Olive Garden’s Seconds

Olive Garden got a recent lesson in scalping after tickets for the chain’s all-you-can-eat pasta pass promotion sold out and ended up on the secondary market.
"Limited Time"

The deal allowed patrons to pay $100 for a pass that would cover never-ending pasta bowls, salad, breadsticks and soda any time they dined at Olive Garden between Sept. 22 and Nov. 9. It was timed to coincide with the restaurant’s annual $9.99 “never ending pasta bowl” promotion.

The company probably sensed the passes would be a hit, but they limited the quantity to just 1,000 nationwide, whipping pasta lovers into a carbohydrate-induced frenzy. So when the passes went on sale Sept. 8, they sold out a little too quickly for some Olive Garden fans, who took to social media to decry the injustice. “Your site timed out then stopped responding during the pasta pass sale,” one scorned fan wrote on Facebook. “I will take my business somewhere else. I understand there is only 1000 passes but I would have at least like to have seen a webpage at 3pm.”

Others complained of constant error messages and went so far as to call the pasta ticket promo a scam – a story that may sound all too familiar to anyone in the concert industry.

“Was waiting for the pasta pass and it was sold out immediately, that could happen, but seems like it was not on the up and up,” another fan wrote. “Whats up Olive Garden? Running promotions that people do not have an opportunity to join in.”

For those who missed out on the promo, there was always eBay or Craigslist, where passes were available almost immediately following the sale for anywhere from just above face value to hundreds of dollars more.

But there was apparently a catch for those that thought they could game Olive Garden’s system on the secondary market – the passes are nontransferable.

“[Olive Garden] is working with eBay to inform users bidding for the coveted ‘Never Ending Pasta Pass’ that the passes can’t be resold,” wrote CNNMoney’s Ben Rooney. Tara Gray, the restaurant’s spokeswoman, tried to soften the blow in an interview with the site, explaining “we’re a hospitality company, so we’re going to make things right,” but adding that the passes are personalized with the original buyer’s name, so no one else can use them.

Tell that to the lucky winner of a $280 pasta pass on eBay Sept. 9. Even if they’re somehow able to use the pass, they’ll need to visit Olive Garden 28 times over the 48-day promotion period just to break even. That’s a lot of pasta.