Using Groupons: Do’s and Don’ts

Recently, one of my favorite blogs wrote a story about the Groupon Apocalypse.  This is the week before all of the groupons that have been sold for a restaurant expire.  Suddenly all of the guests who bought these six months prior feel the urgent need to use them immediately.  I have heard plenty of horror stories about this time from the servers I know who have survived it.  The restaurant where I currently work has provided me with my first groupon experience.  I am not looking forward to my first “expiration week.”

In the past, I have written about how servers and managers should prepare for the onslaught of groupons.  I have even discussed my ethical concerns with groupons.  Today though, I wanted to address some tips for guests who choose to use them.  If groupons worked as intended when the salesman sold the owner on using them, then there would really be no hostility towards people who use them.  A server does not lose money if you use a groupon and tip correctly.  If you follow the rules of basic etiquette, then we can all enjoy the meal while you save money.

The problem is that many guests who arrive at a restaurant’s door with groupons, are more concerned with cashing in on their deal than having an enjoyable meal.  They often are walking in with an attitude that says, “Now I am going to prove that this expensive restaurant is not really worth it.”  You may see this as cynical, but I have watched a guest typing a review into Yelp on their phone as they were being seated.  This understandably places the server on edge.  We want you to relax and enjoy your meal, not sit down in a restaurant like an amateur Gordon Ramsey.

To help you understand the etiquette of dining with groupons, here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind.  It may also help you understand why your server may not be the biggest fan of groupons.  Each of these “don’ts” are based on actual events I have personally witnessed.   

Do tell your server towards the beginning of your meal that you have a groupon.

Don’t make it your reply when your server asks “how are you today?”

Do read the details of the offer to make sure it is valid when you want to use it.

Don’t get mad because you didn’t read the “fine print” that is in 16 point bold font which says, “not valid on Holidays.”

Don’t tell me while wearing a pastel dress and huge hat after church on Easter that you didn’t know Easter was a holiday.

Do leave it on the table so I can process it as soon as I make sure you are enjoying your entrees and while you are finishing them.

Don’t just slip it into the book with some cash and expect to walk right out.  It is a black and white piece of paper.  People do make photocopies and try to pass them off as originals.  We need to verify them first.

Do remember that dining is supposed to be relaxing and fun.

Don’t start composing you negative review on Yelp before you even sit down.

Do tip on the amount before discount.  Finding a manager to process the coupon adds one more step to our process.  Just because you are paying less, the server actually does more work.

Don’t get $40 off a $70 meal and leave $6 thinking you left 20%

Do feel free to be value oriented.

Don’t think you are on the Price is Right.  The goal of a groupon is not to get as close as you can to the discounted amount without going over.

Do remember that a table is the square, rectangular, or round piece of furniture that you are seated at.

Don’t think that asking for 8 separate checks means you can use 8 groupons and get around the “one per table” clause of the groupon.

Do splurge a little with your discount.

Don’t complain about the prices.  You are receiving a large discount.  The menus were available online.  The price you can buy your meal for in the store is not the same as what a restaurant has to charge to stay in business.

Do come back to the restaurant and dine again.  That is why we offered the groupons in the first place.  We offered the discount to have you try us out.  We hope you enjoyed the meal.  The restaurant most likely lost money on the meal.  That is okay because we are convinced that if you try us you will come back.

Don’t refuse to return to any restaurant without a groupon and then begin to wonder why restaurants stopped offering them.

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5 comments on “Using Groupons: Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Maggie on said:

    Although many of our customers did spend over $50 and most tipped on the amount before discount, there were those who came in the last couple of weeks and tried to use the groupon twice, (being very upset we did not honor the groupon) were surprised they had already used it, or left it in the check presenter and bolted out the front door. After sending Groupon the name, phone number, and address, (information either found online or phone book), they were able to collect some of the money lost and sent us a check. It did bring us much business and some return customers, I am just not sure we will do it again.

    • David Hayden on said:

      I think most owners know walking in the financial costs and make a calculated decision on whether or not to participate. It isn’t an easy decision. It is negative experiences that like these that you don’t anticipate that can leave a bad taste in your mouth.

  2. Kitchen Ninja on said:

    groupon is hell. Just plain hell. The first week every one buys them, then immediatly starts cashing in. It’s like valentines day. all week long. You go to answer the phone to take their reservation, and the conversation goes like ” Bob’s Restaurant, How may I help you?” them”I HAVE A GROUPON.” you “ok. would you like to make a reservation?” them “I HAVE A GROUPON”.

    The servers hate it because the tips are horrible. I hate it because you get the valentines day sort of crowd. People that don’t usually dine out, but their doing it now- and it better be damned special. This means allot of well done steaks, S.o.S, people asking for sauces from different dishes instead, all wanting to come at exactly 7:30, having the server come back to the kitchen because their table wants you to ‘pick a dish for them to try’ , asking for more bread…..always more bread with the groupon people. I’ve sent out more “server bread” this week than I can ever remember. A groupon apocalipse it is indeed. The last week is just a bad. Try telling telling them on the phone that there are no tables available for saturday night, and they flip out. “BUT I HAVE A GROUPON THAT GOING TO EXPIRE!!!” tough luck crumb snatcher. Never do groupon. If you love your restaurant, your kitchen zen, if your a server that likes getting tipped more than 5%. Some one should toilet paper the groupon headquarters.

    That was my rant. Thank you.

  3. I absolutely love most of my Groupon experiences, but I would never act so entitled as to not tip correctly or act like an extreme couponer. This review makes me think twice about using Groupon though, I would rather pay a little more and be respected, instead of judged, by the waitstaff. The Yelp reviews are unnecessary unless something is very wrong. I have written negative reviews after being ignored by a waitress for an hour and a half, then served cold food and was never asked if we needed a refill. Now it makes sense– must have been the Groupon and her immediate assumption that I am cheap.

    • David Hayden on said:

      I am not sure where the perceived judgement is coming from. No one is judging people who follow the “dos” on the list. They get treated the same as any other guest. If you act like any other guest, you get treated like any other guest regardless of the amount you pay. I think nearly every person in nearly every occupation judges those who make their jobs needlessly difficult or are rude. Whether you are at a restaurant, a Doctor’s office, or the DMV the service you receive will be better if you are polite and don’t make the process of doing their job more difficult. I find this to be the case whether you are paying half price or double. It is a human trait rather than one specific to servers.

      My goal in the post was point out some of the more absurd situations I have personally witnessed regarding Groupons. That being said, the people following the “dos” greatly outnumber those following the “don’ts”. I don’t judge every guest using a Groupon by the standard of the worst experiences any more than you judge every server by the service experience described about. I don’t take your description as judgement of me as a server and you should not take my description of rudest of guests using Groupons as an indictment of you using a Groupon. Unfortunately, Yelp does not allow me to review guests so I use my forum instead. I don’t think either of us are bad or judgmental people because of it.

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