Sometimes Freebies aren’t Free

So I called in to a radio station the other day and won some stuff.  It was a nice surprise, and the package was impressive.  So far I’ve used three of the gift certificates, and I’ll talk about each one.  I’ve got a bunch left, so I have more blog fodder in the future.

The first item I used was a gift certificate to Roosters Men’s Grooming Center.  I didn’t know it at the time, but it turns out this is a chain, like Cost Cutters, but for rich people instead of us normal folks.  Now I know women can spend upwards of a hundred bucks on a haircut, but I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than $20 for a haircut, usually more like $10 and often I cut it myself with clippers.  (And just keep your comments about how I look to yourself, mister!)

But I had the gift certificate, and I went and got the “Hot shave and a hair cut.”  Wow.  I see why men would pay for this.  Hot towels wrapped around my face, strange ointments rubbed into my skin, face massage, an incredibly close shave with a straight razor.  And a pretty good haircut too.  I liked it, obviously.  Don’t know that I can ever afford to get another, and I hope I tipped appropriately.

The next one was tickets to see Daybreakers at Hollywood 16.  Now, my preference for movie theaters in town is the Rave, but Hollywood isn’t horrible.  It desperately needs (another) face lift, but the movie was free, so why complain about the appearance.  Or the uncomfortable chairs.  And as to the movie?  Well, it was no Zombieland, but it was fun.  I probably laughed at scenes the director would be disappointed about, but it kept me entertained.

Daybreakers is about Vampires that have taken over the world.  Humans are raised like cattle, but are running out.  The blood supply is dwindling, and the vampires are turning into some sort of savage beasts.  But then Ethan Hawke saves them all.  The end.

The last gift card I used was to Dolce at Bridgestreet.  It was a $100 gift card, and we managed to burn about $79 of it.  Now overall I was not impressed with Dolce.  We made reservations, but it wasn’t needed.  The place was pretty dead for 7:30 on a Friday night.  The table we were given was a wobbly as a crack addict needing a hit.  I honestly wished I’d brought my usually present multi-tool so I could have climbed under it and fixed it.  The restaurant itself was pretty, but confusing.  The expensive look was “balanced” by the wait staff wearing wife beaters.  And the manager came by in a button down that didn’t fit and jeans too tight for his large size.  Now I’m the last person to make fun of the large boned among us, but this guy looked like he would be taking out the trash instead of taking care of us.

Then there was the food.  We had the “Handmade Caprese Tower” for an appetizer, and it was fine.  Not $8 fine, but we weren’t paying so we didn’t care.  The wife had the Lobster Ravioli, and it was okay.  Not $19 okay, but we weren’t paying so we didn’t care.  The wife also had a “Limon Drop” and it tasted like it was mixed by a blind mixologist with no fingers.  I had the filet, and it was pretty darn good, cooked to still mooing perfection.  But really, a good cut of meat barely cooked and I’m happy.  The dessert was the apparently famous chocolate cake, but I’d had better from Publix, regardless of whatever prize it recently won that we were told about both at ordering and receiving the cake.

Then came the bill.  After ordering $79 of food and drinks, we got a bill for $20.  That was the sales tax and the “gratuity” that they picked for us.  It irks me anytime someone “picks” my level of tipping, but that’s another story.  What I don’t get is why the $100 gift certificate didn’t cover both.  There was $21 left on it, but apparently it doesn’t count.  And the only person really screwed in the deal was the waitress.  She was very nice and attentive.  I had ever intention of leaving $20 on the table for her time serving us.  I recognized that I was getting her time and food free, and that wasn’t fair to her, and after seeing how empty the place was I was frankly worried that she wouldn’t have enough gas money to get home.  So instead of adding their “forced” gratuity (and really, is that a gratuity?) to the gift certificate, they charged me.  I left the $20 and the waitress got $14.  If they management had been stand up people, she would have cleared $34 instead.

So that was my Dolce experience.  And It wasn’t a very strong one.  I’m sure there are plenty of richer people who will fawn all over the place because it’s expensive.  But if I’m dropping $80 on dinner for two at Bridgestreet, I’ll walk a bit farther and go to Conners.  Or just across the walkway, to the new steakhouse across from Dolce.  Or better yet, not drive all the way out there and eat at any of the hundreds of places I have to pass on my way to Bridgestreet.

Still to go from the Prize Pack:

$50 of Lawlers BBQ
$45 of Popeye’s Chicken
A two night stay at the Marriott
Another Movie pass
and some Botanical Gardens passes… but being members we’re looking for someone else to give these too.  Interested?


3 thoughts on “Sometimes Freebies aren’t Free

  1. Mmmmm…. Lawler’s stuffed potatoes…mmmm.

    Would beat Dolce any day, and it’s what McAllister’s wished theirs could be. Might even be better than Gibson’s.

    (We won’t expect a post about the Marriott.)

  2. Ooo, I just thought of something! I bet Dolce will close by Easter! If they had to charge you for the tax & tip, it means they do not have the cash on hand to pay up either of those. Scott’s workplace gives him a gift certificate every year for his birthday, and to some really good places like Bonefish or PF Chang’s, and they’ve always taken tax & tip out of the gift card. (We even got one, a long time ago it seems, to The Chef’s Table, which was good food even if it was too expensive. And we saw what happened to them when they didn’t have cash on hand to pay taxes and tip-out wait-staff.)

    • That’s a very good point. I’ve always been able to put tax and tip on gift certificates to other places, so why not there? We’ve already seen another Dolce Group restaurant close up shop here in town. And when Dolce opened here, they had a restaurant in LA and Vegas and Atlanta. Now their flagship store only has Huntsville and Atlanta properties. You may be onto something.

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