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Fat Cat Bistro not honouring gift certificates (moved from Ontario board)

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This is a bit of a vent, so you can tell me if you think I'm off base on this one:
About a year and a half ago, I purchased $100 in gift certificates for Fat Cat Bistro from a concierge service that my office uses. I had tried to go a few times in 2009 and always ended up elsewhere. Knowing they had a location in Roncesvalles, I headed over there last fall with my husband. They informed us that we could only use the certificates at the Eglinton location. Although it seemed ridiculous, as there is no location on the gift card, we didn't argue.

Yesterday, I just called the Yonge and Eg location, and found out (I guess much later than everyone else!) that they have been closed since December. I contacted the Roncesvalles location, and they refuse to honour the gift cards, apparently because they were not issued by the restaurant. I emailed again to ask him how he could refuse to honour a gift card with their restaurant name on it, knowing that I have paid for this product?

To me, this seems absurd. Am I wrong in assuming they've already accepted my payment for these gift cards back in 2008, from the third party service? While it seemed ridiculous that they wouldn't accept them at the other location when there were two locations, do they not have some kind of obligation (as good business practice and customer service, if for no other reason!) to honour the product of the other now defunct location? After all, it is one company, and it is not a coupon or special offer: it is an actual gift card that a customer paid actual money for!

The good news, is that after contacting the concierge service, they have agreed to refund the value of the certificates, even though they are past their stated one year limit. To me, this seems like the reasonable thing to do for a customer, even though I don't think it was their responsibility.

I think this whole situation reflects very badly on Fat Cat bistro, and even though I try to support the local community by patronizing restaurants in my neighbourhood, I can't say that I am inclined to ever set foot in their restaurant again. It has definitely left a bad taste in my mouth. Thoughts?

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  1. If it's the same ownership, then I agree wholeheartedly with you - really bad and short-sighted move on their part. Irrespective of their arrangements with the third party service, they should accept the card at face value. Failing that, if they can offer some credible explanation as to why they can't, they should at least offer something of value to get you into their restaurant and to avoid a (justifiably) bitter and now (also justifiably) vocal ex-customer. I'd be pissed.

    1. BTW, Ontario passed a law forbidding expiry dates on Gift Cards. Whether that would affect a card bought in 2008 I don't know.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Dimwit

        Thanks PP and DW.
        These cards are not printed with an expiry date, and the person who responded to me said only that they would not honour them because they had been issued by a third party (even though the third party has already reimbursed the restaurant for the value of the gift card). I should have clarified: the concierge service states on its website that if a restaurant goes out of business, it will refund the gift cards for up to a year after purchase.

        I understand it's a difficult situation, after all, if the location closed due to financial problems, presumably the other location must be struggling as well. But I am under the impression that they were/are under the same ownership, so in my opinion, the bottom line is that the ethical thing to do would be for them to have honoured their agreements!

        1. re: sway

          Was it a gift "certificate" or "gift card" because I see those as two differerent things and the words were kind of used interchangeably from a quick read of this thread.

          If it is a "stored value" card and there is no specific location on it then I think that is different than a "gift certificate".... (i.e. a one page printed out page that says you can use the money towards food/etc at the restaurant). Did it mention the Yonge location anywhere on the certificate? If the other location opened after you bought the card maybe they didn't realize they should have said "only valid at this location" because they didn't have 2 locations at the time.

          Anyway, I am glad you got it resolved with the conceirge service. Did you buy the certififcate/card at a discount? Otherwise, I am curious why you bought it to start with vs. using cash/cc at the restaurant?

          1. re: ylsf

            ylsf, it was a gift card. The restaurant's response was that they specifically will not honour plastic gift cards because they were issued by a third party. They would only paper gift certificates that they provide to charities.
            As I prepared the cards to send back to concierge service, I did note two things: 1) the address of the Eglinton location is printed on the back, along with the telephone number and website. So I guess this backs up your argument that the cards could have been issued before the second location, though if it is one owner, I'm still not sure why they wouldn't be accepted at both locations? 2) Also on the back of the card is the statement "This card is issued exclusively by Fat Cat Bistro", which goes against the restaurant's premise that a third party had issued the card.

            I believe I paid $90 for the $100 gift cards, and I think it was before Christmas, so I thought I would keep them on hand as in case of emergency gifts for foodie friends, or else treat someone to a nice dinner if they weren't needed.

      2. What a horrible way to treat your customers. Having been to their Eglinton location, I can say that you're not missing out on that much.