Catering Dispute Hypothetical

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CarefulBuilder14
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Catering Dispute Hypothetical

Postby CarefulBuilder14 » Sat Sep 26, 2015 9:02 pm

The following basic events took place years ago. I am not in this situation at present, but it struck me that I wouldn't know quite what to do, either, if I was.

Bob is tasked with getting food for a party. He calls a franchised fast food restaurant in advance, speaks to the manager, and orders $300 of burgers and $100 of fries. The manager says he can fulfill the order, and takes Bob's debit card info and charges Bob. The restaurant accepts credit cards, but Bob for some reason thinks they are evil. This is before fraud protections of debit cards were improved.

Bob arrives to pick up the food, but what the manager actually has ready is $300 of burgers and $100 of asparagus. The manager is perfectly aware that asparagus is not a reasonable substitute for fries. There are no fries available, even though the manager said there were when taking the order.

Bob's party can do without the fries, but needs the burgers. The manager refuses to adjust the bill (down to $300, just giving Bob the burgers). Bob ends up paying $400 and takes the burgers and asparagus. Bob then complains incessantly to CarefulBuilder who had nothing to do with organizing the event and is just trying to enjoy his burger. No one eats the asparagus.

Now, as to what I'd do differently:

I'd definitely not use a debit card. Although I value URs more than MRs, I'd probably pay with my PRG, out of the expectation I'd have better protection if something went wrong. CSP is more of a small purchase/paying after a pleasant meal card.

But if the manager won't release the food without my signing a receipt for $400, I'd probably sign it.

If I mention the possibility of initiating a dispute before I get my food (as an effort to convince him I'm a savvy consumer who would win in a dispute), then the manager might insist I pay with a card other than Amex.

I'd need the $300 of burgers, and ultimately I'm willing to pay $400 for them.

So what to do? Would Amex favor my word that I wanted fries over the restaurant's documentation that I willingly paid for asparagus?
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Kevin86475391
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Re: Catering Dispute Hypothetical

Postby Kevin86475391 » Sat Sep 26, 2015 11:24 pm

A few preliminary thoughts: to me no fries would have been a deal breaker, indeed if I'm eating a meal with fries, I'm pretty much willing to share anything EXCEPT the fries. But actually asparagus are good too (but not as good as fries...better than burgers though :ppp ).

Anyway, yeah I would have paid with a credit card instead of a debit card too. I'd probably also have tried to negotiate something else with the restaurant manager such as vouchers for however many fries should have been in the order that I could have passed out with the burgers to the people at the event.

Also, one key piece of information the story is lacking is whether or not Bob was, or expected to be, reimbursed for the food. At first reading I somehow assumed this was for an office party or club event that was going to reimburse Bob. Upon second reading, it seems like the party may have been a private party with Bob paying for the food himself, with no expectation of being reimbursed, because he's the one hosting the event and/or supplying the food is his contribution to the event. If it was an office/organization party, I think Bob should still be reimbursed, and if he was, I think he should just drop it and let the office/club absorb the cost.

If he wasn't reimbursed or didn't expect to be because it was a private event, then I think he should complain to the restaurant's corporate headquarters. Even though it's an independently owned franchise, depending on the restaurant/franchise, the restaurant could still lose its franchise license if it's making the whole chain look bad. Also, the story said 'restaurant manager'; was the manager also the owner? If not then Bob should definitely take it up with the owner too.

I think if it were me throwing a party and buying $400 worth of food, and only receiving $300 worth, I'd probably just accept the loss. I would expect to spend a lot on a party and an extra $100 wouldn't disappoint me that much. $500-$1,000 sure, but $100 I'd just shrug off as part of the cost of the party...plus really it was going to be spent either way, it's just the guests didn't get the food. So I'd focus more on making sure the guests still had a good time and apologizing for the lack of fries. Complaining about it incessantly and keeping CarefulBuilder from enjoying his burger just makes the situation worse.

I'd also perhaps look for a creative solution to the fry shortage. $100 worth of fries couldn't be that many orders of fries, maybe 20-30 orders? I'd see if I could task 4-5 willing friends to go to 4-5 different restaurants and order about 5-6 orders of fries each. That's not so many that it would likely take the restaurants that long to get them together. Of course it would increase the cost of the party.

Regardless, if the restaurant didn't provide fries vouchers and/or take off the cost of the fries, I'd stop doing business with them and make sure that my guests also knew about the problem so that they could make up their own minds whether they wanted to eat there in the future.

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Re: Catering Dispute Hypothetical

Postby CarefulBuilder14 » Sun Sep 27, 2015 9:16 am

The manager is a jerk. He is not open to compromise. If he wasn't a jerk, he wouldn't have said he had fries.

I'm not sure if Bob was reimbursed. I know he paid with a personal (non-business/corporate) debit card. Reimbursement is really irrelevant to my question.

What I'm really interested in is whether Amex will favor a customer who says he got $300 of stuff he actually wanted over a merchant with a signed receipt for $400.

I'm really looking for an outcome better than total defeat.
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flan
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Re: Catering Dispute Hypothetical

Postby flan » Sun Sep 27, 2015 12:58 pm

CarefulBuilder14 wrote:The manager is a jerk. He is not open to compromise. If he wasn't a jerk, he wouldn't have said he had fries.

I'm not sure if Bob was reimbursed. I know he paid with a personal (non-business/corporate) debit card. Reimbursement is really irrelevant to my question.

What I'm really interested in is whether Amex will favor a customer who says he got $300 of stuff he actually wanted over a merchant with a signed receipt for $400.

I'm really looking for an outcome better than total defeat.


Disputes over less than full amount are pretty common. Think "charged for the rght thing, twice" and "only got 2 on 3 things ordered", etc.

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Re: Catering Dispute Hypothetical

Postby CarefulBuilder14 » Sun Sep 27, 2015 1:20 pm

flan wrote:Disputes over less than full amount are pretty common. Think "charged for the rght thing, twice" and "only got 2 on 3 things ordered", etc.

And would it be best to leave the asparagus in the restaurant, so the manager can't (at least, honestly) say I left with it?
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Re: Catering Dispute Hypothetical

Postby Vattené » Mon Sep 28, 2015 2:30 pm

It sounds like Bob is just stuck paying $400 and hoping he has luck with a dispute after the fact. Refusing to accept any of the order (since the manager refuses to adjust the bill) would be an option, but ultimately Bob was willing (and I would probably be too, if I were in the situation) to pay $400 for burgers only. I would think the card issuer has every right to refuse a dispute since the restaurant would be able to produce a signed receipt.

I think Bob would be in a much better position if he took the food without checking it - as in, just accepted a bunch of bags and paid for it. He could claim he thought he was paying for fries and did not receive what he paid for, but obviously this wasn't the case and he argued with the manager over it. I would leave the asparagus there (I'd doubt hardly anyone would eat it), so I could at least claim I didn't get what I paid for, but again this would be after agreeing to pay for it and through no fault of the restaurant.

I would definitely use a credit card, too. I'd also use an Amex just because in my mind they have the best reputation for siding with customers in disputes. Ultimately, though, they could easily refuse to do anything for you since you knew what you were getting and even signed a receipt acknowledging that. If the issuer did do anything for you, it would basically just be out of good will. I would definitely try to pursue a dispute to try to get something, but I doubt there is any legal recourse.

Do you know if Bob ever started a dispute, or did you get enough of an earful at the party that you were content never bringing it up with him again?
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Re: Catering Dispute Hypothetical

Postby CarefulBuilder14 » Mon Sep 28, 2015 3:40 pm

Vattené wrote:Do you know if Bob ever started a dispute, or did you get enough of an earful at the party that you were content never bringing it up with him again?

It never came up again. I don't know what ultimately happened. Bob makes good money and is busy, so I expect he let it go.

I think Bob's single and never learned (or at least, wanted) to cook for himself, so I think he just found a new place to get burgers.
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