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Diners Turn to Reddit to Sell Their $1,500 Reservations During Omicron

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the plans of diners across New York City, leaving them with non-refundable reservations at some of the city's finest restaurants. However, a recent trend has emerged on Reddit, where users...

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the plans of diners across New York City, leaving them with non-refundable reservations at some of the city's finest restaurants. However, a recent trend has emerged on Reddit, where users are selling their coveted reservations to Michelin-starred restaurants like Atomix and Eleven Madison Park, sometimes fetching prices as high as $1,500.

A Unique Marketplace on Reddit

Over the last month, New Yorkers have flocked to Reddit to advertise their reservations due to COVID-19 exposures and canceled plans. Reddit communities such as r/FoodNYC have become the go-to place for diners to find last-minute reservations at top-tier restaurants. With nearly a dozen posts appearing on these subreddits, food enthusiasts have the opportunity to snag sought-after reservations that would typically take months to secure.

The Motivation Behind Selling Reservations

The allure of selling reservations on Reddit stems from the fact that fine dining establishments like Atomix and Eleven Madison Park have strict non-refundable policies. While these restaurants allow customers to reschedule their reservations once, users on Reddit claim that they have had to cancel their trips entirely, leaving them with no choice but to sell their reservations.

One user on Reddit shared their disappointment after their party tested positive for COVID-19, preventing them from visiting New York. They offered their reservation at Eleven Madison Park on New Year's Eve for the same price they paid - a staggering $1,524.25. Another user canceled their plans at Atomix due to their fiancé feeling unwell and listed their reservation for $707.69.

The Legalities of Reservation Sales

These Reddit listings, priced between $500 and $1,500, are legally allowed as long as they do not exceed the original booking price. Tock founder Nick Kokonas clarifies that prepaid and non-refundable reservations become the property of the booking owner. However, Tock does monitor for scalpers who repeatedly sell reservations, blocking them from purchasing future bookings.

Tock is one of the few online booking platforms that facilitate the transfer of dinner reservations, a legal requirement for pre-paid, non-refundable bookings. While the practice of exchanging reservations has existed on platforms like Craigslist, Facebook, and Reddit for years, the recent surge in cases of the Omicron variant has led to an increase in such transactions, as diners are forced to reschedule or cancel their plans.

The Impact on Fine Dining Establishments

Restaurants on the Tock platform have witnessed a surge in refund requests, reaching levels not seen since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 when cancellations were rampant. Cancellation rates have more than doubled since November, with the ongoing uncertainty causing disruptions in both diner plans and restaurant operations.

In response to the rise in cancellations, Atomix has adjusted its no-refund policy, understanding the challenges faced by guests who require last-minute cancellations due to exposure or positive test results. They now offer full refunds for COVID-19-related cancellations and assist guests in rebooking their reservations based on availability. Eleven Madison Park, meanwhile, did not provide any comment regarding their refund policy.

The implementation of no-refund policies in high-end dining establishments is not uncommon. The costs associated with ingredients and labor in fine dining establishments, combined with the meticulous preparation of menus based on reservations, make last-minute cancellations and no-shows detrimental to the smooth running of these establishments. Other notable restaurants with strict policies include Saga in the Financial District, Per Se in Midtown, and Masa near Columbus Circle, each applying different deposit requirements at the time of reservation.

A screenshot of a post on Reddit advertising a table for four at Eleven Madison Park on New Year’s Eve. A screenshot of a post on Reddit advertising a table for four at Eleven Madison Park on New Year’s Eve. -Eater

As diners navigate the uncertainties of the ongoing pandemic, platforms like Reddit have become unexpected marketplaces where reservations can be exchanged. While some may see this as an opportunity to experience fine dining at a moment's notice, it is important to recognize the challenges faced by both diners and restaurants in these unprecedented times.

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