Signing up for chain restaurant membership may seem like a good way to save money on meals but the Consumer Council has warned customers to be aware of the hidden terms and conditions attached to these schemes.
One customer complained to the council after a restaurant erroneously gave her the impression that she would receive her meal for free after paying a HK$400 membership fee, while another customer was given coupons valid after 11am, only to find they could not be used on food items until after 9pm.
“Restaurants set up these membership programmes to boost customers’ loyalty, but their malpractices may end up deterring them from coming again,” said Professor Michael Hui King-man, chairman of the council’s publicity and community relations committee.
These sales techniques may be soon considered misleading under the Trade Descriptions (Unfair Trade Practices) (Amendment) Ordinance which comes into effect next month.
In the first example, the customer said that when she ordered a set meal for two costing HK$288, a waiter convinced her to sign up for membership which he said would cover her meal and give her further discounts in the future.
He gave her a HK$100 discount coupon after she paid the HK$400 membership fee, and said she would get another HK$288 coupon to cover her meal. She was assured she would not have to make any other payments for her meal.
However when the bill arrived, she was still charged HK$288. The restaurant staff explained that this was because the original price of her set meal was over HK$500, and that the HK$288 was the discounted price of the meal she was entitled to after becoming a member.
The customer was unhappy with the explanation but paid the bill and left quickly to avoid further embarrassment.
She then registered a complaint with the Consumer Council. After the council intervened, the restaurant refunded her HK$400 membership fee.
The complaints were published on Monday in the council’s latest issue of Choice Magazine.