Why won’t my Claim Jumper gift certificate work?

Rachel Brekke finds two Claim Jumper gift certificates from 1996. Why won’t they work?

Question: I am writing to you because I have run out of ideas as to how to proceed to get Claim Jumper Restaurant to honor two gift certificates that I found after my mother-in-law passed away.

We were cleaning out her dressers and found two gift certificates, each for $25, from 1996. There was no expiration date listed. California doesn’t allow unused gift cards to expire, so the gift certificates should have been honored.

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We went to the La Mesa, Calif., Claim Jumper the day we found these certificates. It was my husband’s birthday and we put the certificates on the table and ordered our meals. When the bill arrived, the manager on duty said that he saw the gift certificates and they would not be honored and handed me a card with the corporate office contact information.

I was upset, embarrassed, and mad.

I called the corporate office, spoke with Shamika, who advised me to send the certificates in and they would investigate and send gift cards to replace the certificates. So I did.

A month later, we received a letter from Landry’s guest services supervisor, stating that they would not honor my request due to the expiration date. Again, there are no expiration dates on the certificates.

Now, Landry’s has the original certificates and I do not know how to proceed next. I do have copies of the certificates and the letters. Can you help? — Rachel Brekke, El Dorado Hills, Calif.

Answer: Claim Jumper should have honored the gift certificates, no matter when you bought them. But this case is a little more complicated than that because you were dealing with a different company. Claim Jumper filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and was acquired by Landry’s.

A helpful FAQ by the state of California suggests Landry’s is not legally obligated to honor the certificates, but notes that you could become a claimant in bankruptcy court. That ship probably sailed a long time ago.

But this was handled all wrong from start to finish. First, let me suggest that the next time you plan to pay with a gift card, talk to your server before ordering. Find out if the certificate is valid. The embarrassment might have been even worse if the gift certificates were your only method of payment.

Your server couldn’t accept your certificate because, as the manager correctly noted, they were invalid. The manager should have explained why, and if that person couldn’t, then Landry’s should have told you. Telling you that your certificates expired only added to your rage, because, as you point out, your certificate usually can’t expire.

By the way, nice work keeping copies of your certificates. Keeping meticulous records is the mark of a good consumer!

Allow me to include my obligatory rant about gift certificates. The benefits are almost entirely to the business. Many certificates and cards are not redeemed, which means the business gets to keep your money. The certificates can get lost — again, bonus for the company. There may also be charges and fees associated with using the certificate. Guess who is the beneficiary?

I contacted Claim Jumper on your behalf. A representative called me and explained the situation. He also apologized, saying the situation was “mishandled” and agreed to honor your certificates. Claim Jumper didn’t have to do that, but I’m glad it did.

This story first appeared June 11, 2015.

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