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Read the fine print, even on a coupon

When a friend and I made arrangements to meet for dinner last week, we decided we’d check our coupons and see if we could save money on the outing.

$ 10 BillAfter our review, we selected a local restaurant that offered a $10 coupon. This wasn’t as good as buy one meal, get one free, but the restaurant was nice and we decided it was good enough.

When we ordered and presented the coupon, the waitress pointed out that we each needed to order a drink for the coupon to be effective: Order two meals, two drinks, get $10 off. Fair enough. I ordered tea like my friend.

When the bill was presented, we received only $5 off. Why, we asked the waitress. I had ordered a crab melt sandwich, which was on the Vegetarian/Light Fare section of the menu. I hadn’t ordered an entrée like my friend.

We sighed and paid the bill, leaving the standard 15 percent tip because my friend had worked as a waitress and my daughter had friends who worked as servers, so it’s what we always do.

We were chatting for a few more minutes before we were ready to go, and the manager came over. She asked if everything was all right.

No, we said. We were upset about the misunderstanding about the coupon. The manager asked if we wanted the coupon back to use it again. My friend said no. She wouldn’t be coming back before April 30, when the coupon expired. I said, yes. I might use it.

The manager said we could have the $10 coupon back, but she'd take away the $5 credit we'd received. We sighed again.

In thinking it over, the manager should have given us $10 off our bill for the coupon. It was the waitress’s job to point out that ordering a Vegetarian/Light Fare selection didn’t meet the terms of the coupon. I could have ordered an entrée.

The lesson? Read the fine print, even on a coupon. See the Web site of the Coupon Information Corp. for details on how to use coupons.

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