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What Happens When You Try to Trick Customers

The buddy who organized the dinner kept saying we had to get to the restaurant at exactly the same time—because they wouldn’t seat us at the bar without our whole party.

Wait. They wouldn’t seat us at the bar without our whole party. Isn’t the bar where we wait for the rest of our party?

I went to a restaurant for a holiday get-together last night, and it got weird. Because the owners tried to trick us into thinking the place was something it wasn’t.

At exclusive places in Manhattan that don’t have a lot of space, you might expect to wait to get into the bar at a restaurant. Maybe. And when you get in, you understand why you had to wait because the place is packed—tables jammed together, only enough room to squeeze around.

But I was in Denver. That’s not really a Denver thing, that’s a Manhattan thing.

When we got to the place, we had to wait a couple minutes in a small, enclosed area that reminded me of the waiting room at Jiffy Lube (nothing against Jiffy Lube). There was an older couple already there, sitting patiently waiting for the rest of their party.

Then the hostess came out and said: “…the Ford Fusion?”

When the hostess came out (of a big metal door you can’t see through), our buddy told her everyone was there but maybe one other guy might show up. That was acceptable.

We followed her through the metal door, expecting I’m not sure what and entered…a completely empty bar. Tumbleweeds and crickets. Not a soul in the place except a bartender and a few hipster servers.

After we sat down, we immediately started talking about how weird the place was. About ten minutes later, our friend showed up. Turns out he’d been waiting outside in the Jiffy Lube until they finally let him in.

“…the Grand Cherokee?”

(He drives a Jeep.)

So, the hostess had taken us back into the empty bar after making a big deal of whether another person was coming or not. Then, maybe a minute later, she made that other person wait—telling him we weren’t there yet. (Again, we were the only people in the bar.)

Not only that—when our extra buddy showed up, another host made us move from our four-top table to a booth. He wouldn’t let us slide up another chair (of which there were maybe 387 free).

I went to the bathroom a little later, and by then the older couple had gotten in along with a party of six or so. As I walked back to our table, I heard them all talking about how bizarre the place was. Everybody.

So, the owners evidently hoped they could create a feeling of exclusivity by affecting it. You have to wait to get in, the drinks are $16, the staff is all hipsters—all the annoying trappings of an exclusive place…

Except there was no substance behind any of it, no reason for it. They were trying to trick us into believing the place was exclusive when my 6-year-old niece would have said: “If it’s so special, why’s no one here?”

Savvy customers can smell out mind games. They can do it face to face or over the phone with their ‘gut feeling,’ and they can do it online with their research. So trying to trick them is a fail waiting to happen.

In any case, I doubt I’ll ever willingly go back to that bar. And I doubt that’s the sentiment the owners were trying to affect.

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