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October 17, 2011 at 9:53 AM

Use it or lose it: gift cards, gift certificates and Groupons

Take my advice. I don’t use it.

Go use your gift cards, gift certificates and Groupons. Or whatever other deals, steals and “free” money you’re sitting on.

I’m telling you for several reasons. One is that year’s end is not that far in the offing and you know what that means. It means shortly thereafter, I’ll be getting angry emails and phone calls from would-be diners complaining they’re holding gift cards/certificates for now-defunct restaurants and wondering, “Waaaaah! What should I do?”

The answer: you should have made hay while the sun shined and before the Tax Man came-eth. Unless that restaurant gift-card belongs to a joint with a sibling still in business, and the owner of that abruptly closed restaurant is willing to honor what’s in your hand, you’ve snoozed — and lost.

The other reason I’m suggesting you act now is because last week, I went through my personal stash and found some sorry news: my $50 Flying Fish Groupon, a major value at $25 (or so I thought when I bought it), expired September 20. Waaaaah!

This is nothing. You should see my coupon collection.

If you’re like me, prone to buying gift certificates at fundraisers and failing to use them in a timely fashion, repeat my mantra: “It’s going to a good cause.”

That $100 for a meal at Emmer & Rye went to Japan relief nearly six months ago, courtesy of me (who bought it) and chef Seth Caswell (who generously donated it). The silent-auction money I shelled out for the Walnut Street Coffee certificate? That helped buy the new playground equipment at my son’s public elementary school. (Did I mention he’s now in his second year at middle school?). I’m still looking forward to using both certificates. Soon. Really. I mean it.

As for that $5 Starbucks card? Like the Azteca card, it came in the mail, unsolicited. The former as a “perk” from the bank, the later as a thank you from my dentist for a referral. (Thanks, doc! Next time, can you just take $30 off my bill?)

Anyway, consider this blog-post a friendly reminder: use, re-gift or donate your as-yet-unused cards. Or, if you’re so inclined, you can swap or sell them.

P.S. As a big fan of the Chinook Book, whose discount or cash-off coupons save me a bundle every year (which is why I buy several) I’m here to remind you that the expiration date on the 2011 book is October 31. Use it or lose it!

[Update 10/17/11 4:30 p.m.] Just to be clear, Groupon’s “small print” includes information that states: “applicable law may require the merchant to allow you to redeem your voucher beyond its expiration date for goods/service equal to the amount you paid for it.” Which is to say that while I’m out the $50 value of my Flying Fish voucher, I’m still in for the $25 purchase price. Bottom line: if you’ve got a Groupon or its “such-a-deal!” equivalent in hand, use it before its expiration date!



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