Kevin Hunt: Rocky Hill Spa Closes: What About My Gift Card?


Q: "My daughter gave me a birthday gift card worth $50 to a spa on the Silas Deane Highway in Rocky Hill. Several weeks ago, I tried calling to schedule an appointment and the phone was no longer in service. When I drove to the spa, the building space was empty. There is no forwarding address or phone. Do I have any course of action?"

Judith Cole, Wethersfield

A: Unfortunately, no, unless the business reopens under a new owner who agrees to honor the gift cards. State and federal laws give gift-card holders some protection, but not against a failed business.

>> Gift cards sold in the state do not expire. Inactivity fees also are prohibited.

>> Any gift card sold by a Connecticut retailer will likely follow state regulations.

>> Gift cards issued, or backed, by a federal financial institution such as Visa or American Express follow federal regulations and can expire after five years and charge an inactivity fee after one year.

>> A gift card issued by a locally owned business, including restaurants and salons, should be used as soon as possible. If the business fails, you could lose your day at the spa.

Zillow: Personal Vs. Public

Q: "Is it possible to remove my home information from Zillow, Trulia and other online sites? I'd rather not have everyone who knows my address be able to just Google it and find out when I bought my home and how much I paid for it. It is just one more piece of information I'd rather not have available to everyone. I know it is public-available information, but it should be a little more difficult to find."

J.M., Simsbury

A: Not much has changed about public information except how easily it's available now online. Public information includes houses — the price you paid, the annual property taxes and even the square footage. Zillow's business is built on public information.

"As long as the information is accurate and part of public record it will be on our site," says Amanda Woolley, a Zillow spokeswoman. "We want the information to be accurate, so if something is not, a homeowner can flag it, and we will review it and remove inaccurate information."

To make changes in your home's details on Zillow, you'll first have to "claim" your home. Click on "correct home facts" or "claim your home" from the "More" option on the home detail page. After you've selected your name from a list, you can update the number of rooms, square footage, lot size and other details under "Edit home information."

Take The Train?

A city employee who read a recent Bottom Line column about summer travel that listed NextAdvisor.com's best rewards cards for that purpose suggested an alternative rewards program and transportation: Amtrak.

"You missed the most generous travel reward program of all: Amtrak's Guest Rewards program  and Guest Rewards MasterCard.  

"Under this program, points rack up very fast: A round trip from Hartford to New York typically earns 400 points if you change trains in New Haven (200 points if you're on a through train). If you pay for your trip using their card, you also get two times the dollar value in rewards points.

"Rewards are available for very few points compared to the airline industry, and there is no difficulty cashing in the points, as there is with the airlines. On the longer trips, you can also travel one way for half the number of points, and fly home at your own expense.

"Under this program, my spouse and I have traveled to Arizona in 2009, Montana in 2010 and California in 2013. This month, we are traveling to Chicago. Always a pleasurable experience. You arrive at your destination already relaxed!"

D.H., Hartford

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