LAKEWOOD, Colo (CBS4) – Gift cards are a billion dollar business. Industry estimates indicate Americans spent $27 billion dollars on gift cards during the 2011 holiday season.

One family got gift cards to a Lakewood restaurant for the holidays, but when they tried to use them they were told the gift cards were no good.

“It’s embarrassing when you’re standing there and it’s a full restaurant, and they make you feel you’ve got a bogus card,” said Tench Sprouse, gift card recipient.

Sprouse has two gift cards to El Tapatio Restaurant. She also has receipts for those gift cards showing they were bought on December 21st for $25 each.

“I came up here to this restaurant and asked before we ate and they said the card was not good,” Sprouse told CBS4.

4 On Your Side Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks talked to the restaurant owner’s son and found out the problem was with a computer.

“This is brand new technology, and so we didn’t know exactly what to do in the beginning,” Rodrigo Padilla, Jr. said.

Padilla swiped one of Sprouse’s gift cards and it showed $25. The restaurant agreed to refund the family $50 in cash for both the gift cards.

“I’m so sorry it’s been frustrating for her,” Padilla said.

He also said that if any other customers have had problems with gift cards from the restaurant they should bring them in to be re-scanned.

The bottom line here is that you need the receipt to prove what you’re owed on a gift card, so make sure you include the receipt as part of the gift.

Industry officials estimate that $8 billion worth of gift cards will go unredeemed. Consumer Reports offers these tips for getting the most out of your gift cards:

Use it Fast.  Spend the entire value quickly so the card doesn’t get lost.

Register it. Registering a gift card, if it’s required, does give you more rights if the value of the card is questioned.

Check the Terms and Conditions.  It’s always smart to read the fine print to learn about expiration dates, replacement policies, fees and other restrictions.

RELATED: More Reports By 4 On Your Side Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks

– Written for the Web by CBS4 Special Projects Producer Libby Smith

  1. DH says:

    Other places have sold gift cards that they won’t honor, too. My neighbor gave me a Blockbuster card Christmas 2010. When I tried to use it they said it wouldn’t be honored. Turns out they were selling them AFTER they declared bankruptcy and they weren’t honored after they declared bankruptcy. They shouldn’t have even been selling them since they knew they were no good.

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