NYC diners are taking to Reddit to sell their ,500 reservations during Omicron

NYC diners are taking to Reddit to sell their $1,500 reservations during Omicron

The next available reservation is at Atomix about two months away, but in a small, relatively moderate-view corner of the internet, there are two seats at the Michelin-starred Korean restaurant next week.

Over the past month, New Yorkers have taken to Reddit to sell their coveted, sometimes $1,500 reservations at Michelin-starred restaurants due to exposure to the coronavirus and canceled plans. Nearly a dozen posts have appeared on r/FoodNYC and other subreddits in recent weeks, announcing reservations at fine dining restaurants including Atomix and Eleven Madison Park, which require customers to pay in full up front and are listed as “non-refundable.” On the Tock booking platform.

“Unfortunately, two people at our party have tested positive for covid, so we will not be making the trip to NYC,” one user wrote in a post advertising a table for four in Eleven Madison Park on New Year’s Eve. “Order the price you paid. Total $1,524.25 (incl. tax) OBO.” Another user, who listed two seats on the Atomix in late December, said he canceled his plans because his fiancée “wasn’t feeling well.” The cost of booking them? $707.69 USD.

Ostensibly, customers have turned to Reddit because reservations at Atomix and Eleven Madison Park – similar to other fine dining restaurants around town – are usually non-refundable. Both restaurants allow customers to reschedule their reservations only once, with at least 48 hours’ notice in the case of Atomix, but in posts on Reddit, users identified as out-of-town visitors have claimed that they are selling their reservations – rather than rescheduling them because they had to cancel their flights altogether.

Screenshot of a Reddit post advertising a table for four at Eleven Madison Park on New Year's Eve.

One of several publications announcing the reservation of Eleven Madison Park on r/FoodNYC.

Reddit listings, which range in price from $500 to $1,500 each, are perfectly legal as long as they are serious attempts to exchange a reservation that doesn’t exceed the original price paid for the reservation, says Tock founder Nick Kokonas. “If the reservation is prepaid and non-refundable, it becomes property, like the ticket, to the reservation owner,” Koukunas tells Eater by email. “They can sell it. If we see an IP address doing this multiple times, we block them and their associated email address accounts from buying future reservations because they are potentially an exploit.”

Tock is one of the few online booking platforms that allow its users to transfer dinner reservations to each other, which is legally required for prepaid and non-refundable reservations. According to Kokonas, New Yorkers have been swapping reservations on Craigslist, Facebook, Reddit and other online groups for years, but the practice appears to have gained traction in recent weeks, as omicron variant cases have forced restaurants to temporarily close and diners to postpone their plans.

Via Talk, requests for refunds are at their highest levels since the pandemic began in March 2020, according to Kokonas, when nearly 100 percent of bookings were canceled. He says cancellation rates this month have more than doubled since November.

The rise in cancellations during the pandemic has led Atomix to roll back its no-refund policy. “We understand the situation of guests who request cancellation the next day due to exposure or positive test results,” a spokesperson for the two-Michelin-star restaurant said via email. “That’s why, for covid-19, we issue a full refund, and provide assistance to rebook reservations for guests when they return to full health, based on availability.”

Eleven Madison Park did not respond to requests for comment.

No refund policies are uncommon, in part due to the high cost of ingredients and labor at higher end dining in New York City. “In restaurant culture, particularly in fine dining, the ‘no refund’ policy is one that respects the restaurant,” an Atomix spokesperson explains. “Fine dining restaurants including Atomix prepare our operations and menu details based on planned reservations…No show or cancellation on cancellation day affects the restaurant’s operations and business significantly.”

In addition to the Atomix and Eleven Madison Park, Saga in the Financial District also lists a no-refund policy for the $245 per person tasting menu. Others, including Midtown’s Per Se and Masa near Columbus Circle, require customers to pay a $200 and $650 deposit per person, respectively, at the time the reservation is made.

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