Why people may stay away from Gift Certificates from small business.

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06/24/2008

I am all about small business!  I by local and direct all my customers to local restaurants and shops when I can. 

This past summer and fall I had a special promotion with a local restaurant.  This restaurant has been in business for over 20 years and has an excellent reputation.  I would  purchase $100 worth of $25 GC's at a time and they gave me a 5th one for free.  As we it wound down around Thanksgiving, we had 3 GC's left and decided to stop promoting the special and save them to give as Christmas gifts to some friends. 

Then yesterday morning while out shopping, we ran into a friend who happens to be a friend of the restaurant owner who told us the restaurant was closing as of Dec. 23rd.  I know my eyes were about to pop out of their sockets.  Well we got a hold of our friends, some we occasionally have dinner with, and asked if they would like to meet for dinner...  Thank goodness they all agreed. 

So on arrival we provided each with their Christmas gift; we all had a great time as well.  This was NOT what we had planned but it ended well.  As the night went on & the wine flowed we talked about how this could have ended differently had we not heard the news.  Can you imagine us providing a gift of a GC and come to find out they were out of business!!! 

Madeleine's picture
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09/29/2011

Not applicable to this conversation at all...just spent 7 hours in the car driving home from a wonderful first Christmas off in 10 years getaway. Phone rings in the car. Guy needing to cancel tomorrow night because the caregiver for his aged parent backed out on him. Another call from someone wanting to know if I'm 'home'. I explain I am not and there is a sign to that effect. He claims he has a rez for tonight. No, he doesn't. He made it himself for the wrong date. I am not home, he is on the porch. What now?

Sigh. Owning your own biz is not for wimps. I can't even go away for a few days. (Altho, I will not complain any more than this. Other people had worse happen over the hols.)

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Innkeep's picture
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06/04/2008

We had blizzard warnings well-publicized for the last couple of days, so I emailed the guest who made reservations for a get-away with her daughter.  Told her she could cancel without penalty because only essential traffic was supposed to be on the road.  I guess I should of phoned, but I really didn't think calling on Christmas Day is was very cool, so I waited.  No response today until 5 pm, a phone call "We're in town at the mall".  Although we only had about 7" of snow,  the guy who plows hasn't made it here yet (only stopped snowing at 3pm).  So, I shoveled one parking place and the walk off just in time for them to arrive.  Now I can feel all the muscles in my torso!

They were here last year and had such a good time they came back driving 90 miles through a blizzardblush

Madeleine's picture
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09/29/2011

We're waiting for the cancellations tomorrow from guests whose flights are cancelled.

Madeleine's picture
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09/29/2011

It's a tough one all around. How about those folks who had Circuit City paid-for purchases that hadn't been shipped? Or no place to return a broken item? Ditto Linens and Things.

We've had restaurants here just close up and never reopen after the winter. Luckily, I only buy enough GC's to restaurants to meet current demand.

I had a GC for a spa and the place changed owners and the new owner (the original owner's own daughter!) wouldn't accept the GC. That's just wrong. If it's the same type of business and it's an immediate succession, that should be handled between the buyer and seller, NOT pushed off onto the consumer. Needless to say, I did not spend any money at that spa.

In places like ours there are ways to accomplish this. Relatively few people walk in off the street to buy a GC here, I have to mail all of them. I could offer to buy back the GC or exchange it with another inn and let the recipient know it would be valid elsewhere (and then I'd pay that inn).

Joey Camb's picture
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the worst one we had was a sort of christmas saving company ie you put money away each month and you can use the money to pick from their catalogue or get gift vouchers. They went bust just before christmas one year took everyone's christmas money with them. a lot of the big supermarkets stepped in an helped out but most people lost everything - and most were very low income families.

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06/24/2008

Well we did see the owner after dinner to wish him well.  He then offered to reimburse any outstanding GC but of course at that was a done deal.  No new owners taking over so the GC's would have been nothing more than trash.  What he told us was the owners of the building were wanting to sell and no more renting.  He was not wanting to purchase so it was - scramble to find another location or close. 

K, most small businesses do not retain the purchaser information so there is no way to personally let them know.  In this case the owner did not advertise it either.  Guess he felt it more of an unnecessary expense or not even thinking about the outstanding GC's that may be floating about.  He didn't have inventory like most shops that post going out of business sales. 

This all just made me think why I did not sell as many GC this year as before.  So many small businesses are closing down, maybe that is the reason.  This year my GC came with an incentive to use it quickly as we gave a 'bonus' certificate if used with in a certain period.   Even with that, sells were down but at least I feel the ones purchased will be using them quickly to take advantage.  If/when we bid adieu to this business I prefer having as few of these on the books as possible.

 

gillumhouse's picture
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05/22/2008

I would not expect a restaurant to keep track of all the GCs, but you are not "just a patron". They had an arrangement with you. The buy 4, get one free made it different from the usual Joe. THAT is why I felt they should have notified you of what was happening.

I am just as happy selling one each Christmas for parents which is what it usually is. Last year it was a one night for parents who are local with a business and cannot get away to any distance - they used it in Auguist.

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gillumhouse wrote:

I would not expect a restaurant to keep track of all the GCs, but you are not "just a patron". They had an arrangement with you. The buy 4, get one free made it different from the usual Joe. THAT is why I felt they should have notified you of what was happening.

I am just as happy selling one each Christmas for parents which is what it usually is. Last year it was a one night for parents who are local with a business and cannot get away to any distance - they used it in Auguist.

K, you may be right that we were not just a patron but given what we know now, this was more of a force out of business and I can only imagine what has been running through his mind that had to be taken care of upon closing.  I am sure that I am not the only 'special' patron of his business.  He had plenty of regulars many who may have also gotten a special GC package.  At this point I am just very relieved that we heard this in time and were able to get our friends together for a special Christmas get-together.  But it will have me leery of purchasing small local GC's in the future without knowing they would be used upon receipt. 

This said I have 2 other local restaurant GC's for other Christmas gifts, hoping they will act quickly just in case. 

Madeleine's picture
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09/29/2011

Our town is not as close knit as yours. If I bought 5 GC's from a local restaurant where I regularly do business they would have no idea I had any outstanding GC's nor would they call me to let me know they were closing.

We regularly have new people as director at the chamber and at the marketing bureau. Being as I'm paying their salaries you'd think they'd give me a call to say hello and introduce themselves. Not a chance. (One showed up 6 months after getting the job. This after not showing up when we had an appt to meet. 'Oops, I forgot.' Give me strength.) All of those orgs look at us as small potatoes. Mouthy people who want something for their money. You have to have deeeeeep pockets in this town to have anyone give you the time of day.

I've gone in to introduce myself to new owners of different stores and restaurants and told them we'd be happy to promote them, just send someone by with the marketing materials to put out for the guests. Ha. Even the marketing bureau, which is supposed to come every 2 weeks with coupons and maps, was here once during the summer and I never saw her again.

 

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05/30/2008

It took me forever to get the C&VB to recognize my business, put it on the lodging part of their website (there is no charge), and to drop by their marketing materials when they were updated instead of me going to pick them up.  (I live 5 blocks from them, too!)   This was after they called up when I first opened and brought casts of thousands for a look-see and departed with a large plate of our signature cookies and my rack cards, business card, etc.

Yeah, we were really small potatoes here too....

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Madeleine's picture
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09/29/2011

copperhead wrote:

  If/when we bid adieu to this business I prefer having as few of these on the books as possible.

This is why we are looking ahead to when we sell. I may cease selling GC's the year we go on the market and then contact everyone I can find and let them know it's time to use them up. We generally 'carry' about $1000 in outstanding GC's at any one time. This year we only had a few purchased. It is slowing down.

Silverspoon's picture
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10/16/2011

We stopped selling GC a few years ago and I'm glad we did.  Coincidentally, I just got off the phone with some one from Calif. looking to purchase a GC for her daughter.  I will send her out some materials so she can make up her own GC, putting as much $$$ as she wants towards their eventual stay.  When the young couple calls to make the reservation it will be very straight forward on our end and much easier for us.  We don't plan on selling but I know from friends who have sold their inns that carrying over GC can be a liability once the negotiation starts.  

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seashanty's picture
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06/02/2008

copperhead, did you talk to the owners directly?  maybe something happened behind the scenes and they obviously just weren't thinking about gc's down the road.

i'm wondering what will happen to the gc's still floating around out there.  we all know what a nightmare that can be for new owners (if any of this place)

 

sad

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gillumhouse's picture
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05/22/2008

Nice of the restaurant to remember how you supported them! Yes, they really SHOULD have been the ones to contact you that they were closing - not leaving it for you to "hear on the street". That was not nice. I am glad you found out in time to enjoy the certificates.

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05/30/2008

Once I made the decision and was planning to close the biz, I had a couple of outstanding gift certificates that were donated or complimentary and one paid GC.  I contacted those folks via email and let them know our closing date.

The responses were heartwarming and no one cashed in their "free" gift certificates.  I sent a check to the folks who had paid for theirs.

I had a gift certificate from a friend for a kitchen wares type locally owned store here.  I heard nothing about their closing and never received a refund.  I felt bad for my friend as her generous gift was wasted....

 

Breakfast Diva's picture
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05/26/2009

Glad it had a happy ending!

 

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