San Francisco Chronicle Culture Blog writer Beth Spotswood is blithe about the way her friend Tara blew off a reservation she made on OpenTable for Mario Batali’s Carnevino Italian Steakhouse in Las Vegas: “Las Vegas being Las Vegas, the night sort of got away from Tara. She never made it to CarneVino Italian Steakhouse. As a result, OpenTable.com broke up with Tara.”
Spotswood then reprints the completely reasonable-sounding email OpenTable sent to Tara, which informed her that due to her no-show, her account was suspended. “Let Tara’s plight be a cautionary tale, OpenTable users,” Spotswood writes. “It might seem like no big deal to you. You scheduled a date, you thought it was casual and you blew it off. But OpenTable doesn’t see it that way. OpenTable is pacing back and forth, candles lit, food getting cold.”
Right-o, Spotswood’s just being snarky, and finds the notion of being “dumped by an app” amusing. It is and it isn’t. Even though OpenTable isn’t a real person, duh, it is a service that connects people, people like someone who wants to sit at a table and order dinner with a restaurateur who would like to sell them food. If your flaky self isn’t in that seat at the agreed-upon time and the restaurant holds that table for you instead of giving it to a walk-in diner, it’s like stealing money right out of the restaurant’s pockets.
Booking a table is like RSVPing for a party, only it’s even more imperative that you honor your commitment, because someone will lose money if you don’t. OpenTable can’t make you show up, and (for now) it doesn’t charge you for no-shows. In fact, you can even cancel up to a half-hour before the reservation (!!), no questions asked, online if you can’t be bothered to call the restaurant and let them know that the night got away from you.
So good for you, OpenTable, for providing the tiniest nudge to those who need to bone up on their social obligations. Tara can always register from a new email account and you won’t be the wiser. But maybe she will.