New OpenTable Scam to Cheat You Out of Your Points

OpenTable made your points worth less and harder to use – while imposing new expiration rules – earlier this year. That’s after devaluing their awards program three years ago.

Now 777 global mile hound points out to me another way OpenTable avoids rewarding you for your bookings through their website. There’s now a box you have to check to earn points. If you make your reservation and fail to check the box, no points. You think you’re getting your (much devalued) rewards points, but you won’t.

Oddly the same opt-in is not required when making a reservation through their mobile app. (Update: reportedly it’s required via the mobile app, too.)

My wife tells me the change to their website has been in place for at least a month. Fortunately I simply hadn’t used OpenTable rather than having missed the box, made reservations, and forfeited points. But this change seems pretty unsporting to me when their best customers are used to using the site a certain way, continue using it out of habit expecting one result, and they haven’t proactively informed customers of the change.

When I make my bookings I can no longer scroll down to the submit button and click it. I have to check a box, something I used to ignore because that was about opt-in marketing I had no interest in.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’ve used Opentable once and found no benefit. Hopefully this will quicken their demise….

  2. This is the beginning of the end for them. You can’t treat customers like this. Something is going on that they are implementing this type of sneaky opt in to minimize the points they provide.

  3. I use to be a high user of OT however it has changed over the years limiting the number of redemption restaurants and this of course is the worst. Of note I stop using service leaving a hell of a lot of points on the table.

    Good article

  4. Thanks so much for this warning. I hadn’t earned points for my last three reservations this month and couldn’t figure out why. Poor customer service on their part. At least they could have sent us all an email to let us know about the change.

  5. Please make reservations from the restaurants’ web sites, not through the OT site or app. You’ll miss out on some pretty worthless points, but more importantly, the fee that OT charges the restaurant is lower when reservations are made from the restaurant website. This is an easy way that you can support local businesses that inject substantial economic benefit into your community.

  6. Trying to cheat one’s way to greater profitability generally does not produce the desired result — eventually people figure out (1) they’ve been/are being cheated, and (2) who cheated/is cheating them, and they either drop use of the cheater altogether or cut back on use.
    I hope the brilliant and unprincipled executives at Open Table are pleased with themselves. They’ve just lost a customer who’s been with them for going on 10 years. I already was wondering about the value proposition given that, instead of being able to use the program’s earned dining credits at ANY Open Table restaurant, they now can be used at only a fraction of Open Table restaurants — AND the value of the credits now is half or less of what it used to be at most of the restaurants where they can be used at all.
    But this pushed me over the edge. Sayonara, Open Table. I’d speculate that they’ve placed themselves on a slippery slope, and it will be interesting to see if they survive at all.

  7. That isn’t the only way they cheat you. 1000 point tables are only available if you search that parameter and browse. If you search for that restaurant directly you get the standard 100. You don’t earn any points on OT reservations made on the restaurant’s personal site via the OT plugins. In fact, if you visit that site and they return to OT to book, you likely won’t get points either due to cookies.

  8. For the record, and I probably shouldn’t be saying this so OT can see, but the rewards are not why I use OT. I find OT to be a convenient way to make reservations – rewards are nice, but I value the service it provides regardless of the rewards. That said, this move, especially without notice, is sleazy.

  9. Thanks for posting this Gary. This is clear deception by OT with the intent that people won’t notice they need to check this little box in order to collect their points.

  10. Since OT changed their redemption policies I only redeem in Vancouver, Canada. I spend many summer months there and you can still get great value at any OT restaurant. If it wasn’t for Canada, I would find the service useless.

  11. I’ve also found that if OT says that a reservation I want isn’t available, then I call the restaurant, and often I can get the reservation I want. Strange but true. I noticed this most recently at “Roast” earlier this month, a Detroit steakhouse (in the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel). Reservation for 5 at 8PM wasn’t available via OT, but when I called, no problem. And we got a good table too. Go figure.

  12. Re: SE_Rob “I’ve also found that if OT says that a reservation I want isn’t available, then I call the restaurant, and often I can get the reservation I want. Strange but true”

    The Achilles heel of OT is not the crappy points. It’s the fact that the best restaurants don’t post their best availability on OT. A friend in the restaurant industry told me years ago that top restaurants view their prime time tables as a valuable asset that they want to control, give to regulars and VIPs etc. so they don’t post prime time on OT. Living in NYC I find this to be the case, and if I don’t see availability on OT I call the restaurant directly.

    To me that’s totally understandable EXCEPT that they don’t tell you. They just say it’s unavailable which is false.

  13. @SeanNY Correct. Many places also hold back inventory from OT (or limit OT res to 4 ppl) to save money. I believe it costs them $2 for every 100 points we get. Plus fixed costs. It adds up quickly.

  14. One more data point. A restaurant I frequent got into some sort of dispute with opentable and they cut ties. That’s all fine except open table didn’t make any mention of that on their website and just showed all times as being unavailable just like any actual fully booked night. Well I just happened to go there anyways thinking I could slip in and they weren’t full at all and when mentioning this to a manager he told me about the cutting ties and they they were “working through it with legal”

  15. It’s scummy, but I also don’t think it’ll hurt their bottom line. OpenTable is well enough established and integrated into restaurants’ websites as well as Google maps and others that the simplicity alone is enough.

  16. @Gary I was just out tonight – made the reservation and lo and behold, the radio button on the confirmation page in the app defaults to NO POINTS.

    Thanks for the heads up – I might have just clicked through if I hadn’t seen your post.

    I’ve gotta say it’s kind of bizarre but glad they still let you receive points!

  17. If waiving points saves the restaurant from paying a fee to OpenTable, I’ll always forgo the points, which I don’t need, anyway.

  18. I noticed it last night when booking a reservation for my upcoming trip to Aruba. This almost makes me not want to use OpenTable anymore.

  19. It’s ridiculous. Also, good luck actually trying to make a reservation with your points once they’ve been redeemed. After multiple tries and emails with customer service, they put the points back to my account, I took the Amazon gift card and got the hell out. I continue to make reservations through them and collect points, but I won’t bother redeeming them for anything other than a gift card at this point.

  20. I’m still wondering if anyone knows if participating restaurants have to pay a service charge to OpenTable (or get any other benefit) when customers opt out of receiving points.

  21. I use the service for the convenience but the points were at least something. Now you can only redeem at certain restaurants and you only get $10 for 2000 points, where it used to be $20. At the kind of restaurants where we dine, I don’t think it’s a big deal.

  22. Just noticed this today and did a search to see if I could find a reason why they did this. Ended up here. Can anyone give a good reason why they WOULDN’T want points if they’re already signed in and looking to book a res? This total sham is clearly to take advantage of unsuspecting users to minimize payouts. Shame on OT; thanks for the heads-up email of the deceptive change.

    If OT was a simple reservation site with no rewards, cool, it’s good technology, I’d use it and move on. But this really shows their true color$.

  23. Thank you very much. I contacted OpenTable and asked them to reinstate all the points I had not been given because of this change. They did not fight back, regardless, I let them know that the company will not look good if keeps up with this “con style” behavior.

  24. Yup like everyone else I wound up here after noticing that there was a new slide button that makes you confirm you want points. I checked last night’s reservation and sure enough, did not earn points. I emailed them and said I felt this was misleading and that I even checked my settings and inside the settings there is yet another box that you have to make sure it’s checked to automatically get points. That box was checked in my settings. So I shouldn’t have to re-verify. I expect those points to be honored. This is really slimy.

  25. I’m still wondering if the restaurants get some benefit when customers decline to receive points. I use OT to make sure I get a table when I want one at places I frequent, not really caring about the points program. If the restaurant gets a break in their service charge when I decline points, that’s fine with me. Seems like they should, if OT doesn’t incur an additional cost related to the points program. If you’re a restaurant manager/owner and knows how this works, I’d like to know (and, I’m guessing, so would others).

  26. Well this is nonsense. I took the hassle of making reservations because it was worth $1 each….. I would trade in approximately 20 reservations for $20 gift card.

    Now if it’s only 50 cents per reservation, I will not bother. It’s too much hassle for a mere 50 cents. My time is worth more than that.

    I’ll just be a “walk in” for restaurants.
    It saves me time; it saves them money.

  27. P.S.

    Another scam by the restaurant (not opentable) is to cancel your reservation when you clearly showed-up. I had a restaurant do that to me on 8/24 and I just noticed today (2 weeks later)

  28. I noticed that you had to mark that you wanted the points after I made a reservation and I noticed the box at the same time as I hit “make reservation.” I went back and canceled the reservation and remade it and checked that I wanted points. I then noticed on future reservations that the box was automatically checked. So it appears it is defaulting to getting points once you check it. However, it appears if you update the app or update your tablet, it defaults back to not getting points until you change it. Pretty underhanded. I can see no reason why anybody would not want the points, but it might be something done to appease the restaurants.

    In talking to the owner of a restaurant that we frequent often, I learned that the restaurant pays OT for each reservation made through OT. However, the restaurant does not have to pay OT if the reservation is made through OT ON THE RESTAURANT’S WEBSITE, which is why you receive no points. Also, many restaurants will limit the number of reservations allowed through OT especially during peak periods because they can fill these slots anyway. That is why while OT shows no available reservations, you can still get a reservation by calling the restaurant.

    I have used OT since it’s inception. It was the first system of its kind. I imagine the points were more valuable back then as OT established itself. As it became more popular though, other reservation services started popping up (Yelp has one now and Resy is also becoming popular, neither of which provide any benefit to the user). Therefore, as in life, OT had to start making cuts in order to stay in business.

    As far as the limited number of restaurants that accept the rewards card, that is because it is the restaurant’s decision as to whether or not it participates in this. Given that they already have to pay OT for each reservation, you can see why it doesn’t want to also pay for this.

    Does anyone know of a reservation service that provides a benefit to the customer other than OT? I think OT will eventually fade away as more restaurants decide to utilize Yelp and Resy and other services that are cheaper for them than OT.

  29. Just noticed I was not getting points on my dining. Looked into it on open table site and went into my account and saw that my receiving points was not checked. How did that happen. Didn’t even know this existed. Pretty underhanded on their part. Plan on emailing them and giving them a piece of my mind. Going to see if I can get points lost back. Missed out on about 700 points with this.

  30. I just noticed that today when I went to make a reservation?!

    Isn’t the whole purpose of Open Table to collect points? Otherwise there is no reason to use it and may as well just deal directly with the restaurant. Its like signing up for an Air Miles reward program and having to opt in to collecting miles everytime you use the card.

  31. Another restaurant trick to beware of: apparently some restaurants will offer the 1000-point bonus and then modify the number of guests upon arrival or when seated. This disqualifies you for the 1000 points and you only get 100 or 0. I made the hostess call OT when “someone else” changed the reservation (possibly the owner – who else would care?).

  32. The real fun part, is I have over 20000pts. Of course the OP site says now time to reward yourself! You have a choice of an OP rest. Kayak gift card or Amazon gift card. When I click on any of them, well nothing happens. I had hoped to get a nice well deserved dinner at a high-end rest. Looks like I can’t redeem them at all! If that’s the case I’ll dump OP & go to reserve chowhound or some other site. Pretty damn shitty job of taking care of someone who’s used them for over 10 years.

  33. I found out when I traded in 10000 that out of the restaurants that will allow you to use the diner’s rewards, only a handful will accept a $100 reward. Most will only accept a $50 reward. And you can’t split your reward. So if you use it at a restaurant that will only accept $50, you lose the other $50. I have decided that I will no longer let my balance exceed $50. I was pretty bummed out about all of this, but then I realized that all the other reservation sites (Yelp, Resy, etc,) give you nothing for using them. Therefore, I’ll take what I can get while there is still something to get.

  34. After spending over 30 min on line with an OP rep. we were able to redeem the 20k points. Unfortunately as some noted, very few will accept the full $200. Those that do generally are lower end or troubled rest. I ended up doing one for the $100. I lose $ 100 which kind of sucks. I’ll have to start evaluating reservations in the future. In some cases I’ll just go to the rest. website. Someone mentioned having a rest. cancel their reservation. They still got in, but screwed out of their points. I’ve had this happen a few times. I faxed the dinner receipt & got credit. OP will kick rest. out of their system after they pull that scam a few times.

  35. So far I have lost about sixty plus points because I was not aware about all of the new steps to follow. I made a reservation for tonight on my iPhone and and was not near my laptop or computer. WTH? So I can make a reservation on my iPhone, but can not secure my points via iPhone????

  36. Yeah, I’ve started calling direct now. If points expire why bother trying to rack up a large total. I usually get up to 25000 before i cash in. It might take 2 years to do it.

  37. Mary, where did you learn that reservations had to be made on a computer? I made a reservation a week ago on the OT app on my iPhone and got my points.

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