Last Thursday I was sitting in an Austin seafood restaurant with Wizard of Ads ® partners John Cassidy-Rice (Wizard of Ads, England) and Dave Young (Why We Blog). I mentioned that my father is my hero. “He’s the man I want to be when I grow up,” I told them.
To the best of my knowledge my Dad has never said an unkind thing about another human being. The closest thing he’s ever come to criticism of any one in my presence was “I don’t think I’d have done it that way.”
I’ll come back to Dad in a moment. First, though, let’s follow up on The Keg Steakhouse and Bar in Fort Worth, which I wrote about on February 4. You recall that my wife had become a customer evangelist for The Keg after just one visit. I shall now confess that I’ve become one, too.

After our first visit, I got a postcard in the mail. The postcard front had a collage of photos of folks eating and drinking and having a good time.

It had The Keg’s address and the words, “Just a short note to thank you, Chuck!”
Flip it over and it said: “Thank you for joining our guest list. We take pride in serving great steaks and making our guests feel really comfortable. We look forward to seeing you again soon Chuck.

It was signed “Cheers, Aldo Boada, General Manager.” I’m rather impressed. Nice follow-up.
Then, I got the birthday invitation. It opened with: “Happy Birthday Chuck!” and then promised a delicious present from The Keg Steakhouse & Bar.

On the flip side it reads “We invite you to come to The Keg Steakhouse & Bar during the month of March and enjoy a complementary Sirloin Steak (9oz) and Lobster Dinner. We look forward to helping you celebrate your birthday, Chuck.”

This one didn’t have Aldo’s signature. It closed with The Keg’s address and phone number.

Wow. Free steak and lobster dinner. No “only good between these hours” or “buy one, get one.” Just a simple “celebrate your birthday with dinner on us.” Pretty impressive.

Of course, we all know that I won’t be celebrating my birthday alone. The Lovely Mrs. McKay will accompany me. Perhaps we’ll invite our friends Kim and Roger to meet us there. So, they give away one dinner and sell three more. I know from a similar program that I set up for Richie’s Diner in Victorville, California a few years ago that they’re likely to make a modest profit on this promotion… even after giving away one of the more expensive items on the menu.

The Keg rocks!

Ok, back to dinner with John and Dave in the Austin seafood restaurant. As we were getting ready to leave, William the waiter handed me an envelope. On the front it says:

Are you hooked yet? Just to make sure, we’ve stuffed this envelope with shameless ploys to reel you back in.”

The back is sealed with a sticker which reads: “You’ve hooked a big one! But… to claim your catch you must open the envelope at the table on your next visit. Come in between March 20th and April 20th to celebrate your big catch.”

The fine print at the bottom of the sticker states: “Envelopes that are not opened at the table are not valid. Contents of the envelope valid March 20-April 20, 2005. Not Valid on 3/27/05. May not be combined with any other offer. Limit one per table.”

Humm. I’m somewhat skeptical. First, the envelope doesn’t feel “stuffed” with shameless ploys. Second, I have to come back and make another purchase to see what’s inside.

As you might guess, I didn’t bring it back between March 20-April 20. I opened it when I got to the parking lot. The envelope contained a letter and a coupon.

First, the letter:

Dear Guest,

“Congratulations on your big catch! The (restaurant) team wants to thank you for being a great guest! We hope you consider (restaurant) your very own fishing spot – a place where the surroundings are as comfy as your favorite flannel shirt.

“We’re excited about our new menu selections. If you haven’t had a chance yet, we recommend our savory new Campfire Ribs, flavorful Tilapia Ponchartrain, or tender NY Strip. Let us know what you think of the new items. And remember your Fish is our Command ®, so if there is anything you’d like we’ll be happy to make it just for you.

“We’re also working on a great happy hour.. So if you haven’t had a chance to try our (restaurant)-Rita made with real citrus juices, your chance is coming.

“Again, thank you for being our guest! If there is anything that my self or the (restaurant) team can do to improve your (restaurant) experience, please let us know. We want your time with us to rock.

“Best Fishes, (name) Chef Manager.”

Humm. A blatant sales pitch. Oh, well, let’s see what I’ve won.

(In my best Ben Stein voice): Wow. A free appetizer.

Can’t have the oysters, though. And it isn’t good on March 27. That’s Easter Sunday, I believe.

Interesting, isn’t it. Here’s a seafood restaurant that has a great atmosphere, friendly and helpful wait staff, and excellent food. Not expensive, but certainly not your neighborhood coffee shop. With tip, we dropped about $100, and all enjoyed the meal.

Had it not been for the envelope they handed me on the way out, I’d probably be writing to you about the seafood restaurant three Wizard of Ads ® partners enjoyed in Austin. Instead, I’m telling you that I’m miffed. They’re trying to bribe me with an appetizer. I have to come back at a time of their choosing and purchase another dinner to get it. And even then I’m restricted in my choices… in case I’d pick one that costs too much.

This is a critical point: I am not upset that they didn’t offer me a free meal as The Keg did. Not at all.

I’m upset that they’d assume I would sell my loyalty and my time for the price of a cheap appetizer.

And they cheapened my memory of that evening.

To quote my dad, “I don’t think I’d have done it that way.”

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