Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Continuing Saga of Denny's, AARP and Woodard

I mentioned that Denny’s went up from $1.85 to $1.89 for coffee. That was Denny’s—the AARP counter card still says that AARP coffee is $1. Saturday I stopped in for a coffee to go on my way to Sugarland and was charged $1.04. When I questioned the price the cashier insisted that she had given me the AARP discount. I told her that the card did not say that AARP got a discount. It says that AARP members pay $1 for coffee 24/7. I paid the $1.13 including tax because I was in a hurry and mentioned that I would be calling Corporate. She informed me that they were not corporate implying that corporate did not set their policies. She might be surprised to know that Corporate does seem interested when I call them about that restuarant which I have done before.

After leaving there I met six other elderly photographers as a Denny’s in Sugarland. I asked the waiter before I ordered how much it was for AARP coffee and was told that it was a dollar, so I told him, okay, I’ll take one. I do not know if anyone else at the table was an AARP member or not but the advertisement on the Denny’s web site says that you and your guests. I didn’t consider the other photographers my guests because we were each paying for our own. However, when the checks came all the coffees were billed at $1. They did not even ask for my AARP card.

Since Denny’s raised the price a week ago I had been to, I know, two different Denny’s and both had charged $1 with no question. So, I forgot Monday, but Tuesday I sent an email to Denny’s corporate. I was not sure the Denny’s had a phone system that dialed out so I figured I would wait a day or two and then give them a call.

Surprisingly, this morning I received a call from a gentleman that said he was the franchise owner of the restaurant where I had the problem. We had a very, very long talk. Well he listened and I talked for a very long time. He mentioned the locations of several Denny’s that were his and gave me the phone number of his “director” which I assumed was his business manager. After the conversation I decided to drive over to the Denny’s that had overcharged me to see where it stood presently. Again I was over charged.

I asked who it was that made the decision to raise the AARP price but got no answer. I mentioned that was okay, I would give “E”, the business manager, a call. So right then and there I dialed him and got voice mail. I left such a long detailed message before I gave my phone number that I was not sure that he would get the number. The cashier corrected my ticket. What is especially egregious is that this Denny’s is down the street from a medical center and every time that I am stop in there is a large number of the patrons that are elderly—probably on the way to or from the medical center. If they are ripping me off—almost all Denny’s employees know me by name and I never go into a Denny's without a camera so I stand out like a sore thumb—they were ripping all AARP members off. As I told them I can afford the extra nickel or $.52 which it will be when they misfigure the price of coffee with a meal. But maybe some of those people can’t and I get just a little activist when I see elderly getting the shaft.

I had planned to drive over to Memorial Park and do some test photographs for the exposure class tomorrow night but I was so hacked I decided to just go home. Previously I had blogged that I wasn’t sure where the problem was. Was it simply that the employees were making mistakes due to no training? Was it a decision made by the franchise owners or the management? Or was Denny’s Corporate complicit and didn’t care to correct the problem? It occurred to me that having been to four Denny’s and only getting ripped off at one on two different occasions that just maybe it was management. The owner had stated a couple of times that I shouldn’t notify Denny’s corporation but should call his business manager. If management was making the decision to mess around with the AARP discount that is exactly what I would say also. I decided to drive out to another one of his restaurants. Guess what—they also overcharged me. At that point I had received no call from the business manager. I again argued, dropped a couple of names and the ticket was changed. Once again I headed home thinking that maybe I had identified the culprit.

Just as I was about to take my exit from the freeway, I decided to drive back up the freeway to one of the Denny’s that I had passed that was not owned by the same person to do one more "test." Hoping that it was not possible to OD on caffeine I once more had a couple of cups. No problem on the ticket. Was correctly charged $1. Out of six Denny’s that I had been to since the price was increased I was overcharged at only two—both under the same management. 

On the call from the owner he said a couple of times that the employee just made a mistake. I corrected him. In both cases they argued with me—they knew exactly what they were doing and both pleaded ignorance of the counter card and neither would answer my question on who made the decision to raise the AARP price. Having some experience with “business” I am well aware that owners and upper management very frequently shift the blame downwards when questioned about policies they established.

To my surprise, Denny’s has two lines that dial out because some three hours after my call the business manager he called me. According to him it was the fault of the IT person who had not corrected the “error.” I talked even more to him than I did the owner. He didn’t get to say much. When IT makes a “mistake” it is usually a mistake that they have been directed to make or something they were not informed needed to be changed. I made it clear that I would be checking his restaurants again to be sure that it had been corrected. Only this time, which I didn’t tell him, I will be checking to see if they figure the price of coffee with a meal correctly.

I may not be able to do much about the Denny's in Orlando, Florida, but I'm going to do my best to straighten out the Denny's on the north side of Houston.

Yes, I probably blew twenty to thirty dollars in gas, coffee and tips for a nickel. It’s the principle of the thing.

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