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Using a restaurant coupon? Don't be a jerk

A guide to using your coupon without demonstrating to the server that you're stupid or cheap.

By Karen Datko Feb 8, 2010 4:55PM

Lots of restaurants are so desperate for business right now that dining coupons are relatively easy to come by. (And we help you locate them every week.) That being said, there’s nothing wrong with using a little etiquette while you’re getting 20% off, or two dinners for the price of one, or a free appetizer or piece of cheesecake.


It appears that some of you have been acting like jerks. Hanna Raskin observes in a post at Slashfood that “coupon users tend to be among the most impolite diners.”


To avoid being that person, read her tips. Among them:


Know thy coupon. “A coupon is a gift from the restaurant, not a negotiation tool,” she writes. That means the information in the fine print is final, not a suggestion. If it says it applies only to dessert, that does not mean an extra bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy or onion rings. If you don’t understand the terms, ask before you order, not after you get the bill.

Neither is your coupon a prop. She says that some people are so nervous they’ll be charged full price that they’ll build “a little coupon shrine” on the table. “See me! Don't overlook me!” it screams. “All that conveys is cheapness, which is what all servers dread,” Raskin writes.

What’s a diner to do? We like this suggestion from a reader named “dtm”: “I think it's reasonable to ask the server at the beginning of service -- along the lines of, ‘Is it possible to use this tonight?’ Ask this with the drink order and then consider your food options.”


Some of Slashfood’s readers objected to Raskin's tone. (We found it to be entertaining.) The comments at her post suggest there’s a big disconnect sometimes between people who dine and the employees who wait on them.


How does her final point sit with you? She says you should tip as you would if you were paying the full price of your meal. Some coupons spell out an 18% tip on the regular price, she says. If your coupon doesn’t, remember that “your server works just as hard to bring you a free meal as one purchased without a coupon.”


Related reading:

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