I was going to just let this slide, but something about inaction bothers me, particularly when my party has been wronged. But I am getting ahead of myself, am I not?
CHARLATANS IN LUXURY RESORT HOTELS
There are charlatans even in luxury resort hotels and casinos. What am I talking about? A few days before the Christmas holiday, my brother, who's section editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer handed me a gift certificate from Club Chaos for an obscure restaurant called "Red Ginger" situated at the City of Dreams luxury resort and casino. Due to his job, he would get these random gift certificates (GC's) from companies and throw them my way, which in turn, get swept under my pillow. I am uncomfortable using these GC's, to be honest. I am perfectly capable of paying for anything by myself, and I prefer it this way. If you've been following this blog, my lifestyle would hint of a lifestyle that doesn't necessarily froth in the mouth at the sight of gift certificates. Since I am an eye surgeon, and my family is a family of physicians, there really is no desperate need to use giveaway from strangers.
Every Christmastide (that long season of holidays from Christmas until the New Year), I would personally plan activities for my family because it's the only time our small family becomes complete.
LAST CHRISTMAS ALONE
Last year, we spent our Christmas holiday hopping from one hotel buffet to the next - Laiya Batangas' "Acuatico Resort", Shangri-La Makati's "Circles", Crowne Plaza Galleria's "Seven Corners Restaurant", Solaire's "Fresh Restaurant" and City of Dreams' "Cafe at the Hyatt", all in a span of 2 weeks. We like our buffets, and most of these are documented here in this blog.
This Christmas season, we went to Shangri-La at the Fort's "High Street Cafe", Subic Bay's "Meat-Plus Cafe" and "Pirate's Bistro" and for New Year, I was considering this new hotel restaurant, also at The Fort.
By some twist of fate, I treaded on misfortune and decided to consider using this Gift Certificate given by Club Chaos for City of Dream's "Red Ginger Restaurant". I read the reviews: many of the comments weren't exactly flattering, but I thought, it's probably a good idea to check it out since their gastronomy is Southeast Asian cuisine, a region I have traveled far and wide.
It would be nice to revisit the region's culinary jewels. Otherwise, this gift certificate would get thrown into the trash bin - all PhP3,500 of it. When a huge chunk of the population of the country's 103 million people is still starving, it would be sinful and wasteful to throw away an unsolicited "gift".
ASSURANCE FROM BERNA
I read the card carefully. It says "Food and Beverage". I don't want to embarrass myself not knowing the rules under which this card was meant to be used. I rang the restaurant a day before the date. A certain Berna was on the line. I asked her if they honor gift certificates for January 1st. The card says there are restrictions for special days and blackout dates. I reminded her this, just to make sure there are no misunderstandings. Is January 1st a "blackout date"? If not, can I reserve a table for New Year? Berna, after excusing herself to refer the matter to a superior, assured me that they indeed accept gift certificates for January 1. I asked her again if she was sure. Affirmative. So I booked for an 8:30 PM.
New Year's Day. My family of 6 met at the restaurant 10 minutes before schedule. There was a long waiting list (17 names were on queue) but a table was reserved for us. Everything was running very professionally and we were lead to our table. Before ordering, I handed the gift certificate to the waiter who accepted it, left for a couple of minutes, then came back and handed the GC. "No problem, sir", he said and continued, "just give it later upon billing."
So I ordered the food items posted here. I made sure that we'd be ordering double the gift certificate's value. Total bill was almost P8,000. When I handed the GC, the manager came back saying he was "sorry". There was misunderstanding and that they in fact do not accept GC's of such nature. Remember this was a GC for "food and beverage". What kind of GC was being accepted in this restaurant?
Everything was done on my part to verify that we could, in fact, use this gift certificate without a hitch, right? If they said "no" when I inquired, I had so many other options in mind. But what if I didn't bring enough cash - or credit card - to pay post-dinner after the gift certificate was refused? How could I have avoided this potentially embarrassing predicament?
1. I rang them a day before January 1 to ask if they accept GCs on the aforementioned date. I was assured I could.
2. I specifically asked Berna if January 1 was a blackout date. She said no it wasn't. She has cleared this with a superior.
3. Upon arrival, just before ordering, I handed Club Chaos' GC and reminded the waiter that we were going to avail of the gift certificate. Our server took the "card" but handed it back to us. No problem regarding use of the GC. I can give it to them upon payment.
The manager, Anselmo Buen Jr., said it was misunderstanding, but I did everything I could to avoid such incident. He ventured into this gibberish about having "two kinds of cards", yada yada yada. If there's anyone confused, it's the management of Red Ginger and Club Chaos for giving away useless GC's.
NOT ABOUT THE MONEY
The issue is not about the amount of cash I was shelling out. Heck, I paid more than P15,000 less than a week ago at the High Street Cafe (Shangri-La at the Fort). The almost-P8000 bill was money I was very capable of disposing without breaking the bank. But these people mislead us despite several efforts to double check.
NEW YEAR SCAM
Talk about New Year Scamming, right? I have never been scammed on a New Year's Day. This was something new and unexpected from a luxury establishment in one of Metro Manila's posh entertainment and casino resort hotels - the City of Dreams! How could I have avoided this debacle? It felt like a trap. Lesson to be learned: Do not use gift certificates you do not need! I shouldn't have used it. Period! It was so unnecessary. It almost spoiled my family's New Year's Day celebration.
Isn't it very cheap to give away gift certificates that aren't honored? Such shameful stunt to actually expose people to impending embarrassment. If this is a PR job, then whoever arranged this should dig herself a hole, flagellate herself for 6 months or migrate to Timbuktu.
I am writing this to warn people. If you get gift certificates (GC's) from Club Chaos, City of Dreams and Red Ginger Restaurant, exercise caution before using them. There is something gravely dubious about their business practices. They even have the gall to distribute these spurious gift certificates to Inquirer editors as Christmas gifts. Relentlessly fearless, right? Even luxurious resort casinos run scams in their premises.
This is the Eye in the Sky!
|15 oz angus beef satay at P510 per order|
|Honey and tamarind glazed pork belly at P450 per order. I ordered 5.|
|Spicy chicken wings|
|Singaporean crispy grouper - a big disappointment since this plate costs almost P900.|
|The Peanut (an ice cream variety) at about P400 a piece. I ordered 3.|
|Popiah (crispy fried barbecued duck spring rolls with iceberg lettuce and chili garlic dipping sauce at P360 per order - I got 3).|
|City of Dreams|