Despite issuing a press release claiming that they will “continue to conduct business as usual,” The Shaper Image has suspended redemption of all gift certificates after filing for bankruptcy late on Tuesday.
After receiving several complaints that gift certificates were not being honored by the store the Consumerist was able to confirm via email with the Sharper Image’s corporate sales staff that the retailer is no longer selling or accepting the cards.
Reader Javier is stuck with a $279 store credit from a defective Roomba:
I called customer service and they sent me a Merchandise Certificate for $279 dollars. They couldn’t send me a new Roomba because they don’t consider it the same product since its a new version. During the holidays, no store in the Chicago area had the Roomba in stock, so I was left out in the cold again for 2 more months. Now, I finally go to the store and hand them my certificate and I’m told that due to Chapter 11, SI is not accepting Merchandise Certificates or Gift Cards from anyone.
Reader Jonathan’s boss is stuck with a credit card rewards gift card from Mastercard:
The card was a reward gift from Mastercard. My boss used the gift card ($500.00 total) to purchase some speakers. Today he went online to purchase a digital camera with the remainder (over $250.00) and the card would not process. He called Sharper Image customer service see what the problem was and the representative told him they had suspended gift card redemptions due to the bankruptcy.
According to the California Department of Consumer Affairs legal guide on gift certificates, the holders of cards may have a claim against the bankruptcy estate of a retailer that files Chapter 11. If the court has prohibited The Sharper Image from redeeming gift certificates, you are considered a creditor in the case, says the CDCA.
You may be entitled to file a claim, but as an “unsecured creditor” you’re pretty far down in the pecking order and aren’t very likely to get anything.
“Consumers should weigh the potential benefits of a successful or partially successful claim, against the inconvenience and expense of pursuing the claim, Even a successful claim will take time. Bankruptcies in which there are assets can take up to a year or more before creditors are paid. In many cases, there are no assets.
Your prospects for receiving your money are better if the a store chooses to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy [ed. — like Sharper Image.] This means the store intends to reorganize, emerge from bankruptcy and continue doing business. But many retail stores fail to achieve that goal. Most Chapter 11 bankruptcies eventually end up in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which involves liquidation of all assets and going out of business for good.
If you bought your gift card you may want to try a chargeback with your credit card company, but otherwise it looks like you’ll can just sit tight and wait it out or file a claim with the court.
Consumer Tips on Retail Bankruptcies (PDF) [California Department of Consumer Affairs]