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Distracted Dining: Distracted by the complexity of redeeming promotions

In this D&D, Nancy munches through the confusing world of redeeming promos.

Canadian Free Stuff - for real - sort of.

There’s a website called and yes it has a myriad of coupons for various things, including restaurants. That’s just one of innumerable places you can secure promotional coupons; discounts; freebies; bogos and other creative offers for dining discounts.

My social devices are inundated daily with pinging the next great meal deal. The trick is in the redemption of said promotion item. There is a wide expanse of a lot of misses between having a promo and applying it.

Miscommunication; misinterpretation; misinformed; missed the fine print and most annoying - missed the training.

As much as the next guy, I love to get a good deal and if you say ‘free’ I’m definitely all for it. I mean - if marketers are going to indulge me with discounts, I’m going to use them. It seems like such an easy process when you’ve go the promo. It only gets complicated when trying to utilize it.

My favourite modus operandi is a hard copy coupon redemption No complicated online barcodes to scan; websites to search - just good old fashioned coupons. Easy peasy. I present the coupon; I get the promo. Meal deals; twofers; free drinks - yes please!

Would that it were that simple. I vividly remember grocery shopping with my grandma.

It was a process. Get the newspaper; pull out the sale flyers; clip the coupons for every grocery store within a 10 mile radius; grab the purse; get in the car and travel from store to store; using all the clipped coupons and buying virtually nothing else. If you could only buy a maximum number of items with the coupon; grandma would get me to stand in line behind her with the maximum number of items. She would check-out before me with her maximum number of items, present the coupon, then take back the coupon, hand it to me and wait while I checked out. If you knew my grandma, you know the cashier would take one look at her and not say a word. She was the best!

Today, the simple act of redeeming promos more often than not makes me feel like I’m nickel and diming the establishment and somehow ripping everyone off. Why is that? Are the promos supposed to be used or not and if they are, why do I feel like a criminal? Just because I took the time and effort to secure the promo and present it does not make me extremely cheap - it makes me frugal. That’s the way I was raised.

Never have I had a server say, ‘good for you! You brought the coupon.’ Never. Maybe it’s because there are so many rules around using a promo that make it feel like who’s scammin’ who?

No longer can you just grab a coupon and go. Just like a great meal, there’s prep involved. You have to read all the fine print which, as a sidebar - the older you get - the harder that is to read. There’s usually a plethora of qualifying criteria including expiry dates, certain locations, certain times of day and days of the week, what you have to wear, read and say - the list goes on and on.

Once you’re confident this promo is for real and you’ve entered the restaurant, that’s when the real deal begins. Here’s a typical promotional item redemption process. The promo is presented. The server looks at you like you’re an alien. Nervously you begin to explain the coupon. The server squints and pulls the coupon closer for inspection, usually involving reading it, turning it over and giving it a good feel to see if it’s for real. By now you’re sweating and feeling as nervous as an illegal crossing the border. The uncomfortable silence while the server scrutinizes the coupon is deafening. Finally, they give the nod the promo is acceptable just before you were going to cave and say, ‘never mind - it doesn’t matter’.

It does matter. Recently we were excited to be indulging at an establishment that had a scene collection of points promotion on. Earn 400 points by enjoying some great eats. What a screw-up. There was a definite miscommunication between the server and us. We’d say earn points - she’d say redeem, no - earn, no - there is no redemption, earn, redeem. Finally the manager had to get involved. The guy looked like he wanted to kill someone and his gaze was in our general direction. Finally the promo was applied and the scene points were gathered. All in all, an unpleasant end to a pleasant evening.

A little bit of a heads-up to the servers about current promos would go a long way to customer satisfaction. I am one of those over-the-top friendly customers ready to thoroughly enjoy myself wherever I am. I am the one who always tries to make everyone at the table, including the server at ease. If I have a coupon or promo, as soon as I’m seated I place it on the table so the business can be prepped and planned for with the least amount of confusion and discomfort. I also immediately throw in if we are having any kind of celebration. Oddly enough, sometimes that’s enough to soften the promo process.

There are so many excellent promos out there. I just wish the process was easier. In spite of the challenge of using promotions, my upbringing keeps me trying. Grandma would be proud.

Nancy Revie is a Guelph author, motivational speaker, fitness instructor and entertainer. Visit Nancy at Her column appears every other week.