Typically, restaurant coupons you get in the mail give you several options. They require some crafty figuring in order to know how to most efficiently use them. That’s why we brought along one evening our adult son who has a year of college calculus under his belt. I just wasn’t sure how much stayed in his head.
“It looks to me,” began my wife, Mary Ellen, eyeing the coupons, “that we can get a free burger as long as someone else also orders a burger, two-for-one.”
“Great,” I said. “Brett and I will each have a burger.”
“Hold it, Dad. I don’t want a burger. I eat them all the time. I thought you didn’t want me to eat so much red meat?”
“Look, we just have to work together as a family. OK, Mary Ellen, how about this? If one of us gets an Asian salad, the other gets a salad at half price, as long the second salad is the same or a lesser value. Which salad do you want?”
“I don’t like the salads here. I want the fish and chips dinner.”
“You can’t have a fish and chips dinner, Mary Ellen. There’s no discount for a fish and chips dinner.”
“Why are we eating out if we can’t get something we like?”
“Because once, just once, I want to show these restaurants that I am not a fool. They are not going to snare me into their trap. We will save money. I don’t care if we hate every morsel.”
“Hey, Dad, if Mom gets the $14.95 Cobb salad, this coupon says we get a free appetizer.”
“No, that’s exactly what they want us to do. That won’t save us a penny because we never order an appetizer. So, we don’t gain anything.”
“OK, Dad. Here’s a coupon for a 99-cent draft beer. But you have to order the John Wayne Sirloin for $39.95.”
I was tempted. I sensed growing dissension around the table.
“Here, Dick,” Mary Ellen said. “This part of the coupon says we can get $10 off the check if we spend at least $50. Then we can order what we want. And what a concept — you know, enjoying what you eat.”
“No, that would make the final bill $40, and I want to keep dinner under $40.”
“I have no idea. It’s just a personal goal I set.”
Twenty minutes later, the server finally dared approach.
“We’ll have two spinach salads, one of which one is free. And a tenderloin for my son, who was a consultant on this project.”
“You know, Dick,” Mary Ellen said, “I changed my mind. I think I’ll have the fish tacos.”
The bill was $62. I didn’t speak to Mary Ellen the rest of the evening. But I can’t blame the expensive dinner on her. The coupon had expired.