More customers and former staff are coming forward about their experience with Sai Woo, alleging it’s been difficult to get the money they’re owed from the popular Chinatown restaurant.
Scott Greenfield booked a reservation for a friend’s birthday in December 2022, and paid a $150 deposit to secure a table for nine people. He initially tried to make the reservation on OpenTable, but said the restaurant called him and told him he’d need to e-transfer a deposit for a group of that size.
He sent the money over and enjoyed the meal with his friends on December 2.
But when the bill came, Greenfield noticed the deposit wasn’t applied against the balance. He brought it up with the servers, and they apparently said the deposit would be e-transferred back within two days.
But two weeks later, the e-transfer still hadn’t come through. Greenfield said he’s called and emailed Sai Woo several times, but hasn’t had luck getting his deposit back.
“I’m annoyed because they didn’t follow up on their word. I don’t know if it’s due to laziness, apathy, or cash flow issues, but it’s a scummy way of doing business,” he said.
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The restaurant has also been accused of withholding wages by current and former employees. Daily Hive has heard from two women who say their wages were withheld, although neither agreed to share their names.
One of them was the woman behind an Employment Standards Branch complaint about the restaurant. She made the complaint after Sai Woo allegedly refused to release her last paycheque when she quit. BC’s Labour Ministry said it couldn’t comment on complaint specifics due to privacy reasons.
A second woman said she was only paid $100 last month, despite working four to six hours every weekend, and alleged tips were completely absent from her paycheque. That woman was eventually paid, on the condition she wouldn’t pursue legal action or speak further with media.
The restaurant issued a cryptic public apology last month, saying there are “always ways we need to and can improve.”
“We would like to actively express our apologies in any shortcomings … please do not hesitate to contact us to clear up any questions, ” it said.
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The apology was posted days after TikToker Shirley Ye made a video about a bad experience her friends had booking out Sai Woo’s basement for a 50-person birthday party. Ye alleged the restaurant tried to overcharge everyone in the group and tried to withhold the $800 deposit on the grounds that staff had to stay late — despite the restaurant allegedly not delivering appetizers to half the room by 9:45.
Ye’s friends were eventually able to get their deposit back, but only after making a “big fuss.”
@shirleyye_ Replying to @tcytng save yourselves the headache for what SHOULD be fun/celebratory times lol #vancouver #storytime #pt2 #restauranthorrorstories #badbusiness #badbusinesspractices ♬ Relaxing Japanese-style piano song inviting nostalgia – Akiko Akiyama
The restaurant also allegedly withheld payment from an ingredient supplier back in 2017, leading the supplier to spend months calling, emailing, and commenting on the restaurant’s social media.
“I’m not a bank, I can’t just let you take the ingredients and then take a long time to pay us,” the supplier, who spoke to Daily Hive on the condition of anonymity, said.
Daily Hive has tried calling and emailing the restaurant for comment but has not received a response.