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Calafia - Be warned!

So the family went to eat here for dinner tonight - and we brought our restaurant.com coupon (our last one for this place - used one last Sunday no problem) = our waiter knew that we had one - yet didn't tell us until our bill came that they no longer honor them - as of last Monday...

Tried talking some sense into the manager - no luck- didn't honor the coupon = ended up spending an extra 35 bucks - we would not have gone at all had I known that our coupon wouldn't be honored....you would think they would have taken it this time than let us know the new policy...

Very poor customer service in my opinion...pretty upset but there's not much to do....
So be warned and don't learn the costly way.

Has this happened with other restaurant.com places...now rethinking of buying any more of these "deals"

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Calafia
855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA

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  1. This happens quite often. Restaurant.com will refund you, but I strongly think a lot of these restaurants not honoring Restaurant.com gift certificates must have lost a significant number of customers.

    1. Does anybody know _why_ this is happening so much? Is it a scam (I mean - why don't they update their database?). Even if they give you a refund it's kind of sketchy (a certain number of people will not ask for a refund).

      How did all these restaurants that don't want to honor these coupons get on the website ?

      What's the deal?

      11 Replies
      1. re: boris_qd

        I would like to hear about how the waiter "knew" they had a restaurant.com coupon, and didn't mention anything. Did they just overhear, or see it on the table, or was told they intended to use it, or what? That's the damning part of this story; more detail would be appreciated.

        1. re: boris_qd

          I don't think it's a scam -- I think restaurants for one reason or another change their mind about participating after the certificates have already been sold. And I don't think it is happening "so much" -- it's just that we hear about the few instances when a certificate wasn't honored and not the many when it was.

          I don't believe it's legal in California to refuse to honor a certificate that was legitimate when purchased (and expiration dates don't apply in California, either). But trying to enforce your legal right is next to impossible. Just goes to show that you should always present the certificate when you arrive (as most of the certificates instruct you to do).

          Finally I agree with bbulkow that we haven't heard the full story. Among other things, most of the certificates specify that you can only use one a month, not on consecutive weeks as this poster attempted to do.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            "once per month" could mean being able to use another coupon the next day if the days were 7/31 and 8/1. It's not a rolling 31 day, it's a caledar month for Restaurant.com.

          2. re: boris_qd

            A couple of the restaurants I've purchased certificates for have either pulled out of the program or have just gone out of business (Taste of Joy, Poleng Lounge, etc.) before I had a chance to use them. The site has always given me credit to get a certificate elsewhere.

            I, too, can't imagine that the waiter in question would have not said anything had he been presented with the certificate at the very beginning of the meal, before food was ordered. If that was the case, then sure, that's either slimy business practice or incompetence. But I've never encountered anything like that when using a certificate.

            1. re: abstractpoet

              I have to say that i have had a few problems. Mostly just really poor service. At Calafia I went early on and received very poor service and food. I did email Calafia as I occasionally do when things are abysmal so that restaurants can improve and received an email back offering me a free meal. Of course, once I mentioned I had used a restaurant.com gift certificate, they disappeared. I wouldn't have been so annoyed if they had simply said that because of the cost associated with honoring the certificates they couldn't offer compensation, or had they not even offered compensation at all. I don't think that restaurants have to offer "free" stuff if I complain, although it is nice. But I do think that restaurants should treat restaurant.com certificate users well or they will lose customers. I will not go back to Calafia because of the way I was treated once I presented the certificate when I dined there (could not get the waiter to do ANYTHING although he doted on others, and after asking 4 times he wouldn't tell me the special even though it was being presented and served to other tables - so strange).

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              Calafia
              855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA

              1. re: jsaimd

                The funny thing about that is that you're required to tip on the full amount, and a lot of places actually add the gratuity to the bill, so it's not as if it's any skin off the waiter's nose. Or maybe if they know they're going to get a tip regardless of how bad the service is they don't care!

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Could it be possible that some restaurants screw their staff over by pocketing the mandatory 18% gratuity? Obviously that would be illegal, but... When I used a certificate at Everest Cafe, the waiter (very nicely) said that we were still supposed to add a tip to the discounted bill (even though the 18% had been added in).

                  We didn't want to make an issue of $3 or $4 (given how affordable that restaurant is to begin with), so just gave the tip -- but I wonder if that was just a misunderstanding or if the waiter really wouldn't have gotten a tip otherwise.

              2. re: abstractpoet

                I did mention that we had the certificate at the beginning - the waiter didn't think it was good on the weekends but I knew that it was if the restaurant was honoring them. Not sure about the comment that we are not supposed to use the consecutive weeks - the coupon does not specify anything about that....we just happened to have bought two and wanted to use them before they expired - we had purchased them in February
                Very disappointing outcome - not use I would go back. The people next to us - did the same - presented it as they had their menus given to them - they also had theirs rejected.

                1. re: takuhead

                  FWIW, as previously noted, these certificates never expire, at least not in the state of California. Though obviously, if the restaurant pulls out of the program it's another story.

                  1. re: takuhead

                    Wait a minute - you mentioned the certificate to the waiter, and the waiter said he didn't think it was valid for that meal (because it was a weekend). Did you leave it at that? Or did you ask him to check? If you just left it at that it sounds it could have been that the waiter figured he'd already told you that it wasn't valid (albeit for a different reason) and you ordered anyway. If you had pressed it and asked the waiter to confirm that the certificate was good, you presumably would have found out they woulnd't accept it before you ordered...right? It is weird that the waiter wouldn't know that the resto stopped accepting the certifiates altogether, though...

                    1. re: akq

                      yup - he didn't know...I knew he was new and figured that since we had just used one the previous Sunday - than how could it not be good now.....but I had a super nice email today from the manager apologizing profusely and quite professionally - and they offered us a free meal prepared by the chief owner, Charlie Ayers....so that was some good customer service albeit quite delayed...

              3. I DO NOT know how Restaurant.com works.

                The biggest reason that restaurants pull out of third party "certificate" or "coupon" programs is that it becomes a loosing proposition for them.
                One problem with coupons (un-paid) is so many regular or repeat customers begin using them that the "new customer draw" does not cover the loss of income from the repeat traffic.
                Another problem with coupons is the "coupon only crowd". Diners who ONLY eat out when there is "free", "2fer", "BOGO", or a discount involved.
                Third party certificates (purchased by customer) have the problem of timely payment/non-payment (to the restaurant) by the issuer. The issuer may only reimburse the restaurant a portion of the "certificate" value, and/or make payment monthly, quarterly, etc.

                When a restaurant stops accepting something they have previously honored, they should make their new policy known up front.

                5 Replies
                1. re: hannaone

                  Any restaurant that offers a deep discount coupon deal, or is in a "Entertainment Book", seem to be attempting the last ditch effort to stay in business. I avoid these "deals". If the restaurant is doing this discounting; what kind of food supplies are they buying?

                  1. re: ospreycove

                    I have first hand experience with the "Entertainment Book".
                    The marketing person for the book made a great case for the "more exposure, more new customers" line.
                    I opted in not as a "last ditch effort" but as a way to get our restaurant known to a wider population. For the first two years it worked very well - we gained a substantial amount of new customers.
                    Then the regulars discovered the coupons, and the "coupon crowd" discovered us and it became a problem. Took me several years to get out of the book.

                    1. re: hannaone

                      You nailed it. Maybe the restaurant told the OP they didn't accept the coupons anymore because the OP wasn't really using them for their intended purpose, which is to try new places (that's my perceived perception, at least; I could be wrong).

                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                        What difference does that make, though, whether or not they are obligated to honor it?

                        1. re: iluvtennis

                          I'm not sure it makes a legit difference, unless the owner/waiter/whomever thought they were being taken advantage of, and lied to the customer about no longer accepting the coupon.

                2. Restaurant.com coupons specifiy that they can be used only once per month per restaurant. Perhaps that was the issue.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: junescook

                    It didn't specify that on this certificate and that wasn't the issue in this case.

                  2. I've been to dinner with relatives using a restaurant.com coupon and have found the restrictions to be so limiting that they really diminish the experience for a new customer. I've been using Groupons and Living Social certificates instead because they usually have no restrictions - except that they don't apply to happy hour prices. I hate having to coordinate my ordering w/ my dining partners so that we reach a 'minimum'.