Recently, I received a note from a Washington consumer named Van. In short, Van was looking for a little help in getting cash back for his Olive Garden Gift Card.
"I called Red Lobster in Vancouver, WA and was told that the restaurant’s policy is to never refund cash remaining on a gift card, even if only a few dollars. This seems to be in opposition to state law."
Note: Darden Restaurants, Inc. owns Red Lobster and the Olive Garden; the gift cards can be used at any Darden owned location.
Van is correct, Washington Gift Card Law clearly states a consumer can receive cash back for their gift card if the balance is less than $5.00 and the gift card has been used at least once. Keep in mind, Washington excludes some types of gift cards from it's law; namely bank-issued gift cards, gift cards donated to a charity and free loyalty/promotional cards. In other words, there is a chance he may not have been entitled to cash back it the card was given away for free as a promotion or fundraiser.
5 Tips To Get Your Cash
If you come across a merchant who is unwilling to provide cash back for your gift card when the law provides you the option, Here are five steps to take:
- Find out if they are unaware of the law or if there is another reason why they are refusing to give you cash back.
- Print out the portion of the section code which state's you are entitled to a cash refund.
- Ask to speak to a manager and be polite to all the employees during the process.
- Contact the company's corporate headquarters to report the violation and request resolution.
- File a complaint with your state's attorney general if #1-4 yield no results.
Here is what Van did:
"I decided to call their Guest Relations’ 800 number. A person named Justin said he would contact their legal department to review the law and, if true, to contact its Washington restaurants so that the personnel will be better educated about the laws governing cash back if less than $5. With your help, I was able to give him the number of the law referenced."
And shortly, Van received a response from guest relations:
"We do apologize that our employees was not well informed about your ability to cash out gift cards with balances of $5 or less in the State of Washington. Please be assured that we did some training in this area with our Vancouver, WA team. You should have no issue doing this on your visit."
So, in the end, the Red Lobster location was unfamiliar with Washington's gift card laws. I can assure you this will not be the last time a company/location will be unfamiliar with state gift card laws.
It's great to see Darden Restaurants take the appropriate actions: training the staff and getting Van some cash. Cheers to Van for taking the time to go about this the right way and helping Darden identify an area of imporvement; I think Darden owes Van a meal! :)