They're still trying to resolve it, but we were jipped twenty five bucks!
For Christmas, 2005, my parent gave my Fiancee and me a gift card to Benihana Restaurant. On the little cardboard encasing that it comes in, my Mom had written "Amount: $50. Enjoy Dinner! Love, Mom and Dad." If you have ever been to Benihana, you know that $50 is enough for dinner for two, but just barely. If you don't know Benihana, it's a Japanese style restaurant where they cook right at the table. It has been portrayed in TV and Movies including Naked Gun and The Office. The chef twirls his knife, flings around shrimp tails, and puts on a generally fun show.
We were grateful for the gift, and put the card away for later use.
We have a system with gift cards. My Fiancee keeps a card file of all gift cards that we receive, whether as an actual gift (as in this case), or via rewards points redemptions (such as Discover Cash Back or MyPoints). If it came in a decorative or elaborate packaging, we dispose of the packaging, and write the amount and where it came from on a post-it. The card goes into the file until future use.
I know that many cards have "expiration" dates at which time the value begins to decline. Usually it's by two bucks a month or so. Well, in California, there are laws against that. If I pay fifty bucks at a store and give you a card, they have to accept that for $50 a year from now, ten years from now, or basically as long as they are in business.
So, a little over a year later, my Fiancee and I finally decide to have our Benihana dinner. I ordered the Filet Mignon and she ordered the Scallops. We shared, making our own little combo. With one beer, our bill came to $60. No problem, after the gift card, we are only responsible for $10 plus tip of $9, rounded up to $20. Well, you can imagine our surprise when the waitress came back saying that the card had $25 and she put $35 on my card. After the tip, it became a $45 meal. Not what we planned!
We got the used up card from them, and went home. I called the number on the back of the card that night, and of course it told me that the balance was $0. I pressed some number for "transactions." The most recent transaction was $25 at Benihana, Anaheim. "Press '9' for your next transaction." So, I pressed '9'. "Card activation, $25, December 24, 2005."
This means that $25 was put on the card at the time of purchase.
So, we asked my Mom. She didn't remember, but said, "If I bought you dinner, for sure I wouldn't have gotten $25. That's not enough." I asked if they keep their credit card statements, and thank goodness for parents! My Dad dug out their statement from more than a year ago, and sure enough, there it was, "12/24/06 Benihana $50". There was another one for $50 at another restaurant that she got for my sister.
I emailed the folks at Benihana, and got a prompt resonse. I faxed him my folks' credit card statement, and he's looking into it.
But there is a lesson here. We should have checked the card balance as soon as we received it. Now, more than a year later, it's more difficult for the vendor to research the transaction.