Gift cards are some of the most popular gifts.
But, when an Oceanside couple tried to give one as a wedding present, they ran into trouble: the restaurant claimed the card had already been used.
“I bought something, I should have the right to use it,” Liz Rhea told NBC 7 Responds. Liz said she is frustrated over how Benihana Restaurant staff treated her when she ran into a gift card complication.
Back in 2013, Liz said she found a deal online for Benihana restaurant gift cards.
“If you buy two $50 gift cards through Benihana’s website, you would get a $10 card for free,” Liz said. “And we like Benihana so we bought two.”
Benihana’s website provided the Rheas three pieces of paper that Liz printed out on her home computer. Liz said the couple spent one of the $50 cards and the $10 card but said the other $50 card stayed in her purse for three years.
Last month, Liz went to give that last card as a wedding present but she only had the gift certificate on a piece of paper. She told NBC 7 Responds she wanted it transferred to a gift card.
“Instead of putting it on this piece of paper that looks like nothing good that you want to give as a wedding present,” she said.
Liz and her husband went to the Benihana restaurant in Oceanside to transfer the amount on the certificate to a gift card but Liz said the clerk came back with bad news: there’s nothing on the card.
“I said, ‘Hang on there, wait a minute, I know that there’s something on the card because I would not keep this if there wasn’t anything on there,’” Liz said.
The staff at the restaurant told the Rheas the card’s amount had already been used, spent in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida two years prior.
Liz and her husband said they haven’t been to Florida in 20 years. The Rheas said they called every Benihana corporate number they could, but no one could assist them. So, they turned to NBC 7 Responds.
After speaking with a spokesperson for the restaurant chain, a Benihana representative called the Rheas and sincerely apologized for the delay and miscommunication. Benihana offered the Rheas a $75 gift card, $25 more than what the Rheas were looking for.
To see the full story on how NBC 7 Responds was able to help the Rheas, watch the video above.
A major reason gift cards are such a popular gift is it gives the recipient the choice to find what they want the most.
Tips for buying gift cards
When you shop for a gift card, the Federal Trade Commission recommends:
- Buy from sources you know and trust. Avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites, because the cards may be counterfeit or may have been obtained fraudulently.
- Read the fine print before you buy. Is there a fee to buy the card? If you buy a card by phone or online, are there shipping and handling fees? If you don't like the terms and conditions, buy elsewhere.
- See whether any fees will be deducted from the card after you purchase it.
- Inspect the card before you buy it. Verify that none of the protective stickers have been removed. Make sure that the codes on the back of the card haven't been scratched off to reveal a PIN number. Report any damaged cards to the store selling the cards.
- Give the recipient your original receipt so they can verify the card's purchase in case it is lost or stolen.
- Consider the financial condition of the retailer or restaurant.
- If you buy a card from a company that files for bankruptcy or goes out of business, the card may be worth less than you had anticipated.
- If the business closes a store near the recipient, it may be hard to find another location where the card can be used.
- A company that files for bankruptcy may honor its gift cards, or a competitor may accept the card. Call the company or its competitor to find out. Even if the company is not redeeming gift cards now, check back with them periodically; they may start redeeming cards at a later date
Tips for using gift cards
If you have a gift card, the Federal Trade Commission recommends:
- When you get the card, read the card and any terms and conditions. Check for an expiration date or fees.
- If it appears that the value of your card has expired, or that fees have been deducted, contact the company that issued the card. They may still honor the card or reverse the fees.
- Ask the person giving you the card for the card's terms and conditions, the original purchase receipt, or the card's ID number; keep this information in a safe place.
- Use your card as soon as you can. It's not unusual to misplace gift cards or forget you have them; using them early will help you get the full value.
- Treat your card like cash. If your card is lost or stolen, report it to the issuer immediately. You may not recover any of the value that was on the card. Some issuers will not replace cards that are lost or stolen, but other issuers will, for a fee. You may need to show proof of purchase and the ID number on the card. Most issuers have toll-free telephone numbers you can call to report a lost or stolen card.