Booking a table used to feel pretty good. Sure, it wasn’t always easy to get the time and date we wanted, but once we did, there was a sense of accomplishment. And most of the time, the call ended with the first sweet embrace of hospitality, as the nice person on the phone promised your table would be waiting and the whole staff would be looking forward to your arrival.
But lately, these same pleasantries seem more likely to come wrapped around a barbed hook. Before you can write down the time and address, you will have to dig into your wallet for a credit card number. Then you are told that if you need to cancel without adequate notice — anywhere from a few hours to a full week before — you will have to pay a cancellation fee, which may be as low as $30 or as high as $200 a person. Or, in a twist that several restaurants have adopted, you may have to pay for the meal in advance in exchange for a ticket. If your plans change, it’s your job to find someone to take the ticket off your hands.