Surprise gift card expiration puts brakes on racing fun

DANVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- A Danville man wanted to donate an unforgettable experience-- a day driving around a race car track. But an unexpected turn put the brakes on everything.

Dean Chapman wanted to give his wife Renee something different. So for her birthday, he gave her the gift of speed.

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"She loves to drive fast. So I thought I would enjoy a day on the performance track down in Thermal, California," said Dean.

He bought her a day at the BMW Performance Center near Palm Springs.

Unfortunately, after three years, the couple determined getting down South would be too difficult. They decided to donate their gift to a charity auction at the Beth Chaim Congregation in Danville.

But the auction winner wasn't able to use it either.

"We found out that there was an expiration date on the back of the card that was glued to the certificate that we received."

Dean is a former Vegas backup singer and a music leader at the Congregation. So, he's fairly well known to everyone at the charity auction.

"Yeah, it was kind of embarrassing when you donate something and then you're told you didn't really donate anything," he said.

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Dean wondered why the gift certificate would have an expiration date since he thought that was prohibited in California.

Suzanne Martindale is an attorney with Consumers Union.

"It applies to both cards and paper gift certificates. And it makes clear when a consumer has received a gift card from a particular merchant, the funds on that gift certificate or card will not expire," Martindale said.

Dean contacted 7 On Your Side for help and we contacted BMW.

It agreed to allow the auction winner to use the certificate saying "We are thrilled that this gift certificate made it into the hands of someone through the support of charity."

We asked them if they agreed that expiration dates on gift cards were not allowed in California.

They told us "BMW takes compliance very seriously and is always reviewing practices to make sure we are in line with all federal and state requirements."

Dean is just happy the matter is settled.

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"You made it happen and it was just a win-win for everyone. Thank you very much," he said.

Consumers Union tells us that the civil code that deals with gift card does not specify any penalties for violations, and can be difficult for consumers to enforce without going to court.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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