My husband and I recently went to dinner at a local restaurant, Orta , that we had been wanting to try. Choosing to go on this particular evening was made easy because a client of mine gave me a gift card worth $50.00 as a Thank-you for a difficult job we had just finished. Along with the gift card she sent a lovely note that made me feel terrific. A boost that we could all use every now and then.
It was my birthday so we were hoping for a nice evening. I won't go into detail about the food or the service. It's not my intention with this post to promote the restaurant. When the check was presented at the end of the evening we presented the gift card along with the extra cash to cover the balance and a good tip.
The bartender (we almost always sit at the bar in restaurants) came back and told us that the card had no money on it. Without alarm I assured her it must have been a mistake...the card had never been used.
This time the manager, Jennifer came to us, over our shoulders so we had to turn on the bar stools to talk to her. She was trailing the receipt and carrying the card. Attention was being paid now by the customers in the bar and dining room. Human nature to want to know what's going on , right?
She explained to us that the card never had a balance put
I asked her to try again....the woman who gave me the card was reliable and responsible. She told me I should call the woman who gave me the card when I got home to find out what the problem was. I told her that under no circumstances would I call the woman .....she gave me the card as a gift and it would be the ultimate tacky act to call her. I knew she would be very upset that something she did to show appreciation was now causing embarrassment.
She came back, this time behind the bar, and said the card was not good.
I asked if the gift cards were sold anywhere other than in the restaurant. She said no...to which I replied, "then the mistake must be on the part of Orta. The card obviously was not powered up at the time of purchase."
And her reply? She said, "Unless she acquired it by shady means." Thanks...let's add insult to injury.
I assured her again that the woman who purchased it was a fine human being who would NEVER do something like that. I asked her to honor the card...we were obviously not in there to scam them...and take my information so we could follow up.
She said it was not her restaurant and she was not authorized to comp the $50.00.
Well, I'm from the old-school restaurant world. My father was in the restaurant business for many , many years . I traveled with him several times up and down the East Coast when he was a supervisor for a chain of upscale Steak Houses. His feeling, and he expected the employees to mirror this, was that every employee was the restaurant...and that was necessary for the ship to sail right.
I looked at Jennifer, mouth agape, and asked her if she really intended not to honor the card.
She said she would not honor the card.
I told her I felt she was making a mistake.
She shrugged her shoulders and said that since the card didn't work she wasn't obligated to cover it. She took my name and number and said they would "research" the issue and get back to me.
We ended up having to use a credit card we didn't plan on using. We had enough cash to add to the gift card, but not enough to cover the entire bill...which came to $107.00 with a tip. There was just a very brief moment when I almost considered not leaving a tip , but I couldn't do that to our servers. It was not their fault.
We left Orta ,walking from the bar in the back through the dining room.
Did I mention how embarrassing it was?
It really was.
Really, really was.
You have to make a real effort to embarrass my husband , he has a high threshold. That threshold was met and surpassed. Yeah, it was pretty close to humiliating. I've never had a credit card rejected in a public place...that's what it appeared was happening to us. I hope to never experience it again.
We had planned to stop at a friend's cocktail party after dinner. Both of us were so upset when we left that we decided we wouldn't be very good company and went straight home. It is in Orta's favor that we didn't go. We both would have been ranting and spewing.
On the ride home we discussed it and decided to hold our tongues until we saw how it played out and give Orta the benefit of the doubt that wasn't given us.
This happened on Saturday night.
On Sunday night , while we were at a family party, a message was left by Jennifer. She said that they were still "researching the issue" and didn't want me to think we were being left hanging.
When we played the message it occurred to both of us that we had the gift card (although I think Jennifer took the numbers off the back) and we were never asked the name of the person who purchased the card.
Knowing Orta was closed on Monday , I waited until Tuesday to call.
A man answered the phone and I asked for Jennifer. He said she was off that day. I asked for either Jimmy Burke or Joanie Wilson (the proprietors). He said he was Jimmy Burke.
I started to explain the situation and he said he had been informed by Jennifer on the previous evening at the Christmas Party. He told me they were still "researching" with the company that handles the swiping of the cards and powering them and so on. I didn't really understand what he was talking about.
I thought he would be interested in hearing the story from me and went on to explain how embarrassing and upsetting it was.
He told me Jennifer was a very nice person.
I said I was not trying to challenge that, but it was not right of her to suggest..NAY.. say that the card may have been aquired through shady means.
I told him that the card had been sent with a lovely note, a photo-copy of the menu and an Orta business card.
Is that usually what you get with a gift card?, I asked.
It is exactly what you would get with a gift card,he told me.
I told him I still had the envelope it had been sent in and gave him the postmark date.(Oct 1) I also asked if I could give him the name of the person who gave me the card, though I couldn't say whether she had a credit card trail or if she used cash.
These two things would certainly help them with their "research". At this point, I said, I am willing to call her to inform her of the problem.
He thanked me for the information and said he would continue to work on it.
Fifteen minutes later he called me back and said he just checked his email and the company that handles the "swipes" emailed to tell hi..m the card was paid for.
Well, that's a relief.. but no surprise, I told him.
He at first said he would send me another fifty dollar gift card.
I said, " Jimmy, I already had a fifty dollar gift card. A fifty dollar gift card wouldn't get me back in the restaurant.I do think there should be some compensation beyond that."
He asked...now this is important...he asked me what would make me happy.
I said , "A one hundred dollar gift card would make up for a lot.It's not hurting the..."
He interrupted me and snapped, "Why don't you give me a chance to handle this in my way".
He was very huffy and at that point I just wanted to get off the phone and said," fine...do what you think is right."
And we hung up.
Here's my view....I went in to Orta with a card that was paid for and should have worked. The client who gave it to me wished for me to have a nice meal and relax. Instead of that we left Orta paying $107.00 ....$57.00 of which I would have gladly paid. Orta got $107.00 for my meal. Due to their mistake. THEIR mistake. If this was handled properly in the first place,it would be over.The request of a $100.00 card wouldn't have actually COST Orta $100.00. They would be getting my business and perhaps my repeat business and my good words for their Restaurant. They would be compensating my husband and I for a very unpleasant experience in their restaurant. I did not demand it....he asked me what would make me happy...and I told him.
That was Tuesday evening. This is what I got on Friday afternoon:
Dear Mrs. Weckbacher,
In this age of computer technology,mistakes often happen. Why the gift card you received did not get activated we do not know but this situation resulted in an embarrassing situation and for that we do apologize.The mistake was not intentional and resulting embarrassment you felt was unfortunate.I am sending you a check for 50.00 to cover the cost of the inactive gift card.
I had originally planned on sending you a 75.00 gift card in hopes that the extra 25.00 would help emphasize our apology. We always try to make sure our customers leave happy regardless of the circumstances in the hopes they will return. Your demand for 100.00 is excessive considering it was an honest mistake. The 25.00 I would have happily sent to you I am sending to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes, a wonderful organization that helps our service men and womenreturning from the war get back on their feet.
Again, I apologize for the mistake and wish you happy holidays and best wishes for the New Year.
Okay, Jimmy. There's this:
You don't have to explain Intrepid Fallen Heroes to me. I am familiar with them. I agree that it is a wonderful organization. I have given to them. I also have worked for over ten years with the Hanson/Whitman Military Support Group. We have packed and donated hundreds and hundreds of packages over the years. We also send cards and letters, mostly written by us mothers of servicemen.
My son served six years and fortunately he came home not needing the help of IFH. I am glad it is there for those who need it.
I am happy that you have donated to them in your name in an effort to humble me.
If I made a design mistake for a client that involved a degree of embarrassment for them I would go the extra mile to make up for it. I would not go work on a Habitat for Humanity home and tell them it's for their troubles.
I have had a business in this area for many years and I have never treated a customer like that.
I consider your letter very rude and text book passive aggressive.
You asked me what would make me happy....I did not demand $100.00.
I am not a person who makes demands of people and I very seldom make an actual complaint.
My husband and I have lived in this area most of our lives.
We are always happy to find a new place to go and pass that information on to our friends. We and our friends are at the stage in our lives where our children are grown and we go out often. I know one place I will not recommend.
I regret this whole experience and if I could go back knowing what I know now, I would have just let it go and considered it a loss.
I don't know if Mary purchased more than one card on that day...because of that I will tell her what happened so she has the chance to warn the other recipients.
I hope you found some degree of satisfaction in your handling of this.
I have not.
This all started off as an act of generosity and kindness. It hasn't ended that way.