My Continued Troubles with Restaurant.com

Years ago, when I was in debt by more than $200,000 from student loans, I used pinch every single penny.  Whether it was only buying things that we’re buy one get one free or walking to places that we’re more than two miles away instead of using my car, I was frugal to the bone.  As such, anytime my wife and I wanted to eat out, I would only go to a restaurant that allowed for Restaurant.com coupons.

Even more frugal (or cheap, depending on how you look at it), I would only buy Restaurant.com gift certificates when they were on a big sale.  The best deal they have seems to be the $25 gift certificate to a restaurant for $2 and once in a blue moon, I would use them.  This was in 2007 & 2008 and I probably saved a few hundred dollars over the course of those years.

Fast forward to 2012 and it’s become impossible to use Restaurant.com any more.  I live in the very populated city of Miami and when I search for restaurants within 10 miles, I usually have a few hundred results.  As such, when a good sale is being offered, I buy a handful of certificates to places I’m not familiar with but would like to try out.  The Restaurant.com gift certificates have no expiration date (in theory) so I tuck them away and once in a while, pull them out to use on a Monday night, like tonight.

But, for the fourth time in a row, my gift certificate was not accepted.  Not because it was expired, or because the restaurant did not acknowledge that I was the rightful owner of it, rather because the restaurant simply stopped working with Restaurant.com.  This time, I was told “we simply don’t make money off of these gift certificates” and so I canceled my pick-up order.  Twice during this experience, I learned the hard way AFTER the check came (once I asked before we ordered).  I’ve officially quit Restaurant.com.

Granted, I’m being too bitter over $8 spent but it’s irritating when you plan to use these and are told they’re no good.  Imagine going to the grocery store and having the teller deny your ability to use cash.  It’s frustrating, and at the same time, disappointing.  If you’ll indulge me for a moment …

The blame here is two fold.  First, the blame is on Restaurant.com.  In addition to having restaurants not allow me to redeem my gift certificates, some of the certificates I have are from restaurants that have closed years ago.  I assure you, I bought them AFTER the restaurant shut down meaning I was duped!  I suppose I could have put some time in before I bought these certificates to make sure that these places exist but to sell gift certificates to closed eateries is irresponsible.  A few suggestions to Restaurant.com:

  1. Keep better track of when restaurants shut down so that customers like me don’t spend money on useless pieces of paper.  I appreciate you have a refund system in place when this happens but it happens far too often.
  2. When a restaurant is closed, alert all previous owners of the certificate so they can be refunded or switched out.  I’ve been a customer for six years now and never received such an email.
  3. Limit the number of certificates a consumer can buy to a restaurant to just ONE.  If I loved a place and could get a $25 discount everytime I went there … that place would not be happy to see me!
  4. Do a better job of explaining the benefits of the Restaurant.com program to potential businesses.  It’s clear that businesses don’t understand how to utilize your gift certificates and think that people saving $25 on one visit are not worth the future potential.

The second part of the blame goes to the restaurants that continue to end their operations with Restaurant.com.  It’s backhanded to say you’re not going to accept gift certificates any more yet continue to keep yourself listed with the website.  If you want to terminate the partnership, that’s fine, but you should honor any certificate that was already purchased and simply cease selling future ones.

Also, restaurants having delusions that these gift certificates would make them money in the short term probably won’t be in business long.  The idea behind Restaurant.com is not that you can drive business quickly, rather that first time customers will become long time customers because of the high quality of food you serve.  The goal of Restaurant.com is to get new customers in the door.  The goal of your establishment is to keep them coming back.

Use Restaurant.com Better Than I

If Restaurant.com can make their platform a bit more user friendly, I still feel there’s a good amount of use for the consumer.  Just make sure you’re a little more diligent than I and perform a few checks before purchasing a Restaurant.com gift certificate:

  • Call the restaurant you’re interested in buying a gift certificate to and make sure they still accept them (and that they’re still in business!)
  • Make sure there are no restrictions to the use of your gift certificate.  Many of the ones I purchased has purchase minimums and could not be used for anything other than dinner.  Double checking is always a good idea.
  • Remember to present the gift certificate before you order so there are no surprises.  I once decided to wait to present the server with a gift certificate, only to learn it was not going to be accepted.  Unfortunately, I had a $50 gift certificate during this experience and my $110 bill was paid in full.  🙁

And so, for the fourth time this year, I will be requesting a $2 refund from Restaurant.com.  Perhaps I should write a tutorial on how to do that …

Last Edited: June 13, 2013 @ 12:26 pmThe content of ptmoney.com is for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. Visitors to ptmoney.com should not act upon the content or information without first seeking appropriate professional advice. In accordance with the latest FTC guidelines, we declare that we have a financial relationship with every company mentioned on this site.
About Michael Pruser

Michael Pruser is the man. After spending a ton of money to go to the private University of Miami, Michael now enjoys spending time at home, writing personal finance articles for the world to read. His journey out of debt continues 500 words at a time.

Comments

  1. In Canada, we don’t have Restaurant.com or any sort of equivilant but I do notice that on Swagbucks, there’s always restaurant.com coupons and they are pretty cheap!

  2. Bummer, I was just thinking of trying them out. I wonder if some cities are better than others? 

  3. Patricia Wensel Boeshaar says:

    I had this problem with a restaurant.com certificate. The restaurant was in a neighboring town and I found out the hard way they had closed several months before I purchased the certificate. I complained on FB then requested, and received a refund through restaurant.com. It was my first and last time to use the site. I don’t recommend it to anyone.

  4. Sheri Bush Johnson says:

    Yes. We went to use a certificate and found that the restaurant had been changed to another one and they would not accept our certificate. We were told that restaurant had went out of business a couple of years ago and we only had our certificate for a month.

  5. I bought a $50 certificate for $4. Thought it as a good deal but AFTER the purchase of the certificate, I was informed that to redeem this certificate, I have to spend at least $100. It also includes 17% tip, no take outs. That pretty much upset me. If they would have informed me these conditions in advance, I would have not bought this certificate in the first place. That was my first and last attempt with restaurant.com
    One point in their benefit is, the restaurant that I bought the certificate of went out of business soon before I purchased. They informed me within 2 weeks of this problem and offered me for a replacement but IMO, this tip is too much (what if I don’t get a service that deserves 17%)
     
    I NEVER recommend anyone restaurant.com

  6. Sorry that many of you hav had troubles. I’ve used Restaurant.com certificates on 4 separate occasions here in Cincinnati and have never had a problem… I guess I’m one of the lucky ones! There definitely is a science to selecting the right offers/restaurants – most of the time you have to spend a significant amount of money to get the most out of your certificate. We recently decided to try out a newly-opened Thai/sushi restaurant for my wife’s birthday, and selected a particular restaurant because they offered $50 certificates. I made sure there were no exceptions, read the fine print on the conditions (tip is charged directly to the bill, plus we had to spend $75 total, including tip), and we were all set. I do admit that quite often the selection of restaurants leaves a bit to be desired, but you can usually find a few gems on the list and have a great evening. We’ve discovered a few of our favorite places this way, and we’ll definitely be returning… even if they decide to longer participate with Restaurant.com.

  7. Teresa Deckert Taylor says:

    Sheri Bush Johnson what did you guys do?? Did they remedy the prob?

  8. Sheri Bush Johnson says:

    Nope. They just said they can’t let us use it. We never contacted restaurant.com. We will just never use them again.

  9. Teresa Deckert Taylor says:

    That stinks!!

  10. SeinSeinWin says:

    Restaurant.com is shit! They simply DO NOT LET YOU OUT! I’m a Restaurant.com owner and I’ve been requesting to be kicked out of this blasted website! I’m simply losing money for EVERY single customer with the pieces of paper. They say they cannot kick me out “because I signed a contract.” BS. I’m definitely no longer accepting them.