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restaurant gift certificates

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i'm not sure how to handle this, or if there is any etiquette involved, so i defer to my fellow chowhounds. i apologize if this is the wrong board.
anyway, here goes...

i have two gift certificates to a local, well-known and respected (imho overblown) establishment that i was given by the owners after a very disastrous family meal there. my spouse has vowed never to return and i don't want these to go to waste. i will probably use one to do lunch with a friend, but i'd like to see someone else who likes the place be able to enjoy one. they have my name on them.
so, is it bad form to allow someone else to use the gift certificate?

part 2: i have a gift certificate to another fancy establishment that my mother-in-law was given by her staffers last xmas. my in-laws moved out of state w/o ever using the gift certificate so they gave it to us b/c they didn't want it to go to waste. should i use it? it had a one-year expiration date. is that normal? if she called the restaurant, would they still honor it?

thanks
tracey

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    JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

    You should be fine in both situations. In the first one, let the person know that you like the restaurant but just don't make it over there all that often, I'm sure they'll be thrilled.

    In the second case, expiration dates on gift certificates really shouldn't exist. Somebody spent money, why should the restaurant get to set an arbitrary deadline for when you can use it? If it's past the expiration date, call the restaurant, ask for a manager, and let them know that you just found a gift certificate that was hiding somewhere, and ask if it's possible to use it even though it's past the expiration date. If they say yes, get the name of the person you are talking to, and stick a Post-It on there mentioning the person you talked to; just in case they say yes and then renege on the offer, you'll be able to say "I talked with Steve Smith the other night and he said it was fine." If they say no, then go to the restaurant and talk to someone in person. I'd likely bring up the issue before sitting down (again, talk to a manager, you could get struck down by an ice queen hostess), but if you've really been wanting to eat there, go ahead and enjoy the meal, then ask about it just before you pay the check. If you want to go that route, be sure to bring along some cash just in case they don't let you use the gift certificate.

    1. Often times a restaurant will allow you to use an expired gift certificate at a reduced percentage. (for example 10% less than face value per year) This allows the restaurant to adjust for any cost of living increases since the sale of the gift certificate.

      ***Disclosure I am a professional chef***

      1. Where do you live? In California, it's illegal for gift certificates to have an expiration date. Coupons can have expiration dates, but gift certificates can't.

        5 Replies
        1. re: nooodles

          There's a similar law in Massachusetts- whether or not there is an expiration date, gift certificates must be honored for (I'm pretty sure) 7 years.

          1. re: Chris VR

            we live in new york and while our local county just passed a law about gift cards, certificates, etc. this was issued previously and it's for a restaurant in CT.

          2. re: nooodles

            Just a clarification. "PURCHASED" gift certficates in California cannot have and expiration date. These are real gift certificates that someone paid for. "DONATED" gift certificates in Califoria can have a legal expiration date. These are gift certificates that were donated by the restaurant or retail store to an organization to be used as a fundraiser.

            1. re: InTheBiz

              What about "gift certificates" that are given to a guest who has a negative experience, by a restaurant that hopes to get their repeat business? Can those legally have an expiration date?

              1. re: waiter X
                j
                JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

                I can't help but think that a restaurant would be extremely foolhardy to do so.