ROCKFORD–The Better Business Bureau is informing consumers and businesses about the marketplace conduct and complaint history of Restaurant.com, a company that sells gift certificates to restaurants in many cities nationwide.
Restaurant.com claims on its website to represent more than 20,000 different restaurants across the U.S. While the number and pattern of complaints are mostly outside of the Chicago region the business is headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois, at 1500 W. Shure Dr. Ste. 200.
Because of its location and following the procedures set by the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), all complaints are filed against Restaurant.com are processed by the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. As one of its functions, the BBB sets standards for ethical business behavior and monitors compliance.
In the past three years a total of 253 complaints have been filed against the business by both individuals and businesses. A review of those complaints and allegations indicates a pattern in Restaurant.com’s marketplace conduct.
Individuals were unable to redeem gift certificates sold by Restaurant.com at the indicated restaurant locations, with many also stating they were sold these certificates for restaurants that were no longer in business by the date of attempted redemption.
Restaurants learned of unauthorized Restaurant.com listings and certificates when diners attempted to redeem the certificates; causing, in some cases, the restaurant to either forfeit the value on the certificates or find an alternate agreement with the individuals.
Of the 245 complaints filed 57 were received in the last 12 months. The company has addressed the issues in the majority of those complaints; however, there are six that remain unresolved by the company.
Currently, on the BBB website, the company has a “No Rating” designation due to the BBB’s ongoing review of the business.
In our internal investigation of 20 restaurants in the Chicagoland area we found 13 who are participating with Restaurant.com; and six that claim they were not aware they were listed and do not accept coupons from the business. The remaining restaurant is no longer in business but is still on the company’s website.
In response to the BBB’s initial letter, sent Oct. 5, 2015, informing Restaurant.com of its concerns, on October 14, 2015 the business provided the BBB with steps they planned to take to improve their business practices. A second review on April 15, 2016, found the type and number of complaints had not diminished or changed in nature. On April 18, 2016, Restaurant.com was notified by U.S. Mail and email letter that we considered it a failure to alleviate the pattern of complaints present. Restaurant.com did not respond to that notification.
The BBB suggests that prior to purchasing any certificates from Restaurant.com, consumers contact the specific chain or restaurant you will be visiting and verify that they are a participating business, will accept Restaurant.com coupons or certificates and will also accept its terms and conditions.
Some of the specific allegations made by the complainants are:
“I purchased certificates from restaurant.com from online through an email I received from my workplace for meal deals on 3/25/15,” a Chicago resident said. “Pepes Restaurant was the first certificate I attempted to us [sic] which was one of eight certificates purchased, after sitting and eating with my family the bill was brought to us and I presented my certificate for $25 the waitress explained that they did not accept the certificates even though the certificate was especially for that restaurant. I called restaurant.com to explain the issue and all they could tell me was that the restaurant was definitely still in contract and should have accepted the certificate, they offered to refund the money paid for the certificate but had no answers for the actual $60 in cash that I had to come off of to pay the waitress the bill in its entirety.”
A restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, said:“I was alerted that our restaurant is being advertised on Restaurant.com without our knowledge or permission. The company is offering discount coupons for our products that we do not accept. I asked the sales rep to remove our listing from their website. This has not been done.”
A complainant from Wells Maine said: “I bought a number of discounted certificates for a number [of] particular restaurants only to find out the restaurants did not participate in the discount. When I tried to get my money back [I] was only given the option of choosing another restaurant not to get [my] money back. We live where there are not a lot of restaurants that participate so the options were not anything I wanted to pick from. Just want [my] money back.”
A Colton, California resident told the BBB, “Purchased a gift card for $35.00 for $200.00 [worth] of food. 15 restaurants in my area haven’t even heard of the business and doesn’t know how they got their business on the website. The gift cards are not valid anywhere ask [sic] for [a] refund and [they] would not [give my] money back.”
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