A friend of mine wrote this letter to the Ritz Singapore. Evidently, a friend of hers made a reservation at the restaurant there on the basis of a lunch promotion but was told her phone reservation was only TENTATIVE and refused to honor it:
I am writing with reference to your current lunch promotion at the Greenhouse Cafe.
About a month ago, I booked a table for four at your restaurant for today, the 14th of July, to celebrate a friend's birthday. Per the terms of your promotion, we were to have enjoyed a 50% discount on the total bill, having booked more than five days ahead.
Upon arrival at the restaurant today, however, I was told that my reservation had not been confirmed, and, as such, Greenhouse would not be able to honor my reservation. After clarifying, it emerged that my initial call to you only counted as a tentative reservation, and I needed to produce a printed email confirmation to get my table and the 50% discount offer.
Please note that at no time during the phone reservation was I asked for my email address, nor did the person taking my reservation explain to me that I was only making a 'tentative reservation'. I explained this to the host on duty that day.
I believe that the proper response would have been an apology and an offer to let us enjoy the promotion anyway. After all, the host was able to trace and retrieve my initial phone reservation. As far as I was concerned, I had more than fulfilled the terms of the promotion, which was to make a reservation at least five days in advance.
Instead, he very kindly explained to me that restaurant policy dictated that the terms of the promotion would not be honored sans printout. No apology was even offered, and certainly nothing even approaching some form of compensation for an error that was no fault of mine, but which ultimately resulted in a complete waste of my time that day. I'm sure you'll agree that you, too, would not have been satisfied with a canned response such as the one I got: that he would 'raise this to management and ensure it doesn't happen again.' Quite frankly it did not matter to me whether it happens again, as I'm not likely to return to see that it doesn't.
I'd like to seek some clarification - I'm not sure what it means to your staff when customers make a reservation over the phone - are all your reservations then 'tentative' reservations? I have never in my life been so indecisive as to have to make only a tentative reservation for lunch; I decide on a lunch date and make a booking only when I am sure I can make it.
There are only two conclusions to be derived from this episode - one, that your staff is clearly lacking the training that befits a hotel of your supposed calibre and that they themselves had not been fully informed of the convoluted terms of your promotion; or two, that your establishment was never very sincere about offering this promotion to your customers in the first place, given that you've obviously made it as difficult as possible for customers to take advantage of this. I'm sure you'll agree with me this is bordering on dishonesty.
(As a marketing professional myself, I'm familiar with the need for terms and conditions on special promotions, but I draw the line at deception and dishonesty)
I have to, however, thank you for providing me with an excellent case study on PR and marketing, which I intend to refer to as an example of what not to do in discussions with my clients. Fortunately, my day was not completely wasted, as I was able to salvage the situation by celebrating my friend's birthday at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, where we had an excellent lunch at the MELT World Cafe. Happily, the service there was excellent.
I'm not sure how, if at all possible, this negative experience at your establishment could be remedied. I am doubtful that I will ever set foot there again, and, I think, neither will the many friends I've told this story to.