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Coupons and Customers


gastronaut
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Long story short; I had a customer walk into my restaurant. At the end of his meal I saw him talking with a server and absolutely berated her about the 18% gratuity added automatically because he used a coupon.

When I walked to the table ( I am the chef/owner ), he turned his rage on me and was upset about an upcharge on a replacement side, and the fact that we charged him an 18% gratuity on his check for using the coupon. The best part yet, he stressed that he had an amazing meal/service and would of tipped 20% accordingly.. but, he was still outraged about the added gratuity.

I almost lost it during the 15 minute conversation with him about why we do it (because people tend to tip on discounted meal prices).

Anyways, I'd like to hear thoughts on the added gratuity on coupons, or dealing with these types of customers.

A vision without action is a Daydream; Action without vision is a Nightmare.

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As a customer, I would agree with Tim, and feel that I was being hoodwinked. On the other hand, I can understand where you are coming from. As long as there is full disclosure on the coupon, I don't see any reason to be upset by it.

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So the coupon doesn't mention that gratuity will be added to the bill? If the customer learned that the tip was 18% only after receiving his bill, I can understand being surprised and annoyed about it (or he could have felt that he was saving 2%!!).

But anytime in the past, if I've had a coupon, I tip on the total amount of the bill before the discount or promotion is added. The coupon should state terms of use and charges appropriately so there are no surprises later.

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Long story short; I had a customer walk into my restaurant. At the end of his meal I saw him talking with a server and absolutely berated her about the 18% gratuity added automatically because he used a coupon.

When I walked to the table ( I am the chef/owner ), he turned his rage on me and was upset about an upcharge on a replacement side, and the fact that we charged him an 18% gratuity on his check for using the coupon. The best part yet, he stressed that he had an amazing meal/service and would of tipped 20% accordingly.. but, he was still outraged about the added gratuity.

I almost lost it during the 15 minute conversation with him about why we do it (because people tend to tip on discounted meal prices).

You said it was clearly disclosed on the coupon. Seems like you could have just pointed out the exact verbiage on the coupon to any reasonable customer, and that would have been the end of the issue.

That being said, arguing with an enraged customer in what I presume was the restaurant with other customers listening, maybe wasn't the best judgement call, either. 15 minutes is an *extreme* amount of time for a disruption in your restaurant with a lot of ears hearing every word. Plus, the distaste that disagreement left in his mouth will last longer to him than no matter how great your food may have tasted.

Maybe next time, you could say something along the lines (because he did say that he loved your food and the service), "Sir, I am very pleased you enjoyed the food and service, and since you did not understand the gratuity policy, we will be glad to waive the gratuity policy for you in this instance. We hope to have you back..."

Then, the ball would have been right back in his court to be the bigger person. I'll betcha he would have still tipped the 20% he said he would have initially.

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Disclosed on the coupon means there is no room to complain. He had it, he presumably read it, he agrees to the terms.

That said, such a notation on a coupon means I wont bother using it. I absolutely hate automatically added gratuity. Gratuity is...well gratuity. It's not a fee, it's not a charge, it's freely given based on level of service under generally understood terms of 15-20% being the norm depending on setting and level of service.

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Actually, no point was I actually arguing. Fuming rage inside masked cleverly by a look of concern and understanding over the situation, and I offered to comp his meal - anything I could of done. But it seems this is a trend in our area, coupon seekers not fully understanding of the "fine print".

And the only one making the actual scene was him, few patrons close enough to hear him, but he definitely did make a fool out of himself in the dining room. He left happy, paying for everything, including the gratuity.

A vision without action is a Daydream; Action without vision is a Nightmare.

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Meh....

Few months back my partner "did a deal" wth one of those coupon people who advertise via cellphones, giving a 50% discount and on top of this want thier piece of pie as well.

At first I was furious with her, threatening pyschiatric observation, insitutional commitment, financial bankruptcy, and frontal lobotamy. But the deal was done.

What was offered was a 50% discount on our "high tea" for two, regualarily selling at $26.00 per person, only valid on weekdays (weekends we do pretty good), and the customer must bring in the form which we have to submit to the coupon people. The customer pays in advance via Visa to the coupon co and mus make reservations with us.

My partner was the lucky one to inform each guest verbally that tax (a whole $3.00) and gratutities were not included.

So far we've done about 200

My observations?

About 70% were "o.k.", no problems, but only there for the discount. Less than half tipped at all, and the same amount made no purchases. ( I have an artisanal chocoalte and pastry place, with a showcase of about 25 varities of bon bons and anothe cse of pastries).

About 25% were infatuated with the food and service, and bought chocolates or pastries from the showcase after the meal. Of those, about half booked "regular" high teas (non discounted) and brought close friends on the weekends.

About 5% were "problematic", kept re-booking their reservations, balked at paying the tax, complained about our location.

My thoughts so far?

If you offer a discount, that's what attracts the customer, not the food, not the service. If the coupon states a price, that's what is in the cutomer's mind. For many of them, it never occurs to them that the same food and service that is provided to them is sold for double the price to others who are happy to tip and make other purchases.

My partner also learned that in many cases if a customer knows you are the owner, or a mom and pop, they will not tip, no matter how good the dining experience was.

But I swear, if she signs up for another 50% discount coupon to promaote our business, I'll have her committed..............

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This weekend, I ran into a "groupon mob" at a local patisserie/gelateria. It was awful...indecisive, rather rude customers interested in squeezing every cent out of the "deal", making endless requests of the staff, causing the whole place to creep to a grinding halt. Now I'm checking out groupon/living social to find out what food establishments to avoid, as I have no interest in encountering another 20-something pack of couponites.

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