Restaurants not honoring advertised prices

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?



about 10 years ago

I will speak to TPNL: I've never trusted that web site, nor will I ever. I'm not sure if this comment helps you on your endeavor, but your story only solidifies my thoughts.


about 10 years ago

Why the hell are you arguing with servers? Speak with someone who will get you results.


about 10 years ago

It's a recent observation of mine that organizations and businesses think of the Web last, while customers/enthusiasts think the Web first for info. Look at any site out there and notice the last newsletter, update or just new item on the site.


about 10 years ago

I think the sites are a bear to create and then people just assume: there it is. Done. Trust print only.

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

I wouldn't be too quick to trust print either. From yesterday's Duluth News Tribune:


It's not just the annoying use of exclamation points I'm calling attention to here. Twins Bar stopped doing an open jam about two years ago and has been out of business for five months. (However, it was recently sold and should be back in business soon.)

Whether in print or online, when people gather massive amounts of information, there are always old items that keep getting repeated. We do our best at Perfect Duluth Day, but I'm almost certain there will be a comment here before the end of the day revealing an embarrassing error on our site.


about 10 years ago

This sounds incredibly frustrating and dishonest. However, as a former waitress, I ask:  please don't take it out on wait staff/bartenders/etc by not tipping or by reducing the tip. Wait staff have zero ability to correct something like this, and it's not their fault. Please tip appropriately, and then take it up with management. If management isn't there, try the host or hostess, who may have some leeway on this type of thing.

As to Sala Thai: are you kidding??? I waited tables at a Chinese restaurant back in the day, and we had a lunch buffet. Which was refilled with hot food if someone came in five minutes before lunch close. Which remained refilled until all patrons had left. Which meant we most certainly did not turn off the lights and start chowing down on leftovers 15 minutes after lunch service was over.

Maybe PDD might want to reconsider Sala Thai as a contender for 'Best Asian."


about 10 years ago

I had an issue with Sala Thai 3 years ago.  I ordered from the menu on the website.  When I went to pick it up the bill was $10 more than the prices on the website.  I brought it up and the owner stated that I was looking at an old website, the prices have changed.  I asked her why she didn't change the prices on the website and she said it was old and she didn't know how. One of many issues I have had there.


about 10 years ago

Real men take their lunch to work in a lunch box.

Penny Lane

about 10 years ago

Sala Thai has good food, but yes, I've had issues there too. Once was ordering a take out order, my order was way more expensive than it should have been given the prices listed online. Unfortunately my husband picked up and paid for the order not thinking about the total, when he got home I saw the receipt and couldn't believe what we had to pay for two dishes! They don't ever give you an itemized receipt either, so you don't really have a way to argue the total. 

The other issue I've had there is with the lunch buffet. They say it's open until 1:30 or whatever, but do not go after 12:30 -- you won't get any food. We went once on a Friday, a busier lunch day granted, got there around 12:20 and half the dishes were never replenished while we were there. We paid $25 for rice and sweet and sour chicken. Lame. We complained about the dishes not being replenished and basically the guy just kind of shrugged, like, "whatever, I already got your money, I don't care."

My third issue is just an annoyance ... they are super stingy with the red chili paste sauce. You have to ask for it special (not put out for buffet), and when they bring it to you it's literally two tablespoons. For two people. Really? The stuff is about $4 for a giant bottle at Mount Royal ... now I just bring my own bottle and plop it on the table when I get there. 

So why do I continue to go there if there's so many issues you might ask? Because it's the only Thai place in the Twin Ports, now that Thai Kathrong is gone. Sad.


about 10 years ago

To be fair, due to their location it would not make much sense for them to constantly refill the buffet because it dies down really quickly. If they were located downtown I would understand, but Woodland? You have to give them a bit of a break considering where they are. 

I order from there on a regular basis (once a week) and I have not had any issues with their service from a takeout aspect. I do order off their menu on their website and have not had any issues with differing prices either. 

But to the OP ... Gone are the days of "The customer is always right." That is simply not the way people do business anymore. But then again, it is your own fault for arguing prices with a server. 

But I will say that if the customer is in the door, then you should honor the prices they have been given in a reasonable manner.


about 10 years ago

Touche, Lundgren. Consider my entry outdated.


about 10 years ago

If they did not honor the advertised price, would that not be false advertising?

Agree that you shouldn't punish the waitstaff, but the managers/supervisors/owners should be willing to charge you the advertised price.


about 10 years ago

First off, Sala Thai has the best Thai food in town hands down. I've met the owner working many times and she is an extremely nice woman. Their Phad Thai tasted exactly as the best from Hells Kitchen in New York and places I have eaten out on the West Coast as well.

That being said, they are stingy with their buffet. You have to time it out just right and get there before 12:30pm. I know they are small, but for the price they should refill. The last two times I have been there it was full, but I went early. If the owner is there it is better. A few people on the staff do treat you like an annoyance though. I suppose it does slow down around 1pm and is a smaller market.

Last, the website prices are not correct. That is what they told me a few years ago and I know it.

They are the best Asian food in town, they just need to work on their buffet.


about 10 years ago

For those establishments that charged the higher price did the higher price include tax or was tax added on top of the higher price ?


about 10 years ago

Sala Thai has great tasting food but its service was sub par. I went with three friends and the wait staff acted annoyed with our presence, our food took a long time to get to our table (we're talking 40 minutes) even though we were the only ones in the restaurant. I want to recommend the food to others but if they are treated like we were, my friends won't trust my recommendations anymore!


about 10 years ago

That truly stinks.  Personally, I don't tend to get worked up over a few bucks; but the lack of integrity is what bothers me.

This reminds me when I was in Ironwood, MI several years ago.  I had picked up a visitor's guide that had a coupon for $15 off/night (or something similar) at a particular motel.  The coupon was not yet expired and had no other restrictions listed.

I drove to said motel and presented the coupon.  I was told they couldn't accept the coupon because they wouldn't get enough money for the room.  I again showed him the coupon and asked him if the coupon was still valid.  He said yes.  He then said he could charge me $15 more for the room and THEN accept the coupon.  I was completely dumbfounded.  I politely declined and left.  I still get a chuckle about the silliness of it.


about 10 years ago

There are a few places advertised offering deals on Yelp, including some that closed months ago.
TPNL is a fairly questionable site from my perspective. Flashing ads, table based layout from 2004...

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