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Aug 21, 2003 09:01 PM

Marie Callender's Snit

  • p

Has this happened to you? I go to Marie Callender’s to buy the pie that’s on special sale. It’s the pie advertised on the big banner in front of the restaurant. However, when I get to the cash register, the person tells me they are sold out and then may add, “But you can buy any of our other pies for full price.” I admit I must like their pies very much because this isn’t the first, the second or even the third time that this situation has come up.

On one occasion I did speak to the manager that evening and explained that unless the restaurant offers a rain check or a discount on another selection to its customers, what Marie Callender’s is doing, in my opinion, is what’s called bait and switch, baiting the customer into the store only to sell them a more expensive item. You can imagine how well that went over.

So last night I went to the restaurant in Glendora, and it happened again. It’s so frustrating. This time, though, I’m going to see what consumer protection doors I can knock on. I feel silly for getting this upset about such a seemingly trifling matter. I can easily afford the extra two or three dollars it will cost to walk out with another selection, but I feel what Marie Callender’s is doing is unfair and customer unfriendly

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  1. Don't feel silly for getting upset! If you are never offered a rain check, or the manager of these restaurants refuses your request for one, I'd document it (including, if you can find one, a print copy of the ad). Unless the ad clearly states that quantities are limited, it's illegal according to California Civil Code Section 1770, (a) (10), which reads:

    1770. (a) The following unfair methods of competition and unfair or
    deceptive acts or practices undertaken by any person in a
    transaction intended to result or which results in the sale or lease
    of goods or services to any consumer are unlawful:
    (10) Advertising goods or services with intent not to supply
    reasonably expectable demand, unless the advertisement discloses a
    limitation of quantity.

    Sometimes, just making management aware that you know these specifics may be enough to get a pie at the sale price. Otherwise, I'd take your documentation and file a complaint online at the below URL or by phone at 800/952-5210.

    If more people took these actions, fewer stores would try to get away with it.


    5 Replies
    1. re: Jane in LA

      It also sounds like a good class action suit.

      1. re: Kev

        Yeah and put all the plaintiffs under a lie detector test at their deposition!

        1. re: Geek

          don't you mean a pie detector test?

          1. re: Kurt

            And if you fail it, you will be sentenced to 5 days of cherry picking!

    2. Never had that happen to me but I have heard the complaint before now. How about writing a good old-fashioned letter to the store explaining your negative experiences and cc-ing corporate MC before calling Johnny Cochran. Companies tend to respond to written consumer complaints.

      1 Reply
      1. I think you are right. I don't think it's bait and switch though, because they did have the pies on sale. They just ran out. The least they should've done was to take down the sign.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Peter
          Somebody in the industry

          This posting sparked my interest and I have read the replies to the original link. I have worked in this business for 15 years.

          I'm very concerned that so many folks get so bent out of shape about these things. Disgusting how quick everyone is to threaten to "sue" others. It is for this very reason good people like myself are hesitant to go into business because others are so quick to take somebody to court and create unnecessary drama and expense.

          Take into consideration that it is hard to predict how many pies these guys will have to make for the day. You do want fresh food right? They could easily overproduce and sell you something made 4 days ago, but they choose to make fresh product daily.

          I suggest you go to the grocery store and buy a frozen pie from Mrs Smiths for $2.50 and enjoy it.

          I do not work for Marie Callender's, but I do have to serve folks that are simply looking for something to be bitter about and are difficult to please.

          I might also ad if you do not like something, find the manager on duty and tactfully mention you are disappointed (sans all the drama and whining) and in most cases they will be very understanding and you may very possibly get some positive results. Give folks a chance to make things right, it's a simple thing.


          1. re: Somebody in the industry

            At my work I also get people who threatens to sue me on the drop of a hat. If only I have a dollar for everytime... So I do agree with your point that some folks are too quick to lawyer up.

            But in this case, it's a simple act to take down the sale sign once the sale item is gone. Or to go one step further to put up a sign saying sorry all the sale pies are gone. It's simple customer service. Also in this case the OP did talk to the manager and they did not make thing right for her. Offering her something else at full price is indeed akin to bait and switch.

            1. re: Somebody in the industry

              Conversely, good people like yourself could just obey California law, as Jane suggested.

              As the original poster mentioned, no raincheck was offered, just an offer of another pie at full price. That's illegal. Sometimes people who break the law get sued. Sometimes they even lose. Deal with it.

              1. re: Somebody in the industry

                You are *right on* with your post.
                But this site has a lot of whiners. They really don't care about how small problems can arise in the food industry.
                They just want -when they want.
                I like your idea about Mrs. Smith's :^)

                1. re: hambone

                  Sells out advertised items. Goes outside to take down advertising poster. Now how difficult is that? If that is considered a big hassle and customers are called whiners, no wonder the failure rate of restaurant is so high.

                  1. re: Peter

                    How do you know if it really happened.
                    Any witnesses for the lawsuit?
                    Let's hear the manager's side of the story.
                    Maybe a disgruntled employee or customer who always comes in looking for a free meal.
                    I would never own a restaurant, from what I have seen of the way customers treat foodservice owners.

                2. re: Somebody in the industry

                  I agree with you on the legal bit, but "customer service" is a lost art form. I find it disconcerting to have to be "pleasantly suprised" when I recieve good service or when an restaraunt employee acts like they care.

              2. You do have good reason to be upset, especially since the same thing has happened more than three times. Classic example of "bait and switch". The banner should definitely be rolled up when the featured pie is sold out. Your next step is to write a letter to the CEO stating specifically the problem, dates, locations and responses given you.

                1. I did not get the impression that Pie-faced was inclined to sue---he just doesn't like wasting time going to buy a pie that isn't there. Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

                  Offering something at a discounted price and not having sufficient quantity to meet demand while continuing to entice people into the business with the special offer and then offering something at a higher price is classic text book bait and switch. While there doesn't have to be a pie for every single person who comes in, there does have to be a reasonable quantity of the special price pie. In other words, they can't make 12 pies, sell out by noon and keep advertising the sale pie. Its not too much to expect that a store take down a banner once the sale item is gone or offer a raincheck or other pie at discount. Think about the car ads that specify that the sale price is limited to a specific VIN number car.

                  I suggest you inquire around as to whether this experience is limited to Marie Calender's in the SoCal area or whether this is a nationwide practice. If its a nationwide practice, then in addition to a complaint to the California regulators, you can complain to the Federal Trade Commission because what is going on may constitute a deceptive practice. There is a form on their website.