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Redeeming a gift card provided more than a meal


Gift card had added value

Have you ever had a windfall that caught you completely off guard?

I hadn’t until early one day in October, 2008. My son and his wife offered me a $100 gift card to Marriott Hotels that they couldn’t use, but it would expire in 10 days. Could I use it? But where?

I tried planning a short getaway to central Oregon with my best friend and golfing buddy, Bill. However I ran into “nothing available” for canine boarding on such short notice at my preferred places, and I didn’t have time to scout any additional ones.

Eventually I decided that we would splurge it on food and the local Marriott assured me it would be OK. We chose an early Sunday dinner and were a little surprised at how quiet downtown Portland, the Marriot Hotel itself and the restaurant all were.

Needless to say, the wait staff was attentive (without hovering) and super gracious. I asked the maítre d’ whether or not a tip could be part of the $100 since the certificate specifically said no cash back. Upon close scrutiny he assured me that on my particular card it was permissible (not so on all gift cards). There were only three other tables occupied while we were there.

True to my Scot-Irish lineage, and being the ever frugal woman with roots in the 1930s Great Depression, I took the lead figuring out the tip first and working backwards from there. We ended up with one glass of red wine each, I had a salad, and we each had a higher-end entrée and dessert.

There was still about $10 begging to be spent, so I ordered two additional desserts to go. That way, I could offer a choice to my pet sitter for the evening and the other one I could hoard in the refrigerator for my next sugar craze.

Our entrees — his steak and my fish — were excellent. We each had ordered different wines and ended up swapping them. Desserts were fine although not quite up to the caliber of the other food. My salad would have been fine except that wonderful organic greens were swimming in (a very good) dressing. In addition, on the square white salad plate sat a small square ceramic ramekin filled with more dressing!

Usually I’m tempted to comment on things like that (a throwback habit from my newspaper days when I reviewed restaurants and was assistant food editor responsible for verifying recipes for the Brighton-Pittsford Post, in Rochester, NY. Instead, because I was quite taken by the darling little ramekin, I asked our waiter if he could find out where it came from so I could buy one.

“I’m sure I can help with that,” he said, but he was gone for 10 minutes or so before returning. “Sorry, madam, but no one in the kitchen knows which supplier was used.”

With a quiet smile he continued, “Instead our kitchen manager would like you to have these.”

From behind his back he produced a paper bag with two heavily wrapped white ceramic ramekins to go! He seemed very pleased with himself. The wine steward and maítre d’ were smiling, and so were we, a delightful ending to our “windfall dining spree.”

Reflecting on the event, I think discussing the gift certificate at the beginning had a lot to do with our evening. Since the definition of tips was to ensure prompt service, seems to me that insuring service at the beginning really works. What fun!

P.S. The bottom of the ramekin is stamped Cordon Bleu.

Sylvia Malagamba is a member of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.