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Painful!!! Charged $100 for missing my restaurant reservation......

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It just makes me sad.....

I don't go out often to places that require hard to get reservations. If I make a reservation for tonite, or tomorrow, or this weekend.... I keep it, or call in a timely fashion to cancel. No big deal.

I received an extremely generous gift certificate to a special restaurant in Chicago that I would never be able to afford ordinarily, but would love to go to..... Alinea. I received the gift more then one year ago, but haven't been able to use it due to busy life combined with extremely difficult to schedule reservations. They are often booked up months in advanced. Due to job and family illness, it was hard for me to plan that far ahead. But as the gift certificate was expiring (!) I made a reservation for August a few months ago - table for 1.

Well, since then I have moved, family illness prevails, and my tendency to hate my pagers/cell phones and not utilize fancy palm pilots/iPhones etc... led to a weekend of missed reminder phone calls from Alinea or beeping reminders of an important date....... So at 7pm on the night of my reservation, I realized that I was home cooking dinner for my parents and not at Alinea.

So I have been charged $100 for my missed birthday meal.

And now I just feel..... bad. So bad. It is my fault of course. Something that should have been so wonderful, and was one of the most thoughtful (generous...) gifts I have ever been given turned so bad. And has already cost me $100. And goddamn it I missed a reservation and I don't think I even want to try to plan 2-3 months ahead for another one again. I guess it's just not meant to me.

Painful. Of course I understand why they do it, and I can't blame them. But it is just too painful.

  1. You have got to be kidding. They already received payment for whatever your gift certificate was worth and didn't have to provide you with food. So that was pure profit for them. Then they have the gall to charge you $100 for a missed reservation for a table for a single diner? WOW! They made out on you and your gift certificate big time! If they charged your credit/debit card for that $100 I'd suggest you challenge it. For godssakes the table was already paid for with the gift certificate and I'm betting they didn't wait too long after you missed your res to seat another single or double there. Nope, I'd be pissed.

    4 Replies
    1. re: morwen

      While $100 is pretty steep, I don't see how the restaurant knew that OP had a gift certificate. My suggestion would be for OP to talk to the manager, explaining that he would not be using the gift certificate and ask for a lesser penalty.

      1. re: PeterL

        Yes, you give a credit card number when you make the reservation, that they hold just for this precise penalty.

        Yes, they knew I had a gift certificate. I told them when I made the reservation because I realized it was going to expire in June, and I couldn't even get a reservation until August and I was like .... "what can I do?!?!" and they said they would honor the certificate in August. I think they realized it was just unfair to penalize such a pricey gift because it was impossible to get in to their restaurant!!

        What I am hoping is that there is a way they can take it out of the gift certificate. The person on the phone said he would look into it, but no one has called me back all week. So I expect to see it on my credit card bill.

        Either way.... it sucks.

        1. re: violin

          Is it legal in your state for restaurants not to honor a gift certificate after the expiration date? In California, the law is that a gift certificate must be honored even if it is past the expiration date.

          1. re: rworange

            http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.go...

            the OP should read towards the end: "Beginning Jan. 1, 2008, a new amendment to the law takes effect and requires that all gift cards purchased on or after that date remain active for at least five years. "

            As has happened to me in MA, most retail organizations don't know the laws for gift certificates/cards in their state. So sometimes it's best to just print out an official government website law and bring it with you.

            So that gift certificate should *still* be usable. Confirm with the IL Atty. General's office (# is on that link).

            ETA: This link is excellent for GC laws in all states: http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabi...

    2. you can but try but where is this any different if you booked a hotel hoping to use points and giving them your CC or booking a flight and forgetting. I nearly missed Santana playing last week because I forgot the date having bought the tickets 3 months ago. I luckily read an upcoming list of concerts in my local newspaper on the Friday before and realized my close mistake.

      1. Yes it is completely your fault and good for you to have that mea culpa POV versus so many on the boards

        jfood would be very surprised if after you explained the situation to them, and given the fact it is a 1-top, not a 6-top not showing up they did not find pity and not charge the $100 and extend the GC date for you to enjoy their food.

        Give them another call. If they both charge you the no-show and do not extend the card (if not already extended by law) their stock price should go to $0 in many people's eyes.

        1. It is the most ridiculous thing I have read for a long time. I mean a real long time. This restaurant is crazy.

          48 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Huh? How are they being ridiculous? If you missed your flight would you expect not to be charged?

            1. re: bookhound

              First, do most restaurants charge you $100 for missing reservation? That is very steep especially for with a gift certificate purchase already. The most they should do is to not honor that ticket. Taking extra money is ridiculous.

              Second, why comapre a restaurant reservation to airline ticket as opposed to other reservation? Like other restaurant reservations or dental appointments or DMV appointments? Airline tickets and football tickets are tickets, not a reservation or an appointment. Tickets represents an exchange of a goods and service. You pay upfront of that goods. You buy tickets. No one buy a reservation. A reservation is exactly a reservation, not a ticket. There is no goods. This is why there is no dental ticket and DMV ticket.

              By the way, I have missed my flight just last year and I were put on the next avaliable flight. I don't believe the original poster was offered anything like that.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                My dentist charges me if I don't cancel 24 hours in advance.

                1. re: invinotheresverde

                  $100?

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    I think it's, like, $60.

                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                      That's steep man. I don't get charged for missing dental appointment and I have been with many different dentists. As for as I am concern, that dental charge is also ridiculous.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        That's why I show up. ;)

                        My vet also charges for missed appointments and it's 75 clams.

                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                          What part of country, are you living in, man? :) Oh well, I must had my life easy. :)

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Outside of Boston.

                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                              :) I live New Jesery. I have been warned (when I were in college) that if I miss my dental appointment, then I would get charged for $10 ro so, not that I get fined for it.

                              I think the important point is "Was the original poster given this warning ahead of time?" If the warning was made, then I can see that, but I still think charge $100 on top of canceling a gift dinner ticket (probably $100 too) is quiet a bit. I were thinking why can't they just assume the diner went and spent the gift card as it is? It is like the person get charged more than if he/she has actually went.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Not only was violin given warning, he/she was given reminder phone calls by the restaurant.

                                Violin, I hope you are able to talk to the restaurant about extending the expiration date of the gift certificate. I was lucky enough to eat there a couple of years ago and had a marvelous meal. It seems that you're going through a lot now and dinner at Alinea would be a wonderful thing to look forward to -- provided that you don't forget this time! : )

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  By giving his cc# for the reservation, he acknowledge that there would be a charge for canceling. That's why they ask for the number. This is not unusual for a hard-to-get reservation.

                                  1. re: irishnyc

                                    If you give a number for a reservation and you blatantly don't show up, of course you will be charged. That's exactly why they ask for a credit card number. Be it a party of one or 6, the restaurant can't fill that seat at the last minute and loses money.

                                2. re: invinotheresverde

                                  Let's say you have a frequent mileage offer and it is getting close to the expiration date and you use that to buy a ticket from Boston to Arizona. Ok? If you fly, that's that. Instead, you forgot the flight. Now, the airline your frequent mileage bonus considered the expired and then charge your credit card for the ticket.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    The giftcard has nothing to do with missing the reservation, so I don't "get" the mileage equation.

                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                      The gift card is more or less equivalent to the frequent mileage bonus. The customers used them to purchase/reserve a goods and service. In the case of this original poster, a restaurant reservation is made with the intention to use the gift card. In my example, the customer used the mileage bonus to purcahse a plane ticket. The giftcard has nothing to do missing the reservation, just like frequent mileage bonus has nothing to do with missing a flight, but those are not my points.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        You know, I just don't see the analogy to frequent fliers other than the expiration period. And even then ... most ff plans tell you upfront that they can cancel the program at any time and without reason.

                                        A gift card isn't free. Someone paid cash for it. IMO, the state of California has it right. They should never expire.

                                        An honorable restaurant, despite the lack of local law, should always honor gift cards. Otherwise it seems like a game to get extra income without anything in return.

                                        Business know that a certain percentage of people won't make the expiration date just as they know a lot won't send in mail-in rebates.

                                        Businesses should just keep the gift certificate money in a separate bank account where they get interest. As they are cashed ... whenever ... the money can be removed from that account. They stil get a little profit and it is fairer to the customer

                                        1. re: rworange

                                          A person get a free trip for using his frequent flyer miles, he bought a ticket using the miles. Then he did not show up. He lost his miles and was charged with the ticket through his credit card. In short, he paid more than he would have if he actually flew.

                                          Here, the original poster made a reservation in the intention of using the gift card. He cannot made it. He lost his gift card due to expiration and was billed $100. He probably paid more than he would have if he actually ate there.

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            depending on the type of restaurant we're talking about, food prices can rise dramatically. i actually don't think it's fair to bring a GC into a restaurant after 5 or 10 years, the menu will have changed, the margin on different items will be different, the accountant will have already squared the money off on another year's tax return, heck, the owners and the entire staff may have turned over a couple of times in that length of time. if the GCs all come in 7 years after issuance, in the month of february, for example, i could see it causing serious mayhem with the restaurant's books, even to the point of pushing some smaller establishments to a loss for this month. not too much hyperbole to think that abusing the time line on GCs can lead to a place going out of biz. restaurants have the right to think that people using GCs use them within a timely fashion-- hence published time lines, no "doubling up" on special deals/promotions/happy hours whatever.

                                            and this is alinea, not tgi friday's-- the op's table was held when folks are lining up months and years ahead of time for the chance to dine there. and they called and paged the op repeatedly. i think that if the op had returned one of the calls prior to the actual reservation, then there's a very good possibility there never would have been any charge. as it is, the restaurant had counted on that reservation and food---extremely exquisite, meticulously crafted food-- had been purchased and prepared for a diner who never showed up. and the restaurant is absolutely out the cost of those ingredients and the skilled labor.

                                            it isn't like the op was going to show up and say "i think i'll have the cheeseburger" and some broiler cook reaches into a cardboard box and slaps a patty on the grill--and if the diner doesn't show up, the action doesn't take place. this restaurant is one of the best in the world, and the staff know how many covers are going out. they have that many courses, amuse, bonus plates, etc already accounted for and partially prepared.

                                            and if they had known in advance, they could have called another person or a couple on their waiting list, and these people would have killed to have had that table. you just don't blow off a res at alinea, it's like blowing off, i don't even know-- front row tix to a miles davis performance or something.

                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                              hmmm .. were you responding to me or another post or the OP in general. I think the OP should have been charged.

                                              Judging from the restaurant's response which was really reasonable, I'm guessing the OP doesn't have a chance in hell of getting that $100 back. If lucky, they will take it out of the $100 gift certificate. Though seriously, at this point I'd sell the thing on E-Bay if possible.

                                              However, I don't believe gift certificates should expire ... especially $450 worth ...and if it hasn't been deleted, the restaurant has already said they comply with the current law.

                                              If a restaurant can't handle the money over time, don't offer gift certificates. Otherwise you are just playing the game of seeing if you can make a few extra bucks in return for nothing.

                                              I always think though that using a gift certificate ASAP is a good idea for many of the reasons you mentioned. Also there is the chance the place could fold and you lose out.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                i was responding to your statement
                                                <<
                                                IMO, the state of California has it right. They should never expire.
                                                >>

                                                it's just unreasonable to try to cash in a GC purchased in 1988 today. the micro and macro economies are totally different.

                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                  "the micro and macro economies are totally different."

                                                  ______________________________________________________

                                                  Explain.

                                                  That statement makes no sense.

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    okay. i issue a GC today worth $10, and at my totally hypothetical restaurant i figure i'd be making about 10% margin, based on food costs today, staffing and insurance costs today, menu items today. so i go and spend my $1 recklessly on one fourth of a small cambro lid or some masking tape or something. but the customer decides to hold onto the GC for whatever reason.

                                                    two years later i sell the hypothetical restaurant because of stress fractures. at around the same time the minimum wage gets raised. the new owner puts in a full bar when i only had beer and wine-- the enterprising young whippersnapper. of course this increases the joint's liability insurance. the owner has high prices on drinks to even it out, but then has a 2-fer-1 happy hour drink promotion, and ten cent wings on tuesdays, to encourage folks to come in on a slow day.

                                                    and on a tuesday, during happy hour, three years after the initial issuance of the GC, our intrepid customer comes in to redeem the GC. the customer orders 20 wings and a $7 belgian beer (getting 2-fer-1) and leaves the gift certificate, figuring that since s/he didn't use the full balance, that the $1 or so will serve as sufficient tip. how much does the current owner get screwed? meanwhile i'm in mexico city with my cambro lid, and we're having a hell of a time. ;-P

                                                    now-- the longer the amount of time elapses, the more variables. there are operating costs today that didn't figure into anybody's planning 10 years ago, just as 10 years from now chowhounds will be saying "well everybody knows that wireless eyelid receiver costs are part of doing business, everyone should just figure the 20k into their operating costs and raise the prices to reflect this. . .

                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                      I see an issue if you sell the restaurant having issued the GCs. The new owner has to give free food away for all the outstanding GC going way back when. The buyer needs to know the value of outstanding GCs assuming owner #1 kept a record of issued and redeemed GCs.

                                                      1. re: smartie

                                                        unfortunately there are times when a new owner can buy all the assets, but not the liabilities, of the seller. in that case poof, the GC are onkly a unsecured claim against the owner at the time the GC was sold. good luch on that one

                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                          right which is why the recipient or purchaser of a Gift Cert really ought to go use it asap. And that includes those store gift cards - especially in this economy who know what big or small store will go out of business. I have been out with a friend who had a GC and the new owners would not honor it saying it hadn't been sold by them.

                                                          1. re: smartie

                                                            always a great business practice to use a GC ASAP.

                                                      2. re: soupkitten

                                                        roflmao

                                                        Money is money. Put it in a cigar box in the safe. When the gift certificate comes in, take box out, remove gift certificate total and put in cash register.

                                                        If you sell the joint give the box to the new owner. If the dough is foolishly squandered on masking tape, that is poor business practice of the owner. I didn't give the restaurant money to buy anything but a meal for someone.

                                                        Gift certificates would rarely, or ever, say "one free dinner", It says the price it is worth. It is cash.

                                                        If I put a $10 bill in a box in 1988 and take it out today, it may not buy what it did in 1988, but it is still worth $10.

                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                          No dice, soupkitten.

                                                          Your explanation actually benefits the restaurant. Given the time value of money -- assuming there are no such things as inflation-indexed Gift Certificates in the vein of Treasury Inflation Protected Securities -- the longer the customer waits to cash in on a Gift Certificate the better it is for the restaurant.

                                                          Heck, if I was a restaurant owner if I could get away with it I would put something on the Gift Certificate saying, "Valid only after 10 years."

                                                          If I sell you a Gift Certificate today at $100, my expectation as a restaurant owner is that particular $100 Gift Certificate will probably mean a dinner for 2 at my restaurant today. If a customer for some reason waits until 10 years later to cash it in, with inflation, a change in ownership, or whatever, and my restaurant now becomes, for example, Alinea, that same Gift Certificate while still valid may not even get you an appetizer. Tough luck for the customer.

                                                          That same $100 dollar Gift Certificate has been devalued because of (1) inflation and (2) it was not interest bearing. Meanwhile, the restaurant, if it was a profit-maximizing enterprise, would've at least put the $100 in an interest bearing account of some type (e.g., CD, money market, etc.) or invested it in a new fridge to which the owner could've used to deduct taxes/profits with.

                                                          So, no, your explanation makes no economic sense.

                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                            I agree with ipsedixit here. Due to inflation, today money has higher purchasing power than tomorrow money, especially for basic goods and services. One cent used to buy you something.

                                                            In your example, if the previous owner has disclosed the gift card he sold, then everyone is fine. If the previous owner did not disclose the gift card information, then the problem lies between the two owners, not the concept of gift card.

                                                            Finally, your example suggests that the customer was screwing the new owners by only using the gift card toward the bargain meals: wings and Belgium beer. Well, the same person can also screw the new owner using cash to purchase the same items, in fact more so due to cash inflation.

                                                            Unless you are talking about "deflation", there is no reason to believe the gift card is disadvantageous. I just don't see what economic concepts you are referring to.

                                                        2. re: soupkitten

                                                          Soup,

                                                          "the micro and macro economies are totally different." I actually have an economics major, but I cannot make out the difference you are talking about here. One major difference is that microeconomics talks about equilibrium states and macroeconomics focuses the transition between these equilibria (like kinetics). Now, what do you mean that cashing gift card at a later date is different in microeconomics vs macroeconomics? Which one does what?

                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                            I know that part but then you went on about Alinea and the reservation.

                                                            Dunno ... seems like the restaurant still would be the beneficiary. The GC will buy a lot less at today's prices than it did in 1988. Anyway, how many people hold onto something like that for so long. I'm just glad California has the law against expiration. It makes me more inclined to give a gift certificate.

                                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                                              in this case the restaurant did the right thing

                                                              "we will of course gladly honor your Gift Certificate and in this case we will apply an additional $ 100 to it making it worth $ 550"

                                    2. re: invinotheresverde

                                      My dentist bill is considerably less than dinner at Alinea.

                                      1. re: Windy

                                        Yup.

                                    3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      The OP wasn't charged $100 for missing their reservation. They lost their $100 because the gift certificate expired.

                                      1. re: bookhound

                                        Oh, ... opps. Sorry. I thought the OP lost the gift certificate and then get charged for $100. I must have misread.

                                        1. re: bookhound

                                          """So I have been charged $100 for my missed birthday meal."""

                                          what does this mean, then?

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            Okay, after reading violin's additional response where s(he) writes, "What I am hoping is that there is a way they can take it out of the gift certificate. The person on the phone said he would look into it, but no one has called me back all week. So I expect to see it on my credit card bill." I see that the $100 was a charge for missing their reservation.

                                          2. re: bookhound

                                            jfood thinks it was a double dip...the card may have expired for loss of the first $100 and then the no-show fee of the second $100.

                                            1. re: jfood

                                              Yes, you are right. OP clarified below.

                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7272...

                                          3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            "A reservation is exactly a reservation, not a ticket"

                                            They are EXACTLY the same...one has a piece of paper as the confirmation and the other has a voice confirmation ot wrt open table an email confirmation.

                                            no exchange of services occurs with the ticket until the concert or flight. and with most airline tickets if you cancel you either forfeit what you paid or the amount goes into your frequent flyer account to be used later with a steep change fee.

                                            1. re: jfood

                                              Not really. For a ticket, the monetary exchange occurs. Not so for a reservation. That is why you buy a plane ticket, you buy a bus ticket. You don't buy a DMV reservation or buy whatever reservation. The concepts of a ticket and a reservation are not the same. It is more than a paper vs no paper. I have paper for my company medical appointment and reservation. I also study reservation and write paper confirmation.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                Sorry C but you are talking timing versus commitment. Would it be better if the restaurant charges the $100 potential no-show fee at the time of reservations? You are very much splitting hairs on this analogy.

                                                In your example, you have bought a piece of paper, the ticket, and the counterparties obligation to perform.

                                                "The concepts of a ticket and a reservation are not the same. It is more than a paper vs no paper." Jfood would disagree with this as well. The paper ticket for the airplane is a commitment from the airline to provide a seat on the airplane for future service. The reservation at the restaurant is exactly the same thing. They provide a seat for a service. In the airline ticket price you pay for the ticket up front and if you do not use it there is a penalty, if you do not use the restaurant reservation they charge you a penalty.

                                                Looks like totally the same, but if you see differently c'est la vie.

                                                1. re: jfood

                                                  100% agree with jfood

                                                  My boyfriend and I have an understanding that he would be coming home to have dinner every single night, and he'll get dinner within 30mins of his arrival. What do you think will happen to him if he doesn't "show up"??? :-)

                                                  No matter how you look at it, it's the same concept - Someone's committing their time and effort to serve you, you agree to accept his commitment. The only difference is how they break down the charges. You pay nothing up front for a restaurant reservation but you pay in full for a plane ticket. Try canceling your reservation and see what the airline says.

                                                  When someone's ready to drop $500 on a dinner, $100 by comparison is quite reasonable. I've seen restaurants (average entree price = $30) that wants to charge $50.

                                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              why is the gift certificate relevant? the uncancelled reservation is 1 seat that was left unfilled that night, thus impacting the restaurant's margins.

                                              put another way, when you go to use that gift certificate in the future, then you will have effectively used 2 seatings to do so (the cancelled one and the one you actually fulfilled). why shouldn't you be charged for the one you cancelled, which they could have easily filled with someone else?

                                              1. re: FattyDumplin

                                                Fatty,

                                                I am going to make a quick respond. At the time this was written, the original poster missed his/her reservation which also caused the $450 gift card passed its expiration date. Since the gift card was paid money, some of us feel the gift card should have been used for offseting the $100.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  totally fair. was simply making the point that the fact that a gift card was purchased should have no bearing on whether the $100 was assessed.

                                                  but yeah, very heated topic, understandably given the $ involved, and looks like everything ended up in the right place!

                                        2. As a general rule I fine it asinine that a gift certificate should have an expiration date. Especially for a place like Alinea where a visit generally has to be planned months in advance. They already have the money, they should honor the certificate. If you haven't done so already, you should call and ask if they'll give you another extension. I can kind of understand the charge for a missed reservation, an empty table generates no revenue and I'm sure all the food that you would have been served had been prepped. If you explain your situation they may decide to be nice and waive the fee. You never know until you try. Please let everyone know what, if anything, they do for you.

                                          1. I was charged $100 for missing my reservation.

                                            The gift certificate had no relevance.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: violin

                                              But would they still honor your gift certificate if you were to make another reservation?

                                              1. re: Frosty Melon

                                                They have to, as it hasn't expired yet, regardless what it says on Alinea's GC. Again, so many retail establishments don't realize the laws in their own state, and the link I provided above shows that Illinois says GCs can't expire until 5 years after date of issue.

                                            2. I don't understand the "they already had the money" comments. Gift certificates don't say on them what day they are to be used...

                                              Just because this particular gift certificate was about to expire isn't really relevant to the overall business practice. It could just as easily been that someone with a gift certificate makes a reservation, doesn't show up, then makes a reservation for another night and does come and use the certificate.

                                              And yes, violin did mention the certificate and its expiry date when making the reservation, but I doubt they would have kept track of that.

                                              1. My compliments to the OP.

                                                Unlike many previous posts about "no show" charges, violin isnt whinging or complaining about the restaurant making the charge it said it would do under such circumstances. I also hope the OP will give them a call and see if there's a deal to be done. I know, even from the eastern side of the Atlantic, that Alinea is one of the world's top restaurants and I'm sure they will see what they can do (although, as I read the posts, having extended the certificate once, I wonder if they will do it again).

                                                1. Folks, this is Alinea we are talking about. Not Red Lobster.

                                                  But even if this wasn't a situation involving a restaurant where reservations are as easy to get as those at French Laundry or Per Se, if the restaurant discloses that it has a cancellation policy and you agree to it and make reservations anyway, well then if there's any blame at all, it lies with the diner, not the restaurant.

                                                  The whole discussion about the gift certificate is irrelevant.

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    I'll add that the cancellation fee at Per Se is $175.

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      And the restaurant called and reminded the OP several times of the upcoming reservation:

                                                      ---- and my tendency to hate my pagers/cell phones and not utilize fancy palm pilots/iPhones etc... led to a weekend of missed reminder phone calls from Alinea or beeping reminders of an important date.......------

                                                      The restaurant did everything in their power to make sure that the OP knew of and was reminded of the reservation that the OP made themselves. The OP didn't cancel the reservation either. He didn't show up. I think that is a big difference. If he had called to cancel the reservation maybe even an hour before, maybe the restaurant would have waived the charge. As it stands, he was simply a no show. I know that Alinea has a waiting list so that seat potentially could of been filled.

                                                      1. re: lbs

                                                        Yeah, that part about the weekend of missed reminders (in keeping with a "tendency" to miss such things) makes me feel, with regret, that the OP is quite distressed or overwhelmed. I can relate, and am not being judgmental. But my impression is that Alinea did all it could.

                                                      2. re: ipsedixit

                                                        My curiosity is whether or not the gift certificate can be used to offset the cancellation fee.

                                                        1. re: Frosty Melon

                                                          When I made reservations at ALinea i was told in no uncertain terms that my credit card would be charged $100 if i missed my reservation.

                                                          Who forgets they are eating at Alinea?

                                                          1. re: declanpadraig

                                                            Well, to be fair the OP made the reservation months in advance and in the interim had moved away. Not so hard to forget under those circumstances.

                                                      3. As far as your 100$ fee that has not been charged yet- I worked as a hostess at a restaurant where we took CCs and we rarely did the charges after the fact. Mostly because if a guest complained to their CC company about it and we didn't have their signature anywhere, it's very difficult to justify.

                                                        I sincerely doubt that if you call and speak calmly and rationally with the manager, explaining your mistake and apologizing for costing the restaurant money, you'll still be in this situation.

                                                        1. This has already made national blogs. You should calmly explain the situation to the folks at Alinea. If all this is true, they cannot possibly be cold enough or money hungry enough to deny your certificate because you were caring for an ailing relative.

                                                          Your acceptance of guilt for missing the reservation removes the chance of putting them on the defensive. If for no other reason than PR, they should offer you another chance.

                                                          10 Replies
                                                          1. re: chorosch

                                                            I do not believe that overall we will be put on the defensive either way. We clearly met our obligations in this instance and went above and beyond to remind Violin of the reservation. Sadly, at a small restaurant like Alinea people who no-show hurt not just the restaurant but everyone else as well. We had 50 other people that wanted to dine with us that night and who would have had a good time -- and who would have paid. Win-win. Instead, Violin is blogging how unfair we are while admitting he doesn't like to use phones, pagers or other means of communication.

                                                            We fully understand that life gets in the way of our best laid plans and we are empathetic to anyone who is caring for an ill loved one, is moving (I hate moving), or whose kids puked on their shoes on the way out the door (an oddly common reason). But a phone call is not much to ask.

                                                            1. re: nkokonas

                                                              I appreciate your response. I'm amazed actually.

                                                              Actually, I have said nothing about you being unfair. I said nothing about expecting any special exception. I take full responsibility, and I feel bad about it. I said that I understand why you need to do it. Yes, others would not have forgotten as I did, many were waiting for that table.

                                                              I'm sorry. I wont post again. This was a mistake.

                                                              1. re: violin

                                                                Since you were not counting on a public debate (nor a flogging by some) we will of course gladly honor your Gift Certificate and in this case we will apply an additional $ 100 to it making it worth $ 550.... just about right for you to bring a friend along. We don't want bad feelings, but we also don't feel bad about charging no-shows.... but I do feel bad that it has turned into a blog-fest debate at your expense.

                                                                -- nick

                                                                1. re: nkokonas

                                                                  Good job.

                                                                  1. re: nkokonas

                                                                    wow. holy nice guys, batman!

                                                                    the op should go (take mom!) and then do a write-up of the meal, imo.

                                                                    1. re: nkokonas

                                                                      Wow! You folks at Alinea are the best! I don't think any other restaurant would be as gracious. I'm definitely planning a trip to Chicago next spring whenever I can obtain a dinner reservation at Alinea for my sister and me.

                                                                  2. re: nkokonas

                                                                    nick, while it's wonderful that Alinea has added to the GC that violin has to use at the restaurant, she never *once* has said that the restaurant has been unfair to her. She knew the situation was her fault; she took responsibility for that. I'm very glad to read below that Alinea knows the Gift Certificate law for the State of Illinois and intends to honor violin's GC.

                                                                    As I've said in an earlier post to violin below, I think because it was her fault, she should eat the $100 charge on her credit card. Alinea is definitely going above and beyond in crediting her GC with an additional $100 to cover that charge. Kudos to you.

                                                                    But saying she's said you were unfair is just unfair - to HER.

                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                      No... she never said we were unfair nor did I accuse her of such.... but others have so my post above is in response to posters not related to Violin.

                                                                      1. re: nkokonas

                                                                        You said just above in response to chorosch "Instead, Violin is blogging how unfair we are ..." Not "others in this thread are saying you've been unfair." The way I read it, you're saying violin said you were unfair to her.

                                                                      2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                        I agree with you, Linda.

                                                                        The extra $100 to cover the cancellation fee was certainly generous, but the way I've read this thread is that violin was bummed about the charge and (presumably) about not being able - due to time constraints, nothing more - to use her GC for dinner. (She subsequently was told about GC expiry laws - but she didn't come in here blazing about how she should be able to use it past its stated expiry.)

                                                                        I didn't read this as whining, but as someone who was sad that life had conspired - both through no fault of her own AND through admitted fault of her own - to throw her a nasty curve.

                                                                        However, I don't think it would be out of the question to just use the GC toward her cancellation fee. The worst case scenario is that she would have to mail it to the restaurant.

                                                                        All of this "blogging how unfair we are" talk is unnecessary, unfair, and guaranteed to color the perception of everyone involved - can you imagine how awkward it would be to be violin, showing up to dine at this point? - and to those of us who are not involved, but didn't see her comments as whining, and certainly didn't see it as a way to "hit the national blogs" and somehow game the system.

                                                                  3. I'm sorry for the OP, but he definitely should be charged the $100 for not showing up to Alinea. Heck, I was wait-listed (with 8 people ahead of me) when I made a reservation for the end of June at Alinea--no, I didn't get in (went to TRU instead). I am positive that someone else would have loved to have gone in the OP's place if the OP had called to cancel the reservation. The substitute would have obviously spent a few hundred dollars at Alinea. There are a number of restaurants in NYC that charge a penalty for no-shows (Per Se and Momofuku Ko). It's lost revenue for the restaurant plus someone else would have loved to have received the call from Alinea that a spot had opened up for them/him/her. It is irrelevant about the gift certificate. If Alinea does offset the cancellation charge against the gift certificate, that would be very nice of them.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: ellenost

                                                                      Yes, it would be nice. They really don't need to.

                                                                      In the restaurant's defence, my home board is the SF Bay Area board and SF is a prime tourist destination. I can't count the number of times someone has posted they are planning to come and have booked three restaurants for the same time until they decide what they feel like eating. I'll bet a number of those posters never call to cancel the reservations leaving the restuarant in the lurch. I can see the reasoning behind a policy like this.

                                                                      Most people can blow off a $25 or $50 fee. However, $100+ gets your attention and you are more likely to cancel.

                                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                                        When I said it would be nice, I definitely didn't mean that Alinea should offset the cancellation charge against the gift certificate. Nothing annoys me more than people who make reservations at restaurants that are difficult to obtain, and then don't call to cancel. I'm from the NYC board, and frequently dine at Momofuku Ko (which also has a cancellation charge for no-shows). Last year my elderly mother was ill, and I cancelled my lunch reservation at Ko before the charge would be imposed because I had a feeling that I might need to take care of my mother. Turns out my mother was developing bronchitis, and did need assistance. There are certain restaurants that one doesn't forget that they have a reservation: Alinea, Per Se, Momofuku Ko--I think I'd need to be in a coma to forget that I had a reservation at any of these restaurants. I don't mean to make light of the OP's family circumstances, and while I do empathize with the situation, one does need to remember to cancel a reservation or accept the consequences.

                                                                    2. That's ridiculous... Too bad it wasnt in Canada because here, gift certificates are not allowed, by law, to have an expiry date. and I think it is also illegal to charge a penalty for missing a reservation.

                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                      1. re: mac247ca

                                                                        Why should a restaurant be penalized because someone is a no show? The table is held for this person and if that person doesn't show it cost the restaurant money. I have no problem with this system because I've seen over and over on the Manhattan board people asking which one of several restaurants they should go to because they've made reservations to all of them. People's bad behavior causes restaurant to create this system. As long as the patron is aware of the penalty and the restaurant makes a good faith effort to remind the customer I think it's perfectly acceptable to enforce the fee for missing a reservation.

                                                                        1. re: bookhound

                                                                          I agree heartily, especially for a small restaurant with seats in demand that has taken the time to hire someone to make reminder calls.

                                                                          The restaurant's alternative is to cancel if you don't call them back to confirm.

                                                                          I suspect this would annoy more diners, although I also thought it was common practice. (Which is why I scramble to reconfirm. Maybe I can just show up as planned.)

                                                                          1. re: Windy

                                                                            You know, that seems like a win-win proposition. I remember hating the 'must confirm' at certain restaurants in Europe, but that is a good solution.

                                                                            For all the restaurant knows, the person died or is incapacitated and that's why they don't show. There are times you just can't call.

                                                                            This way the restaurant would rarely lose the revenue. Also, while all the hoops that Alinea goes through to assure people confirn is nice, they probably could cut down on some of the staff and work by doing something like that.

                                                                            Yes, you will have the occasional irate customer who didn't confirm, but if that is the policy and it is cleary stated, then they only have themselves to blame.

                                                                            1. re: rworange

                                                                              "but if that is the policy and it is cleary stated, then they only have themselves to blame."

                                                                              If everyone went by this policy in their lives this thread would be a whole lot shorter.

                                                                        2. re: mac247ca

                                                                          "...I think it is also illegal to charge a penalty for missing a reservation."
                                                                          ______________________________________________________

                                                                          I'm not Canadian but I don't believe that's true.

                                                                          When we made reservations at Susur several years ago, we were informed that there would be fee for failing to honor our reservation.

                                                                        3. I appreciate your thoughts. Forgive me if I don't respond to all, as it has been a busy day.

                                                                          I will probably call Alinea again. Perhaps once I recover from my small stroke (!).

                                                                          Again, I thought they *might* call me back to confirm if my gift certificate could cover the penalty, as I had asked, but I didn't want to push things. It was my mistake. It didn't even occur to me to ask them if they still might honor the certificate at another date. I was too flustered and stricken at the moment of my initial call. I think I was babbling incoherently, actually. I appreciate the detective work from those of you that discovered this is not only not kosher in the state of IL, but perhaps against the law(!) to deny the certificate. Although part of me thinks it is better not to "force" a restaurant to serve you..... I guess I'm kidding a little.

                                                                          But the gift certificate was for (gulp....) $450. The nicest, most generous gift I have ever been given. My dear friend is a food-lover like me and she wanted me to be able to order the most outrageously long and wonderful tasting menu for myself, and a guest. Interestingly, their menu has just changed so that they no longer offer that tasting menu anyway (ended in July).

                                                                          I did not expect to talk my way out of the penalty. I just felt bad. Guilty. Mad at myself. Frustrated that something I had been looking forward to for months was missed. I little gift of time and food for me. So simple a concept, and yet probably the most un-simple meal I would ever have in my life.

                                                                          When I called Alinea, they stated they were not able to re-seat anyone in my table. I certainly know how much people would appreciate a reservation at that restaurant. Oddly, they said that it was a table for 2 - not for 1 - that sat empty. I told them I had reserved a table for 1 (as I am as single as possible with no friends in new city - only my parents). Perhaps they have no tables for 1? Perhaps there was a mistake because when I first called to make a reservation I also asked to be put on a list for cancellations in the next week when my brother was in town for a table for 2? Although I know this was not my mistake, it again made me look/feel even more guilty.

                                                                          And even worse, my mother picked up the phone and heard me talking to Alinea and then got upset when she realized what had happened. Ugh.

                                                                          Well, for anyone who wonders how someone could forget a reservation at Alinea..... I guess all I can say, is that if your life is peaceful enough that a restaurant reservation does not fall into the background during your daily travails.... then that is a happy life in my eyes. Unfortunately, for me, life is not so.

                                                                          Funny thing..... it took me nearly a decade to move mountains and my life to the West coast and finally get a reservation/table at the French Laundry - my most treasured food experience. Yes, I would not have forgotten that reservation for anything. It's funny how life changes.

                                                                          Perhaps the scallops I cooked for my mom that night were actually more important to me, subconsciously. She really liked them. :) I'm getting pretty good at cooking scallops.

                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                          1. re: violin

                                                                            A table for 1 is essentially a table for 2.

                                                                            Unless, of course you're talking about sitting at the bar, to which Alinea would not apply.

                                                                            1. re: violin

                                                                              violin, I don't think I've *ever* seen a table for 1. It's always going to be large enough to have two people seated there. You might have only made a reservation for 1, but the table size actually seats 2.

                                                                              Second - the GC you received is a VERY generous one and as I noted above is still usable, according to Illinois law...for several more years, in fact.

                                                                              So I would just eat the $100 charge, if Alinea doesn't remove it from your CC or won't charge it against the GC. And I would call them again, explain the situation, explain the IL law re: GCs, and say you'd like to use that at a future date, and make that reservation. And THEN make sure it gets written on as many calendars (online and paper) as you can possibly put it on, so you make sure you make that reservation.

                                                                              1. re: violin

                                                                                The gift certificate is still good. Use the gift certificate. If I were your friend I'd be ticked if you didn't.

                                                                                The only thing that still gets me about all of this is a restaurant of that calibur is certainly aware of the legality concerning gift certificates. It would have been nice if when you initially called they informed you of that instead of making themselves seem like the good guys for honoring what they legally have to honor.

                                                                                1. re: violin

                                                                                  V

                                                                                  Couple of thoughts

                                                                                  Nice to see the scallops were a wonderful meal for your mom and you, nicely done.

                                                                                  Give one more call on the hundy and then drop it
                                                                                  Make another reservation
                                                                                  Take a copy of the statute with you when you go as backup
                                                                                  Go and enjoy the meal
                                                                                  Pay w the GC

                                                                                  One major point to remember.

                                                                                  The GC may or may not be used for the tip, you should check. If not then you have another hundy bill on the horizon. There have been many threads about the ability to use GCs for the tip. Having a great dinner and planning the meal around the $450 for food and tip and then being told sorry no could ruin a great meal.

                                                                                  1. re: violin

                                                                                    Violin,

                                                                                    Hi. I do agree with others that a table for 1 is the same as table for 2. You should really take another person with you for this $450 gift. I certainly understand how a person can forget a reservation, no matter how fancy that restaurant may be. Afterall, there are many other important things in life and our attention is very limited both long term and short term. Again, I am sorry about your experience. I don't think guilty about this. There are plenty other things in life our guilt can go to. Missing a restaurant reservation should not top the guilty list in any way.

                                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                      If you invite another person along, then THEY will remember for you. And if you can't make it a second time, at least they can take someone else and someone will benefit from that gift certificate.

                                                                                      I'm free any time :-)

                                                                                    2. re: violin

                                                                                      Moral support here for you.

                                                                                      It's $185 per head. I doubt you'll hit $450 even if you order wine. The next reservation is probably months away, enough time to make a friend to bring along :-)

                                                                                      1. re: cutipie721

                                                                                        My recent bill at Alinea was $880/2 before tip, thus the $450 is really for one, tour ( larger tasting ) plus minor ( their word ) wine tasting. Don't forget coffee was additional. At those prices it seems a cancellation fee of $ 100 is reasonable.

                                                                                    3. I am the Co-Owner of Alinea and after reading this entire thread I think it important for me to respond.

                                                                                      First, the issue of the Gift Certificates is easy to clear up. We honor Gift Certificates past their one-year expiration date not only because that is the law but because it is the right thing to do. So that is a non-issue and is our standard response. We want people with GC's to dine at Alinea and enjoy the gift they received.

                                                                                      The second issue is much more difficult and not as cut-and-dry as you might imagine.

                                                                                      Alinea has 20 tables and serves roundly 80 people per night. Since we don't have a bar or a waiting area like most restaurants (and indeed, no one should have to wait for a table at all) we don't act like an airline and overbook the restaurant (airlines can afford to assume no-shows), nor do we accept walk-ins. This is VERY different than a typical restaurant since we have no means of filling a table that No-Shows on us. If a table for 4 no-shows, 5% of our revenue that night is gone. If two tables do so that night we have a serious issue. Sadly, it is not uncommon.

                                                                                      Restaurant margins, even as expensive as Alinea is, are tight. We have over 56 employees for those 65 seats. So leaving chairs empty when demand is high is a difficult thing to swallow.

                                                                                      At the time of making the reservation our staff clearly explains our cancellation policy to the guests. In addition, we make every effort to confirm every reservation and ensure that we do not have to charge the guest the cancellation fee. We have 3 full-time employees whose sole job it is to handle reservations. In fact, that cancellation fee does NOT negate the no-show or make up for our revenue loss. It is a means of letting people take their reservation seriously enough to cancel it a few days ahead so we can rebook the table from our wait list.

                                                                                      As Violin said in the post, Alinea DID INDEED call to confirm the reservation multiple times and made a serious effort to avoid the charge or the No-Show. Indeed, in this case we would have had no problem re-booking that table on the evening in question with even 5 hours notice and if we re-book we don't charge either. Instead, our table sat empty that evening despite our best efforts.

                                                                                      Our office goes so far as to track incoming flights for guests that we know are coming in that night. We make multiple calls and emails to confirm with guests. We try, in every instance, to avoid No-Shows and charging anyone. But sometimes people just don't show up. And the reasons are often logical and good. But they all come down to "It wasn't my fault" even though, of course, they didn't call to confirm, they didn't call to say they were going to miss it at the last minute, they didn't show up, and in this case they don't use 'fancy palm-pilots'. I am not sure what else we can do.

                                                                                      And this, of course, has led to the reservation system at NEXT.... 4 star food at 3-star prices due to the fact that no-shows cannot happen with ticket sales. Buy tickets to the Cubs, Bruce Springsteen, or a theater and no-show and what happens? You miss the show. You don't call the Cubs and tell them you forgot. If your sitter doesn't show you call your buddies and say, "Hey, I have 2 in the bleachers for today's game and can't make it -- you wanna go?"

                                                                                      Problem solved... and everyone benefits because we can lower our prices due to our ability to know exactly who is coming in and paying every night.

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: nkokonas

                                                                                        Bravo to you for your patience! I only hope what you've taken the time to write gets through here.

                                                                                        1. re: nkokonas

                                                                                          Good for you! That's really amazing and compassionate. It speaks so well of your restaurant, I just had to chime in. I do want to note that my impression from violin from the beginning was that he/she was not to trying cast blame on Alinea but rather to come here to fellow chowhounds to commiserate over a lost opportunity, not to express that Alinea had been in the wrong in any way. Your original policy seems fair to me and it's a credit to you that you were able to recognize this as a worthy exception. The whole thing just makes me feel better about humanity, thanks.

                                                                                        2. Call your credit card company and see if you can contest the charge. My sister and I almost forgot we had tix to the Metropolitan Opera to see a sold-out opera (over $300). Yes, that would've been a waste of some major bucks. I only remembered when she said she thought we should try to see the said opera after she saw an ad in the paper. We got the tix 6 mos. in advance. It happens.

                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: bistro66

                                                                                            Why would the OP contest the charge when he's freely admitted it's his fault for missing the res, and that he was fully aware there was a no-show charge?

                                                                                            1. re: bistro66

                                                                                              How can you contest the charges? That is immoral. The OP agreed to the situation when he/she made the reservation and gave the charge. Despite all attempts by the restaurant to confirm, the OP still did not show and was charged as previously informed. Mutual consent. I feel bad for the OP but that is life. The restaurant is fully within their rights.

                                                                                              1. re: ESNY

                                                                                                Righteous indignation masquerading as intelligent dialogue. Violin had the correct attitude and jsoof agrees with you on some of these inanae positions.

                                                                                                - I agreed to do something and did not that is their fault
                                                                                                - They tried to contact me to confirm but I did not confirm since I do not answer my cell or pager therefore I did not confirm and should not be held liable
                                                                                                - And if the hurt party does not give in then I will hurt someone else by demanding that AMEX, VISA or MC take the hit.

                                                                                                When will people grow up and take responsibility for their own action. This entitled subset of the population needs a good swift kick in the butts.

                                                                                                And again MAJOR KUDOS to violin for manning-up and the restaurant for their actions. To the rest, insert disappointed shaking heads.

                                                                                              2. re: bistro66

                                                                                                Contest the charges? Ridiculous. Having owned my own business and having had a customer do this to me, I am now of the opinion that contesting credit card charges for goods or services already rendered should be handled the same way stop payments are handled (in RI anyways)....if you stop payment the depositor can file a report with the police and if you dont pay up you go to jail, as well you should.

                                                                                                Contest charges due to fraud, not because of buyers remorse.

                                                                                              3. This is a shame. I was planning to dine at Alinea later this year, but now have absolutely no interest. Bad publicity...YES!!! Why??? Because even although Violin acknowledges the fact afterwards when the charge was posted, did the restaurant receive a verbal confirmation from Violin? The answer is no. Had Violin spoken with one of the three reservationists directly to confirm, then I can see the fault since it was a matter of days. But no verbal confirmation occurred. This is standard with most fine dining establishments that take reservations months in advance. However, glad to see Alinea is working with Violin. Thank you for sharing your experience Violin since I have no interest in supporting such establishments.

                                                                                                17 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: sf_duke

                                                                                                  Wait a minute- did you actually read the reply from the folks associated with Alinea? I think you're being way too harsh. It's not unreasonable to charge for a missed reservation- they lost out on the potential revenue from that reservation. That being said, after being informed of the situation via this thread, Alinea is doing everything in it's power to make things right. Maybe you have a different impression from nkyokonas' response, but for my part, it absolutely makes me WANT to dine at Alinea. I think it's a great result.

                                                                                                  1. re: mjhals

                                                                                                    I agree, Alinea is now on my must dine list.

                                                                                                    1. re: mjhals

                                                                                                      while I have a lot of sympathy for the issues restaurants face in situations similar to this one, I must have missed something if indeed "Alinea is doing everything in its power to make things right." As I read the response from the restaurant, all they have agreed to do is honor the gc past its expiration date, while acknowledging that it is the law that they must do so.

                                                                                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                        they have also added the $100 no-show fee to the GC so the OP has $550 from the original $450.

                                                                                                        1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                          I have no idea of how the logistics will work, but it seems the end result will be that the OP won't have to pay the $100 no-show fee (b/c the restaurant is adding that amount to the GC) and s/he can still use the GC (which s/he should be able to anyway due to IL state law). Seems pretty accommodating to me considering they'd done quite a bit on the front end to make sure the reservation wasn't missed in the first place.

                                                                                                          Susancinsf- what would you like to see the restaurant do in this situation?

                                                                                                          1. re: mjhals

                                                                                                            as I said, I must have missed something, because I didn't see anything in the restaurant's response that indicated they did or will do that. Perhaps it was in one of OP's post, or else I just missed it. I think adding the no show fee to the GC is fine, and I wouldn't expect more than that, if indeed that is what they are going to do.

                                                                                                            1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                              Even if the restaurant takes the $100 out of the gift certificate it is the loser.

                                                                                                              It was going to lose money even if the OP showed up since it was going to lose the money for one seat on a two-top.

                                                                                                              The $100 hardly covers what they would have made if the reservation had been cancelled.

                                                                                                              The decent thing for the OP to do if making another reservation is to make sure another diner is with them so all the money on that gift certificate is used up.

                                                                                                              As I said, personally I wouldn't go at this point. The restaurant is already ticked at the OP for the negative publicity. Either the restaurant should take back the gift certificate and refund the remainder with a 'we don't want your business' note or the OP should sell it on ebay.

                                                                                                              And Alinea rethinking their reservation policy would be a good idea as well. I really think that if someone doesn't confirm 24 hours in advance, the reservaton should go elsewhere.

                                                                                                              I don't think much of their solution for 'Next" restaurant
                                                                                                              http://nextrestaurant.com/faq.html

                                                                                                              "Depending on the menu AND what day and time you are dining, food will be $40 to $75 for the entire prix fixe menu. Wine and beverage pairings will begin at a $25 supplement. Next’s goal is to serve 4-star food at 3-star prices.

                                                                                                              Tickets?
                                                                                                              Yes. Instead of reservations our bookings will be made more like a theater or a sporting event. Your tickets will be fully inclusive of all charges, including service. Ticket price will depend on which seating you buy – Saturday at 8 PM will be more expensive than Wednesday at 9:30 PM. This will allow us to offer an amazing experience at a very reasonable price. We will also offer an annual subscription to all four menus at a discount with preferred seating."

                                                                                                              Personally I don't want to support that business moded. Sure, the lure of lower prices is there,. However, you KNOW in time that prices will creep up. I don't want other restaurants copy cats of this. Also, when I go out, I want to be able to order what I want to order.

                                                                                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7272...

                                                                                                        2. re: sf_duke

                                                                                                          This is a totally inane response. Seriously, what would have happened if violin had shown up and her table was gone. Did we go to the same school???

                                                                                                          Seriously, you expect all restaurants to get an "affirmative" response from a reservation otherwise they'd be able to let it go? Alinea has a great system for checking in, it just happened that the OP fell through the cracks. That's not bad publicity, it's bad luck/life and Alinea more than graciously made up for it (if you bothered to read the response from the restaurant an hour and a half before your post).

                                                                                                          1. re: sf_duke

                                                                                                            <But no verbal confirmation occurred.>

                                                                                                            That's because, as the OP plainly states in her fourth paragraph, she ignored the messages seeking confirmation that she received from the restaurant. Did you miss that somehow?

                                                                                                            1. re: sf_duke

                                                                                                              Wow, it's going to be your loss to not eat at Alinea. Go back and re-read the OPs post and then scroll up a bit from your post and read Nick from Alinea's post. Alinea calls your days in advance of your reservation to remind you that you have one. The OP mentions that and they mention that there was a weekend of missed messages. When I went to Alinea last year with my best friend (we went for our birthdays), we sure as heck didn't forget about our reservation. And on top of that she was out of work for the past three months and not having the best summer. I just don't understand how someone could forget a reservation to a high-end restaurant like this.

                                                                                                              It's going to be your loss if you don't eat at Alinea. It was the best meal of my life and if I could afford it, I would totally be going back (and marking the reservation on my calendar).

                                                                                                              1. re: sf_duke

                                                                                                                wow...do you include every airline, hotel and sports/concert/play in this bucket? Which oart of no refund or no-show fee is a "just kidding?"

                                                                                                                the restaurant did way more than required, excellent customer service.

                                                                                                                Hopefully this was written before youhad a chance to re3ad nik's responsonses from the restaurant.

                                                                                                                1. re: sf_duke

                                                                                                                  What a ridiculous comment.

                                                                                                                  What if Alinea gave away the reservation due to no "verbal confirmation" and the OP then showed up and posted about it. You would probably post a similar comment saying the OP had an agreement with the restaurant and you are aghast that they would give away the table.

                                                                                                                  1. re: sf_duke

                                                                                                                    I do expect that for fine establishments with dedicated reservationists (in this case three), their job is to determine who is confirmed, those unconfirmed, and those cancelled. Violin falls in the "unconfirmed". I am fully aware of the restaurant's best interests as described above by the co-owner and do sympathize for why they have this policy.

                                                                                                                    However, would I expect my table to be given away in this situation?...Yes. This is why restaurants call to confirm reservations a day before to determine if they will have any open tables for the next night. What is the purpose of calling to confirm a reservation when no actual confirmation occurs, thus my verbal confirmation comment earlier.

                                                                                                                    Honestly, we do not have to all agree on this and I appreciate everyone's opinion. My opinion to not support such establishments will not hurt their business. Violin's pre-experience is enough to not want me to dine there.

                                                                                                                    I see several faults on both sides with this given scenario. Had the restaurant spoken with Violin when she called, this whole thread would not have been started. The restaurant could have pro-actively taken the next person on the waitlist after it was clear no reply was made to confirm the reservation to maintain a full dining room. Violin would not have been charged the $100 and everyone would have been happy. And I would expect to have my table "given away" if I do not callback to confirm. This is why there is the confirmation process.

                                                                                                                    I am glad Alinea is working with Violin, but this should not have happened. End of story.

                                                                                                                    1. re: sf_duke

                                                                                                                      No, that's not the end of the story. Imagine if everything had been the same (Violin missed the messages, etc.) EXCEPT that Violin remembered the reservation - it had been marked on the calendar for months. Violin shows up at Alinea and the table has been given away (Note: Alinea might set up another table on the fly - it's happened in the past when people have gotten the date wrong, but put that aside). Violin shows up - no table - and is just as disappointed about that as you might imagine. Violin then posts here about THAT experience and we have a whole new thread of argument about whether the table should or should not have been given away.

                                                                                                                      1. re: pamiam

                                                                                                                        "we have a whole new thread of argument about whether the table should or should not have been given away."

                                                                                                                        That is exactly sf_duke's point. People will have different opinions on this matter. He didn't say everyone should not dine in Alinea, rather he said he does not want to dine there.

                                                                                                                      2. re: sf_duke

                                                                                                                        Honestly, I have a very hard time believing that you would be okay with a fine restaurant (or any) giving away your reservation because you didn't respond to calls or messages from them. Maybe you're telling the truth about your views, but I don't recognize a world that works that way.

                                                                                                                        The confirmation process is not there for the reason you suggest (to say that yes you really still mean to come) but so that the restaurant can avoid being put into the predicament indicated by the OP.

                                                                                                                    2. Since it was explained to violin that there was a charge for missing a reservation I see no problem in her being charged the fee. It's nice that Alinea has offered to add the fee to her GC. One expensive restaurant in Boston (not Alinea expensive, but expensive), charges $25 per person for a missed reservation. I like how they do it, however, as they will mail you a GC for the amount charged to be used at a later date, essentially the same outcome that violin has in this case. They do take walk-ins, however, so they can probably seat that table if there is a no-show. Also, it's not like Alinea didn't try to contact violin multiple times to remind her about/confirm the reservation. If they hadn't, then I might have a different opinion on this.

                                                                                                                      1. I see this thread on a trajectory leading to the moderators closing it. There is really not more to be said here; the restaurant came through with a very generous solution, while the OP recognizes the errors in not making the reservation. Are we finished here?

                                                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                                                          Yes, we are finished.

                                                                                                                          It is interesting to see what people discuss, and how they interpret things.

                                                                                                                          For me, the main issue was my pain for screwing up, when I had looked forward to something so much but got distracted by life. Which interestingly, did not bring on any commiseration/stories of that ilk.

                                                                                                                          My second issue was that with such a special restaurant with hard to get reservations, it was doubly painful that I had missed something that took nearly 3 months of waiting time to fruition. This led me to realize that with my life, I don't think I can risk trying again with another 2-3 month wait. Just not practical for me.

                                                                                                                          So since the gift certificate will apparently be honored, which is a good thing, I will return it to my friend and I'm sure she will enjoy it. I will of course pay the penalty, and will not tell her about my screw up (!).

                                                                                                                          Please close this thread

                                                                                                                          1. re: violin

                                                                                                                            You are the only person here who knows your relationship with your friend, but I hope you think carefully about returning the GC. Returning a (very generous) gift is very likely to be perceived as terribly hurtful, rude, or both. It sounds like, under the law, you have several years to use the card-it might be worth holding onto to see if your life calms down a little.

                                                                                                                            1. re: ErnieD

                                                                                                                              Agree with ErnieD.

                                                                                                                              Maybe instead of returning it to the sender, maybe "re-gift' it? Or even donate it to charity so that they can auction it?

                                                                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                Somewhere along the line the friend is going to ask "How was dinner at Alinea?" If violin chooses not to use it, he should let his friend know what happened.

                                                                                                                                To the OP who wrote "For me, the main issue was my pain for screwing up, when I had looked forward to something so much but got distracted by life. Which interestingly, did not bring on any commiseration/stories of that ilk."

                                                                                                                                Chowhound threads have a life of their own, that no matter how carefully worded, fly off in their own direction.

                                                                                                                                I think many of us sympathize that life is tough for you right now. For those that don't, then they have never been in that situation.

                                                                                                                                If the intent of the original post was to solicit stories of similar goof-ups, then maybe it would have been clearer by ending it with "Has anyone missed an important restaurant reservation because life got in the way?"

                                                                                                                            2. re: violin

                                                                                                                              just take deep breath. there are times in life where you are overwhelmed other times where the clouds are brilliantly wonderful.

                                                                                                                              Make another reservation and enjoy. Giving the GC back could hurt your friend's feelings as well.

                                                                                                                              Jfood would use this as a great story when you see your friend. "You cannot not believe what I did but it has a great ending." Have a good laugh with her and then call Alinea and get a reservation and tell your friend the date. SHe will make sure you go next time.

                                                                                                                              1. re: violin

                                                                                                                                While I can certainly commiserate with being distracted by life, I don't see how you could ignore ample notice from Alinea. I think it's rather rude of you to now return this gift to your friend after Alinea has gone well above and beyond by refunding your no-show charge via an additional $100 on the gift certificate.

                                                                                                                                All of this could have been avoided by you responding to one of the many warnings Alinea gave you. You say your life is distracting, family illness abound: what if it was a doctor, hospital, etc. trying to get in touch with you via your ignored/seldom checked cell phone or pager? Of course they're not of the same magnitude, but if you ignore them so easily, when do you actually respond to them?

                                                                                                                                1. re: violin

                                                                                                                                  One last thought.... instead of 130+ comments arguing over restaurant policy, let's look at the very basics:

                                                                                                                                  OP is upset over missing a dearly anticipated experience, and looks for empathy... does not blame the restaurant or anticipate any compensation. The restaurant agrees to work with OP to try to resolve the issue, even though they have no obligation to do so and have already lost money on this reservation.

                                                                                                                                  Can we agree that sometimes there's more to life than the rules? This is not a story about someone trying to abuse policy. It's not a story about greedy proprietors squeezing the little guy. It's a sad, overwhelmed person who missed out on an incredible experience. The folks at Alinea would not be in the business if their primary goal was not to please and fulfill people. Let's all just relax a little and think about how nice it would be if a person who has uprooted their life to care for ailing relatives got to have a night out like that.

                                                                                                                                  I say we start a new thread offering Violin some sympathy, and Alinea a congratulatory nod for compromising when they did not have to do so.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: chorosch

                                                                                                                                    i'd say their primary goal is making money from selling food. but what do i know?

                                                                                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                      Well, you might be right, but I think for most chefs the fundamental reason they do what they do is because there is something satisfying in it, beyond the bottom line. Food sales have a traditionally low profit margin, so from a business perspective it's a huge gamble. Based on the few people I know in the restaurant / hospitality industry, there is a tremendous amount of good will.... a genuine desire to both create and satisfy, that often gets muddled up in the actual BUSINESS of selling food.

                                                                                                                                      That's why I'm interested in this thread. Clearly, the OP wants nothing, is just sad to have missed the experience. Clearly, the restaurant needs to protect its financial integrity and can't just have people blowing them off, or they'd go out of business.

                                                                                                                                      What I like is the idea that, even though the blame is clear and the OP really doesn't deserve anything, the true spirit of wanting to nourish and please might coincide with a person who really needs to be nourished... not in a caloric way but to take some time for her (him?) self and enjoy a break from caring for others.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                        I hesitate to add to this already complicated thread, but I have to ask, thew: do you really believe that the people at Alinea began by thinking about how to cash in on life and then selected cooking for profit as their go-to option? Sure money is great, and it can also enable the perpetuation of a culinary idea, and I bet that any number of generic pizza or sandwich franchises are undertaken in the spirit you mention. But to open a high cuisine restaurant is quite definitely to stick your neck out because it's something you're passionate about for its own sake. No?

                                                                                                                                2. Folks, it's clear that this thread has run its course, so we're going to lock it now.