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Clover -- not exactly free fries


My son stopped over at Clover yesterday afternoon to grab some of the "free" fries they announced they were giving away to celebrate their reopening after their salmonella outbreak. He was told he needed to buy something to get the fries. I understand the "free with purchase" gambit, but if that's the deal, Clover should have said so. My son, not a fan of deceptive advertising, walked out as a matter of principle. Clover lost a customer forever.

  1. He's going to boycott Clover forever because they wanted him to buy food? Okay.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Boston_Otter

      Sorry I totally understand the OPs son. You announce reopening an free fries as a celebration, then folks realize its a bait and switch... Not sure if it is a ban them for life offense, but not at all actually free fries.

      1. re: StriperGuy

        I whole hearted agree with OP and StriperGuy and would have walked out as well.


        1. re: StriperGuy

          Just a flat out dumb management decision, they should be rolling out the red carpet to get people back as loyal (and trusting customers).

          1. re: StriperGuy

            Clover was very clear on their site -- they state plainly, "must be purchasing food".

            It's not exactly Clover's fault if food blogs and local media picked it up as just FREE FRIES!! without that caveat.

            No, it's not a 'bait and switch', no, it's not a 'dumb management decision', and it's not worth telling everyone on Chowhound that your son's never eating there again.

            1. re: Boston_Otter

              Yeah, they did say it was with purchase. The sandwich board outside the Inman location (?) said with purchase. And their facebook page said with purchase. Maybe they could have been more clear, but I don't see it at a bait and switch.

              1. re: Boston_Otter

                Not clear here on the main site:

                Sure if you go over to events, you'd find out but why would you think of doing that?

                1. re: Boston_Otter

                  NO on the main page it just said Free Fries.

                  Fine print, or click through for more = Bait and switch

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    That's not what bait and switch means. Bait and switch means "We're out of that 99-dollar flat screen that's in our ad. Buy this $2500 one instead." Whether you think it's shady or not -- I don't -- it isn't bait and switch.

                    1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                      Thanks to our resident scholar... agreed, strickly speaking not bait and switch, just crappy deceptive marketing.

            2. Your son didn't read the website or the board outside the store, then.

              7 Replies
              1. re: LeoLioness

                Here's what the website currently (7/26 @ 4PM) says:

                "Free fry day on Thursday. Yeah, we’re coming back


                Why is that walk-in empty? We threw everything out. Anything that could have possibly been contaminated. All surfaces sanitized multiple times. Environmental testing, all clean. All new food. All employees screened. New food safety procedures throughout entire company. Why? We want to have absolutely no doubt that our food is going to be delicious and safe.

                Sorry guys about this past week or so. We’re coming back Thursday. All restaurants open. As many trucks as we can manage (we’re still waiting for all screening results of employees). We’ll give a full list tomorrow. We’re so excited to see you all. You’ve been amazing as we’ve worked through this."


                Now, the statement: "FREE FRENCH FRIES FOR CUSTOMERS TO CELEBRATE." - might mean "with purchase" - if you limit "FOR CUSTOMERS" to mean that. But, it clearly doesn't say "WITH PURCHASE".

                1. re: NE_Wombat

                  To me, customers at a restaurant are people who are buying something. Also, the sign out front said "with purchase".

                  I can't imagine getting so bent out of shape that a restaurant wouldn't give me free food, but others are free to, of course. Fight the good fight.

                  1. re: LeoLioness

                    I'm not "bent out of shape" in any way. I was simply showing what the web site actually says.

                    For example, another poster writes:
                    "Clover was very clear on their site -- they state plainly, "must be purchasing food"."

                    I just don't see that phrase on the web site.

                    1. re: NE_Wombat

                      Then you didn't go to the page that I posted that announced the FREE FRIES event.

                      1. re: Boston_Otter

                        I did, however, post the contents of the web page (the Home page) announcing said event - see, it's right there up-thread. It's actually more "clear" than the FaceBook posting, which reads:

                        "Clover Food Lab

                        We're not open today. All restaurants will open tomorrow (Thurs) with free coffee at breakfast, free fries at lunch. Trucks Monday.

                        Like · Comment · @cloverHSQ on Twitter · Share"

                    2. re: LeoLioness

                      "I can't imagine getting so bent out of shape that a restaurant wouldn't give me free food, but others are free to"

                      But do I have to buy something first before getting bent out of shape? :)

                      I guess Clover could have stated "with purchase" everywhere imaginable. Also, "customers" can be vague. If I walk into a store and, say, ask a server a question or peruse the menu, I could refer myself as a "customer" even thought I haven't bought anything yet. (Maybe you'd in turn suggest "potential customer"?)

                      The OP's reaction does seem overblown. I'd shrug and cut Clover some slack.

                    3. re: Gabatta

                      Thanks - I already read it a few days ago.

                      My issue wasn't about not getting free fries - as I didn't go and had no intention of going. My only issue was checking what was actually posted on their home page (and Facebook) against what some defenders were saying was a clear and unambitious statement that everything said "WITH PURCHASE". I found that simply not to be the case, and copied the web postings to that effect. The fact that management was deceptive regarding the impetus for closure is a separate matter.

                  2. If they say on Facebook, on the website, and on the board outside the store that a purchase is required, how could they be more clear? No snark there (ok, well maybe a little). Really would like to know what else you think they could have done. Along with not being a fan of deceptive of advertising, your son is also clearly not a fan of reading.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mkfisher

                      Or he just read the wrong thing. The metro paper and others just said "free fries" and left out the "with purchase".

                      I can see being annoyed and disappointed, but I wouldn't go as far as to call it a bait and switch and refusing to return.

                      1. I looked on the Clover lab blog -- here is the headline:
                        "Free fry day on Thursday. Yeah, we’re coming back"

                        Followed by:

                        Now, you could say "well, customers means people who buy stuff ". But it could also mean "people who used to buy stuff before the salmonella". I think it's ambiguous.

                        Also, it's unlike other places which give away free ice cream, yogurt, coffee when they first open to build a good buzz. Just Crust recently gave away free pizza.

                        So, I think it was a crummy bait-and-switch.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: MXG

                          Despite the fact that their Facebook page, the signs outside their locations, and their website all say "with purchase", you still think they're trying to cheat people?

                          This is the announcement they posted on their site:

                          1. re: Boston_Otter

                            C'mon -- the blog called it "Free Fry Thursday" not "Free Fries with purchase Thursday". Disingenuous.

                            1. re: MXG

                              Ok, feel free to have that opinion. I've pointed out that they've made it quite clear that it was 'with purchase'. If you still think they're trying to deceive people, I can't convince you. Cheers.

                        2. I don't have an opinion on this whole mess, but it reminds remind me of Clover's early blog post crowing that they never crow that they're vegan - a bit of "I just want you all to know how humble I am!"

                          So perhaps this all adds up toward Clover, consciously or unconsciously, stretching words a bit.

                          1. I can think of no better way of celebrating the return of an excellent and unique restaurant chain that had an unfortunate Salmonella outbreak and was painfully open and honest about its total closure, at a reported business loss of $20,000 per day (by one report), than to try to get a free handout, and then stomp off when you were told you had to actually buy something.

                            What a celebration!!!!

                            1. They're certainly doing something right if they've inspired the sort of passions that compel people to post screeds about how accurate their CHILDREN feel their window-scribblings are! My word.

                              1. I received at least two tweets from Clover trumpeting "free fries." Also saw additional reports about "free fries" on local web sites and not one mentioned anything about "with purchase." One of Clover's tweets mentioned "free fries for customers," which is ambiguous at best -- to me "customers" implies anyone who has ever patronized the place.
                                The point is that following the negative publicity of a salmonella outbreak, Clover made a pr misstep. It would have been smarter -- and not terribly more expensive -- to give a few fries to anyone who came in and asked for them. "Free with purchase" is not a giveaway, it's a come on.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: katzzz

                                  It just seems odd to still be so exercised about this two days later. Not least since it never even would have occurred to me that the fries wouldn't be free with purchase.

                                  1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                    I agree!

                                    Actually, whenever restaurants have signs that restrooms are for customers only, I also find this ambiguous, so I feel free to walk in off the street to just use the restrooms if I've eaten there before (The same thing applies to parking for stores and businesses that say "for customers only." If I've ever shopped there, it's free parking for me!)

                                    1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                      Fwiw I read the various tweets and figured that a) it'd likely require purchase (and I'm not normally keen on their stuff so wasn't interested) and b) some ppl would get confused & irritated by this. They could have been more explicit and people could be less gullible. IMO fault lies on both sides

                                      1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                        "It just seems odd to still be so exercised about this two days later."

                                        One word: haters.

                                        1. re: FinnFPM

                                          This thread has made me lose respect for some people. Complaining about this, especially given the circumstances and given how they borrowed money to pay their employees, is churlish and childish.

                                          1. re: lergnom

                                            Agreed. Clover currently has bigger issues to deal with than placating scavengers looking for free stuff.

                                      2. re: katzzz

                                        I just wouldn't feel right walking into a place and taking the free food without buying something else. I don't care if it said "with purchase" or not. But to each their own.

                                        1. re: katzzz

                                          They've been closed for over a week and have been paying their employees a regular salary by taking out a bank loan while losing many thousands of dollars.

                                          Complaining that they're not giving away free food without buying anything after that is the worst kind of customer behavior.

                                        2. Yeah, I feel totally ripped off: here's a company that borrowed money to pay its employees while it was shut so, darn it, I expect them to give me stuff. And then I'm never going back because that's obviously not a nice company, because, well, they only go into debt to keep people on payroll and that, of course, means no forgiveness, no slack, never, ever!! Vengeance will be mine. All your base are belong to us!!

                                          1. I would have thought the same as your son if I had read Clover's blog about this promotion. "Free fries for lunch customers" is not enough information. It should be an important lesson for your son: when the word "free" is bandied about, always check for the catch.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Kiyah

                                              The KEY word is CUSTOMERS. Not free fries for people passing by, but free fries for lunch customers.

                                              1. re: Kiyah

                                                Right! "Restrooms reserved for customers only" is not enough information!!



                                                "Your honor, the sign "Handicapped only" didn't specify CURRENTLY handicapped only"

                                                "What do you mean, 1/2 price for six and under? I used to be six and under, so I should only pay half price"

                                              2. I can only speak for myself, but I can't imagine that Clover meant to give away free fries to all non-customers. It would be logistically almost impossible to give away endless fries to anyone who showed up. Also, I personally would feel very uncomfortable taking the fries without buying something else just so I could save a couple of bucks.

                                                I guess I can understand the initial confusion and annoyance people felt given Clover's inconsistencies in advertising and the media's incomplete reporting, but it seems to me with some further reflection it would be pretty obvious what their initial intent was...free fries with a purchase.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: bear

                                                  Ben & jerries gives away free ice cream every year, I would think clover could give away free fries. Whether or not they should, different story

                                                  1. re: jgg13

                                                    But Ben and Jerry's is a premade product. Scooping a cone takes a few seconds. Fries have to be cooked in real time. Fine for customers waiting for food, but not realistic for long lines of people just waiting for fries.

                                                    Plus, I'm not sure I would compare the wealth and scope of B & J's with a small local chain.

                                                    1. re: bear

                                                      Again, not commenting on the should, but of all their items fried seem the most doable to give away. It's easy to just keep a fryer going.

                                                      Also to counter your objections to the B&J comparisons, in contrast Clover wouldn't be generating the same number of people

                                                2. omg someone's kid did not get free food ... omg someone's trendy business lost control of its PR.

                                                  1. Well it's not like he paid for something he didn't get. Free is a very ambiguous word, I am free are you? Material goods or food can be free too, keep smiling it only costs pennies more. That's the price of freedom, besides sending your kids off to war.

                                                    Buy one get one free, is that bait and switch? What if you don't like the first one, you're stuck.

                                                    1. Are their fries any good?

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: hyde

                                                        I find them meh. Maybe I just had a not so good fryer batch, but mine were always a little too done (too brown and not crisp) the 2-3 times I had them. This was from the original truck location.

                                                        1. re: kobuta

                                                          so they are not that great but everyone is pissed that they did not get them for free?

                                                          i remain confused.

                                                          -"the food here is terrible!"
                                                          -"and such small portions!"

                                                          1. re: hyde

                                                            I've always liked them. But then again they are a style that I enjoy. They are thin with skin. Kind of like Four Burger or a thinner 5 Guys. You can ask for them without the rosemary. So a darker cold and less crisp than a McDonalds like fry. They are always hot, but I only go to the Kendall truck during lunch.

                                                            1. re: hyde

                                                              Like viper said, some people like them but their appeal escapes me (then again, free food attracts anyone and everyone...). They're not terrible, but I like crispy fries with a nice potato-ey ness to them - these are not that, IMO.

                                                              I've never found their portions too small though. A normal sized portion that is good for me for lunch, but certainly not super-sized.

                                                          2. re: hyde

                                                            The thing you have to keep in mind with Clover's fries is that they are different throughout the year depending on where they're currently being sourced from. Quite different, actually. I'm not sure where the current potatoes are from but they are frying up MUCH lighter-colored and crispier than average.

                                                          3. I could just imagine the rush of Harvard Square's homeless population rushing in once they heard that there was free food - no strings attached - being handed out.

                                                            1. Folks, discussion of incidents of food poisoning and health code violations is not permitted here on Chowhound. In situations like this, where there's been so much publicity, that's a difficult line to draw, but we'd appreciate it if everyone would concentrate on talking about the food or about whether the free fries promotion was good or bad, and not about the incidents that lead to the closure.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                The moderation on these boards is really out of hand and makes frequent contributors reconsider time spent here. You're going to leave the comments about all the great things this chain supposedly did and delete context that they were forced to do these things because they completely lacked a food safety program, potentially endangering customers (and chow posters)?

                                                                1. re: Gabatta

                                                                  We've tried to leave both the positive and negative comments about the free fry promotion, as well as comments about the food itself, and remove the stuff about the closure, whether positive or negative, but there are some posts that hit on the sanitation issue that are deeply embedded in the conversation that we can't really remove without taking a lot of other things with them. It's not always possible to deal with things as precisely as we might like, unfortunately.

                                                              2. The Dewey Square truck should be up for lunch today. I'm pretty sure they're doing free fries for lunch customers.


                                                                It should also be noted that free fries will only be given away while supplies last. I apologize if this is obvious to any of you, but I wouldn't want to be accused of deceptive advertising.

                                                                1. This thread has made the thankful that the three dollars or so that i pay for fries is just not that big a deal for me.

                                                                  How come nobody gets this mad that pizza places charge twenty dollars for a product made from three dollars worth of ingredients?

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: hyde

                                                                    BECAUSE THEY SHOULD GIVE ME A PIZZA FOR FREE, THAT'S WHY!

                                                                    1. re: hyde

                                                                      Goodness, what did Simon and Garfunkle have to pay when they took comfort with the whores on 7th Avenue, in The Boxer? What did those ingredients cost?

                                                                    2. Glad you are back Clover...free fries or not!

                                                                      1. On a serious note, the new pita they are using is markedly inferior to their former pita. It's a huge downgrade. I look forward to them figuring out how to bake their own.

                                                                        1. Folks, at this point, it seems like the Fries discussion has run its course, and the thread keeps turning back to the health department stuff that we've asked people not to discuss, so we're going to lock it now.