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April 29, 2008 11:50 AM

Restaurant Gift Certificates: Use it or lose it!

Posted by Nancy Leson

Often enough, after I write about a restaurant closure, I hear from someone who's royally bummed because they've been sitting on an unused gift certificate that's become terminally unusable. In a comment on my earlier post about the closure of Ballard's Market Street Grill, SeaG noted:

"What? MSG closing? A sad surprise. Any word on how they'll honor gift certificates? I was given some awhile ago from a friend and have been too busy to use them. (sniff)"

The same thing happened recently when I wrote about the closure of Kirkland's Mixtura: I got an e-mail from a reader lamenting the fact that she, too, had failed to use a gift certificate before the restaurant closed shop for good. Amazingly enough, she later wrote back and told me that after contacting the owner of the restaurant, he promised to make good on it and refund her money.

That's not the first time someone' stepped up to the plate. In a February 2003 "Taste of the Town" column written in the aftermath of the December 2002 closure of Meridian restaurant on North Lake Union, I noted that enough people made a fuss about being skunked on their "Christmas" gift certificates that the kind folks at Ivar's (no affiliation with Meridian) offered to honor all Meridian gift certificates bearing December sold-dates, allowing giftees to redeem them at Ivar's Salmon House (a stone's throw from Meridian) through the following month. "Our `flounder' Ivar Haglund would have been 98 in March," said marketing director Kirsten Wlashin, at the time. "I know he would have welcomed the folks who were disappointed to learn that their gift certificates were useless. Consider it a birthday present from him." Impressive, don't you think? And good business, right?

As some one who regularly sits on gift cards and gift certificates forever before usuing them, let me say: Take my advice, I don't use it. Have you got a restaurant gift certificate lying around unused? What are you waiting for? With the economy what it is, my suggestion to all of you is: Use it or lose it!

Anyone have any resto-gift-certificate stories they care to share? Spill it.

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