So, this guy walks into a restaurant. Yep, this sounds like the opening to a joke with a punch line, doesn’t it?! He has a coupon for a meal taken from a fundraiser book sold to him by a friend. After he shows the counter person the coupon prior to placing his order, the counter person’s response is that the coupons are no longer accepted at that particular location. What?! The coupon is valid for another four months! When losing out on savings opportunities, sometimes it is worth the effort to pick up the phone and ask “why” the discount is no longer available.
When faced with a bit of confusion on a discount, it is best to get a phone number, and get the facts. In the situation described, I asked the counter person a couple of questions to obtain the information that could help me research:
- Why are the coupons no longer taken?
- Who can I communicate with to find out more?
The employee was more than happy to provide me with a name of the store manager; the phone number the manager could be reached at, as well as the next shift the manager would be available. Perfect. Let’s face it: restaurant employees are not always privy to the specific details of the rules for a variety of reasons. And in almost all cases, the rule changes are not in their control. So, if you are truly interested in finding out why a discount is no longer being offered, the best option is to obtain contact information for a manager, decision maker, or administrative employee who can provide a better explanation. In these situations, I also do my best to explain to the employee that I realize it’s not their fault, and I appreciate their efforts to provide further information.
Following through with making a phone call is important, as you may be surprised by the response. In this case, I waited to call until an appropriate hour. Calling a manager of a restaurant during the opening minutes of a shift or during a lunch/dinner rush may cause a short or curt response. Timing provided me with the opportunity after a lunch rush would probably have ended. The manager was more than happy to take my call and provide an explanation. However, the explanation was not much more detailed than what the counter person had told me a couple of days earlier. So, the manager asked me to hold and placed a follow-up phone call herself in order to provide me with a better response. I waited willingly out of curiosity (as well as for article-writing research!).
The manager provided a valid explanation, as well as an apology. Apparently, there were two or three different factors leading to the location being instructed to refuse the coupon. Administrative communication and fraudulent coupons were both cited for the refusal policy. However, management made the decision that these factors had been resolved and the coupons could again be accepted by the restaurant. The manager stated that her task action steps would be to inform employees, take down the current sign regarding refusal of the coupons, and post a note announcing the coupons could be accepted. During the conversation, the manager expressed her own surprise regarding the policy, and apologized several times for any inconvenience I might have experienced.
Investigating the cause of the policy can sometimes reap rewards. Admittedly, I was already building my case against the restaurant. In fact, through several conversations after “the incident,” I had already begun to formulate this article in my head from a different perspective. I am pleasantly surprised to be able to say that not only did the restaurant manager handle the issue appropriately, but that I learned something from the experience. Instead of assuming the negative result, a phone call can result in future savings. Every now and then, it is worth the effort to pick up the phone and ask “why” when it comes to a discontinued discount policy.
Image credit: sonic.net