Alcohol and Crazy Groupon Usage Lead to Tension and Frantic Calculations at Mystery Boston Bar

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Alcohol, youth, and Groupons don't mix. Photo: istockphoto

The holidays can bring out the Scrooge in all of us. But splitting a bill 47 ways? Then throwing Groupons into the fray? Who does this? College kids celebrating the end of finals, apparently. After reading about this exercise in cost-cutting on the popular watchdog blog Server Not Servant, we suspect they're either MBA students or else in possession of zero social skills. Perhaps both. Read on for a dramatic play-by-play, followed by a fun guessing game!

The tale of woe unfolded thus:

At approximately 11:15, a handful of guests walked to the hostess stand and announced that a party of 30 would soon descend upon the restaurant. After welcoming the guests and confirming that the group did not have a reservation, the hostess told them she would seat them momentarily, needing to move tables and the like.

Per the blog, things quickly escalated into triage mode: "The GM became waiter/busser/food runner/kitchen expediter; the executive chef stepped in as line cook; the hostess hustled to help the servers while the bartender pitched in everywhere." Clearly, the staff was doing all they could to accommodate people.

The plot thickens: The joyous party of 30 exploded into a party of 47 students, ready to let loose after completing finals. Drinks were poured. Revelry ensued. Everyone seemed to be having a grand old time.

And then ... the bill arrived. The final tab came to a bit less than $800. And thus came the dreaded request for 47 separate checks, with Groupons to be used with each check. Now: The Groupon deal stated that the purchaser receives $35 worth of food and drink for $15, one coupon redeemable per table, and one coupon per visit.

Per the blog, since they were all seated at "one long table on one tab," the GM told them they could use one Groupon toward their bill and then suggested they open separate checks at the bar to redeem their individual Groupons. (Apparently, many people in the group wanted to continue partying post-lunch anyway.)

To which the stingy students responded: "We thought separate checks would qualify as separate tables. If we knew we couldn’t use all of the Groupons we would have sat at separate tables." (OK, maybe they actually go to Harvard Law.)

The group was offered three choices:

1. The GM could take the total, add 18 percent automatic gratuity and tax, subtract out $35 for one Groupon, divide by 47 and present them with 47 equal checks. Phew. He advised them he would need time to process the separate checks.

2. He would furnish pens and paper for the whole group, they could determine what each one of them owed, and the GM would split up all of the charges accordingly.

3. He informed them that there was an ATM just outside and suggested that they determine what they ordered and owed, and to pay in cash if possible.

After some hemming and hawing, the group opted for choices 2 and 3, figuring out the bill on their own (at this point, we actually hope they're MIT students) and writing their names and amount owed on pieces of paper, parlor-game style.

The staff then processed 31 credit cards and collected all of the cash. Oh, but they were still $60 short.

Ultimately, one good Samaritan emerged to apologize and paid the remaining $60. (The GM, at this point probably ready for early retirement or a birdbath-size martini, gave thanks by picking up his bar tab after lunch.)

So, how do you think the restaurant handled things? Were these diners entitled or justified in their requests? At what point does Groupon usage turn evil? And, more to the point, which restaurant was it? We kinda want to buy the staff a drink. Hint: We're told this happened in the Fenway area.


The Perfect Storm
[Server Not Servant]