Monday, June 1, 2009

Seven Years Bad Luck

Nobody denies that running a restaurant is a tough business. In addition to having to deal with moody and often unreliable help, capricious diners and demanding landlords, you have to worry about employee theft, rising food prices, maintenance, the health department inspector, etc., etc. But sometimes it seems that restaurateurs go out of their way to make their own lives even more difficult.

Every one in the restaurant business agrees that word of mouth is important. When it's positive, it can really help business. But, when it's negative, it can be devastating. Recall the recent debacle with the Domino's employees that, thanks to U-Tube, went around the world in a matter of minutes. So, you'd think a restaurateur would do anything he could to minimize negative press.

Case in point--according to an article in the Charlotte Sun, Marlene Shields received a $50 gift certificate to The Perfect Caper, a restaurant in Punta Gorda, Florida, for her birthday. Seven years ago. In 2004, Hurricane Charley came ashore, and smashed Shields' home, which then had to be completely torn down and rebuilt. Understandably, the gift certificate was mislaid and, only recently, surfaced.

So Shields took the certificate to the restaurant where she was told that, because it was seven years old, they refused to honor it. I suppose one could argue that, even though Shields has gone through a lot of turmoil in the last five years, she was responsible for seeing that the certificate was redeemed in a reasonable amount of time. Then again, the restaurateur could look at the situation reasonably, and be a hero by honoring it. After all, a $50 certificate would cost him less than $20 in actual expenses. Think of all the positive press he could have gotten from it.

Instead, he comes across as the evil ogre who, unreasonably, refuses to honor the certificate. If I were a competitor, I'd step up immediately, and tell Shields that I'd be glad to accept that certificate at my restaurant, and I'd accept all the acolades that came along with such a gesture.

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