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Coupons with conditions

Here's the question: there is a local restaurant which has a decent coupon floating around, buy one get 1/2 off the second or something similar. This is a nicer restaurant and one I wouldn't mind trying. The catch: on the coupon it specifically says "must tell server about coupon before ordering". Cynical self says that is so the kitchen will know you are the cheapskate coupon user and give you the less-than-generous portion.

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  1. I think the reason is for your benefit.
    The server can make sure the coupon is still valid and mention any any other restrictions. That would prevent a nasty situtation if a customer tried to present an expired coupon at the end of the meal.

    Yes, it gives the kitchen the green light to give you 1/2 an entree.

    2 Replies
    1. re: monku

      Sorry, but I can't see any benefit to having to tell them up front of my coupon. "Mention any other restrictions"? I don't think so. The coupon is a printed contract. They can't just unilaterally modify or invalidate it with further verbal restrictions after the fact. Before using a coupon I read the fine print carefully, expiration date and all. That coupon's verbiage is the sum total of the discount offer. They can't change it by telling me anything they neglected to print on it. Their saying it doesn't make it so.

      If it says I must tell server about coupon before ordering, I would avoid that place like the plague. Big red flag. Nothing in my favor can come out of that, i.e. reduced portion. Same for coupons that place onerous conditions such as "Good only on odd-numbered Wednesdays before 6 pm or after 8:45...not good on specials, family-style dinners, buffet night, holidays blah blah". That would turn me off so much, I would never go there coupon or not.

      1. re: Leonardo

        I should have said the server could "clarify" any restrictions which might exist on the coupon offer.

        The other reason is the server probably needs a manager's key/password to price the 1/2 off discount on the POS register.

    2. I have seen several different situations:
      - A code and/or manager override must be entered when ordering for the POS to accept it
      - The establishment won't accept it (management change, expiry, left program, or just changed their mind) and wants to avoid trouble later
      - You'll get a diminished portion and/or reduced service
      - The coupon issuer (e.g., Entertainment) tells you to present it when ordering, but the restaurant doesn't really care (server may say use it when you pay your bill)

      While the number of decent local restaurants handing out coupons or participating in coupon programs has diminished in recent years (I wonder what the current recession will do), I have seldom had a problem using a coupon. In one local Greek restaurant, we will use a 1/2 price coupon and be given four more for two people when we leave.

      1 Reply
      1. re: embee

        I've used some Restauarant.com "gift certificates" recently, and I've mostly encountered the last situation: I proffer it at the time printed on the certificate (in one occasion, it specified to the host/hostess when being seated), and I've been told not to worry about it and give it to the server later. I've also been told it was okay to use it for a single diner, even though the terms and conditions specify minimum party of two, so there's some flexibility sometimes.

        The Restaurant.com certificates specifically state in the terms and conditions that the diner should tip on the pre-discount value of the meal (which I would anyway).

      2. The main reason for the "before ordering" is to prevent register problems like having to go back in and void the original transaction which could cause delays because now a manager has to "override" the transaction.
        In most cases it is not a "red flag" or an alert to the staff to provide sub-par or less food/service.
        Why would it ?? - Most often coupons are intended to draw in new customers in the hope that they will become repeat business. Providing less than normal quality/service defeats this.
        Seems like a lot of people are ready to see the worst possible intent behind things.

        4 Replies
        1. re: hannaone

          I'm with you on this.

          About 6 months ago we tried a new local place because we found a coupon in a mailer. We probably never would have tried them had it not been for the coupon because they are a bit out off our normal beaten path. The food and service were excellent, and we're now regulars - with or without coupons.

          1. re: hannaone

            I'm with you also, in theory. Because it makes absolutely no sense for a restaurant to lure you in with what looks like a deal, and then serve you a disappointing meal. The restaurant would just lose a potential future customer AND collect less dough on your single visit.

            However, a quick perusal of the many "Restaurant Week" threads on the Manhattan board reveals that yep, some restaurants are perfectly ok with offering a promotion that fails to deliver and ends up turning diners against the restaurant. So make of that what you will.

            1. re: small h

              Ditto the "'licious" events in Toronto...

            2. re: hannaone

              >>>>Seems like a lot of people are ready to see the worst possible intent behind things.<<<<

              hannaone, you are so right.
              and, your explanation makes the most sense, as you have the professional experience.

            3. When we used coupons from the Entertainment Book that said show first, it meant a set menu. You couldn't order off the regular one. One time we forgot to show the coupon and they wouldn't honor it. We didn't eat their set menu.

              1. I wouldn't like it, either. After my work as a server at a nice restaurant, I learned that most people still don't tip on things not on the bill. No corkage fee? They still tip 15% on the nose, despite the fact that the server took the time to open 3 bottles of their wine. Something is comped because the guest didn't like it? Rarely did I ever notice people tipping on the original amount. So, I would assume that the server is thinking I'm just another person who is gonna tip them on the one entree, not on the pre-coupon amount, and ignore me. Maybe I'm paranoid, but I have little tolerance for bad service.

                1. I have used such coupons and never gave thought to what the restaurant staff might think of me. If the restaurant prints coupons, it's obviously trying to encourage people to dine there. I have never noticed any problems with portion size either. Honestly, I'm just there to eat, not to psychoanalyze the staff or vice versa.

                  And I always tip on the original amount.

                  1. Maybe the server will give you more info like you must tip on the full amount etc. When the kitchen receives an order the cooks don't know who it's for or if there were some discount involved.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: cstr

                      If, upon presenting my coupon, the server had the nerve to give me "info" in the form of an admonishment to tip on the full amount, that would surely mean a hit in the tip. No one instructs me how to tip.
                      How could the cook know it's a discounted order? Easy. The server rings it up as such and the cook then sees the ticket where the dish is called something different than the normal portion size.
                      Btw: I always tip based on the pre-discounted amount, same as for a comped item.

                      1. re: Leonardo

                        "If...the server had the nerve to give me 'info' in the form of an admonishment to tip on the full amount..."

                        Whenever I use a coupon, the servers seem to handwrite the total before discount (with a notation stating such) next to the computerized adjusted total when delivering the check.

                        While it's obvious why (s)he does this--does this reach the level of an admonishment? Just curious.

                        1. re: tubman

                          I've no problem with them handwriting the total before discount.
                          It's what cstr said: If the server told me that I must tip on the full amount as in saying "Now remember...because I see you have a coupon...you must tip me 15-20% based on the pre-discounted amount of the bill!" Has anyone ever been warned like that? Does anyone really think that is OK?

                          1. re: Leonardo

                            I'd be horrified if any mention of an expected gratuity ever came out of a server's mouth. But it is worth noting that more and more often, I'm seeing autograts of 18-20% of pre-discounted price included as terms on the coupons themselves, both in Pennysaver-type publications and on restaurant.com.

                            1. re: tubman

                              If it is printed on the coupon and I know it going in, I've no problem with it. I understand that many coupon users are cheapskates, servers get shafted too often, and if they need to protect their servers that's OK with me. What I object to are surprises, when management or server remakes the coupon terms on the spot. Not cool.
                              When I was 18, the server instructed me on the credit card charge slip how to tip! He pointed to the line and told me "This is where you fill in the tip."

                              1. re: Leonardo

                                Maybe you should have replied "I thought you had to be 21 to tip".

                    2. I've used them before and never noticed any problems with food or service as a result.

                      1. Every restaurant I've worked at needed to know at the time the order was placed so it could be rung up properly. It seems like it would be simple to correct it later, but restaurants seem to have the most a$$backwards systems ever devised. Add getting a manager to put in their code on a busy night and you may have added 20+ minutes to getting your check.

                        I really don't get the cynicism towards the restaurants motives. They offer coupons to increase their odds of getting new patrons to try them. Staff is aware of the chance to make a good impression and most employees try hard to give excellent service.

                        I use coupons for meals on occasion and never have a problem with service, quality or portions. I treat people respectfully, as I would like to be treated and they respond in kind.

                        1. I present the coupon when it tells me to. If I get bad service or a diminished size entree as a result, I don't go back. I've never had that happen, although one time we decided to use a Entertainment book coupon, got to the restaurant and they had posted a "We no longer honor the Entertainment book coupon" sign on the door, so we got in the car and went somewhere else. They closed shortly after that.

                          1. When else would you tell them about it?

                            If you hand it to them once they give you the check, they have to redo the check--at best an extra trip, at worst a run to find a manager, void and re-enter items on the ticket, etc..

                            1. I went to a local restaurant many years ago and gave the coupon at the end of the visit, although I was supposed to do it at the beginning (I didn't notice that on the coupon). The management absolutely refused to honor the coupon, and they wouldn't give a reason other than that I didn't give it to them at the beginning like I was supposed to. They were also pretty unpleasant about it.