I don’t normally go for the coupon dining experience. Lately, the experiences I have read online how groupon/living social/etc. has created scenarios that rub me the wrong way. People come in for the coupon, expecting cash back if they don’t spend the entire amount. Um, doesn’t work that way.

People swarming a particular establishment because the offer is only good for so long, and service takes a dive because they can’t keep up. This ends up hurting the business because those who have a bad, albeit steeply discounted experience don’t come back. And, the worst of all, the same extreme couponing asshats we see on TV are cut from the same cloth as those who notoriously don’t tip and that’s just disgusting.

Yet, we found ourselves on the receiving end of one of these deals. It was an anniversary gift for a restaurant that we used to enjoy going to in years past, but has changed hands a few times. I imagine the coupon was intended to ramp business up again. We received it April (for our September anniversary), but it expired at the end of August so off we went.

What I found funny was that we were seated in a room with all the other couponers, each going through the same explanation. As the coupon read, we thought we would be able to pick an appetizer to share, two entrees and a dessert. What it was, in practice, was a pre-determined appetizer (Parmesan risotto with chicken and roasted veggies – not something I would have really eaten normally, and something my fussy eater husband definitely wouldn’t eat), two entrees of our choice, and a pre-determined dessert (some kind of panna cotta, which neither of us would eat).

Considering the offer, we ended up ordering extra things, which was fine with us. We also declined half of the items offered by the coupon, rendering it essentially useless for our us. I appreciate what they were going for, but ultimately, it wasn’t what we wanted, which was the freedom to pick the appetizer and dessert we wanted.

Still, considering the two waiters working the room entirely made up of couponers would not be getting tipped as they would for a real nights work, at the end of a perfectly pleasant meal, I tipped extra in the hopes of making up the difference. We hadn’t been particularly difficult, but I could tell that it was becoming difficult for our server to work the coupon around the meal we wanted. I felt bad. I know what it’s like to work in these settings. The big tip was a promise that we enjoyed ourselves and would be back. And we will be back, just not until the coupons expire so we can get back to the way we like to order.