Couple reedems restaurant certificates

October 23, 2009 7:48:23 PM PDT
When you don't know what to buy for someone, a gift card is always a good idea. California has a lot of rules to make sure they don't expire, but those rules won't help if the business goes under.

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Art and Jerilyn Paley threw a dinner party for friends and got a nice thank you gift -- a $100 gift certificate to dine at Brio Italian Restaurant in Burlingame.

"We couldn't get reservations, so we kept calling," said Jerilyn Paley.

Brio is located next to the railroad tracks and last april an RV stalled on the tracks and before anybody could move it, a freight train crashed into it. It shoved the RV into the restaurant building.

Brio closed up after that.

"I never found out why it closed," said Art Paley.

All they knew was the phone didn't pick up, but the Paleys went to the Brio web site and found links to three other restaurants owned by the same people.

They're located on San Francisco's quaint Belden Place, known for its European style al fresco dining. So Jerilyn called one of the other restaurants.

"I said we had a gift certificate and we were unable to use it and we wondered if we could use it at one of the other restaurants," said Jerilyn. "She said it's a no-go. The restaurant is closed and your gift certificate is void."

The Paleys thought that didn't seem right.

"They have a group of at least three restaurants and i thought they should honor it," said Art. "I'm going to call Michael Finney's 7 On Your Side and find out if they can help us."

So they did and the first thing we did is check out the rules. California has lots of protections for consumers who buy retail gift cards, but if a business closes you are probably out the money.

The attorney general told us a business does not have to honor a gift card issued by another business, just because it has the same owner. If the corporate entities are different, so are the gift card obligations.

But we spoke with Pino Spinoso chef-owner of all the restaurants and he agreed to swap the Brio card for a gift card at one of the other three restaurants.

"I'm sure the people who buy the certificate at Brio they know us and so we try to keep everybody happy," said Spinoso.

The Paleys decided to dine at Cafe Tiramisu.

"Which we will be happy to go to Cafe Tiramisu and eat there," said Art.

"Good, I would like to meet them. I'm sure the glass of champagne is on me when they come in," said Spinoso.

The rules are different for chain stores like Macy's or target. You can take your gift card to any location to another. This case was different because the restaurants operate as separate businesses. Related link: Tips on gift certificates and gift cards

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