Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Continuing Saga of Denny’s and the Elderly

Saturday evening I returned the Denny’s south of me where I was told the last time I ate there that the coffee was only $1 in the mornings. The man at the register got so angry when I pointed out the 24/7 on the counter plaque that he called a woman to come up from the back to deal with me.

This time I asked for a separate ticket for coffee and made sure that I received it before I ordered a meal. However, when they brought me the meal ticket the coffee was billed on it also. I had the waiter take it back and remove the coffee. At the checkout I gave them the coffee ticket first and the cashier quoted me a price of $0.92. I told her that was wrong. The coffee was $1 and with tax that was $1.08. She had deducted a $1 rather than charged me a dollar. She started over after she slammed the cash drawer. It was very obvious she had no idea what she was doing and she was angry, so I asked her why she was getting angry and she didn’t answer. Seems this Denny’s needs anger management training. After we got the coffee priced correctly and paid for we started on the meal ticket which she did do correctly. However all the time she was mumbling that they can handle the discounts when the coffee is on the same ticket. I simply told her that they never had yet. After several minutes I received the correct discounts and went away happy. Don’t know that I can say so much for the employees.  

Last night I went to the Denny’s north of me that had been unable to get the ticket to come out right and thus prompted my last call to corporate. I was there for almost an hour. When I arrived there was one table of about six elderly men—I looked but none of them had ordered coffee. While I was there two young couples came and left. This time I did not ask for the coffee on a separate ticket. I had ordered a grand slam, $5.99, and coffee. The bill should have come to $6.27. At the register they asked for $6.79. Beulah, a waitress that had been involved in my last visit was sitting at the counter nearby so she reluctantly came over, punched a few buttons and quoted $5 and something. I told her that was wrong. Since I was the only customer in the restaurant I asked if I could come behind the counter and observe how she was entering the ticket and she said I could.

There are a couple of really easy solutions depending upon how their system is configured. First they could deduct the $1.85 for coffee, calculate the 20% ticket discount, add on a $1 for coffee, subtotal and calculate tax. As best as I can tell, the Denny’s system will not let you do that. After applying the discount to the meal, when you enter the $1, it removes the discount.

Beulah tried it first using the AARP card they scan before entering the AARP purchases. After trying it several different ways no method produced the correct price. So she circumvented the card and tried to enter it manually—neither would that work correctly. Of all the methods the closest that the register would figure to the correct price was $6.05 so that is what I was charged. I was very appreciative to Beulah for her patience and for the lesson on how the Denny’s system is programmed.
In the end I concluded there is no way to include the coffee on the same ticket as the meal and get the Denny’s system to calculate the price correctly. Surprisingly it often comes up with a price that is much lower than it should be. I suspect that because the system can't handle it, is the reason that I have never heard back from Akilaa’s supervisor. To be fair, I very often do not hear the land line phone when it does ring, so a call may have been placed that I missed. Email is my primary communication tool and I have received no emails from Denny's.

The second method I suggested I don’t believe that she tried but I think it might actually work. With the coffee on the meal ticket, rather than deduct $.85 for the coffee, deduct $.60 for the coffee. That makes the coffee $1.25 and when you apply the 20% discount will bring it down to $1

However, at the present the only way that an AARP member is going to pay the correct price at checkout is to insist that the coffee be put on a separate ticket and to pay for it separately. This would also work for Denny's to instruct their cashiers to remove and bill the coffee separately. Yes that is more trouble but it's a lot less trouble or time consuming than dealing with me until they get the price right.

After a month of this I can assure you that if you are using an AARP discount, eat at Denny’s and order coffee with a meal that you are going to be overcharged for the coffee. They advertise that AARP pays $1 for coffee 24/7 but order coffee with a meal and you will be billed $1.48. $.48 is not a lot of money but to me it is the principle of the thing and when I eat at Denny’s I am going to pay $1 for coffee no matter how long it takes them to calculate the ticket.

When I originally posted about this on my blog one of the respondents said that under these circumstances she would just have given up and never traded at Denny again. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is happening to the people that snap to what is happening. I know what prompted this research was when I overheard another elderly customer angrily demanding the Denny's corporate phone number. That is when I concluded that I was not the only one that noticed the incorrect pricing.  
I think that is unfortunate because Denny’s is one of my favorite places to eat—I go several times most weeks for the eggs and coffee because I love eggs and I don’t make coffee at home. So I will continue to buck the system and pay the right price and I will continue to correspond with corporate about the difficulties and the displeasure. Unfortunately it seems obvious that this is a nationwide problem, not just in Houston, because another respondent mention the same problem in Orlando.
Denny’s has a massive failure in passing on instructions to the franchises, or the franchises have poor employee training or some of the franchise owners are balking at the AARP discounts. If you advertise a price you really should be able to correctly charge that price and Denny’s is not doing it.

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