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Using internet discount coupons on your birthday

The restaurant where I work has recently started accepting restaurant.com certificates. Our restaurant policy is that we can't give any other kind of discount when these are used.

As servers, when people are celebrating something, we are able to offer a free dessert if we feel inclined. We don't advertise this or make a big production of it.

Free desserts = discount, so I can't give away a free dessert to anyone using restaurant.com.

So here's my situation: A couple comes in. At the end of dinner, they tell me they are celebrating and ask me if they get anything for free. I say "sure" and bring out a dessert with a "Happy Birthday!" When it's time to pay, they offer up a restaurant.com.

Here are my options: I can either go back to the table and say "sorry, can't give you anything for free when you use a discount certificate" or I can pay for the dessert myself.

I chose to pay for the dessert. When this happened to a coworker, she chose to tell the table that dessert wasn't free.

I come to work to make money not spend it. So unless I can find a tactful way to let people know that I can't give away stuff when they are using these certificates, I'm not giving away any more desserts to anyone. Somehow saying "Are you using restaurant.com?" doesn't seem like the appropriate response to "It's my birthday!"

Does anyone have a better idea?

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  1. They are the sort of people who ask for a freebie - of course it's OK to check if they are using a coupon. They would be the sort of people who'd understand the rules, surely?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Peg

      It's not necessarily about asking for a freebie. Supposed someone puts a note on open table that says "it's my wife's birthday". This would be a time when I could normally just say, "Happy Birthday, we would love to offer you a dessert" at the end of the meal, but now I would have to say "Happy Birthday. Do you have a rest.com? If not, we'd love to offer you dessert on the house."

      I'm trying to figure out if the goodwill is worth it anymore or if it will be too strange and complicated with these coupons.

    2. This is a perfect example why those coupons are supposed to be presented to the waiter at the beginning of the meal, which I'm pretty sure it says on every Restaurant.com voucher. Failure to present it puts the onus on the customer for any confusion during the rest of the meal. I would explain it as such to your custies.

      1 Reply
      1. re: invinotheresverde

        I've used a few restaurant.com certificates and actually none of them has ever said it needed to be presented at the start of the meal. Frankly, I wish it did. Just to avoid any awkwardness later on.

      2. I would just stop giving away free desserts. What can of person asks if they get anything for free? I'm going to try that next time I'm at the grocery store.

        1. I think unfortunately that a good practice to get into once your restaurant starts getting into the coupon business is to ask up front if they have any coupons they'll be using tonight. Just putting it on the menu won't take care of the uncomfortable situation you keep finding yourself in because most people don't read that type of thing on a menu.

          Simultaneously, I would talk to the management about changing their policy about the free birthday dessert in conjunction with a coupon. If the restaurant management is the one instituting the policy that if you use a coupon, you can't get any freebies, they should be the ones making sure it's enforced without the servers being in this bad situation, by insisting that it's stated up front by the servers in some way, such as inquiring as to whether they'll be using any coupons.

          I personally think anyone who is ASKING for a freebie doesn't deserve one, and if I were the server, I'd have said "no" if they asked me, since it's up to my discretion and they seemed to be searching for a freebie that I don't have to offer them. But by the same token, if the restaurant is encouraging the use of coupons and discounts by doing restaurant.com and offering free desserts, it's not fair to pick and choose when people can get the free dessert because there's no good way to manage this with the use of coupons, as you've learned. The policy should either be "if you learn of a special occasion and want to give out a free dessert, feel free to do so" or it should be "no freebies for anyone, no matter what."

          1 Reply
          1. re: rockandroller1

            Harsh assessment, and exactly what l would do. Well written, thanks

          2. First of all it never seems to work out right when we're celebrating.
            I sneak off and inform our server or manager and it's usually forgotten (and) we're ready to pay and maybe he's already ordered a dessert which really clucks it up.

            Take one of them aside (away from anyones' earshot) and explain it's one or the other and let them make the choice. If your tip suffers that's their problem. And if your tip suffers due to that being the reason why, they weren't going to give you a good tip to begin with. They've just (now) justified to themselves why.

            You're right you're working to make not spend $$$.
            All of us in the business of receiving tips knows... Fully 50% don't tip

            I personally wouldn't use a coupon for a celebratory meal.
            Can there be a notice posted somewhere discreetly that mentions something like "sorry but no double two-fers? I know sounds rude, immature, tacky and unprofessional.

            1. I wouldn't be offended if you said, Happy Birthday! I can offer you a complimentary dessert, but it cannot be combined with any other discounts or coupons. Then the choice is theirs - free dessert or discount coupon. Say it with a smile, and be prepared to add that this is management's policy if necessary. Always lead with the positive, it puts people in a better frame of mind.

              1 Reply
              1. Grown men and women ask for something free because it's their birthday? Seriously?

                3 Replies
                1. re: LeoLioness

                  Most people don't ask for free stuff, but some do.

                  I do like it when people let me know they are celebrating, I enjoy bringing something out to let them know that we appreciate that they chose to spend a special day with us.

                  1. re: LeoLioness

                    I have an acquaintance who makes it a point to register her name and birthday info with every local restaurant of interest. Then she proceeds to collect free meals from as many as she can manage near her birthday (many limit it to a two week window of time around the actual date, most likely to reduce abuse). She absolutely feels entitled...after all, no doubt the world is a much better place because she was born.

                    1. re: jlhinwa

                      Sorry but I gotta jump in here. Your friend IS entitled. She's entitled to receive a free dinner/lunch on her birthday. The restuarants wouldn't offer this if they didn't want the offer accepted. In this economy this goes a long way to make someone's birthday dinner affordable. Where I live the restuarants call you to remind you that so and so has a birhtday on such a date and to be sure to redeem the birthday offer. They know the customer isn't coming in alone so they sell one or more dinners and of course drinks. Everybody wins. I like that.
                      I don't like the idea of someone asking "what's free, it's my birthday", but I realize some do. As for offering dessert, by the time I'm finished with a meal, I can't eat dessert so I never accept it.
                      'BTW I really like mtoo's suggestion as to what the waitstaff should say to the birthday person.

                  2. It says on the certificate that it must be presented at the time of ordering. I would have loved to tell them "Sorry, I'm not able to take this certificate at this point in the meal. How was your birthday cake?" LOL.
                    The best solution would probably be to get the manager to explain that they will have to pay for the cake or not use the coupon. I dislike when people game the system.