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Opentable reserving for the wrong time? [moved from San Francisco board]

d
dunstable Feb 5, 2013 07:27 AM

Last night I had reservations for 8pm, but for some reason Opentable registered it to their computer as 6.30. So when we showed up, there was no table available. I definitely made a reso for 8, because they sent me a confirmation email with that time. The hostess explained that this had happened before, when Opentable inexplicably used a different time than the one it showed on the screen. Luckily they had room at 8:30, so the damage was minimal, but if I had reserved for a Friday night, our evening probably would have been ruined. One of my dining companions last night said that this had happened to him before as well -- Opentable assigned him a completely different evening.

What the heck is going on? How often does this happen, and how long as this been going on? That's bad enough to make me reserve on the phone, every single time.

  1. d
    dunstable Jun 7, 2013 11:44 AM

    So, this article recently was put out by Bon Appetit:

    http://www.bonappetit.com/blogsandfor...

    Eater.com figured out that the restaurant in question was One Market, and yes, they use Opentable.

    Opentable has a serious problem. As a former programmer myself, I'm having trouble understanding why this should be so difficult.

    11 Replies
    1. re: dunstable
      ttoommyy Jun 7, 2013 01:06 PM

      "Opentable has a serious problem. As a former programmer myself, I'm having trouble understanding why this should be so difficult."

      Stuff happens. Computers and people are not perfect. "Back in the day" I had reservations "lost" when all we had was the telephone, pen and paper. Life goes on.

      Anyway, the gist of this editorial is that the problem was with the restaurant staff, not Open table so much. No?

      btw...we have made hundreds of OT reservations and have had only one problem over the years with a "lost reservation;" and that was because my husband booked for the wrong week!

      1. re: ttoommyy
        d
        dunstable Jun 7, 2013 02:00 PM

        Well the staff definitely could have handled it better (for what it's worth, I've dined there before and had a perfectly fine evening), but it is OpenTable that lost the reservation, not the restaurant. That's how it works: a person makes the reservation online, and Opentable directly enters that information into the restaurant's computer. The only way the restaurant could have lost the reservation is if they manually removed it for whatever reason, but One Market is not exactly The French Laundry; they have no reason to boot anybody.

        Computers do not make mistakes if they are correctly programmed. That is practically the entire point of computers. Obviously programmers aren't perfect either, and bugs happen, but this is a particularly egregious error involving the primary function of the software. Someone needs to pull all-nighters until this is fixed.

        And by the way, I too had made many Opentable reservations before. I'm not on Chowhound by accident; I eat out too, you know.

        1. re: dunstable
          ttoommyy Jun 7, 2013 02:05 PM

          You are acting like this is a serial problem and it just is not. There are a number of threads on CH praising OT. "Someone needs to pull all-nighters until this is fixed" is a bit over overkill, in my opinion.

          1. re: ttoommyy
            d
            dunstable Jun 7, 2013 02:45 PM

            Actually, it is inherently a serial problem. Computers are not like cars or typewriters or automatic rifles; they do not simply jam up and stop working after a while. If a mistake happened, it is because there is a logical error in the programming. Perhaps they do not need to pull all-nighters, but they do need to fix it.

            And again, it's not like having a slow download or a glitchy playback: this is a fundamental error in the primary function of the software. You would not accept your car if it once in a while, just refused to move from time to time. You would buy a new one, or you wouldn't buy the same car again. You would not tolerate your typewriter if it wrote something different from what you were typing, and so on. What is the difference?

            Frankly, it's a bit vulgar for you to dismiss these incidents, simply because you have no experience with them. Bully for you that you've never had any problem, but I did, and this happens to be the thread in which I discuss it. If this bothers you, feel free to offset this by reading those other complimentary threads about Opentable that you mentioned.

            1. re: dunstable
              ttoommyy Jun 7, 2013 03:17 PM

              Sorry.

              1. re: ttoommyy
                d
                dunstable Jun 8, 2013 05:50 AM

                Actually, I was too harsh, I'm sorry.

      2. re: dunstable
        Robert Lauriston Jun 8, 2013 10:19 AM

        If you can't reproduce the problem, you can't figure out how to fix it. Intermittent bugs are the worst. "Can't reproduce" is a common status for closed bugs.

        I've used Opentable often enough to accumulate 4700 points, even though only a small percentage of my reservations give me points, and I've never encountered a mistake.

        That bonappetit.com thing is a blog post and says it's about a free meal someone arranged for him. If somebody shows up for a comped meal and the restaurant can't find the reservation, I can see how they might suspect it was a scam.

        1. re: dunstable
          eatzalot Jun 8, 2013 02:18 PM

          Jason Kessler's Bon-Appetit story left unclear the circumstances of the reservation itself, reporting only that it wasn't in the computer as expected. The start of the story implies that this reservation was among a group of them at various restaurants, made on his behalf by others.

          Curious to rule out other possible explanations, I posted a comment there last night, seeking clarification.

          1. re: dunstable
            Robert Lauriston Jun 9, 2013 08:52 AM

            The initial problem you reported was the time in the restaurant's Opentable book not matching the time in the confirmation email, which is clearly a bug in Opentable.

            Blaming Opentable for One Market having no record of Kessler's alleged reservation is a big stretch. Somebody making a reservation for someone else would probably not use Opentable. The person who was supposed to make it the reservation might simply have neglected to, or might have made it by phone and the reservationist failed to enter it into the system properly.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              d
              dunstable Jun 9, 2013 11:21 AM

              Your restaurant didn't use Opentable? Well, I don't know how Urbanspoon or any of the other services work, but...

              Opentable is not simply the UI for diners to enter reservation requests. It is also the table management system for the restaurant. When a user makes a reservation online, it directly interacts with the restaurant's computer, which is also supplied by Opentable. So just like there is no human bank teller to do the legwork behind your ATM transaction, there is no hostess that manually enters your reservation after you make one online. It's already done.

              Similarly, if you make a reservation on the phone with a restaurant that uses Opentable, the person on the other end of the phone is inputting your information directly into their computer, which then updates the information on the website. Thus, there is no alternate reservation means -- even when you do it in person, you're using Opentable.

              As eatsalot pointed out, the author didn't include all the details, so technically, I do not know the specifics. So yes, it is possible that there was some sort of human error, but it is hardly a "big stretch" to assume that it was the same problem that befell other people. If the author had this meal immediately before he wrote the article, it happened around the same time it happened to me.

              1. re: dunstable
                Robert Lauriston Jun 9, 2013 12:26 PM

                It's true that if a restaurant uses Opentable, all reservations go into the Opentable system.

                But when a reservation made by phone isn't in the system, it's often user error. Whoever input the reservation got the date, time, or name wrong, or got distracted and failed to save the resevation properly, or they were not at a computer so they wrote it down and forgot to enter it. I've made hundreds of reservations with OT and never had one go missing. The only problem we encountered with OT's software at my restaurant was the web site falsely telling potential customers that we had no tables available.

                That's in sharp contrast to your problem, which didn't seem to leave room for user error. The time getting changed without an email notification to the user could reflect corruption in the database (which is on the turnkey host Opentable leases to each restaurant).

          2. c
            cwdonald Feb 10, 2013 09:44 AM

            That is very interesting you had this problem. Depending how far out you booked your reservation, I often get a call from the restaurant confirming the reservation. I guess that is the one other fail safe, but something that not every restaurant does.

            1. d
              dunstable Feb 10, 2013 09:26 AM

              Late last night I received this response:

              ----

              Thank you for contacting OpenTable!

              On behalf of OpenTable, I would like to offer my deepest apologies regarding your unpleasant experience. We will address the situation in an effort to avoid this happening in the future. Your happiness is our first priority!

              If you have any further questions or concerns, please let us know, and thanks again for choosing OpenTable!

              Sincerely,

              Emilio C.
              Technical Support Representative
              OpenTable, Inc.

              ------------------

              I guess that's the end of that. Presumably they will fix this; probably most diners won't be as sanguine.

              1. d
                dunstable Feb 7, 2013 08:54 AM

                It's starting to smell like I am not going to hear from them on this matter, one way or another. They did send me an email saying that I will not be credited with a no-show, at least. I have to say, though, that this sort of error probably merits some sort of compensation to the diner. In my case, there was no real damage, but that easily could have resulted in a spoiled evening for four people. At the very least, an apology would be nice.

                1. d
                  dunstable Feb 6, 2013 07:30 AM

                  They sent me an email asking why I did not show up for my 6:30 reservation. This is good, actually; now they can confirm via their own correspondence that two different times existed in their system.

                  1. r
                    rubadubgdub Feb 5, 2013 11:57 AM

                    I think OT only allows one to make one reservation on a given date for a given restaurant. Where I've goofed in the past is in trying to change the time of my reservation. They send an email confirmation with an embedded link to change/cancel. I've inadvertently cancelled my reservation when I thought I was changing the time. I think the confusion is compounded by when your email server delivers the cancel or change messages. If close together, you really have to pay attention to what you're doing.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: rubadubgdub
                      d
                      dunstable Feb 5, 2013 01:31 PM

                      No, that definitely isn't what happened. Since I was on their system for a different time, that would have required me to inadvertently select a new time, which is very unlikely to happen with an accidental click on a link. Moreover, even if I had made some change, inadvertent or not, I would then have received a second email confirming the change, which did not happen.

                      1. re: dunstable
                        j
                        jaiko Feb 5, 2013 02:28 PM

                        Wow, interesting - I use OT a lot and have never had this happen (knock on wood, fingers crossed). OT should be sending you a followup email, you can respond to them that way. I've found their customer svc surprisingly good when I've had a rare problem arise.

                        Let us know what happens, a lot of us will be following this.

                        1. re: jaiko
                          d
                          dunstable Feb 5, 2013 04:08 PM

                          Yes, I have sent them an email that described the incident, and I included last night's confirmation number and the email. I got an auto-response sort of deal with an incident number, which gives me hope that someone will actually look at this thing and take care of it.

                    2. smatbrat Feb 5, 2013 11:50 AM

                      Contact open table.

                      At the host stand you can always ask for them to clock on your history and select the reservation. This will show any changes made to your reservation and if they were made online or by the host. I know this does not help you at this point. but for the future.

                      1. c
                        calumin Feb 5, 2013 10:45 AM

                        I had an issue last week with AQ which uses Urbanspoon. I had a reservation - then they sent an email two days before asking me to re-confirm. But when I clicked on the link, there was no reservation to re-confirm.

                        I then called AQ - no answer so I left a message. They never called me back. Because the reservation was a special occasion, I had to cancel because I had no confidence that the reservation was ever actually made.

                        1. c
                          ceekskat Feb 5, 2013 10:13 AM

                          Fortunately, this has not happened to me but it is discouraging. Did you complain to Opentable?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ceekskat
                            d
                            dunstable Feb 5, 2013 10:47 AM

                            In fact I was planning to send them an email (that is literally the last thing that should be broken on that website), but there wasn't an obvious "contact us" link. I will search harder later.

                          2. Robert Lauriston Feb 5, 2013 08:58 AM

                            I've used Opentable a lot (almost always through the links on restaurants' own sites) and have never had that experience.

                            It would be a pretty serious bug for the system to send a confirmation email that didn't match the actual reservation.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              d
                              dunstable Feb 5, 2013 10:45 AM

                              Yah I was shocked, quite frankly. Until now I've never had a problem either (actually there was an incident at Boulud Sud a few months ago in which I was down for the wrong day, but I'm not sure that it wasn't human error on my part), but then the hostess and my friend both nodded knowingly.

                              Either way I will definitely be heeding ttoommyy's advice from now on.

                            2. ttoommyy Feb 5, 2013 08:54 AM

                              Computerized systems make mistakes, simple as that. Most restaurants I book call a day or two ahead to confirm a reservation; if there is a mistake I iron it out then. Or call ahead of time yourself to ensure the date and time of your reservation is correct. "Back in the day" a person on the other end of the phone could have easily made the same mistake taking your reservation with paper and pen. No system is a perfect one.

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