Boston Restaurant Threatens To Sue Customer Over Viral Canceled Reservation Dispute

When we leave a negative review, we should prepare ourselves for the likelihood that it may not be a one-way discussion. Restaurants have their own way of scathingly biting back at one-star reviewers in their defense. One Boston restaurant has done so in a potentially serious manner, going to the extent of threatening legal action against one customer.

When the customer allegedly disputed their cancellation fee with their credit card provider, the owner of TABLE Boston took the unusual step of finding the person's Instagram and sending them a message. In the exchange, which the customer screenshotted and posted on his X (formerly Twitter) account, the owner "thanked" them for "screwing over my restaurant and my staff," following up by calling them "pathetic."

The user replied, explaining that he claimed the fee back under "a legitimate use of my consumer rights under exceptional circumstances," because he ended up in the hospital. After the customer posted the exchange to X, with the post gaining almost three million views, TABLE messaged the diner again, an exchange which was subsequently posted to the customer's X account again. The message cited the "horrific" amount of slander the restaurant was receiving, and the owner stated that their "legal team has been contacted."

Cancelation fees are common even if unpopular

There are many things to consider in this situation. People failing to make reservations is one of the reasons restaurant fees have been increasing. It's a legitimate missed opportunity cost for restaurants when their tables are empty. According to Berliner Cohen LLP's Christine H. Long, a lawyer with a focus on hospitality law, there is "no authority" overseeing such fees in restaurants. Standards merely require restaurants to clearly state their policy at the point of reservation. It's unclear from the X thread if this was the case here.

As unusual as it might seem for a person to claim a restaurant cancelation fee on a travel insurance plan, it might be a legitimate claim provided the situation was beyond the individual's control, like visiting the E.R. Whether the restaurant involved will ever become aware of the claim or incur any related cost depends on the insurance company's policies. The fact that TABLE is aware of the dispute implies that this particular situation was, at the very least, passed on to the establishment.

Overall, TABLE's cancelation policy might not be as popular as its menu. Based on TripAdvisor reviews, other diners have been frustrated by both the cancellation policy and the owner's online interactions since 2020. One user tells others that they should be wary and "follow the owner [as] anyone who slightly disagrees with her is slandered," and several accounts specifically reference the cancellation charge as the reason for a negative review. Regardless of how you feel about cancelation fees, this situation emphasizes diners' need to be aware of them.