Buying trendy food on the black market — almost never a good idea. (Would you pay $500 for a tub of recalled Blue Bell?) But overpaying for a card entitling you to that food at least can’t end in stomach flu, and somebody evidently got this message to Olive Garden, because the company has announced this year it’s going to participate in the Never Ending Pasta Pass’s annual eBay price-gouging tradition. It will auction off an indefinite number of “extra” bottomless-pasta cards once the official 21,000 get snatched up today. (They go on sale online at 2 p.m.)
It’s fair to call this move a complete U-turn, since Olive Garden is on record saying, “The Never Ending Pasta Passes are personalized, non-transferable, and not for resale. We’re working with eBay to make sure buyers and sellers are aware of this.” In past years, users made as much as 400 percent profit reselling their passes on eBay, meaning winning bidders did the math and decided that, yes, the 40ish visits required over 49 days to break even was no problemo. Olive Garden is no doubt also rooting for bidding wars that rival the time someone paid $96,000 for a bottle of McDonald’s special sauce. There’s no word yet on how many passes it’s putting up for auction, but the financial gain, thankfully, will only be vicarious: The company promises to donate all proceeds to the nonprofit Feeding America.