Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dear Small Business Owner Whose Gift Certificate Has Expired

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Dear Small Biz Owner,

I was thinking that my dusty old gift certificate for your services might come in handy now that I *finally* (almost) have a house again. I was also thinking that maybe, given that well over a year had passed since I received said gift certificate, it might have expired. However, the certificate is not dated nor is an expiration date listed.

I wrote you a nice note explaining that I had been holding on to the certificate and was hoping I might  redeem it because after a year of house hunting followed by many months of home renovations, I am ready to "nest" and your services would come in handy.

Admittedly, I gave you an out, explaining that I understood if the certificate no longer applied. (Perhaps I should have stressed the lack of an expiration date.)

Your clipped response, "Yes, those certificates are void," left me cold, though.

A short apology, i.e. including the word "sorry," might have been nice.

Etiquette aside, a smarter business move would have been something like, "Sorry, the certificate is void. However, if you want to purchase 3 hours of my services, I will add in one additional hour for free."

I could have been a customer. I could have been thrilled by your expertise and referred my friends to you, written about you on my blog, left you good marks on Angie's List.

Instead, I'm shredding the gift certificate.


Sara (from Saving for Someday) said...

Hi Kim,

Sorry that the business chose not to do the right thing. Not only the right thing in terms of good customer service, but also in terms of complying with IL and Federal laws.

In 2009, a new Federal Law was passed to address the issue of unused gift cards/certificates. The rule is that they don't expire for at least 5 years. The law is the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act). And while it may not pertain to your specific situation if it is a paper certificate (the CARD Act is more for electronic commerce), IL law does apply.

Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 815, §505/2SS(b)
On or after January 1, 2008, no person shall sell a gift certificate that is subject to an expiration date earlier than five years after the date of issuance.

It's unfortunate that the company doesn't want to honor the gift. Regardless how you came about it, the fact is that someone paid for it OR the company itself offered it to you to use their services.

While there are exceptions to the law, and possibly your situation fits into one of the exceptions, I'm sure that while you have not mentioned the business here on your blog because it may not be relevant to a national audience, your local friends/family will likely know the company and this lack of good customer service will not be rewarded. Many of us do speak with our pocket books!

Peryl said...

Brilliant. Amazing how few businesses know the power of good customer service!

Shari said...

You'd be surprised at how many people open businesses with an idea, but no common sense.

Renee A. Schuks-Jacobson said...

It is just common business sense. That person could have gained a customer who would have sang their praises to other people. Maybe even used them again in the future.

But now.


You are bitter.

And while you didn't use their name here, I imagine you will tell your friends in real life. Such silly mistakes. And in this economy? That's the way to go out of business. Fast.

Thanks for following me on Twitter @rasjacobson. ;-)

And this is a mighty good lesson!