Currently, Olive Garden is undergoing a “Never Ending Pasta Pass” promotion but instead of helping, it is causing significant problems for the Italian restaurant chain. With this promotion, people had the opportunity to get a ticket for all the pasta, breadsticks, and soda wanted in 49 days.
However, what started out as a great concept and promotion has now become a nightmare for both the company and consumers. The problem is that people who love eating at Olive Garden started counting on scalpers to get their hands on tickets but rather than receive valid tickets, these individuals ended up with “black market” tickets worth nothing.
In just 45 minutes of the tickets going on sale on the Olive Garden’s website for $100, the 1,000 “Never Ending Pasta Passes” were completely sold out. In fact, there was so much traffic on the site that it eventually crashed altogether.
Shortly after, third-party sellers, to include eBay, began selling the passes but according Tara Gray, spokesperson for Darden, the corporation that owns Olive Garden, those black market versions cannot be redeemed at any of the restaurant locations. She adds that as a hospitality company, things will be made right. Gray goes on to say that the passes are personalized with each original buyer’s name. As such, only the buyer will be permitted to use them – no one else.
Even with the public being made aware that only non-third party “Never Ending Pasta Passes” will accepted at Olive Garden, those produced on the black market continue to thrive. In fact, as of last Friday, eBay had 43 listings for the passes, each selling upwards of $500 and just a few days later, the number had increased to 66 although the average selling price had dropped to around $300.
While Olive Garden stresses to customers that the “Never Ending Pasta Passes” cannot be transferred, Adam Goldstein of Planet Money and The New York Times explains that entire organizations are built for the purpose of exploiting companies’ failure to initially price items properly, pinpointing specific companies like eBay, as well as Ticketmaster and Stubhub.
Originally, the “Never Ending Pasta Passes” were designed to promote Olive Garden restaurants during a period of lagging sales. Instead of accomplishing this goal, the passes have created a firestorm among customers claiming they were not given the chance to make legitimate pass purchases.
Making already bad things worse, Olive Garden restaurants were reprimanded by Darden for being too liberal with the breadsticks and salads. Basically, Darden advised this chain of Italian restaurants that operations needed to be more efficient.