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Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Passes cause more problems for chain

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After Olive Garden's Never Ending Pasta Pass began selling on third-party websites, such as Ebay, the company said the black market versions wouldn't be accepted at restaurants. (Olive Garden)

Olive Garden's Never Ending Pasta Pass promotion is giving the restaurant chain a headache.

Those not lucky enough to snag a ticket Monday to get 49 days of unlimited access to pasta, breadsticks, and soda began turning to scalpers for a chance to carbo load.  Now, holders of the black market vouchers may not get a bite to eat. 

One thousand Never Ending Pasta Passes went on sale on the restaurant’s website for $100.  They sold out in just 45 minutes and drove so much traffic to the site, it crashed.

After passes began selling on third-party websites, such as Ebay, the company said the black market versions wouldn't be accepted at restaurants. 

"We're a hospitality company, so we're going to make things right," Tara Gray, a spokeswoman for Darden, which owns the restaurant chain, told CNN earlier this week. She added that the passes are "personalized" with the original buyer's name, so no one else can use them.

But Gray on Friday told the LA Times that the chain would "work with" people who purchased passes on eBay. She advised calling (800) 331-2729 or reaching out to Olive Garden on social media, adding "we’ll issue a replacement pass in their name."

The black market for the passes continues to thrive. As of Friday, there were 43 listings on eBay, with some passes selling for as much as $500.  On Wednesday there were over 66 selling for about $300. 

Olive Garden stated that the passes were non-transferable. 

But as Adam Goldstein, of The New York Times and Planet Money, explains, there are entire corporations "built on exploiting companies’ failure to properly price items initially,” pointing to companies like Ticketmaster, Stubhub — and of course eBay.

The passes were meant to give the company some much-needed promotion amid flagging sales.   Instead,  it is fielding calls from angry customers who claim that they weren’t able to purchase passes legitimately.

To add to their woes Friday, a scathing report by investors of parent company Darden ripped the chain for doling out breadsticks and salad too liberally, and should be run more efficiently. 

Looks like it is time to get those breadsticks, while they're hot.