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Aug 12, 2010 09:15 PM

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


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


            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:

    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

                      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: 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."



                                                  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


                                                        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


                                                          "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.

                                    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.

                                          3. re: Chemicalkinetics

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

                                            They are EXACTLY the 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


                                                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.