Diners Encounter Gift Card Difficulty

October 9, 2014

in Odds & Ends Stories

My wife and I decided to go out for lunch last weekend. We ended up going to a popular chain restaurant in the city. As soon as we walked in we noticed the place was slow and quiet; only two or three other parties were dining – not bad.

We were cordially seated at the booth RIGHT next to the main entrance, even though all the other parties were seated in the back near the kitchen. Both of us wanted to go to another booth, but the hostess claimed that we’d be put into another section in which another waiter already had two tables. Our booth didn’t make much sense to me, logistically. I figured we’d be closer to the kitchen or grouped somewhat close to the other parties. Anyway we said, “Hmm, no big deal,” and went about sitting. On another note it was chilly that day, so every time the door opened we felt a rush of cold air.

Not even after a minute (literally) of getting our menus, the waitress asked if we wanted drinks and if we were ready to order the entrées. I said that we wanted drinks and an appetizer, first. Fortunately, we knew what entrées we wanted (my friend told me of their house burger). We went ahead and gave our entrée orders anyway while she was at the table.

After a few minutes a different waitress delivers our appetizer. Instead of politely moving the items on our table to the side to make room for the appetizer, she pushes them around with the plate before setting it down, nearly knocking over our drinks, then walks away without a word even after we politely said, “That was quick! Thank you so much!”

Then, a runner swoops in with the entrées just seconds after our appetizer was delivered. No big concern; however, the whole point of our appetizer was to munch for a bit of time before the entrées arrived. Overall the service was unusually fast and the food was great. But then it goes downhill.

We had a gift card for $25 and our meal was for $40 (not including tip). I had some cash in my wallet that I planned on using, though it was not enough to cover the full meal, but enough to cover the difference left over from using the gift card plus tip. I gave the waitress the gift card and asked her to run it through to make sure that it worked (I didn’t want to stiff them in case it was declined). Sure enough, she comes back saying it is declined and that the system may be down and that we needed to wait a while for the system to reboot.

After 15 minutes she tries again. By this time we’ve been waiting on our final bill for about 20 minutes. Finally, after another 10 minutes, she comes back saying the card was declined again and to call the number. I urged that we called before eating here to ensure the card was active and had a $25 balance.

My patience was growing thin especially after waiting 30 minutes for our final bill, even though we were seated, ordered, and finished our meal in 20. She kept insisting it wouldn’t work and that they did not know what to do. I didn’t have enough cash to pay in full, so I reluctantly handed over my debit card.

In the end, we left a $4 tip. Usually I’m a happy tipper (giving at least 20-25% if the service isn’t horrendous). This time I only managed to leave 10% because of the combination of the very long wait for the final bill and other things mentioned above.

We called the number on the gift card, again, when we were driving home. The rep told us that the restaurant has a hotline to call to manually punch in the card number in case it doesn’t swipe into the system. It looks like the restaurant didn’t even bother calling.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

kammy October 10, 2014 at 8:42 am

I am a server and I never put an entree in until the appetizer comes out first. Granted our appetizers are queso and nachos. Sounds like the server thought you were trying to pay your whole bill with the gift card. I treat all payments methods the same. Also, I will asked if j can get a plate out of the way before setting appetizers or entrees down.


guest November 18, 2014 at 4:45 am

If you use an AMEX, VISA etc. gift card at a restaurant, the credit card company automatically assumes that gratuity will be added to the amount entered. That is, if you try to run a gift card with a $25 balance to pay a check of $25, the card will be declined because it actually checks to see if the card has $25 + 20% (for gratuity). This may be what happened here.


Eileen May 20, 2015 at 11:51 am

The reason the "different waitress" was so unsmooth is because she's not earning anything from or responsible for your table. She's covering your waitress' ass, and is probably happier pissing you off so that your grumpy and leave your waitress a worse tip for inconveniencing her and impacting her tables' service.

Or, alternative: your waitress is a little bent out of shape today, and is asking different waitress for some help, but different waitress is a bitch or your waitress slept with the cook different waitress usually hooks up with, and different waitress is therefore not interested in team effort.

… you know I could keep spinning that in different ways lol


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