Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Feb 1, 2011 04:11 PM

Being Billed for No-Shows [split from Ontario]

(This post was split from the Ontario board at: -- The Chowhound Team)

Being billed for a no show is illegal, and can be easily disputed by the customer to the credit card company. Generally it is a scare tactic, as 1 no show on a saturday night can easily ruin the whole night's business in a smaller place.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. "Being billed for a no show is illegal"

    curious where you got this information from?

    9 Replies
    1. re: pinkprimp

      Me too!
      Can I get a refund for all the flights, hotel rooms and theatre tickets I've been unable to complete?

      And this must be a uniquely Canadian law - it is done often in high-end places in UK and USA (and maybe more).

      1. re: estufarian

        Not against any "law". "No shows" are typically covered under the card's Merchant Agreement. If disputed the restaurant would be required to show the card company (Visa, Amex, etc.) a copy of their cancellation policy and the procedure for conveying it to the cardholder.

        1. re: estufarian

          Yeah no kidding!

          I remember a long thread on another CH board about being charged for missing their Alinea reservation.

          Having said that, *even if* BHCO were to do this, if they tell you ahead of time that there will be a no-show charge, I don't think that would be illegal...and in my opinion, except for a small number of situations (such as emergencies), not even unfair. If rules were communicated, by making the reservation, you agreed to them.

        2. re: pinkprimp

          Once in the past i missed a reservation due to an accident, was billed, disputed it and the credit card company refunded me my $$. They told me it was a bogus charge as i never signed anything. As it was not done on line, and there was only a verbal agreement it was not a legally binding contract. guess it was my good luck, despite the accident.

          1. re: phisherking

            Within Canada one cannot legally charge somebody for a no-show.

            If one were to dispute the charge with one's credit card issuer, one would be refunded.

            Trust me... I have looked into this over the years, working in the business as I have.

            1. re: phisherking

              Just to be clear, verbal agreements are legally binding contracts, it's just very, very difficult to have them enforced because it comes down to a matter of who do you believe. Banks are always going to side with the cardholder in these cases so the only recourse a restaurant has if they want to enforce a charge for no show policy is to take the customer to small claims court and hope they can win, even if they do good luck actually getting the money.

              Airlines have a written contract called the contract of carriage that is imposed by legislated fiat whether most ticket buyers realize it or not, but even they rarely actually enforce their charge for no-show policy.

              There are legal ways to do it, just not with phone reservations, you could do what Grant A is planning to do with Next and sell "non-refundable tickets" instead of "reservations" or not to stretch the metaphor too much do what they do at Ko and do reservations online only and make the diner e-sign that they have read and understood the policy. But frankly I doubt they'll bother, if they have such a policy it will just be a scare tactic.

              1. re: bytepusher

                I agree, but the difficulty with a court enforcing a charge for a no-show is not just evidentiary. it is also difficult to establish damages under the terms of offer and acceptance, if they are construed as a promise to provide services in exchange for a promise to pay for those services. it looks more like a tort claim, and there it is just non-feasance. either way, I dont see how an English court of common law will uphold the no-show charge, absent statutory provisions governing the relationship. this is not a legal opinion of course.

                1. re: shekamoo

                  If there is a service agreement, wherein the restaurant gives notice of a cancellation fee, then that is said "provision", isn't it?

              2. re: phisherking

                just to be clear...even if you didn't sign anything, according to the Visa agreement (found on the TD bank website):

                "if you otherwise authorize the Account to be charged without presenting the Card or without signing a sales draft (including by mail, telephone,Internet or any other electronic method of communication), the legal effect is the same as if you had presented the Card and signed a sales draft."

                now whether or not they decide to enforce this is another story (customer relations and all that).

            2. I think there would be great difficulty in enforcing this since there is no real consideration offered by the restaurant, other than the promise of a seat at a given time. With an airline ticket or hotel room you've agreed to a price for a defined service. With a restaurant meal, it's variable. So unless you've bought the Prix Fixe menu ahead of time, what are they charging you for? And if you don't take it at the time you booked are they bound to provide you with the food at a later date?

              I've been to restaurants that were overbooked, have lost my reservation or seated me half an hour after my reservation time. I suppose I have the right to bill them back for my time?

              10 Replies
              1. re: hal2010

                So in this case we are talking about a specific as yet unopened restaurant with only a prix fixe tasting menu. It also will have only 18 seats. I love it when the mods split a topic and we loose all the context.

                1. re: bytepusher

                  My guess is that: given the tasting menu format, they'll copy the formula developed by Achatz and 'sell you a ticket up front'.

                2. re: hal2010

                  consideration can be a promise, such as a promise that you would have a table available when you come into the restaurant at the agreed upon time.

                  1. re: pinkprimp

                    awesome! debating first year contracts on CH! like I mentioned, it is unlikely that the court will construe this as part of the offer and acceptance, because the consideration the patron will be providing in exchange for the promise to hold a seat is a promise to show up, NOT a promise to order food and pay for it(this part of consideration goes to the promise of providing food). see, you just cannot tell the court what your damage is, even if you get past the consideration hurdle. so I think the real difficulty is showing damages rather than proving a valid contract on balance of probabilities.

                    1. re: shekamoo

                      well of course, one of the first things you learn in contracts is that if there are no calculable damages, there is not much point in seeking a claim because well...what are you suing for?? ;-)

                      my only point was to reply to "no real consideration offered by the restaurant" since there IS consideration present.

                      1. re: pinkprimp

                        Yes, I think there probably is consideration in the form of the mutual promises to show up and to hold the table, although you will probably get attacked on whether there is actual detriment or benefit flowing between the parties.
                        There is also the question of mitigation, as soon as two more people walk in, there is no more possibility of claiming damages anyways.
                        In sum, I think charging for a restaurant no-show is a no-go. the best you could get is nominal damages

                        1. re: shekamoo

                          But isn't there a 'real loss' (of net revenue).
                          If the restaurant makes a 'profit' (not legally defined - use it as a concept of marginal expected revenue less marginal costs) of say $50 per seat (on average) then they have suffered a 'real' loss (let's assume it's too late to 're-sell' the seat).

                          1. re: estufarian

                            unless it is proven to the court that they had a full house and they turned customers away while holding on to the seat (also need to satisfy the court that the customers who got turned away would have actually ordered and paid for food), as soon as a party with no reservation shows up, it is a mitigating factor. then there is the question of how long they held to the seat: was it reasonable? all in all, it would be a nightmare to prove this to the court. this is all intuitive of course, I have not done any research or looked at any precedents on this. as such, we are all speculating here.

                            1. re: shekamoo

                              Okay, I get the legal fine points here about consideration, mitigation, etc. but REALLY, are any of us seriously going to end up in court over this? Not likely!

                              It is extremely unlikely that restauranteurs (such as Splendido when they implemented "no show" billings and Non Doctor above) explore this option out of frivolity. And I'm equally sure they aren't really interested in making money from the no shows. More likely they are combatting a persistently inconsiderate portion of clientele who make reservations and then don't show up. So when it comes to no show billing and whether it will fly, whatever happened to the simple notion of a simple agreement between two parties (neither in a position of power over the other) along the lines of: "I agree to hold a table and not give it to someone else, if you agree that if you don't show up I can charge you $x for that privilege"? Yes there could be legal hurdles as several posters have very capably pointed out should it end up before a judge, but as in other legal loopholes and hurdles, where does it come down to simply honouring something you agreed to?! Unless you did call to cancel the reservation and got billed anyway, why would you even dispute the charge? Just because you can?

                              Don't get me wrong, I'm not a big fan of no show billing ... and I do make sure I cancel reservations I cannot honour (love Open Table for the ease of doing this), because it's just the considerate thing to do.

                      2. re: shekamoo

                        If it's a cancelation fee and not a request for damages, then your argument would be moot.

                  2. Not exactly on topic but I had an acquaintance complain about a restaurant that canceled a reservation made on Opentable for being a no-show on a previous occasion. I think I made some sympathetic noises but privately I thought they were justified.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: hsk

                      A Michelin starred restaurant in the UK used to state on its website that subsequent attempts to make a reservation by past "no showers" would be refused. I'm with the restaurant.

                      I'm also with my favourite 1* local place which states that a credit card is required for all reservations and that a deposit will be taken at that time. The deposit is non-refundable unless 48 hours notice of cancellation is given.