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May 24, 2009 01:22 AM

expired gift certificate

this may seem cut and dry to some but let me explain. friends of ours were given a gift certificates -by us- for a restaurant that we enjoy. as it was somewhat of a present that the couple thought was unnecessary they had insisted on using it with us ....anyway as life happens sometimes by the time we went to use it it had expired by 1 yr and 5 months( i understand this is a long time however the gift certificate had a i year expiration date on it). did not want to have a problem at the restaurant so i called to determine if certificate could be used...initially the girl on the phone said no problem but to be sure i asked to speak to the manager who deferred me to the owner. Anyway i prefaced my talk with him (on the phone) by saying we are regulars (we have probably been to the restaurant which is walkable for us maybe 30 times in the past 3 years and have sent him much business in the form of takeout and new customers)...the manager was quite nasty in tone on the phone saying what his policy was and that is online with what others do..I really do feel this is poor business practice for any business (i am a business owner myself) and I told him so. I told him we would not be returning with the couple for dinner this week and he accused me of "threatening him" with loss of business. We go out about 3x /week and although i like the restaurant and for this area of north jersey it is quite good albeit overpriced i wont return.

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  1. I think you handled it very well by calling ahead to check rather than risking a potential scene at the time. While of course he has the right to say what he did, I agree it was very poor business practice and alientated a good customer. I think sometimes restaurants forget that they've had *your* money in their hands for a year and a half now; this isn't the case of a charity donation which is a somewhat different story.

    1. As a business owner, I understand the restaurant owners dilema...
      Where does one draw the line?
      There has to be a rule, yet there still must be some flexibility.
      Personally, I think a 10% leeway mays sense, but 40% additional time is pushing
      it too far.
      The business has to carry the gift certificate on its book as a liability until it is used or expires. If it has been written off due to expiration and is now presented it creates accounting and possible tax consequences.

      In 1970 we bought a business. The previous owners ran a retirement sale prior to the deal's closing. More than $50,000 in old (more than 5 years) gift certificates were presented. The owners had to reach into their pockets to make good on these funds when settling their final tax bill.

      On another note>>>
      The State of Connecticut has solved this problem for its residents.
      A law was passed a numer of years ago, that after 8/16/03, all gift certificates and
      gift cards sold in Connecticut do NOT expire and can not be eaten up by lack of activity fees.

      Even if you write off this establishment, it is time to work on your state legislators for a law such as this.

      Gift Certificates and Gift Cards

      The Unclaimed Property law was amended in 2003 to include language concerning gift certificates. Effective August 16, 2003, merchants selling gift certificates cannot place expiration dates on the certificates, nor can they impose inactivity fees/penalties to gift certificates/cards if the certificates/cards are not used by a certain date. Even if the “fine print” on the back of cards sold after that date describes inactivity fees or includes expiration dates, the new Connecticut law applies.

      2 Replies
      1. re: bagelman01

        I agree, co- owning even as a silent partner more of the chefs end vs the financial end. It is frustrating. And I am guilty I have a gift cert I haven't used. Over 8 months, I just forgot about it. One thing ... I had those cards, I put it in my wallet and forget about it. I did with starbucks, AMC and Home depot, luckily no expiration.

        Restaurants I like the good ol paper copy, sorry, but I understand why the card issue. I agree with the person who got the card, but agree being involved with the restaurant that it is policy. If the owner knew he really was a good customer, I would of approved it ... but again how many times can you do that and allow it and where to draw the line? If a really good customer ... ok, but it is a tough call.

        Yes, very smart to call ahead. Regardless of the outcome. Hard call for either decision.

        1. re: bagelman01

          In MA, gift certificates are valid for 7 years by law.

        2. The owner probably should have been a bit more customer focused and allowed its use, but it seems you are now punishing him for holding up his benefit of the bargain. The coupon clearly stated the expiration date and this was known, and it was not a couple of days after the expiration date but more than a year. You obviously like thisplace since you go there all the time and now because your friend screwed up you taking it out on the restaurant.

          Take a deep breath and make sure that you "blame" the offending party, not the non-offending party.

          9 Replies
          1. re: jfood

            the expiration date itself was actually only 5 months ago although i agree its a long time. its a bit frustrating as we go there often. I can get over the loss of the 75 bucks he had , i cant get over his indignation/tone. If I had stayed on to talk to him I would have suggested splitting the difference and making it a 35 or 40 compromise but i dont enjoy getting that attitude on the phone and at that point figured i wouldnt be happy for any price. in this day and age its really not my loss

            1. re: ekdd

              I suggest you check out New Jersey's law on gift certificates - it seems the 12 month expiration time period is against the law, and the gift certificate is still usable.


              The new law takes effect April 4, 2006 (although the provisions relating to the font size of disclosures will not be enforced against a gift card or gift certificate that is issued on or before January 4, 2007).

              The new law will:

              * prohibit gift cards and gift certificates from expiring within 24 months of issue;
              * prohibit charging dormancy fees within 24 months of issue or within 24 months of the most recent transaction; and
              * prohibit dormancy fees that exceed $2.00 per month.

              More info: and from the State of NJ Legislature:

              So despite the gift certificate having an expiration date, the 1 year expiration is illegal.

              1. re: LindaWhit

                About time NJ caught up with Connecticut...........
                But they don't seem to be doing a good job educating consumers and businesses.

                I suggest ekdd make a formal complaint to the state authorities

                1. re: bagelman01

                  The same thing still happens up here in MA - cards/certificates can't expire for 7 years, and cards with balances of less than $5 can be redeemed in cash but many places still give the card back with that amount or less on it.

                  1. re: bagelman01

                    <<I suggest ekdd make a formal complaint to the state authorities>>

                    instead of being vindictive, why not just bring the law to the business owner's attention? telephone nastiness aside, he's probably just going by a house policy that predates the law change because it's better for the business' bookkeeping and accounting. the op might stand to make a friend rather than an enemy by being understanding and nice about the situation.

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      Making a formal complaint is NOT vindictive.........
                      Our taxes are paying the civil servants salaries. They would bring the law to the attention of the restaurant. There would not likely be a fine for a first offense.
                      The restaurant would more likey heed the state employee, than pay attention to a customer who tells them of the law.

                      This way the state employee is the 'bad guy' NOT the customer who might be afraid of receiving doctored food

                        1. re: bagelman01

                          The "bad guy " here is the restauranteur who did not properly and correctly record the liability of the certificate, and spent the cash a year or so ago, and is now pissed off that he won't get paid twice for the same meal. As we say in Mexico, f*%k him, and feed him frijoles.

                          1. re: bagelman01

                            Let's see...the owner gets a phone call about a gift certificate that has expired and he draws a line in the sand. Two weeks later the state calls him about a gift certificate that expired that he did not follow the law upon. Yup, owner would never be able to connect the dots for that vector. (Insert sarcasm here).

                            Why not rise above it and try to work with the owner. What if this were Sallys. Would you call Hartford? Maybe the owner just did not know.

                            Jfood thinks its gutless to call the government to do what might be a simple mistake by the owner.

                            Start with..."I am not sure you know that the law in NJ changed in 2006..."

                            How about giving people the benefit of the doubt instead of thermo-nuclear war.

                2. I think you and the manager both wish you could have a do-over on this one, but it may be too late. I would have suggested going to the restaurant on a day you were not planning to eat, and ask the manager/owner face-to-face to re-validate the certificate, with his initials and an "OK". Familiarity and a calm tone are harder to reject. Impersonal phone calls at busy times can be iffy, and e-mails are even worse. In my experience, when I am depending on the kindness of strangers, the odds are against me 72 to 28.

                  1. Out of curiosity - was this a discount gift certificate? (Like you paid $25 for a $50 discount.) Or did you pony up say $50 for a $50 gift certificate?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Cinnamon

                      this was a 75$ gift certificate that cost....75$

                      1. re: ekdd

                        Raise hell if it was purchased after the law in your state went into effect, which it certainly sounds like it was. The owner was rude and is responsible for knowing the law about what he sells. You can try what jfood mentioned, of course, if you want any further contact with the restaurant - that might work but also might subject you to further tirades from the owner.

                        Maybe someone with cc experience can chime in - is this kind of thing far out of the realm of requesting a chargeback from your cc provider, because of how long ago it was purchased? (If you bought it with a cc, if it was American Express, they if anyone would be the cc company I'd expect would be most likely to be helpful.)

                        Would also contact the N.J. state authorities. It's just $75. But it IS $75 and there's a matter of principle here too.