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Why Did My OpenTable Points Expire During a Pandemic?

In this edition of Ask Eater, a diner wants to know what’s happened to those disappearing points

Sidewalk dining at Besharam Patricia Chang

Welcome to Ask Eater, a column from Eater SF where the site’s editors answer difficult dining questions from readers and friends. Have a question for us? Submit it via this form.

Dear Eater SF:

I checked my OpenTable account and found that all my points had expired because I hadn’t used OpenTable in a year. Well of course I haven’t used it — there’s a pandemic out there and most restaurants have been closed for over a year. I tried to use the website to request that my points be restored but the website says that it’s been overwhelmed by an “unexpected surge” of emails. Not exactly a surprise that people are unhappy about this. If you try hard enough, you can find where they say they’ll restore points on request if you fill out a form, but there’s no link to the form and their supposed live chat is not live. I don’t see why they don’t just restore everyone’s points? Jeez.

Desperate for Dining Points

Dear diner,

Thank you for your timely question. Timely, because as people have begun exploring a return to onsite dining and logged onto their OpenTable accounts, users are reporting the same issue, and wondering, why did my points expire during a pandemic?

For background, reservation booking site OpenTable, which is headquartered in San Francisco, has a dining points program. It’s a popular feature that earns users points when they book restaurant reservations through their OpenTable accounts. Points per reservation vary, but they accumulate and can be redeemed for a variety of awards, ranging from (at the high end) a $100 restaurant discount or $50 Amazon gift card to a one-year magazine subscription. Users can also opt to donate their points to OpenTable’s nonprofit partner No Kid Hungry, which translates into five meals per 100 points donated.

Points expire three years from the end of the quarter in which they were earned. That’s a pretty long time! But, the catch is that the points are also lost due to inactivity, in this case meaning that an account holder has not booked — and shown up for — a reservation in the last 12 months. After 12 months of inactivity, all points are lost.

OpenTable’s quarters end on March 31, June 30, September 30, and December 31 of each year. That means that right around March 31 of this year, people started seeing their points disappear — and they were pissed.

Eater reached out to OpenTable, and a spokesperson sent the following:

“Like many other points or loyalty programs, OpenTable’s Dining Rewards do expire — after 12 months of inactivity and three years from issuance. We offer a variety of rewards that can be redeemed for use now or later, from Gift Cards to KAYAK hotel discounts or magazine subscriptions (more details available here). With this, diners are able to use their points, even if dining options are not possible given COVID-19 restrictions. Those with questions should reach out to our Customer Support team.”

So, from OpenTable’s perspective, them’s the rules, pandemic or no pandemic, and those who wish to follow up with the company can do so. It seems that last part has had varying results, however — this diner isn’t the only one who’s had difficulty reaching a representative, either by email or the live chat. And, as is increasingly the case in customer service issues, it seems like Twitter is the most effective way to get the company’s attention.

While some customers report their points being reinstated following these exchanges, as a remedy it leaves those OpenTable customers not on Twitter at a disadvantage. Basically, it seems that while OpenTable is not making any sweeping changes to their policy, i.e. reinstating all users’ points or stating publicly they will do so upon request, it is happening.

Our advice? If your points have expired, keep trying to reach OpenTable via official channels, keeping in mind it may take time and repeated requests. And if they haven’t but are set to expire soon, and you’re not ready to dine onsite, consider redeeming them ASAP for a non-dining reward, or donating them to No Kid Hungry.