Twice in the past week I have gone to local Duluth restaurants due to specials I have seen posted on their websites or on Twin Ports Nightlife only to be told once I got to the restaurant that they were no longer honoring that price. When I explained that I specifically made the trip to that restaurant to get the advertised special, servers at both places have acted annoyed and refused to honor the price. No apologies, no offering to give me the discount since it is their mistake, nothing.
The first incident occurred last Wednesday night. I had worked through dinner and finally had a chance to get some food at about 10pm. Knowing that many local places offer good late night happy hour specials, I went to Twin Ports Nightlife to peruse the advertised happy hour specials. It was a tough choice: $5 apps at Tycoons, $5 pizzas at Black Water, half off pizzas and flatbreads at Black Woods.
Even though it was the farthest from my home in Piedmont, I chose Black Woods after checking out their scrumptious flatbreads on their website. I got to Black Woods at about 10:30pm, starving, and ordered a half-price Dubrue and then took a glance at the app menu on the bar. I was told by the bartender that only the items with an orange dot next to them were on special. I explained that on Twin Ports Nightlife Black Woods advertises that the flatbreads are half off for late-night happy hour and that I had come specifically for this special. She repeated that only the items with orange dots are on special. Not wanting onion rings or chicken wings and having my heart (stomach) set on a flatbread, I ordered the shrimp flatbread that had drawn me to make the cross-town drive. She again reminded me that I would have to pay full price for it. Fine. If it weren’t for the tasty brew already in front of me, I would have backtracked to one of the other venues offering tempting late-night specials.
I sent Black Woods an email to let them know of this disappointing incident. While I have not yet received a response, I did notice that today they updated their happy hour listings on TPNL.
I experienced a similar incident today at another locally-owned establishment. After seeing that Sala Thai has made it into the finals for the PDD Best Asian Restaurant poll, I decided to check out their website. It advertises its “outstanding” lunch buffet: “Eat as much as you want — it’s only $7.95.”
Awesome. I had to be in Woodland for work today anyhow, so that’s where I went for lunch.
I got there at 1:15pm and was told the buffet had been unplugged about five minutes ago and they would not be refilling any of the items, as the buffet ends at 1:30pm. Fine, then. Most items were still sufficiently stocked so I proceeded to fill my plate. I ate and read my book and at 1:30pm the staff took out the trays of food and started helping themselves. Around 1:45pm, when I was the only customer left in the dining room, the staff turned off the lights. Although not yet planning to leave, my beverage sat empty and it was too dark to read, so I took the hint and went to pay my bill. When I noticed I was charged $10.95, I mentioned that their website advertises the price of the buffet as $7.95. The cashier stared at me blankly. He told me the price was $10.95. I asked if I brought in a print out of their website where it lists the price as $7.95, I could get the difference in price refunded. The annoyed cashier said, “Probably not. That has not been the price since we opened (several years ago).”
How am I to know that they have not updated their website in several years? $7.95 is the price of the Oriental House II buffet downtown where I eat several times per week, so it seemed like a perfectly reasonable price for their buffet. Why should I assume that a similar buffet with fewer items would cost nearly 40 percent more? Why should I have to pay this when their website lists the price as $7.95 and I have no reason to believe that price is wrong?
What’s a customer to do? Why wouldn’t a restaurant honor the deal and instead risk losing a customer over a few dollars? It’s really frustrating to go to a restaurant based on its posted online prices and specials and then have them refuse to honor the price and treat me like I’m out of line for expecting them to honor the price that induced my visit.
A few years ago, when I was less tactful, I would have likely caused a scene, refused to pay the higher price, and demanded to see the manager; but then, a few years ago it seems that by simply pointing out this type of issue the restaurant would have done the right thing and honored their posted price. Even if their pricing changed, if they failed to update their advertisements, they did right by the customer and honored the deal.
I tend to assume that these incidents are a result of poorly trained employees who lack customer service skills and are not based on actual store policy. I have a hard time believing that a small business owner would be so short-sighted. Thoughts?