Can You Guess the Most Worthless Elite Status There Is?

Traveling a good deal I accumulate status — some useful, some less so. I value my American AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond, and Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum. I much valued my Avis status when I had it.

Not all status is brings meaningful benefits, however. I wouldn’t go out of my way to earn Hyatt Platinum or Hilton Silver, for instance.

There’s one status that’s below them all, that fails to deliver anything of meaningful value, and thus truly stands out in a world of overinflated metals.

I first earned Opentable VIP status a dozen years ago. I’ve never gotten anything of value (or really anything at all) from it. That’s not surprising, considering that they don’t even tell you that you’ll get something. In fact, the only way you know you have it is because of the indication on your account. There’s no welcome kit or welcome email, and you have to search through the site to even find reference to it.

Here’s how Opentable describes VIP:

Registered users of OpenTable become VIPs once they have honored 12 or more OpenTable reservations within one calendar year. VIP status is granted automatically. Restaurants know you are an OpenTable VIP because your reservation is flagged with a special note.

In other words, it’s a badge with no published benefits. However in 2012 Opentable claimed that someone – once – got a free dessert because of their status. Commenters were skeptical.

Commenters on Quora add:

I used to work for OpenTable, and a VIP is anyone on OT who has made 12 reservations in the last 12 months. This says nothing about your status as a diner, nor is it something that we push to restaurateurs.

…When I have talked with restaurant operators they have said that they tend to ignore that field altogether.

So Opentable VIP is Lame, Make Your Own VIP Instead

Here’s how you can leverage Opentable to your benefit even after their recent devaluation.

1000 Point Restaurants

Some restaurants offer 1000 points instead of 100 for making a booking — often it’s new or struggling restaurants, they’re willing to incentivize the visit. The idea is you might see they’re more rewarding and decide to book them instead of a competitor.

Interestingly, some restaurants use Opentable to manage their own website’s online bookings. But if you visit those restaurants’ websites first, cookies may get left on your computer that interfere with points. (If you make your reservation through Opentable, but starting at the restaurant’s website, there’s usually no points-earning).

And with 1000 point restaurants, you usually only see the 1000 point offer if you are searching for restaurants in a neighborhood — if you search for the restaurant directly it will usually just show 100 points (since they don’t need to incentivize you to choose them, the idea being you likely already have chosen them).

Make Reservations at Restaurants You’re Headed to Anyway

I have the Opentable app on my phone (and before I had an Android phone, would visit the Opentable mobile website on my Blackberry). Walking to a restaurant I might make a reservation, even if I know the place is empty. Not planning ahead, but I still want to capture the points. And of course the points are stackable with other restaurant rewards such as Rewards Network, the company which manages the dining programs associated with airline and hotel chains (which I still insist on calling iDine, though at least got beyond referring to it as Transmedia..).

Earn OpenTable Points For Your Free Hotel Breakfast

Many hotel restaurants offer Opentable points. Even if you get free breakfast in the restaurant as a loyalty program member or because of your room rate, you can make an OpenTable booking at the hotel restaurant and earn points for your free/included breakfast.

Don’t Rely Exclusively On OpenTable for Your Reservations

Opentable doesn’t have access to all tables at all restaurants. Some restaurants ‘block’ key times from being booked via Opentable, I have to imagine it’s because it costs them money (to pay to Opentable) to take reservations that way, and they expect to be able to fill their seats without bringing in reservations through this channel. So you need to call the restaurant.

Make the reservation for an earlier time, ring up the restaurant to change the time to the one you want that’s restricted to direct booking. You’ll still get the points if the restaurant changes the reservation time (because it was still made through Opentable) but not if they cancel the reservation and make a new one.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. My Hyatt Platinum (which I think I get because I am Mileage Plus Exec Premier, but can’t remember at the moment) gets me status at MGM hotels in Vegas, which gets me great room rates, VIP check in, discount on purchases at the hotels, and access to VIP lines for restaurants. This makes it among my most valued statuses.

  2. Choice Privileges Diamond status is a joke. Rarely are here available upgrades and late checkout is at discretion of management.

  3. Wow.

    Until this post, I had forgotten that I have vaunted open table VIP status.

    There was a time – maybe 5 years ago – when they had posted benefits for VIP’s at certain restaurants. Now, not even that.

  4. As of 8/25/15, Open Table no longer provides dining cheques (e.g., $50 for accumulating 5,000 points); these cheques were accepted as legal tender at any Open Table restaurant. Now they instead provide “gift cards,” but most Open Table restaurants refuse to take them. In the Asheville, NC area (known for its number of wonderful restaurants), there are 75 restaurants where you can reserve via Open Table; however, only seven of all those restaurants accept the new Open Table gift cards, making them essentially worthless.

  5. A certain car brand last fall invited people to come test drive a car and receive a free four course meal with wine and gratuity included at one of the consistent “top 5” DC restaurants. I work next door and got lucky to get in on this event.
    It turns out that the people who were actually invited were OpenTable VIPs — those we spoke to were prolific in their use of OpenTable. Just goes to show that there is a SLIM chance that this will get you a $250 dinner for free!!! I rarely use it at all and always just call to prevent the cost to the restaurant….

  6. Perhaps the most worthless earned *airline* status is Jet Airways’ (9W) JetPrivilege “Blue Plus”. It’s actually an earned status, which means you only get it after flying a certain number of miles and it’s above the basic “Blue” tier that everyone starts at when signing up to the program for free. The only bonus, and I promise this is 100% true, is a one-time “Special Bonus of 750 JPMiles”. That’s it. You get absolutely nothing more than what any Joe off the street gets with the regular “Blue” status they start at. So, it’s more of a “feel good” status, exactly like OpenTable VIP.

    Reference:
    http://www.jetairways.com/EN/CA/JetPrivilege/benefits-and-privileges.aspx

  7. Opentable does have a feature/flaw/exploit that’s more like the status we all want from them. If you walk up to a restaurant that has a long waiting list, check opentable to see if they’re still taking reservations. No host would give you a reservation in 5 minutes to avoid a 1 hour walk up line, but opentable will.

  8. I have to say, while NOT quantifiable, I do think the VIP status has a benefit at the restaurants. While never having received any perks (although I have received free drinks, or “this one’s on us” at restaurants, I can’t say it was this), I HAVE received what I would consider even better service, tables and priority seating. Especially in places like canada and some major cities. I thought it was just an annomoly, but now that I look back at my last couple years of OT rez’s, maybe the special table at the window, or the four person booth setup for two – with a “reserved” note on it, or the no waiting, ‘your table is right this way’ when the line is out the door service COULD be related to the VIP status in the reservation.

  9. Like many reviewers; I have never gotten a good table through Open Table. Although a VIP and regular $150-$200 a night spender, we always get the table by the service station despite requests for a special evening. I would not recommend using Open Table for a special evening. Call directly. Open Table has no clout with any restaurants.

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