Service of Special Promotions

May 16th, 2013

Categories: Hair Salon, Restaurant, Retail, Sales, Special Promotions

Special promotions

I bought a summer skirt from a catalog that came in my Sunday New York Times. I’d never heard of the company—Boden headquartered in the UK—I liked the look of the clothes, the prices were very reasonable and the promotion, for the paper’s readers, included free shipping, for returns too, a discount and a handbag for first time Boden Catalogcustomers. I bought, I liked, the skirt was too big, and I’ve exchanged my purchase for a smaller size. So far so perfect and customer service—I had questions–was helpful and in Pennsylvania.

Recently two friends have not had as much luck and both of them, independent of each other, shared their experiences within a week.

hair salonAt a fundraising auction at her son’s school, one friend won a gift certificate at a hair salon for a wash, cut and blow-dry. She said, “When I got to the salon, and even when I made an appointment, the receptionist was super suspicious. She examined the certificate carefully and announced, ‘it expired last month!’ I told her ‘I just got this,’ and pointed to the expiration date: 2014, not 2013.” My friend added: “Had a good shampoo though!” But who wants to go back to such a place?

SteakAnother friend, Joan Cear, shared her thoughts about what she calls “The Groupon phenomenon.” She explained: “Restaurants actively market a special offer – whether through a promoter such as Groupon, or Restaurant Week or to their own member club database. So many times, I have felt like an untouchable in a restaurant because I either:

“a) Have to ask to get the Restaurant Week menu or the special that the restaurant sent me in an email (it is not offered as an option by the wait staff).  Or

“b) When I hand them my coupon offering at the beginning of the meal I am treated with disdain.”

Joan’s husband, Jim, likes an iconic NYC steakhouse that became a watering hole when they lived in that part of town. “They email us these specials and then make us feel like the great unwanted when they are not included among the menu offerings – print or oral – and I have to ask for them.  It’s the same for restaurant week offerings.  And it happens this way every time – regardless of which branch we go to – so I think the wait staff is trained this way.

“If restaurants can’t instruct their staff to treat every guest graciously, the establishment has no business recruiting diners,” she said.

Bistro 72Joan continued, “Last weekend I had just the opposite experience in Riverhead at Bistro 72. I wanted to give the restaurant a whirl, but was afraid to spend lots of money,” on a test. She jumped at the promotion, through Travelzoo–dinner for two valued at $102 for $45.  

“I kept commending the waitress, Cindy,” said Joan who left her a 22% tip on the full price of the meal.  “It was such a refreshing experience—we ended up enjoying the meal very much and spending an additional $20–that I would go back again and again and ask to be seated in her section.”

Why, in some establishments, is there a disconnect between staff and their employers’ special promotions while others take advantage of the opportunity to transform the discount visitors into loyal customers? Do you think that business owners take advantage of the special promotions to increase traffic and actually train their employees to direct customers to pay full freight?

Wait staff

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7 Responses to “Service of Special Promotions”

  1. Scott Ossian Said:

    One of my saddest memories ever about going restaurant eating in New York was some years ago when somebody talked me into using one these 25% off things.

    We went to a now long gone, then empty Italian restaurant on Lexington Ave, where we ate an at best mediocre meal, which only remotely resembled what one eats in Italy served by a desperately anxious, uncomfortably unctuous staff pandering hypocritically in pseudo-Italian. They were trying so hard and I felt badly for them so I didn’t use the discount card and paid full price for a miserable meal.

    I don’t mind a free drink or somebody knocking something off the price of what I am buying. Some places I even expect it, but when I see promotions, I try to go in the other direction.

    To me, they represent either an opportunity to buy something I don’t need or want with money I don’t need to spend, or something not worth the price.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I love Restaurant Week; I’ve been to restaurants with friends who have coupons and I’ve very much enjoyed myself and the food at a great price–so I disagree with you.

    Your experience was far different than Joan’s. The steakhouse she spoke about is hopping with customers. I dislike staff that makes customers uncomfortable.

    Going to a restaurant is fun and a treat. Coupons allow people who might not be able to go otherwise a chance and if the restaurant is smart, it gives them such a great evening or lunch that they tell everyone they know–which is better than gold for an establishment.

  3. DManzaluni Said:

    One needs to be extremely careful about these restaurant offers. If some tiny (eg, to take an extreme example) steak house sells 10,000 special offers at a ridiculously low price, all to be used within the next three weeks, what on earth do you realistically expect if you turn up during that time to get a ‘special’ meal???

    You KNOW what you are going to get: Either a very ‘special’meal indeed, and not in a nice way or a restaurant which has gone out of business.

  4. DManzaluni Said:

    Oh, and one other thing. You can only talk about service at restaurants and take a view on the causes after seeing enough episodes of RKN or RI. They show what is REALLY going on there.

    My favorite was the Parisian vegetarian one!! Especially the background story about what happened after the TV crews packed up and went home, which kinda explained everyone’s attitude in a way no one could expect while commenting on food/service.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:

    D Manzaluni,

    Anthony Bourdain gives vivid descriptions of behind the scenes restaurant life as well.

    The steakhouse that Joan is speaking about isn’t small. If it doesn’t want too many people to apply for its special offers it emails there are many ways to control the situation. 1) Send to a small group at first, then more and more, rolling along dates for the special opportunity. 2) Don’t do it a second time 3) Note on the special that it’s first come first served, like special prices on airline seats, and accept the percentage the place can afford.

    Problem is with the places, like Joan’s NYC example, that do it again and again. It literally gives its most loyal customers a bad taste which can’t possibly be what they hope for.

    Same goes for small restaurants that learn that they can’t fulfill specials and stay afloat-present a restaurant week menu that is possible to implement or don’t participate. The idea is to generate the reaction Joan had with the Long Island bistro and accept the special as a loss leader. Grocery and retail stores have these and they stay afloat.

    I’ll be curious to see the Paris vegetarian segment.

  6. DManzaluni Said:

    FYI It’s on YouTUbe

    Watch carefully for the attitude of the Chef, if you can keep a straight face, and the waitress.

    She seems to have come over to Paris with her friend (who owned the place) for a laugh and didnt think that anyone could be serious about opening a vegetarian restaurant in Paris where it is anathema to eat vegetarian food! Or realise anyone was going to ask her to actually work!

    [HINT: I think if I said anything more about that particular episode, you would have to moderate me out. Yes, it is THAT interesting.]

    BTW I wasnt talking about Joan’s experience in particular. But the day before posting, I had tried one of those offers and found they had a special menu for the coupon people; and that the “offer” had been wildly exaggerated. Still, the food was nice enough if you didnt expect too much and we may go back to the place again to try the real menu. I suspect however that if anyone went there expecting to get the supposed value price, they wouldnt dream of going back.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Haven’t yet seen the video but remember a French friend’s reaction to a Paris restaurant that we loved that served the most divine soufflés of all sorts and the idea was to have different ones for all courses, which we did. Think we also had a salad. At the end of it the French friend said he’d never before eaten a vegetarian meal, which it hadn’t occurred to us that we just had, and that he couldn’t believe that he was satisfied.

    Hope I can locate the video.

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