Question arises over gift cards for closed Red Barn
Updated 9:47 am, Friday, August 7, 2015
Carolyn Tschinkel and her husband liked the Red Barn restaurant, a place where they often dined, so they were happy to get a $150 gift card to the restaurant last Christmas.
“I liked the chicken francese and my husband liked the veal parmigiana, so we didn’t even have to look at the menu,” said Tschinkel, a Trumbull resident.
They saved the gift certificate to use for a special day in July.
“We were married 21 years ago, on July 30th,” she said, adding the couple planned to use the gift card to celebrate the event at the Red Barn.
But when her husband tried to make a dinner reservation, he found the phone number for the restaurant was disconnected. “We didn’t know what happened,” she said.
She said they finally saw an article in the Westport News about the closing of the restaurant, a landmark on Wilton Road for more than five decades. It was owned by the Nistico family since 1983.
In a message on the restaurant’s website — and a hand-written note on the door — the Nisticos made the closing official in early July. “Thank you for your many years of patronage and support!” the owners stated on the website.
Members of the Nistico family could not be reached for comment.
“We were pretty much shocked,” Tschinkel said. “We had gone there just a short time ago and no one indicated this was happening.”
She was wondering what to do with that $150 gift card now.
“The rule of thumb with gift cards is to always use them as soon you can after purchase or receipt as a gift because, if a retailer closes or goes bankrupt, there may be little to no recourse to recover an unspent gift card balance,” said Claudette Carveth, communications director for the state’s Department of Consumer Protection. “While Connecticut gift cards don’t expire, businesses can and do fail unexpectedly,” she added.
She said when the business closes and there are outstanding gift cards, the former business owner, if there are assets, may want to offer former patrons some full or partial restitution on unused gift cards.
“If there are no assets, then customers who have not used their gift cards will probably be unable to get any value from them,” Carveth added.
“Occasionally we have seen cases where other local businesses will step in to honor the gift cards of a business that closed, for a limited period of time,” she noted. “That however, is at the discretion of the local businesses, and not an area that we regulate.”
Carveth said any complaints can be sent to her office with a photocopy of the gift card in question.
“Based on that we will look into the matter; the circumstances of the closing,” she said.
The complaint should also include the consumer’s name, phone, email if applicable and home address as well as a description of the problem. In this case, she said, it would be that the restaurant has closed.
Carveth said complaints can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or they can be mailed to Frauds Division, Department of Consumer Protection, 165 Capitol Ave., Hartford, CT 06106.