Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Help Me Howard: Gift Certificate
If you are lucky you probably got gift certificates this holiday season. But be careful. Thousands of them are never used or, in some cases, can't be used -- why? That's what one South Florida woman is asking and wants to cash-in a certificate, so she turned to Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you were nice, or maybe even so naughty it was nice, you probably got gifts this holiday season.
Mary Buchanan: "The gift certificate was for $200."
Mary Buchanan gave a gift certificate to an elderly couple.
Mary Buchanan: "It was a generous gift. The owners of my facility are generous, and they do like to give back to the facility."
Mary runs Grand Court Lakes, an assisted living facility in North Miami-Dade.
Mary Buchanan: "This is a room of what we show people we have available."
This is not one of those nasty nursing homes you see on the news. Here, the residents can have private apartments with a lake view and eat in a dining room served by waiters.
"Hi, how are you, Jack?"
Working with the elderly, Mary says, is not for everyone.
Mary Buchanan: "You really need to be a genuine sincere caring [person]. You have to really like older people, or you are not going to make it."
Mary cares, and that is why she wanted to award a prize to be at a nice Aventura restaurant.
But when the prizewinners went to get their $200 meal, they were told their gift certificate was worthless.
Mary Buchanan: "And it could not be honored because the restaurant had changed hands, and they had new ownership, and they would not allow them to use the gift certificate."
Mary thought that was fishy since she had just bought the certificate a week earlier from the people who said they were the new owners.
Mary Buchanan: "Yeah, they mentioned to me how they were under new ownership and the changes that they were making to the restaurant."
The elderly couple was so embarrassed at being turned away that they didn't want to talk to us, and Mary says that makes her even more upset at the restaurant.
Mary Buchanan: "I was horrified."
Horrified because Mary is convinced the restaurant turned the couple down because they were elderly.
Mary Buchanan: "And I think that maybe when this couple went into the restaurant they saw them as an older couple and thought they could blow them off."
Mary called the restaurant, and they didn't listen, so she put in a call to the folks who aren't seniors but one day want to be.
Howard Finkelstein: "This is simple: It sounds like Mary bought it from the new owners and therefore they must honor it no ifs, ands or buts. However, if they bought it from the previous owner it gets complicated."
When I called the restaurant, the manager got a little irritated.
He denied they ever turned down a gift certificate, and he would take it, even if it were from the previous owners.
He said if the elderly couple came in to ask for him, and it would be honored.
Howard says when it comes to gift certificates, remember to not forget them.
Howard Finkelstein: "When you receive a gift certificate don't let it sit around a long time. Some have expiration dates, sometimes businesses change hands -- and remember, if you don't use them, you lose them because businesses won't let you cash them in."
Mary Buchanan: "And I was telling them that you were a veteran of three wars for the United States."
Patrick Fraser: "You look great."
Mary Buchanan: "Yeah, doesn't he?"
Since the winners of the gift certificate were so embarrassed at being turned away, they don't want it anymore. Mary is now going to give it to another couple and will go along to make sure they are treated well.
Mary Buchanan: "I want the seniors to receive a gift that, as of now, they still haven't got."
Patrick Fraser: "And, by the way, you may like getting a gift certificate, but businesses love them as well. Last year, it's estimated they made over $500 million extra from people forgetting to cash in a gift certificate. If you've got one, don't forget it."
Got a problem that is really getting old? Need some assistance in caring for it? Contact us, hopefully we can provide a certificate of resolution, in other words solve your problem.
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