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I received a gift card for a local restaurant about a year ago. The same owners recently opened a new location of the same restaurant closer to my house. I went there tonight expecting to pay for most of my meal with the gift card, but was told that they aren't currently accepting gift cards.

I know and have read about a variety of laws relating to expiration of gift cards, but haven't found anything about who is or isn't required to honor them. Do you know of any laws that would apply in this situation? I'm in Lincoln, NE.

The manager said that if I had gone to the downtown location that I could have used the gift card. So this is specifically about different locations of the same restaurant.

  • Are they the same restaurant or do they simply have the same owner and name? If managed and controlled as different companies, they would not be the same restaurant at all, and in particular, neither is responsible for acknowledging gift card promises made by the other unless they have explicitly said so. – Nij Jan 28 '18 at 9:53
  • True, the two locations could be independent in a business sense. – BlueDogRanch Jan 28 '18 at 17:53
  • Wouldn't having two restaurants with the same name be a trademark infringement? The owner wouldn't sue themselves, but seems like if it's the same name it would have to be the same business. Do you know of any examples where that has happened? (two separate businesses in the same category and town with the same exact name) – Rodel30 Jan 28 '18 at 21:08
  • They could be franchises of the same restaurant that have different owners and are not obligated to accept gift cards from each other. – BlueDogRanch Jan 28 '18 at 21:26
  • My initial post, as well as the initial comment, specified that they were the same owner. My comment implied that by saying "the owner wouldn't sue themselves". But I guess the franchising possibility could still work there. If the owner chose to franchise out when setting up the second location, but that seems like it'd be more paperwork than it's worth if it's the same owner. – Rodel30 Jan 28 '18 at 21:58
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You have two different points here:

1) has the gift card has expired after one year?

And/or

2) can the gift card can be used at a different location?

For #1, see Nebraska Legislature Revised Statute 69-1305.03:

A gift certificate or gift card subject to an expiration date shall contain a statement clearly and conspicuously printed on the gift certificate or gift card stating the expiration date. The statement may appear on the front or back of the gift certificate or gift card in a location where it is visible to a purchaser prior to the purchase.

So the expiration date must be printed on the gift card. If there is no expiration date, you can reasonably argue with the restaurant that the card hasn't expired, but that is not stipulated in the law; it's simply something to argue with the restaurant.

For #2, this depends on the terms and conditions of the gift card. Is this location limitation printed on the card? Is it posted in the restaurant? If there are no written or visible limits on the location of usage, you can reasonably argue that the card should be used in any location because that limitation was not expressed in the beginning.

If there is no expiration date and no terms regarding the use at different locations, it sounds like the ramifications of giving gift cards wasn't clearly thought out by the restaurant.

You can argue with them; give them a bad review on Yelp; or take them to small claims court.

  • It's also worth noting that federal law requires gift cards be good for at least five years from purchase or last reload (aside from also requiring the date be clearly printed on the card). So it could not have possibly expired after one year. – animuson Jan 28 '18 at 5:01
  • True, there is the supremacy clause. But in practice, that also depends on if the restaurant is willing to recognize federal law over state law, seeing that the stakes are very low, i.e. maybe a $20 gift card that might even be a one or two-off card made on the photocopier in their office. – BlueDogRanch Jan 28 '18 at 5:29
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    Federal law is only not preemptive when state law is better for the consumer. Jurisdiction isn't something you can choose to recognise or ignore whenever it takes your fancy. Since the penalties can be into multiple thousands, I don't think the stakes are low at all, should a customer complain about the dishonouring of a gift card. – Nij Jan 28 '18 at 9:50
  • True, but I point out that the restaurant could in fact only have two locations, which means it is low stakes; I doubt that anyone is going to go to district court over it. – BlueDogRanch Jan 28 '18 at 17:52
  • There weren't any limitations posted at the restaurant that I saw, and the card has very little information on it. Going to the website, on their gift card page it says it can be used at any of their locations (including another restaurant of a different name owned by the same people). Thanks for the info though! – Rodel30 Jan 28 '18 at 21:14

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