Friday, January 4, 2008

New Year's Eve Bait and Switch

This past weekend, my husband and I drove down to his parent's house to celebrate Christmas, New Year's, and both of our birthdays with them. On New Year's Eve, we drove into Baltimore to go to their Spectacular, complete with live music and fireworks.

We decided to go out to diner before the fireworks, and called the day before to make reservations. When I gave the restaurant my name, they also took a credit card number to hold the table and noted that, should we cancel our reservation, it would be charged $50. This should have been my first hint that trouble was afoot. Naively, I thought they needed to take credit cards because it was a busy night and didn't want to be holding a table for people who weren't going to show up. While I'm sure that was a part of it, there was more to it.

Before we went into Baltimore, I checked out the menu on the restaurant's website. The entrees ranged from $18-$40, which is much more than we usually spend. However, we knew that this was a special occasion and had prepared for it. I picked out a meal before we went for $21, planned to have one drink and then switch to water, and figured I was golden.

When we got to the restaurant, it was an entire different story. We pranced in and were told they were using a special menu for the night. OK, no big deal, I can pick something else to eat. Until I saw the menu. Then I freaked out.

Everything on the menu was a package - appetizer, entree, dessert, soft drink, coffee & champagne toast. There was no option to just pick an entree and call it a night. Worst of all - the cheapest package was $53. Our cost had essentially doubled and there was nothing we could do about it.

We considered leaving, but the $50 hold on the credit card made it pretty pointless to do so - any other place we chose to eat would cost about $50 and, with the credit card hold, we'd be right back at square one. So we stayed and chose to enjoy ourselves instead of getting angry and ruining the night. And you had better believe we got every single thing offered as an option.

The restaurant really handled the situation poorly. First of all, it was way too much food for one person to eat. Generally we split an appetizer or a dessert, never mind each ordering our own of both. I was bursting at the seams after eating everything out of spite. In addition, there was no mention on the website or when I called to make the reservation of the special menu with the higher prices. I really feel like we were duped and tricked into spending more money than we normally would. I'm not sure what the advantage of this is for the restaurant - obviously, the make more money, but we couldn't have been the only ones who felt tricked. It has turned me off to that restaurant and eating out in general - which, I suppose is good for the budget in the long run. I'm sure that won't last too long!

Afterwards, the fireworks were Spectacular!


wealthy_1 said...

E-mail me the name of the restaurant. I'll be sure not to visit it when I'm in Baltimore.

JvW said...

You've got mail.