Saturday, February 25, 2006

Bastard of the Day

Chili's Grill & Bar, particularly the bartender at the Chili's where I purchased gift cards last Christmas - During the holiday season, Chili's was running a special promotion that gave customers a $5 coupon card for every $25 worth of gift cards they purchased. I bought cards for several people and even kicked in an extra $5 so I could reach the next $25 increment (figuring I'd get it right back), accruing a total of $25 in coupon cards.

I asked the bartender who sold me the gift cards if I had to use the coupon cards on separate visits. She assured me that I could use them all at once if I wanted to, which was great because they were only valid for two months, January or February. The nearest Chili's is a 20-minute drive (passing many equal or better eating establishments along the way), and my wife and I only dine together twice a week due to her work schedule, but I figured we could manage to eat there sometime in two months.

Well, here it is just days before the February 28 expiration date. We planned to go out Friday night and use our $25 worth of coupon cards. We were ready to head out the door with the coupon cards when I thought to double-check the fine print on the back. Sure enough, only one $5 coupon card can be used per visit. Bastards! Sure, we could probably get $10 off by demanding separate checks (though I loathe "separate checks" people even more than waitstaff do), but it just isn't worth the hassle anymore. It would have been worth $25, but not $5 or $10. Besides, I'm not giving those bastards another dime. We went to the restaurant down the block for dinner instead, and it's better than Chili's anyway (bonus: saw Sasha Cohen get interviewed on the big TV -- she's even prettier off the ice, and unlike other Olympic skaters, she's old enough that I don't feel like a perv looking at her).

If I had known that the bartender was lying to me, I would have given away the coupon cards along with the gift cards because there's no way I could eat at Chili's five times in two months. Instead they will be wasted. This won't be a problem next year because I won't buy Chili's gift cards ever again. My ire extends to Brinker International, the corporate parent of Chili's, so my family shouldn't expect gift cards for Romano's Macaroni Grill, On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina, Maggiano's Little Italy, or Rockfish Seafood Grill either. And don't tell me I should have read the back of the coupon card before -- as far as I'm concerned, it is their job to know the rules.

If I were the bastard, I'd go back to that Chili's, order a few margaritas, and toss my lunch on that bar for the bartender to clean up. Then I'd toss the $25 worth of coupon cards on the bar, wink at her, and stagger out the door. Hey, I still have a few days before the coupon cards expire...


Jen said...

I'm not saying this is the case here, as I have no idea, but sometimes the fine print is either wrong or generally ignored by the employees. For instance, I had a special 30% off discount card at Banana Republic for "friends and family weekend," and on the back, it said you couldn't use a BR gift card and the discount. (Why? I don't know.) I thought that seemed asinine, as a gift card is supposed to be like cash, so I asked the friendly cashier if I could use my gift card and discount card at the same time. Her response? "Of course!" And it went through, no problem.

David Johnsen said...

That is odd -- usually you can't use discounts to buy gift cards (I know Borders always has that at the bottom of their coupons), but spending them is okay.

But here's how it would play out in my world: I call ahead to ask Chili's if I can use multiple coupon cards. The person on the phone says yes. I drive to Chili's, order my food, eat my food, and give my server a stack of coupon cards. Server says no way. I say someone told me it was okay. Server comes back with manager who says no way. I argue with manager for 5-10 minutes. At that point, whether I "win" or not, Chili's will just end up getting another "Bastard of the Day" entry. I'd rather not deal with it.

And speaking of gift cards, don't get me started on those bastards who deduct money from them after a certain period of time has passed. A JCPenney gift certificate from 1995 has full value, but a JCPenney gift card from 2002 has been zeroed out by automatic service fees. Huh?