ANOTHER UPDATE: The man who originally posted the image has written back to confirm that this is indeed a genuine receipt, but that he doesn’t fault people for doubting him.
When a restaurant receipt story gets wildly popular online, it’s usually because a horrible customer leaves a rude message or because a restaurant staffer insults a diner, but occasionally it’s a happy story about an eatery doing something nice. Question is, are restaurants beginning to fake these stories for positive PR?
(PREVIOUS UPDATES: See below for statements from both Olive Garden, which says the receipt is genuine, and its ad agency, which denies any involvement.)
That’s the question surrounding the receipt seen above, which was posted on Reddit late last night by a user who says he went Olive Garden with his family this past weekend. According to that user’s account of things, there had recently been a fire at his parent’s house, and after his 3-year-old daughter told the manager that “Grandpa’s house burned down,” their bill came back with everything comped.
It’s a nice story, but there are a number of people on Reddit who think it’s a little too nice to be true and believe it’s just viral marketing for the restaurant chain.
Disbelievers point to the perfectly framed Olive Garden logo. They also question the “Duplicate Receipt” note at the bottom, claiming this indicates that a store employee printed out the receipt and took the photo.
There is now an entire separate thread on Reddit started by a person who says they are convinced it’s an attempt at viral marketing because they are a journalist who covers the advertising world. [NOTE: The thread is still active, but the initial text from the poster claiming to be an ad-industry insider has since been removed.]
So really, we see three possibilities:
1. It’s completely authentic and the customer is indeed the person who posted the receipt online.
2. The comp really did happen but someone at, or affiliated with, Olive Garden decided to post the receipt pretending to be the customer in order to give it a back story.
3. The whole story is false and it’s a crass attempt at getting headlines.
We’ve written to the Reddit user, Olive Garden, and the ad agency some say would be behind such a campaign. So far, only Olive Garden has replied. A rep for the company says she had not yet heard about the story and would look into it.
UPDATE: A rep for Grey Worldwide, Olive Garden’s agency of record and the agency many in the Reddit comments say would be responsible for this sort of campaign, denies any involvement.
“Grey had absolutely nothing to do with post concerning Olive Garden. It would be against our code of conduct,” the rep tells Consumerist.
UPDATE 2: A rep for Olive Garden says it’s completely legit.
“The receipt is real and was posted by the guests, not by anyone at Olive Garden or Darden,” the rep tells Consumerist. “We are always looking for ways to surprise and delight our guests, and this was one of the ways the Olive Garden team in Vernon Hills, Ill., did that last weekend.”