Troubleshooter: Unused gift certificates

RALEIGH Those customers turned to iTeam Troubleshooter Diane Wilson for some answers.

Marilyn Hernandez loves to enjoy a day at the spa. She said she goes to de-stress and get pampered.

"Who doesn't like to get pampered?" she asked.

So when it comes to getting gifts, her husband treats her well.

"My husband always gets me gift certificates for Iatria every year," Hernandez explained.

The Iatria Day Spa was her favorite spa until its owner recently shut down all locations without notice.

"I was upset because no one was notified of closing, website down, phone disconnected," she said. "I called all three locations."

Hernandez has unused gift certificates she didn't know what to do with.

"They're not cheap, and we all have balances on them or we have new ones that have not been used," she explained.

The good news is R.O.i Salon in Raleigh has stepped up to help.

"I've been in the industry 20 years, and I couldn't imagine holding a gift certificate and the place closing down especially in the increments we've seen coming through our doors anywhere from $100 to $1,300," R.O.i Salon owner Roi Parker said. "The people have outstanding [balances].

R.O.i is honoring Iatria gift certificates dollar for dollar. While the salon doesn't offer messages, it does offer nail, hair and skin services.

Customers with Iatria gift certificated should be patient. Since the salon closed, R.O.i has had 750 calls and will continue to honor certificates dollar for dollar as long as they are not expired.

Hernandez is thankful for the generosity and now has her husband thinking differently when it comes to gift giving.

"I've told my husband to not buy me anymore certificates," she said. "I told my husband to make a flyer on the computer with a dollar amount and for me to go to that specific spa with that dollar amount."

Besides R.O.i Salon, Synergy Spa in Raleigh is honoring Iatria's unused gift cards. Both places have certain conditions on when you can redeem the certificates so be sure to call first.

Iatria Day Spa told the Better Business Bureau, ""Iatria Day Spa was one of those businesses left struggling with the current economic state, and made the decision to close all three locations in Raleigh and Cary this week.

Iatria manager, David Mangrum, attributed the downfall to economic difficulties.

With the economy, many businesses are struggling and if they close their doors unexpectedly, what rights do you have when it comes to your unused gift certificates, warranties or products you haven't received?

With the holidays right around the corner, gift certificates are always a popular gift, but be careful as you want your gift to be uses. Also consider paying with plastic as you can dispute the charge within a certain timeframe if the business closes all of a sudden.

The BBB offers the following suggestions for consumers left with a gift certificate from a company that has closed:

  • If you pay for a gift certificate by credit card, and the charge has not already been made to your account, you can dispute the charge through your credit card company before the out-of-business firm actually receives its money for the sale. Check with your card issuer right away.
  • If you are left holding a gift certificate of a business that declares Chapter 11 bankruptcy, courts will decide if the business must honor gift cards or certificates. If the business has filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the holder must file a claim. In some cases, consumers might actually get at least part of the value of the gift card back. Some retailers have tried wooing new customers by accepting a bankrupt competitor's gift card - but this is generally a rare circumstance. BBB advises that consumers redeem gift certificates as soon as possible in order to avoid any headaches with bankruptcy files and court actions.
  • Consumers can file a complaint with the North Carolina Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filling out a complaint form online at
  • Check out the company at If BBB is aware of any bankruptcy or licensing problems, it will be included in the BBB's Reliability Report for the business.
  • In the future, before purchasing a gift certificate or gift card, consider the following:
    • Can the card or certificate be redeemed online?
    • Does it have an expiration date?
    • Check the 800 number on the back to see what the current balance is (BBB has heard horror stories about scammers getting information off the back and stealing the card from right under the gift giver and receiver).
    • Ask if it can be redeemed by another retailer if something should happen to the store on whose name it is offered. Some gift cards start accruing service charges after a certain period of time, so read the fine print.

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