Kevin Hunt: Movie-Theater Gift Card Isn't Honored In The Area, So Why Is It Sold Here?


Q: "Many stores sell Fandango gift cards. The problem is that no movie theater in [the area] accepts these gift cards. Our friends received Fandango gift cards for Christmas that were purchased at Kohl's. Fandango refused to refund the purchase. Kohl's did refund the purchase, but they did not have to.

"These cards should not be sold in Connecticut since they have no value at all major movie complexes. They tried other areas including the Greater Springfield area, and again the answer was 'no' to these gift cards. It would be nice if you could give your readers a heads up on Fandango."

Ron Boudreau, Enfield

A: Fandango, a service owned by Comcast, reserves tickets (for a fee) at more than 75 percent of the nation's theaters with advance-ticketing capabilities. Greater Hartford, as some readers have found out, is a black hole in Fandango's coverage.

"Unfortunately," says Fandango spokesman Harry Medved, Hartford is one of the few local markets where movie theaters in the immediate vicinity have not yet signed up to work with Fandango, but we would welcome that. . . . I agree the situation is not ideal."

The closest theater in the state that would honor a Fandango gift card, by Medved's estimation, is in Plainfield.

So why are gift cards sold at stores in areas where the cards are essentially worthless? National businesses want their gift cards in national chains: Fandango uses two providers, Blackhawk Network and InComm, to distribute cards in Target, Wal-mart, Walgreens, CVS, Kohl's and other retailers.

In this case, the Fandango card was a gift to Boudreau's friend, Gabrielle Haley of Enfield, from her daughter-in-law. The receipt, Haley says, indicated no refunds on gift cards but she brought it to the manager of the local Kohl's.

"She said they don't refund gift cards,"" says Haley, "but that she was making an exception in my case and removing all the Fandango gift cards from the store and gave me $25 in cash. Of course, I realize the store is out the money because Fandango is the one who has the $25."

Fandango initially refused a refund, but when contacted by The Bottom Line said it would provide equal-value compensation before being told about the Kohl's refund.

Haley says her daughter also bought a Fandango gift card for a babysitter at the Enfield Bed Bath & Beyond.

"They said they could not refund her the money," says Haley. "So my daughter is out $25."

Ideally, these gift cards and others with nowhere to redeem them, should not be sold in the area. Logistically, it's perhaps too much to ask. When they are sold, however, the consumer deserves a refund.

"We would encourage any consumer experiencing this situation to file a complaint with our office," says Jaclyn Falkowski, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office. (Click here, email attorney.general@ct.gov or call the office's Consumer Assistance Unit at 860-808-5420.)

The gift-giver must know the tastes of the giftee, but now must also know the gift card almost as well.

Talkback

Michael Carter of Haddam (TBL, bit.ly/1kEEttD) wasn't the only reader charged for a modem that Comcast said it didn't want back. Here's another experience:

"I experienced the same situation in the fall of 2012. Modem needed to be replaced. It was free. No need to return the old one, just recycle it. And then an additional charge in one of the monthly bills for not returning the old modem. Luckily for me, I kept the old modem in the attic and returned it to their Bloomfield office.

"It appears there is a disconnection between management and their billing office about how this is being handled. Or a deliberate attempt to collect for a useless piece of equipment.

"I am guessing the majority of their customers have replaced the modems by now, and if they did not return it, they may have paid for it. The right thing to do for Comcast would be to credit all those people they charged for the modem."

Ricardo Almeida, West Hartford

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