So I'm like, a Groupon/Living Social fanatic. I have the apps on my phone and check them 2/3/4 times a day for deals, specifically restaurants, since neither one of us are big cooks and we eat out a lot. They both save us money AND introduce us to places around us that we would have never discovered on our own, and the business gets new customers. Win-win, right?
Now we've been to quite a few restaurants, usual casual dining places, where there's a separate menu for Groupon/Living Social vouchers, so you can only order off that menu. No big. I've learned to ask before we even go what the deal is with the discount voucher so we can be prepared. When I saw a Groupon Now! voucher for a newly-opened restaurant in our area, where you paid $50 for a 5-course meal (salad, appetizer, pasta, entree, desert) for a party of two, I called before I bought it to see what the deal was. The hostess explained that it was a separate menu, but that most of the things on their regular menu were on this menu and it was things like the surf-and-turf that were excluded. Ok, no biggie, makes total sense. So I bought the Groupon yesterday, knowing it had to be used today.
We go to the restaurant tonight and the first thing I tell our hostess is that we're using a Groupon. She informs us the Groupon is only for yesterday, and that it expired and can't be used today. I had to pull the original deal and the voucher up on my phone to prove to her that yes, it WAS for today, she called over the front manager who also looked at it, agreed and said fine, we could use it. Again, no biggie.
We also tell our waitress the deal with the Groupon and that we were told we had to order off a special menu. She left the regular menus with us, then hunted down the Groupon-only menus. We started perusing the regular menus just to see what they had to offer. The waitress brings back the Groupon-only menus, takes our drink orders, and leaves. The very firs thing we noticed when we started looking through the Groupon menu was that EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING, was MORE than double the price on the regular menu! So say the regular menu has pasta faggioli for $14, the Groupon menu had it priced for $32. Never mind we wouldn't have even known had the waitress not left the regular menus with us. WHAT!
Whatever, the voucher is supposed to cover the entire meal, and it's not a price thing. We confirmed this with the waitress when she came back with our drinks, and she assured us that yes, the voucher covers everything and she really didn't know why the prices were on the menu or why they were more expensive. Okay.. I'm a little nervous, but I figure she knows what she's talking about.
Dinner goes great, the food was awesome, and our waitress was a sweetheart; there were maybe 2 tables besides us, so she would sit and talk with us about whatever while we waited for the next course. All in all, a really good experience, and we both agreed we'd definitely come back, Groupon or not.
And then the bill came. The front-end manager brought it out to us instead of our waitress, dropped it and said someone would be back shortly. I said something about how we had a Groupon, and he yelled back that the waitress would handle that as he was walking away. Okay.. so we open the bill, and low and behold, we're being charged DOUBLE THE PRICE OF THE REGULAR MENU for our ENTIRE meal, $156!, when it was supposed to be covered by the Groupon! Our waitress comes back and we explain the situation, and she apologized profusely and went to find the front-end manager again. It took 15 minutes for him to finally make it out front, and which point he explained that the Groupon was for $50 off of our meal, not for the entire meal. I pull up the voucher and again show him what the terms of the deal are, and he literally waves his hands like he's brushing me off and says, no, Groupon is wrong, this is what the deal is. Okay, so wait, I paid $50 for $50 in credit, and you're charging me TWICE what you would charge me if I DIDN'T have a Groupon? He says well, we have to cover our expenses, we can't just give away free food to anyone with a Groupon. Uh, yes you can, because that's what your Groupon says. And he just walks away again, no apology, no resolution, just.. whatever, you're on your own.
Our waitress comes back and asks if everything's settled, and obviously, it's not. My husband gets this bright idea that if we nix the Groupon voucher, we should hypothetically be charged the regular price for our meal ($78) and we'll just get a refund from Groupon later. The waitress, who already has bent over backwards trying to make this work for us, agrees that this makes sense, and immediately goes to fix our bill. Magically, the front-end manager suddenly appears again and is now irate that we've apparently "worked the system." My husband lied and said that the Groupon thing was a mistake - it actually did expire yesterday, so we can't even give it to you to use it, and it was our fault, sorry for causing so much trouble, we just want to pay the regular price and be gone. The waitress backed him up, said she read it herself, she tried to enter it in the computer and it came back expired, etc (god bless her). After a few minutes of back-and-forth with the manager, he finally relents that since we don't actually have a Groupon, it would be fine for us to pay "regular price" if we don't apply the Groupon to our bill and that's that. Thankfully, we had enough cash on us, so we pay our bill with cash just in case someone tries to get creative and add more charges to our card, leave the waitress a huge tip and a thank-you note for jumping in unprompted and essentially lying to her boss for us, and go out to our car to go home.
Of course, the very first thing I did when we got back to the car was to call Groupon for a) a total refund (and NOT credit towards going back to this place) and b) report this shithole (excuse my language) restaurant for trying to make a profit when they're supposed to be offering a discount. Apparently, not many of these Groupons were sold, since it was a last-minute, one day only thing, but they already had one other complaint for that Groupon on file. The rep for Groupon was very nice and offered us a refund directly back to our credit card, then transferred us to someone us to make a formal complaint. Though they said they were going to remove the Groupon immediately, it's still up there, but the restaurant's most likely closed by now so I doubt anyone else will end up buying one. It did say they sold 38 Groupons, though, so I just wonder how many other people had the same experience we did and ended up having to pay double for a meal that was SUPPOSED to be free.
I know it's not Groupon's fault, but I really wish they would start monitoring the businesses that they allow to sign up for these things. Or at least instil a rule that prohibits places from charging Groupon users MORE money when you're supposed to be SAVING money!
TL;DR: restaurant offers a Groupon deal offering a five-course meal for $50. After fighting with the restaurant to actually use the voucher, they then try to charge us double the regular menu price for our meal and only allow us to apply $50 towards the bill using the Groupon voucher.