I’ve been experimenting a bit with Restaurant.com‘s gift certificates. Basically, you get to purchase gift certificates in increments of $25 or so for $5-$10 bucks. If you find a discount code online, it can bring down the price to $2-$3 for a $25 gift certificate. I’ve tried using the gift certificates twice now and I’m done with it. Why you might ask? Well, I’ve been duped to think that these are actually gift certificates rather than glorified coupons that I just paid money for. Here’s my story. I was sitting at the Loft Bar & Bistro restaurant waiting for a friend. I was flipping through the Metro, a community newspaper, and saw a coupon ad for the Loft restaurant. The coupon was not the same as my $25 gift certificate, but it was close to it and without many restrictions. You see, these Restaurant.com gift certificates have many restrictions. Some are purchase minimum, excludes alcohol, tip automatically included, restricted days and times, and so forth. To me, this doesn’t sound like a gift certificate. It sounds like a glorified coupon that I just paid money for. Never again, will I buy from Restaurant.com. What a waste of money! By the time that you meet the gift certificate’s criteria, you would have spent a lot more money than you would have without the gift certificate. Bah!
On the flip (business) side, this is a genius idea. Make customers pay for coupons, sort of like make customers pay for the restaurant’s ad. I don’t know how much money Restaurant.com is making, but it’s a worthwhile business model that could be applied to other areas that have many deals (aka coupons). It’s like the Entertainment book, but online and individualized coupons instead of a book.