Friday, May 22, 2009

Beware of Restaurant.com

Sprint has some really neat benefits and programs available to its employees. One of which is the Sprint Portal which is an online website where employees and their spouses can search through their favorite online stores for deals on purchases. Some offers are pretty good, others are awesome!

One of the Portal's often highlighted businesses is Restaurant.com. This company offers gift certificates at a reduced price. For instance, they generally offer $25 gift certificates for the price of $10. I've often been tempted to purchase a certificate or two, but the restaurants are generally locally owned businesses I'm not familiar with.

Today, Restaurant.com offered a screaming deal - $25 gift certificates for only $2, for a limited time, limited number of certificates. I hopped out to the portal, clicked on the link, and decided to try out some of the restaurants. Most of the restaurants were high-end places where a couple would spend anywhere between $50-100 just for two meals and drinks. These restaurants had a little blurb on them that said a minimum order of $50 or so was required. So I thought, Cool, I'll get four $25 gift certificates with our date night money and we'll try out something new while exploring the Kansas City area. What a fun date night!

I purchased gift certificates for four different restaurants. Then, I called my sister cause this was a great deal and I wanted to share. She picked out a few places back in Pennsylvania for her and her hubby and I added them to my cart, too. I spent just under $50 for $620 worth of certificates.

Have you ever heard that saying that if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is? Yeah, I wish I would have remembered it before clicking the purchase button . . .

After finalizing the purchase, I went to my account to print out my gift certificates, already thinking ahead to calling for a babysitter for sometime this weekend. I clicked on the print your certificate button, it brought up the certificate and there, below the $25 certificate amount, was 2/3 of a page full of restrictions . . . such as,

-Limit 1 redemption per party, per month, per restaurant. (huh? So I'm only allowed to eat at the restaurant once every 30 days and use my PURCHASED gift certificates).

-Limit 1 gift certificate per redemption. Only one gift certificate can be used per party, even if the party is seated at separate tables and/or receives more than one check. (So I can't treat my friends out for dinner with us even if they sit on the other side of the restaurant AND I can't use more than one gift certificate at a time, so that $100 meal that I bought 4 gift certificates to cover - nope. Instead I'll have to go FOUR times and get a $25 discount, while spending $75 per visit.)

- Gift certificates cannot be combined with any other restaurant certificates, third party certificates, coupons, or promotions. (So if someone gave me a gift certificate to Ari's Greek Restaurant and I purchased a gift certificate for them on this site, I can't use both together to pay for my meal. That really, truly stinks!)


It was at this point I realized something else - I just spent money to buy COUPONS!

Remember the requirement that a minimum purchase amount must be met to use the gift certificate? Yep, that amount is ALWAYS more than the value of the gift certificate. So I basically just purchased a COUPON for $25 off a $50 purchase.

Definition of Gift Certificate: A voucher entitling the bearer to a free product or service, intended to be purchased as a gift (from Wiktionary).

Definition of a Coupon: In marketing, a coupon is a ticket or document that can be exchanged for a financial discount or rebate when purchasing a product. (from Wikipedia).

The other truly annoying factor of this is that at the bottom of my "gift certificate" it says certificates cannot be refunded, only transferred to another Restaurant.com gift certificate. So I can't even get my money back.

I'm quite perturbed. I feel like I got a bad deal from a slimy car salesman. What upsets me the most is we've been on a super tight budget as we've been paying off student loans, etc and I thought I was making a wise choice for our very meager date night funds. I thought we'd have the opportunity to do something we rarely get to do these days - splurge on something that costs more than our $5 weekly budget allows. I've been saving those $5 amounts up to do something really fun together. Now we can't even do that because even if we ate out using one these "gift certificates," the amount we'd have to pay would still be more than our date night budget.

This whole experience has taught me two things: 1) Don't trust "too good to be true" offers, even if it does look like it comes from a reliable and established company, and 2) as Dave Ramsey says, It's just better to pay with cash.

2 comments:

Carolyn said...

Actually in this case it may be better that you paid with a card. Call your credit card company and reverse the charges. Then call resturants.com and tell them why you reversed the charges.

In most cases the company won't say a thing about it. Just threaten to call the better business bureau.

Sara said...

You forgot to add to the list that many of the restaurants say that the certificate is not valid on Friday or Saturday...like Ari's. :( I fell into the same trap.

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