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BBB Trends: If stores, restaurants close, here are some tips on gift cards, purchases, warranties

Better Business Bureau

2019 saw the closure of many popular retailers, restaurants and bars around the Tristate — some newer, and some with over 100 years longevity. While these closings have left us in search of new favorite spots to shop and dine, they also might leave us with some questions regarding gift cards, warranties, or recent purchases.

BBB provides advice regarding steps you can take if a business suddenly closes while you have outstanding business with them.

First, try to contact the business to complete the transaction or resolve the issue. Some closed businesses will offer an email, website, social media page, or phone number to contact for more information about the closure. Don’t rule out sending communication via mail, as they may have a forwarding address. If the business has a physical address, check to see if there is a notice posted with information on where to turn for help.

Gather receipts, proofs of purchase and any other documents such as warranties and manuals. These materials will help you prepare for your request for a resolution.

If you have unused gift card, the possibility of using them depends on the store and its reason for closing. If the business filed for bankruptcy, the guidelines by which they are allowed to continue accepting gift cards is contingent on the bankruptcy filing and if the court has authorized it. Therefore, companies declaring bankruptcy may be less likely to honor gift cards than companies going out of business for other reasons.

If you purchased gift cards from a vendor rather than from the store itself, contact the vendor — they may allow you to exchange the card for one of the same value from a different store.

As a last-ditch effort, hold onto the gift card in hopes the business will reopen, or try one of the company’s former competitors. They have no obligation to honor your gift card but some stores accept their competitors’ gift cards or give you discounts in exchange for them. It’s worth a shot!

If the company has not filed for bankruptcy, the business is still obligated to fulfill your order, or provide a refund. Closing a business doesn’t relieve the owner of that responsibility.

Regarding warranties, the validity of any outstanding warranties varies depending on the facts. If a retailer goes out of business, you may be able to rely on the manufacturer’s warranty. If a manufacturer goes out of business, you may be able to rely on a retailer warranty. Many extended warranties and service plans are provided and administered by third parties and are typically not affected by a retailer or manufacturer closing its doors.

If you purchased goods or services you didn’t receive, including gift cards, check with the bank or credit card you used to make the purchase at the now-closed business. You may be able to dispute the transaction due to failure to receive goods or services.

Customers in these situations can also file complaints with the BBB (www.bbb.org) and/or the FTC at www.ftc.gov. Depending upon the amount of the claim, small claims court is also an option. Additionally, BBB advises keeping a detailed journal of your efforts including contact names and dates. This journal could prove to be valuable in your search for a resolution.

Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202—to reach the office, call (513) 421-3015.

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