By Kelly Hogaboom

dispatches from clown patrol, pt. 2

Twice this last week, local businesses refused to honor gift cards they’d been happy to sell our family a while back.

In both cases, the businesses didn’t apologize or offer credit or any kind of olive branch – they said versions of, “we don’t take those anymore”.

In fact, they sounded aggravated.

One business told me they’d tried to collect all those gift cards a while back because they knew they were updating the system.

How exactly did they “try” to collect those cards? Beats me. They hadn’t said anything on social media (they don’t have social media), they don’t have an email list, they didn’t keep contact information for those who bought cards, and there was no expiration date on the cards.

They just let a lot of people purchase cards, then at some point decided to not honor the balances on those cards.

This is not a good look for a business.

And interestingly, this is the kind of thing I see small businesses doing more often than large ones. Ironically, sometimes large businesses have a lot more at stake with their reputation. They often have a team of lawyers and PR employees and other smarty-pants who can really help them think through the implications of pivots, policy changes, or hiccups.

(Interestingly, in discussing this on my Facebook page on Tuesday, many people chimed in that in many states it’s illegal to refuse to honor a gift card!)


Here’s the thing:

As a small business, we (usually) don’t have a team to help us manage the ups and downs of our business.

But we DO have full control over our policies and our decision-making.

So today’s suggestion: really think through your gift certificate/gift card plan – think ALL the way through it, before you offer it.

Otherwise it just looks like a greedy cash grab.

People will remember this – and it will sour your relationship with those customers. And while satisfied customers don’t always sing our praises – you can be sure that dissatisfied customers will make their dissatisfaction known!

Trust me: you don’t want that cycle to start!

Once your reputation starts to go… a business can really circle the drain, fast!


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