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Is this a new gimmick?

We had a Red Lobster gift card and it was our son's b'day. We'd only been there once before but that was more than enough. We figured we might as well use the card and try the place again. There were 8 of us and, upon arrival, told them it was a b'day dinner. Just as we finished our mediocre meal, the waitperson came to the table and asked if we wanted to "buy a b'day dessert' and they would sing. We were shocked. Never heard of such a thing. Ordinarily, they either bring one free or, on rare occasion, include a charge for one on the bill. Is this a new way of getting more $?

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  1. As welcome as an ugly, overweight "dancer" trying to shake you down for a $20 table dance at a mens club.

    1 Reply
    1. So… they asked you if you wanted to order food in exchange for payment? That doesn't strike me as "a new way of getting more $". That sounds like the normal way restaurants make money.

      Yes, a lot of places give you the cake and the song for "free". There's your gimmick.

      6 Replies
      1. re: DeppityDawg

        But at a birthday party? They got ya by the short hairs, unfair. Same as the strolling rose seller when you are on a first-date dinner. How do you say no without looking like a cheap, unromantic shmuck?

        1. re: Veggo

          My son thanked her and said he was too full. They sang anyway.

          1. re: Veggo

            If the restaurant had the OP by the short hairs, it's because the OP walked into the restaurant with his short hairs exposed and said "here, tug on these". If you choose to tell the restaurant that you're celebrating a special occasion, in the hopes of getting some extra food/service freebies, you can't really complain if they are then aware that you are celebrating a special occasion and tell you about some special occasion foods/services that you can consider purchasing. This kind of up-selling is nothing new, either, and it does not sound like it was handled at all unfairly or dishonestly in the OP's case.

            There was another long thread earlier this year about a restaurant offering a birthday dessert and the customer ending up having a bad experience:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/828795
            In both cases the disappointment could have been easily avoided by working things out explicitly with the restaurant ahead of time instead of spending the whole evening wondering and hoping and expecting something to happen all by itself.

          2. re: DeppityDawg

            Giving it away is not a gimmick; it's good customer service. If they want to charge for it, that's fine; just add it to the bill but , don't stand there and ask across the table if you want to buy it.

            1. re: mucho gordo

              So the problem is the waitstaff using the word "buy"? I suppose it's not the most elegant way to phrase the question, but how do you get from that to "a new gimmick for making more money"? They certainly didn't get any more money out of you.

              Offering something extra without mentioning the charge, and then just adding it to the bill, is seen as unforgivably dishonest by many. You may prefer it, but there are lots of threads complaining about that kind of up-selling.

              1. re: DeppityDawg

                Not only was in inelegant, it wasn't even directed at me or in a low voice. I have no problem paying for a b'day dessert if it is the customary practice of the restaurant but, I have to say that the majority of restaurants do not charge. It's good PR and doesn't really cost them.

          3. I'm a bit confused. You either expect a free dessert or expect an unexpected charge to your bill?

            I'll admit that I have never been to a Red Lobster. But here are my b'day experiences:
            1) I was a few states away at a wonderful Italian restaurant. The waitress heard my DC wish me a happy birthday. At the end of the meal she brought a tiramisu gratis. I will always favor that spot and we tipped accordingly.
            2) I was at a local "high-end" restaurant and ordered dessert. Waitress must have heard it was mom's 80+ birthday and served it with a candle and a flair. ETA: I ordered and paid for the dessert.

            2 Replies
            1. re: gaffk

              I don't "expect" anything, gaffk.

              1. re: mucho gordo

                Ordinarily, they either bring one free or, on rare occasion, include a charge for one on the bill. Is this a new way of getting more $
                -----------------------------------------------------------
                So yes, you do "expect" a free dessert.

            2. I suspect the server was trying to make it very clear that the cake would be on the bill. I'm sure they had people upset once they realized the birthday cake was not free. Perhaps a better method would be to have printed information and provide it to the host while saying "here are the details of our celebratory dessert packages".

              1. Consider it one less bit of mediocrity to ingest. It gave you the opportunity to refuse and get your son a better desert at home or somewhere else.