Groupons have two separate values: the actual amount paid (such as $69 for a voucher promising $163 worth of food and drink at a restaurant) and the promotional amount ($163). According to Groupon’s policy, although the promotional amount may expire, an expired Groupon can always be redeemed with the merchant for goods and services of the amount actually paid. Thus, even if the above voucher for a $163 promotional restaurant dinner expires, the voucher can still be redeemed at the restaurant for the amount actually paid, i.e., $69.
Seems easy right? Think again.
$69 for a Three-Course French Dinner for Two (Up to $163 Total Value)
Two appetizers (up to a $19 value each)
Two entrees (up to a $29 value each)
Two desserts (up to a $14 value each)
One bottle of wine (up to a $39 value)
This is a fairly good deal, one we’ve purchased before. Unfortunately, we blew it and the Groupon expired. All was not lost, as the Groupon description expressly says that “promotional value expires 90 days after purchase. Amount paid never expires...” (emphasis added).
We went to Chez Jacqueline last night knowing we had $69, the amount actually paid, to spend without restriction. Or so we thought. I ordered a drink and then we perused the menu, and came to the “Wednesday Steakhouse Special” which included various steak dishes for $15. He wanted the filet mignon. I wanted the skirt steak. Adding a salad and side would bring the dinner to roughly the amount paid for the now expired Groupon. Not nearly as good as the original Groupon offer, but one we could live with. Or so we thought.
The waiter shook his head. No, he said, you can’t use expired Groupon funds for menu specials. We asked to speak to the manager, but the waiter said the manager refused to come to our table because the policy is very clear. Refused? Uh oh, we already had the uncomfortable feeling that this was not going in a good direction. We insisted and the manager came over. He curtly said in no uncertain terms that the amount paid on the expired Groupon could not be used toward any restaurant specials. I explained to him that I understood that the “amount paid” can be used without restriction on any item on the menu, be it the daily menu or a special. He sneered and said no.
Never having expected this , we didn’t know what to do. At this point, I had already ordered a drink, and we’d started eating bread, so we didn’t feel we could just get up and leave (though, in hindsight, I wish we had). We shared an appetizer, a steak frites plate, and some cauliflower. The steak was grizzly (was this intentional?) and we left over half of it. The bill came. It was over $80. Had the steak special been honored, we could have each had our own meals and salad for far less.
So what does AMOUNT PAID NEVER EXPIRES mean? I think the restaurant was wrong. I read AMOUNT PAID NEVER EXPIRES to mean that the Groupon purchaser can use the amount actually paid toward anything at the restaurant, including the restaurant’s daily specials. In fact, Groupon’s Rules For All Merchant Offers Purchased Through Groupon supports the above conclusion:
For traditional Groupon vouchers, the promotional value will EXPIRE on the date specified in the offer, unless prohibited by law. The amount paid WILL NEVER EXPIRE and must continue to be honored by the merchant after the promotional value expires. The amount paid may be applied toward any goods or services offered by the merchant if the original goods or services specified on the voucher are no longer available. Promotional value can’t be combined with other offers. Doesn’t cover tax or gratuity. Not reloadable. Fully transferable.
This is all fine and well – I believe the restaurant was wrong in its interpretation of how amounts paid for a Groupon can be used (and in its treatment of us, the customers). But what is our recourse at this point? Stated otherwise, what is a Groupon customer’s remedy when a merchant makes up its own rules that violate the rules the merchant agreed upon with Groupon?
Why am I in this situation at all – I thought I was going out for a nice dinner at a cozy french restaurant and had a $69 credit to spend as I pleased. Instead, I had a most unpleasant experience.
What can Groupon do – or what should Groupon do – to make this right when the restaurant refused to allow us to apply the unexpired amounts paid on the Groupon as we wished? If AMOUNT PAID NEVER EXPIRES has any meaning, then I’d say Groupon certainly has some responsibility here.
STAY TUNED! TO BE CONTINUED!