Olive Garden Receipt Debate, Reddit’s GM Weighs In

The Olive Garden receipt debate that kicked off after a Reddit user posted what they said was a generous and kind comped dinner bill has prompted a conversation about authenticity, astroturfing and social media — but the experts in charge of Reddit think the post was the real deal.

It all started with a post from a Reddit user including a pic of the Olive Garden receipt, as well as a story about the visit.

Redditor Tanek42 shared the receipt, explaining his Olive Garden visit and saying:

“My brother, wife, 3 year-old daughter and I went to Olive Garden after a recent house fire at my parents. When the manager asked how everything was my daughter said ‘Grandpa’s house burned down’. Here’s how we received the check.”

Skeptical users debated the Olive Garden receipt’s veracity — on one hand, it would be a strange gambit to fake it, but on the other, the tale seemed like perfect organic PR for the struggling Darden brand’s chain. Not enough to make or break it, but still a nice social media boost.

Later in the day, the Olive Garden receipt debate prompted a competing Reddit AMA (ask me anything) from someone who claimed to know the receipt was phony — not because he had knowledge of the situation, but because he himself works in advertising and has seen that type of fakery firsthand.

User Iworkinadvertising, another Redditor, submitted the AMA and added:

“That Olive Garden receipt is fake; it’s free advertising. I know because I work in advertising and have spoken to the people who plan these campaigns… I’m sick and tired of this shit on Reddit and the fact that users are getting defrauded by cheap advertisers looking to lift their engagement with some free advertising.”

But Reddit’s General Manager Erik Martin weighed in on the Olive Garden receipt debate too — and he thinks the OP is legit. Martin said that while brands do try to game Reddit’s credibility boosting system, it’s almost always obvious.

He explains:

‘I know for a fact that this is fake because I’ve seen something similar’ is not proof. Brands aren’t that smart. I just find it hard to believe that a brand like Olive Garden can fabricate a fake receipt and story like this. The backlash potential if they get caught is too high.”

Neither Olive Garden nor their agency has commented on the Olive Garden receipt debate. Do you think the comp really happened, or does it look like marketing to you?