1 min read

The Gift that Keeps on Costing

For those of you tempted to do some Atlas Shrugged inspired gift giving:

Detroit Free Press

…But there’s another gift-giving option that looks appealing this year, when everyone is trying to stretch their budgets: dining discount certificates.

The best-known ones come from a Chicago company called restaurant.com. Its offers sound terrific — $50 gift certificates for $20, for example, or $25 certificates for $10 — or even $5 or less, if you catch a special. But read the fine print before you buy.

The discount certificates come with strings attached; they aren’t the same as giving someone a restaurant gift card or gift certificate.

Your recipient may have to spend several times more than you did just to use the present. And if they’re unwilling or unable to do that, your gift will be worthless to them.

To make the dining offers, the company partners with dining establishments of all sizes and types all over the country, including hundreds in southeast Michigan. Purchasers pay for the certificates online and print them out on their home computers.

Each restaurant sets its own rules for using the certificates. They have minimum purchases. Drinks usually don’t count. Some days of the week may be exempted. Certain tips may be required. And sometimes the guest has to order a certain number of entrees.

Here’s an example:

One bar offers a $25 certificate for $10, but it can only be used at dinner and guests must dine in, spend at least $45 on food — not including drinks — and order at least two entrees. The restaurant adds an 18 percent tip to the pre-discounted bill. Adding $10 for drinks, that brings the check to a minimum of $64.90.

If you pay $10 for Uncle Fred’s $25 certificate, he’ll have to spend at least $39.90 of his own money to use it…

Amazing how no one is stopping restaurateurs from ripping of customers with misleading deal terms — I guess restaurateurs wanted to get in on the financial innovation express to riches, and congress thought it’s only fair that everyone else gets to jump on the bankers’ bandwagon.