do you really think it is right to cheat these people because you are sufficiently dishonest to want to give them less because of your beliefs? If you cannot honor your word, why are you even offering a coupon that you intend not to honor?

            • RandomHookup says:

              You show the coupon at the beginning to prevent a misunderstanding when the bill comes. If you have the deal wrong or misread the dates, then there is a problem. It’s harder to clean this up when the food has already been eaten.

        • foogati says:

          We were more than okay with being restricted to the cheaper choices, since the voucher gave us a good deal on our dinner. If you read the entire story, you’d see from the very beginning, before my wife even purchased the Groupon, that she called for the details and was fine with them.

          Our issue was being charged more than double the original menu prices for the same food, simply because we had a Groupon, and then being told we could only use the Groupon as $50 credit towards our meal. We could have skipped the Groupon and paid less than half what they tried to charge us, since we received no deal/discount and the regular menu prices were cheaper.

        • Herbz says:

          I don’t think people buying ONE groupon can be classified as “gaming the system”.

          If the business can’t afford to run a groupon promotion… THEN THEY SHOULDNT.

          Don’t compare people buying decent deals to “extreme couponers”. It isn’t even close.

        • RandomHookup says:

          No one forced the business to offer the deal. If you want to be in business to the public, you need to treat people with respect. Especially in a tipping business, you are foolish to not be polite and provide decent service.

        • Darsynia says:

          If the OP were ‘gleefully willing to wipe [the restaurant] out’ as you claim, they would have freaking left when the deal wasn’t as stated, instead of LYING to save the jerk manager’s face and paying $25 more than their groupon deal was for + tip for the waitress. Your crusade is misplaced by judging these people harshly, IMO.

    • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

      Congratulations. You just made the stupidest, most ill-informed comment in the history of Consumerist. Ever.

  23. Jevia says:

    This sounds exactly like that Living Social deal with McDonalds, where you pay for vouchers for a product, then when you try to redeem it, the restaurant charges you more. As the OP said, he paid $50 for a $50 credit? So where’s the “deal”? Exactly. At least McD’s finally got their act together and are honoring the vouchers as advertised.

    Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if by paying $50 for a 5 course menu, the restaurant provided the cheapest choices as the limited menu. Its ridiculous for a restaurant to seriously claim that the OP simply “prepaid” for a credit.

  24. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I would have left the Groupon, tipped the waitress in cash, and let the restaurant eat the “loss.”

    • kcrobinson says:

      I would have loved to see the restaurant call the cops if they had left. I’d like to think that the cops would side on the side of the diners.

      • OutPastPluto says:

        Nope. Tried that with an Entertainment card once. The cops will quite happily take the side of the restaurant proprietor.

        Still hold a grudge against that restaurant. The owner was a total sleaze.

      • Emily says:

        I agree. If you have a coupon from the restaurant that says your full meal is covered and stipulates the details (date, etc.), that’s legally binding. I would have insisted and wouldn’t have paid a penny other than the tip.

    • silvrwoman says:

      I heard that when customers skip out on the bill at a restaurant, the waiter is responsible for payment

      • TurdFerguson says:

        In Texas the business cannot attempt to recoup any losses from the employee. Every state CAN BE different but I’ve never heard of another state being otherwise. Now the business COULD terminate the employee. I’ve worked in food service and I can say in no-way what so ever would I have paid for that meal. I would have tipped the server on the full (not inflated) value of the food in cash.

  25. TerpBE says:

    I purchased two restaurant deals recently – one groupon, one livingsocial. When I went to redeem them, both restaurants had gone out of business just days before.

    Luckily they both gave me my money back (although groupon refunded me with a credit, rather than an actual refund)

    • Telekinesis123 says:

      These types of things are often used by struggling businesses as a last minute cash infusion. If they sell 1000 at $50 (say that’s their cut) that’s $50,000 cash in hand. They love taking the interest free loan at first, but not actually serving the customers that come with it.

  26. outinthedark says:

    My wife and I used a groupon once for a restaurant we wanted to try out but never got around to it. The groupon offered a similar promotion, 5 course meal from a separate menu for a flat price. The food was great, too bad the service was abysmal. Gave it a shot but the groupon made the experience worth the time and effort.

    • RandomHookup says:

      You have to wonder if the service suffered because they knew you had a Groupon. They just assumed you wouldn’t tip well.

      The old self-fulfilling prophecy.

      • kcvaliant says:

        That is true. But depending on the servers tip rate to the average grouponer compared to normal customers it my be easier to half ass it ehen you only saw a tip a minority of the time when giving your best service.

        Kind of like when moms drop off 5-6 preteens/bobbers off to the movie and they go to the nearest restauraunt, all order water, 2 appetizers and sit there for 2 hours. Sometimes the servers are better off especially if they have dealt with a certain group enough.

        • RandomHookup says:

          Such is the danger of typecasting. Much like other groups that get tagged with “bad tippers”.

          • chiieddy says:

            Agreed. Groupon prints ALL OVER the Groupon that you should tip on the original cost, not the Groupon discount price. People who don’t have no excuse other than they’re bad tippers to begin with.

      • kcvaliant says:

        That is true. But depending on the servers tip rate to the average grouponer compared to normal customers it my be easier to half ass it ehen you only saw a tip a minority of the time when giving your best service.

        Kind of like when moms drop off 5-6 preteens/bobbers off to the movie and they go to the nearest restauraunt, all order water, 2 appetizers and sit there for 2 hours. Sometimes the servers are better off especially if they have dealt with a certain group enough.

  27. OutPastPluto says:

    Tell Groupon you were defrauded and demand your money back.

    Groupon keeps the proceeds from the voucher sale in escrow. So it’s pretty trivial for them to give refunds after complaints.

  28. kevduce says:

    I find the OPs workaround to be pretty humorous and clever.

    Businesses who pull stunts like this are really hurting themselves in the end.

  29. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Stories like these are why I have stayed away from Groupon. I look in the paper for special offers instead.

  30. backinpgh says:

    I don’t see a problem IF it was disclosed beforehand.

  31. backinpgh says:

    Pressed enter too quickly. I don’t think there’s a problem IF they disclosed it beforehand. The full amended menu should be available to people to view before they purchase and it should say “prices are different for Groupons.”

    Although I suppose in the long run they are clearly trying to get around the whole point of a Groupon, which is a discount, and their intentions are bad. Hope they got a lot of bad publicity over this.

  32. cruster says:

    Businesses need to start understanding what Groupon really is for them: it’s a kind of advertising. Advertising costs money; you don’t get a hard “return” for spending money to put an ad in a newspaper – it’s money right out the door. What you DO get, if you’ve done it right, is new business. We all know that there are Groupon junkies who are going to buy the deal, eat there once, leave a terrible tip, and never return…but maybe 10% of the people who redeem the Groupon become part of your loyal customer base. If you got a 10% response rate on a print ad or TV commercial, you’d be pretty freakin’ happy.

    Businesses need to stop acting like the people who are using Groupons are ripping them off. You know, up front, exactly what you’re going to get back on each coupon sold – and it’s not much, at least not in the short term, and yes, you might be taking a loss on each meal/widget sold. If you can’t afford it, don’t do it. If you do it, and then treat me like a criminal when I come in, you’ve ENTIRELY defeated the point of participating in a Groupon in the first place, and you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.

    • shadowboxer524 says:

      This times a thousand. Businesses should expect to lose money in the short term by using Groupon but hopefully see their consumer base grow, which will give them a return in the long term.

    • Such an Interesting Monster says:

      Groupon needs to take responsibility to ensure that businesses fully understand what they’re getting into, and be willing to tell them “no, this isn’t going to help you”. But they don’t do that. They push people into situations they know damned well is going to crush a business, but they don’t care cause all they see are $$$. The businesses, then fully shafted with no recourse, do what’s necessary in order to not go bankrupt, and in turn we get situations like this.

      Don’t blame the restaurants. Blame groupon.

      • cruster says:

        Here’s why I can’t blame Groupon: no one makes you sign up with them. If you’re not clear on the facts, don’t sign.

  33. bfwc07 says:

    A similar thing happened to me and my girlfriend using a Groupon deal in a vegetarian friendly Washington DC restaurant, where they had a separate “Groupon menu” with inflated prices compared to the regular menu that essentially canceled out any of the savings of the Groupon.

  34. PhiTauBill says:

    Groupon’s contracts with these restaurants should simply ban the practice of Groupon-specific menus… if you are going to distort the experience of dining there so that it doesn’t remotely resemble a typical dining experience (albeit with a discount), how can you ever hope to have repeat business?

  35. Nessiah says:

    Hopefully the server won’t get in trouble after the manager reads this….

  36. aja175 says:

    I went to an indian place in San Francisco that added an 18% service charge for groupon users. Defeats the purpose of the 25% off groupon. Needless to say I won’t be going back, even tho the food was really good.

    • dks64 says:

      Was it for the tip? The problem with coupons if often the server gets stiffed or tipped really, really poorly. Many times people tip based on the after coupon amount, when the tip should be based on the price before coupon/discount. Sadly, many cheap and rude people have made the rule be put into place.

  37. Aliciaz777 says:

    I’ve read do many Groupon horror stories, some from business owners, but most from customers, and the one thing the customer stories all have in common is that they were treated like crap by the business simply because they were using a Groupon. I mean, what’s the point of a business using Groupon is they’re going to alienate the very people who may become loyal customers? If it’s because the business is losing money, then tough tittie. The business should’ve done their homework before offering a Groupon and not treat the customers like crap for their own mistake. I’ll never use Groupon but if I did, and was treated the way some of these people were, I’d be pretty upset.

    Businesses need to check and recheck everything before offering a Groupon and if they end up having buyer’s remorse, they have nobody to blame but themselves. They shouldn’t treat the Grouponers like crap for redeeming an offer that THEY (the business) signed on for.

  38. SkeptiSys says:

    I would think that if this truly happened they would want to mention the restaurant’s name. Typically, after a horrible event like this, they will want to warn people about the restaurant. This story just seems false.

    • Greggen says:

      I would think that if you really posted this you would use your real name, not the alias ‘skeptisys’ The comment is obviously fake without your real name and phone number attached so each and every reader can call and verify if you did indeed pose this absurd comment..

      • SkeptiSys says:

        I am not discounting the post because it was anonymous but because they didn’t mention the restaurant’s name. I have read many restaurant reviews and it is rare to leave out the restaurant name without providing a reason or general information about the place. But looking through the article for references that point to the area or restaurant and I notice that the references are very generic or nonexistent. No description of the salad, soup, main course, etc. How was it cooked? Spicy or bland? Nothing. Not even what they ordered. That’s why I say it seems false. It simply does not read like a typical restaurant review.

        • I Love Christmas says:

          That’s because it *wasn’t* a restaurant review. It was a complaint written for the sake of venting, on a Livejournal community called “bad_service”. Someone else copied and pasted the entry and submitted it to this site. The original poster was merely trying to save the job of the awesome server, and had no idea the entry was going to have this much publicity by being sent to Consumerist.

        • I Love Christmas says:

          I should add, from having read the entries of this particular LJ community for years alongside the “customers_suck” community, that it is very common practice not to name the exact restaurant or location. They’re meant for venting one’s anger at a customer or an employee, rather informally, usually without the actual intent of getting anyone in trouble. They’re not meant to be Yelp reviews or eBay buyer reviews.

          I’m sure if the poster knew that the story was going to be posted to this site, the entire article would have been changed accordingly, both to be more professional story-wise and also to never even mention the employee’s disobedient help, so as to ensure that she doesn’t get fired because of this.

          But then that would leave out parts of the story that were integral to understanding the whole picture, which I suspect is the reason why it wasn’t posted here to begin with.

    • foogati says:

      We left the name of the restaurant out because my wife detailed how our server basically lied to her boss on our behalf. If we had included the name, there was a chance someone from the restaurant would find it, and punish or even fire the server — something that we were unwilling to risk, especially after what she had done for us that night.

      I will say that it is a very newly-opened Italian restaurant in the Houston, Texas area. Anyone from the area should know what I’m talking about.

  39. cheviot says:

    The OP should never have paid for the meal in cash. Present the coupon, retain a copy, and leave. If the restaurant wants to call the police they can explain why they won’t accept their own coupon.

  40. DrRonster says:

    I get a chuckle when an 18% gratuity is added. Saves me 2%.

    • dks64 says:

      That’s fine. As a server, I would rather get 18% than risk getting 2-5%. It happens more than you’d think with excellent service. The other night I got $7 on a $170 bill and $4 on $100. You are not the majority, unfortunately. You can always leave more if you choose.

  41. DanKelley98 says:

    All said though, I’ve only had happy experiences with Groupon!

    • Gardius says:

      Myself as well. My girlfriend and I used one recently at The Cupcakery in Ottawa. The staff was very friendly, and I am certain they still made a profit on us (their prices were easily 60% higher than cost. With a 50% off Groupon, I’m sure they still pocketed 10%. Which is good, because that’s how to use Groupon effectively!

  42. doctor.mike says:

    I stopped reading the source article at the first sentence: “So I’m like, a Groupon/Living Social fanatic.” She is “like” as “similar too?” I should have stopped at the Consumerist quote of “We go to the restaurant tonight.” Are there no more tenses in English? The only excuse for that kind of error is if she is Chinese, whose language does not have tenses.

    Maybe this lack of language skill is why she could not communicate with the manager, or misunderstood the coupon terms?

    This is someone who publishes as a public writer?

    Whatever. :)

    • Darsynia says:

      The blog Consumerist is referring to is a community on Livejournal where people can post their bad service experiences. There’s no requirement to join, and few rules on how to post. The format and wording was more than fine for the blog in question.

  43. Naked-Gord-Program says:

    Another reason why I won’t bother with daily deal sites. To much scam.

    Cheaper and easier to make a sandwich at home.

  44. bubbledumpster says:

    I had a similar experience with Tabla in Orlando, where I used a Groupon and they informed us after ordering that our drinks would not be included in the Groupon and then they added in a 20% gratuity even though that was not their standard practice.

    I loved their food but I will never be back because of how terribly we were treated.

    • RedOryx says:

      I’ve purchased Groupons before that said drinks were not included, that it was food only. Obviously I don’t know the exact wording of the fine print on yours, but that’s not unheard of.

      • RandomHookup says:

        True. Some states don’t allow discounted drinks, so they can’t be included in the Groupon.

  45. B2BigAl says:

    I’ve dealt with some shady stuff trying to use groupons/livingsocial deals. Last two times, the restaraunt took the actual value of the coupon off the meal. So, for instance, I paid $10 for the coupon, and that’s what they took off the price, not the $20 that the coupon was supposed to be good for. This happened at two different places, and they both argued the point with me. I’ve pretty much quit buying them all together, it’s just turned into a hassle.

  46. foogati says:

    I have to say, I was a bit surprised (and a little relieved) to find this article on the Consumerist this morning. I felt like maybe we weren’t alone, because this is happening elsewhere.

    Then, I realized it was my story.

    While there hasn’t been too many updates yet, two important things have happened:

    1. We did, in fact, receive a full refund for the total amount of the voucher from Groupon, right back onto our credit card, within almost 4 days of the original complaint.

    2. We were able to get our hands on the original menu and the “Groupon-only” menu, which clearly shows the price differences between the two.

    We’ve since realized that we still overpaid — although the waitress did split our bill in half, it wasn’t until later we realized our meal should have been cheaper still, had we been charged the regular menu prices. In fact, we should have paid $69 for everything. I’m more than happy we only lost a grand total of $9 learning this lesson, though.

    A higher-up from Groupon has personally called us once since the initial complaint, asking for more information about the situation and seeing how we felt about what had happened. I certainly don’t blame Groupon for the incident, but here’s hoping they also use this as an opportunity to better-monitor the companies they work with when creating these promotions.

    While my wife took all extra steps to ensure there were no problems for us or the restaurant that night, it still turned into a disaster. I would warn anyone who continues to use Groupon (and similar services) to call ahead, check and double-check the business’s rules regarding the use of the voucher, and make it clear to everyone you deal with that you are using a voucher.

    We’ve since been told everything from we should have contacted the police on the spot, to we shoul report them to local regulating agencies. We were surprised to learn that what happened isn’t a crime, a violation of any local regulations and nothing against which we can take action. We can only hope that this place goes out of business before someone else ends up in a similar situation.

    • SkeptiSys says:

      “We can only hope that this place goes out of business before someone else ends up in a similar situation.”

      Why haven’t you named the restaurant? It’s the only way other diners will be warned.

      • foogati says:

        If we included the restaurant’s name, there would have been a chance the restaurant found the story, saw what the server did, and fire her because of it. Now that it’s ended up on Consumerist, I’m a little more worried someone from the restaurant might find it, put two and two together, and punish the server for it. After everything she did for us, I wouldn’t want to do that to her.

        I will say, it is a very, very newly-opened Italian restaurant in the Houston, Texas area. Anyone who lives there will know what restaurant that is.

  47. bitplayer says:

    As a customer I love groupon, living social and google offers. Anytime we have a positive experience we go back sans coupon. My biggest issue that businesses are looking at this like a money making proposition when instead it’s advertising. I try a place I’ve never heard of, I like it I go back. The bottom line is too many businesses are poorly run to begin with, which is why most fail. A bakery by my house did a bunch of these but now have enough business that they don’t have to. Progress.

  48. OMG_BECKY says:

    OMFG this sounds like an episode of MTV’s Boiling Points and I would have failed MISERABLY!!! My head would have exploded. That said, I definitely would have put the meal on a credit card and then disputed the charges.

  49. Jennlee says:

    One of the restaurants in my area that occasionally offers Groupons now has a weird “reservation” clause where they require you make reservations if you are going to use the Groupon. If you don’t then they won’t accept it. A couple people reported in reviews that when they call to make reservations they get no answer on the phone. The restaurant is not the sort of place that does reservations generally, and they aren’t often busy. I’m not sure what the restaurant gains by having the reservations policy at all, except to keep people from using the Groupon or to trick people who didn’t read the condition into paying full price and generating a lot of ill will.

    I recently used an older Groupon there (pre-reservation policy, and we were the only diners in the restaurant for a while, and only one other couple came in during our meal) and the pizza was great (this place does breakfast and lunch only, but now at night they are trying to be a stone-baked pizza place), and I’d consider going there at full price for the pizza, except I think I’d hesitate because I feel a bit of ill-will toward them for this weird policy.

    • Rob says:

      Jennlee, the purpose of the reservation clause is to prevent 100 people with Groupons from descending on the establishment all at once unannounced, which would be bad news all around. Any business needs to be properly staffed in order to handle a large mob of customers. Especially when they’re giving away their products and services for at least 75% of the regular price (factoring in Groupon’s cut), they can’t afford to staff extra employees “just in case” a ton of additional Groupon-wielding customers flood through the door at the same time, or even on the same day. Keep in mind that it’s also for your benefit: if you went to a business that was not properly staffed, you would have to wait longer to be served, and you wouldn’t enjoy the experience. I would imagine most businesses wouldn’t have a problem honoring a few vouchers without reservations, as long as it isn’t disrupting their normal course of business. They have a responsibility to their existing customers and their new customers alike, so it’s in everyone’s best interests to make sure each customer can get the individual attention they deserve.

  50. donovanr says:

    This is where youtube videos come from. I would humiliate these putzes hard. Then I would ask the AG to look into this pricing fraud. Lastly this is what yelp is for. I have zero sympathy for these morons who somehow have “right” to my money. I don’t understand how these people keep getting into the restaurant business and keep discovering that they aren’t as special as they thought they were.

  51. u1itn0w2day says:

    Almost like a bait & switch or one of those liquidation sales where prices are jacked.

    As long as the restaurant puts the conditions for using the Groupon on the coupon I guess they should be able to do it.

  52. do-it-myself says:

    I used a Groupon just last week at a local middle eastern style restaurant. I’m an avid user of Groupon because it saves a good amount of money and exposes me to places I wouldn’t otherwise experience.

    I always let the server know that I have a groupon so I can give them the opportunity to explain how the deal works at their establishment. Sometimes it’s $X amount spent on a groupon for $XX worth of food and other times it’s outlined (for example) as spend $X on a Groupon for 1 Appetizer, 2 entrees, 1 dessert, a $XX value.

    In the case of last week, I was front and center about the groupon and we were told by our server we can order an appetizer up to a certain amount and entrees up to a certain amount, and any dessert. In most cases we get a bill that represents the actual cost of the meal and see the groupon deal applied (basically as the bill being substracted from itself, not including tax). We payed just tax and tip and were on our way.

    Ironically this restaurant was under staffed and we were paying tax/tip with cash. I don’t like just leaving it on the table and prefer just to hand it to the server or have them pick it up. The funny thing is as I waited for her to return, it was taking a long time so I gave it to her as another customer was arguing with her.

    This other customer also had a groupon, but had purchased items that were OVER the limits stated by the server and was expected to pay the difference. Although this particular groupon did not specifically state the price limitations of items, I have seen and purchased other groupons in the past which DO state the “up to” amounts for each food item. —- This is the standard that all really should abide by so this is as transparent as possible. I’m surprised that groupon does not make them do this. I really hope a policy change is applied to this in the future.

    As for the practice of having a completely different menus which state higher prices for those using a groupon, I think since this is a very gray area of business, some establishments are taking advantage while they can, but it will ultimately only end up hurting them in the end.

  53. Press1forDialTone says:

    The only correct and final answer to the question posed by the
    title to this story is – No, NO, a thousand times no! As far as my
    experience does, Groupon is nothing more than a way to get
    swarms of people to pig out on something at a slightly reduced
    price. It’s intent is to make you a complete tool.

  54. Rob says:

    I really feel for the restaurant in this case because the owners obviously got in way over their heads, but they really handled this the wrong way. They should have put more restrictions on the deal up front, such as “must make reservations at least one day in advance,” or they should have put a dollar limit on the meal. They also could have said up front that the voucher was only good for a certain subset of higher-margin offerings. The alternate menu after the fact was just wrong, and it was probably in reaction to the owner’s feeling of, “Oh, crap, what did I just do!?” I think what happened in this author’s situation was that the restaurant had multiple offerings for their Groupon: for example, one option for a fixed dollar amount (“$20 of food for $10″) and another more expensive option for the entire experience. At the very least, the restaurant should have limited the maximum number of Groupons that could be sold.

    Groupons just don’t make business sense for most businesses–yet Groupon is relentless in trying to sign up every single business anyway. What most consumers don’t understand is that the business gets 25% or less of the face value of the voucher–which can work great if your business is strictly filling unused capacity (like a gym membership or fitness class), but if you have to factor in cost of goods, staffing more employees, etc., it’s hard just to cover costs. My wife and I own a small restaurant/cafe, and Groupon and similar daily deals sites have been pestering us for more than a year to run a deal. But every time I’ve run the numbers, the amount of money we’d lose doing a Groupon has far exceeded our entire monthly advertising budget. What most businesses don’t get is that Groupon is strictly an advertising device, and you need to treat it just like any traditional advertising device where you throw a pile of money into a big pit and hope some of it comes back in the form of new customers who will think about your business the next time they’re trying to figure out where to spend their hard-earned cash.

  55. calchip says:

    I am both a Groupon user (consumer) and a Groupon merchant.

    Every experience I’ve had with Groupon as a company is that they are extraordinary in their customer service, both to their customers and their merchants.

    There’s no question that every part of the behavior on the part of the restaurant was not only inexcusable, but violated the terms of Groupon’s relationship with them. And I’m not at all surprised that a senior official from Groupon called the client back, because we’ve found that they are very responsive.

    For my company, we’ve run Groupon promotions twice, and it’s worked out for everyone. We’ve made money on upsells, gotten many repeat clients, Groupon made money on the deals, and our mutual customers got some great deals on our services.

    The mistake many companies make is considering Groupon as a way of making money. It isn’t It’s a way of advertising your business, and getting new clients. The discount a business offers to the customer (and the portion of income it pays to Groupon) is an advertising expense, and should be seen as such. If viewed that way, Groupon can be an excellent investment for businesses, and customers should feel safe visiting any Groupon merchant because if there’s a problem, Groupon will definitely make good on it.