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Dec 2, 2007 03:56 AM

Son Cubano rejects expired gift certificate [Moved from Manhattan board]

My husband received a $100 gift certificate for Son Cubano which had an expiraton date of 8/05. While we were slow to use it, we went to Son Cubano two weeks ago and they rejected it because it was past the expiration date. I spoke with the General Manager Frank Castro and he stated that while there was no question about its authenticity, they couldn't honor it becaue it had expired. This was not a raffle prize or a freebie, our friend gave them $100 cash. How can cash expire?

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  1. It wasn't cash.
    I guess expiration date is something your friend with the $100 cash needed to work out with the restaurant when s/he bought the gift certificate. That kind of thing *should* be good forever, but it's not. I take it the 8/05 expiration was plain to read. Is that 2005 btw? sheesh!

    I agree it sucks, but it's not like they weren't playing by the rules.

    1. You might want to check your state laws about gift certificates. Many states do not allow them to expire any more because corporations were making such a killing on gift cards/certificates due to situations like yours.

      2 Replies
      1. re: NE_Elaine

        yes, California is one, and the law applies even if the certification has an expiration date printed on it. However, it appears on my quick search that NY law may not be as consumer friendly. Here is a website to check (I only briefly scanned it):

        I'd send a letter to your state representative with a copy to the restaurant asking that he/she consider sponsoring such legislation. Personally, I think the restaurant's approach was poor from a PR approach (don't they want you to try it, like it and come back? Now I'd think you would be less likely to come back, not to mention the negative mention), though I probably would have checked with restaurant first (though not in CA, since I wouldn't have to check here).

        1. re: susancinsf

          I'm hardly anti-consumer but I don't see why it's unreasonable for a gift certificate to expire as long as it's a clearly stated, plain old expiration date - not some sort of complicated blackout thing or something like that. If you don't like the terms, you don't have to buy it (or like it as a non-returnable gift of one sort or another), but we're not talking bait and switch, necessities of life, here, we're talking someone spaced on a gift certificate for probably 3-4 years!

          Then again, I don't need to be told that virtually every substance known to humanity is "known by the State of California to be a potential carcinogen", so maybe I'm the wrong person to ask about this too. (g,d&r)

      2. Unfortunately it appears New York state law allows expiration dates on gift certificates.

        "N.Y. General Business Law ยง396-i
        Expiration date must be conspicuously disclosed to purchaser as specified."

        Although legal, it is still bad form for the restaurant to have dishonored the certificate.

        I would do as susancinsf suggested about contacting your state representative, with a copy sent to the restaurant..

        9 Replies
        1. re: hannaone

          it may be bad form to reject it, but expiration dates on gift certificates do have specific purposes i can think of:

          first--the $1-- or $100 someone spent on a gift certificate 5 years ago, 10 years ago, etc. is not the same $1 as today. the ingredients and rent of the establishment may likely have changed with inflation and regional economics, so the $100 that would have covered certain ingredient preparations a few years ago won't cover the same today. the margins will change over a period of years, and 3 years is a long time in the restaurant industry. the money that paid for the op's certificate went into overhead four or more years ago, as far as the books of the restaurant are concerned, and an outdated by several years gift certificate amounts to a free meal because it doesn't contribute to current overhead costs. for bookkeeping purposes, where do you draw the line if people are bringing in ancient gift certificates that were written off in the profit/loss 5, 10, 15 years ago?

          second-- the gift certificate was originally sold as an incentive to come to the restaurant within a specific time frame. when opening a new establishment and wanting to get word-of-mouth business and buzz, it's common to give out coupons, deals & discounts on gift certificates (pay $50, get $100 certificate). the gift certificate expires for the same reason a coupon does: it's designed to increase traffic during a certain period of time, hopefully increasing customer base over the long run. four years later, when the place is already established and the gift certificate has been expired for 3 years, the original offer is no longer valid, that's why some full-priced gift certificates have "no expiration" and the special deal ones usually do have one.

          the op shouldn't expect a clearly marked, expired gift certificate to be valid-- would people say it's fair to take 4-year-old newspaper ads for food items to the grocery store and ask them to match the price?

          1. re: soupkitten

            Thank you for that elaboration.

            I thought the OP was talking about a gift certificate that expired a week, a month or even three months ago. This was a gift certificate that was 2 years past the expiration date!

            Whatever happened to living with the consequences of one's actions (or inaction, for that matter)? The pendulum has swung so much: the consumer is always right, it seems. No matter what.

            Writing your state representative about this seems a disproportionate response to such a trivial matter. There was no gross injustice here, as the restaurant did not deceive anybody: the gift certificate had a clear expiration date.

            It's the gifter's loss, not the OP's. The gifter spent $100 for a gift that he or she thought the OP could use. Given the length of time the OP took to getting around to using it, I can't imagine it was that much prized as a gift.

            I probably am going to get a lot of flak from this, but come on, just suck it up.

            1. re: jayes

              so, based on your logic about the restaurant costs going up: but then why should it be the restaurant who gets pure profit (with interest if invested!) if the certificate is not redeemed. then shouldn't the certificate or at least a portion of it representing current value be refunded to the purchaser at the end of the expiration period if not used?

              It isn't trivial. These certificate laws were passed in the states that had them because of the huge dollar amounts that companies were getting in unredeamed certificates.

              1. re: susancinsf

                The amount of money isn't trivial, but is this not a case again the government passing laws to protect ourselves from ourselves?

                If I buy a gift certificate and do not use it within a reasonable amount of time, should it not be my loss and my own loss only? It is my right and responsibility to use it, after all.

                What is next for these gift certificates? Should we legislate that companies who issue these gift certificates be required to call up each and every one of their customers to use them before they expire?

                It should, of course, be illegal and criminal for corporations to trick and deceive consumers. They should be punished if and when they use deceitful practices to get consumers to buy gift certificates. E.g., telling them the gift certificates don't expire when they do expire.

                But truth be told, in this case and most cases of unredeemed gift certificates, corporations are simply relying on consumers' inertia: sometimes laziness, sometimes forgetfulness. Whether they can or should be able to do that is another discussion for another day.

                1. re: jayes

                  This is much like the whole mail in rebate mess, I don't see the gov doing any thing about that.

            2. re: soupkitten

              I have to disagree with your reasoning on the expiration of gift certificates. Even though $1 or a $100 a few years ago is not worth the same as $1 or $100 today, I higly doubt that the restaurant hasn't adjusted its menu prices to reflect its rising costs. Therefore, the only person "losing out" if the restaurant chose to accept the gift certificate would be the OP because the $100 coudln't buy them as much food as it could have a few years ago and they will end up with more out of pocket costs.

              On your second point, there is no indication anywhere in the OP that the gift certificate was sold any an incentive to come to the restaurant within a specific time frame. In fact, it was a gift presumably to be used whenever the recipient wanted. While restaurants often run promotions and coupons, most restaurants today offer gift certificates to be purchased at any time for use whenever the purchaser or the receiver wish.

              All of this is not to say the OP should have been allowed to use the gift certificate. It would have been nice for the restaurant to accept it, but obviously they were under no obligation to do so.

              1. re: mocooks

                (1) Whether or not $100 is worth two years ago is worth the same as $100 now; (2) whether the restaurant has adjusted its pricing to reflect inflation;

                These are beside the point.

                The gift certificate had an expiration date, and from the OP's post, I take it that the expiration date was clearly printed on the certificate itself.

                Now, it would be a completely different case if the gifter purchased the gift certificate after 8/2005!

                There should be a reasonable amount of time when gift certificates can expire on the assumption that the purchaser will use the gift certificate within this time -- if legislation is needed, then so be it -- but I think 2 years beyond the expiration date is pushing it.

                You don't go into the supermarket to buy bread and then return 2 weeks later because the bread has gone bad. There's a reasonable expectation that you would be using that bread within a few days of purchase.

                1. re: mocooks

                  okay-- do you make the same amount of money/hour as you did five years ago? do you expect to make the same amount as you do now in five years?

                  we all know that the min wage in new york increased to $7.15 on jan 1 2007. when the gift cert was sold, staffing costs, & overhead in general, were lower. is it fair that the staff works for the same monetary amount that they did 4 years ago when serving this customer, or that the business owner is expected to pay out of pocket for something that went on the business' books, taxes, p&l 4 years ago? i'd say no. gift certificates often have a 1 year window of redemption for the bookkeeping reasons smartie describes below, and four years after the fact this gift cert turns into a business loss, pure & simple.

                  if you read my post carefully i was trying to point out why there may have been an expiration date on the op's certificate. the fact that the certificate does have one indicates that it may indeed have been a discounted or special deal thing. if it was a straight cash gift cert, there may not have been an expiration printed. if it was a special discount, expiration, definitely.

                  the op was a few years late with the gift certificate, not a few weeks. the gift certificate is a coupon, not legal tender, and the restaurant is within its rights not to honor the expired certificate.

                2. re: soupkitten

                  As a restaurant owner I often provide gift certificates for incentive/promotional purposes. These do have expiration dates as no funds were exchanged to purchase them.
                  I also sell gift certificates for a customer to present as a gift to another party. These gift certificates are non promotional. The customer is in essence trusting me to hold their cash for future service.. Therefore honoring the certificate within the below restriction is simply the right thing to do.
                  If it is not redeemed before the state law regarding abandoned property/monies kicks in, the funds are turned over to the state. Once this happens the customer is redirected to the appropriate state agency for recovery of funds (a statement indicating that the certificate is subject to the abandoned property law is printed on the certificate).

              2. if there was a clear expiration date then I don't see that the restaurant did anything wrong.

                Look at it from a few angles. What if the restaurant had been sold in the interim period? Why should the new owner be honouring gift certificates that the previous owner had banked but didn't have to give out the food?

                I believe it is simply something you have to put down as your loss. You were given a gift and you chose not to use it within a 12 month period. You are not entitled to recompense by the restaurant for your inability to make a reservation and use it.

                When I had a restaurant my CPA wanted a monthly list of gift certificates sold (no tax) and gift certificates redeemed (taxed). So within that 12 month period the taxes have been done at some point.

                I returned some clothes to a store locally and got a gift certificate in return (I had no receipt). We went to use and found it had expired a few weeks before - it was my fault I didn't look properly. The terms were clearly on the certificate so it was my loss.

                1. Snaus

                  Live and learn on this one kiddo.

                  It expired not 1, not 2, but over 2 years ago. It might have been a nice gesture for the resto to accomodate, but after 2 years? That's a tough putt.

                  Too bad your friend did not give you the cash. Cash does not expire, gift certificates in certain states, do.