Chicago Better Business Bureau issues consumer warning about Restaurant.com
Loop North News

LEGAL
Restaurant.com Chicago Better Business Bureau issues consumer warning about Restaurant.com

The online seller of restaurant gift certificates and cards has “failed to alleviate the pattern of complaints,” says the consumer watchdog.

2-Feb-17 – The Chicago Better Business Bureau is warning consumers and businesses about a “pattern of complaints” against Restaurant.com, the Arlington Heights company run by River North residents that is also a defendant in two federal lawsuits.

Most of the complaints are not from people who purchased gift certificates online but from restaurant owners who say they were signed up to honor the certificates without their knowledge. Some restaurants have said they felt obligated to sell their food at a discount when presented with the certificates.

The BBB found six restaurants in the Chicago area that were unaware gift certificates for them were being sold by Restaurant.com – and one restaurant was listed on the company’s website as a participant but is no longer in business.

“Restaurants learned of unauthorized Restaurant.com listings and certificates when diners attempted to redeem the certificates,” said the consumer protection organization on Wednesday, “causing in some cases the restaurant to either forfeit the value on the certificates or find an alternate agreement with the individuals.”

Complaints are from consumers and restaurants

In the past three years, 253 complaints against Restaurant.com have been filed with the BBB. Fifty-seven of those complaints were filed in the past 12 months.

A California resident purchased a $35 gift card good for $200 worth of food but of 15 area restaurants at which Restaurant.com claimed the card could be redeemed, none had even heard of Restaurant.com. According to the BBB, the resident asked Restaurant.com for a refund but was refused.

“I was alerted that our restaurant is being advertised on Restaurant.com without our knowledge or permission,” said the owner of a restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. “The company is offering discount coupons for our products that we do not accept. I asked the sales rep to remove our listing from their website. This has not been done.”

After the BBB first wrote to Restaurant.com on October 5, 2015, the company wrote back with a plan to improve business practices. However, on April 18, 2016, when BBB wrote again, saying Restauarant.com had “failed to alleviate the pattern of complaints,” the company did not respond, nor did it respond to a request for comment by email from Loop North News.

The BBB advises consumers to check with a restaurant directly before buying a gift certificate or card from Restaurant.com.

The 350-employee company recently lost a six-year federal lawsuit filed by two residents of New Jersey over fine print on gift certificates that were in violation of state law. Larissa Shelton and Gregory Bohus were awarded just $1,100 but Restaurant.com was told to pay $190,648 in attorneys’ fees. Both sides are appealing that decision.

Restaurant.com is also one of three defendants being sued by an Illinois resident who said he received spam from them on his mobile phone.

Dr. Kenneth Chessick (right), a lawyer who lives in Washoe County in Nevada and Marina City in Chicago, owns Restaurant.com. His wife, Ellen Chessick, is president of Marina Towers Condominium Association and is listed as vice president of Restaurant.com in a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2012, though more recently, she has denied being an owner of the company. Kenneth Chessick

 Previous story: Both sides appeal attorney fee ruling in Restaurant.com case

By Steven Dahlman | Loop North News | sdahlman@loopnorth.com

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