Consumer rights: 'Unhelpful restaurant staff refused to take my unregistered gift card'
Café Rouge customer is left with a nasty taste over unusable gift...a pregnant health care worker is worried about debts and maternity pay
Sunday 12 February 2012
Q. I was delighted to receive a Cafe Rouge gift card for Christmas. On 27 January I tried to use it but was told by the staff at my local branch that I would need to register it online or I wouldn't be able to use it that evening. This came as a surprise. I've never heard of registering a gift card before.
I asked if the staff could assist me in registering it and was abruptly told to use my mobile. Unfortunately my mobile doesn't connect with the internet. The waiter tried to assist by using his phone but was unable to access the page and the result was I couldn't use my card. He also mentioned another customer the previous week having the same problem.
I did try when I received the card to look at the small print. However, I found it very hard to read as the print is so small.
I would like to know why the chain insists on the recipient registering the card; how they can assume everyone has easy access to the internet; why, when money has been spent the card can be refused; and why the print on the card is so hard to read – how would anyone with eyesight difficulties cope?
A. Restaurants and any other organisations set all sorts of terms and conditions for the use of their gift cards and vouchers. There is nothing to stop any retailer doing this as long as they aren't creating an unfair contract.
Having to register a gift card isn't unusual. Most of the gift cards I've received in the past few years have had to be registered. Registering allows you to check to see how much money is left on your card if you don't spend it all at once, but in reality firms are hoping to get information from you that they can use in the future to promote themselves and their wares.
The person who bought the card must have accepted the terms and conditions before buying your gift. It is also probably all there in the small print...although I agree that most small print is too small!
I've looked at the Café Rouge website and the fact that the card has to be registered is fairly clear.
It says: "Once activated the value on your...gift card can be used as full or part payment at any... restaurant in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland."
The problem is that the buyer knew the terms and conditions but you didn't. I think the only thing you can do is to write saying that you are disappointed with the size of the small print and the unhelpful attitude of the first employee you spoke to. Point out that you were inconvenienced and your evening was spoiled and ask for a free meal next time you visit.
Q. I'm 25 and have £12,000 in unsecured debts. I am thinking about applying for a debt relief order (DRO). I have no income available to pay off the debts.
I am pregnant but not entitled to maternity leave as I'd just changed jobs and haven't been there long enough. I work as a health care assistant doing bank shifts (agency). There is usually work available but I'm not sure what's going to happen after the baby is born in March as I will be a single parent.
I know my financial situation will improve eventually and I would like to buy my first home by the time I'm 30. Would a DRO affect my chances of a mortgage? If so would it be better to pay off my debts over time as my income increases?
A. Your situation is rather uncertain, but my immediate concern is about your maternity rights.
If you're pregnant or have a new baby but don't qualify for statutory maternity pay (SMP) from any employer, you may be able to claim maternity allowance (MA) through Jobcentre Plus. Make an appointment as soon as possible to check. If you don't qualify for SMP or MA, you may be able to get employment and support allowance (ESA) instead. You may also be entitled to help with rent and council tax. Then you will know what income you will have and can work out what to do about your debts.
You say the debts are unsecured, so you won't lose your home or other goods while you can't make your repayments. If you are behind with your bills though, such as gas and electricity, you need to work out a repayment plan with the utility companies to avoid being cut off.
For instance, if you have some money to make regular, small payments to your creditors, they may agree to accept them and freeze interest on your debts until your income increases. That would put things on hold until you are in a position to know what you'll be earning in future.
Opting for a DRO isn't without its drawbacks.
Maggie Delauncey, who runs the money advice programme at Camden Citizens Advice Bureau, says: "It's important for people to understand the gravity of applying for a DRO or applying to be made bankrupt. Both options can provide a really positive solution in some debt situations but they can also have a lifelong effect."
If you're worried you'll have problems dealing with your creditors make an appointment to see an adviser at your nearest CAB or other advice agency or call National Debtline on 0800 808 4000.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Questions of Cash: What are my rights if my leak is caused by neighbours’ roofs?
Pension mortgages: 'The advice I was given was wrong and now I face losing my home'
Best savings rates are not all they might seem
How to start your own internet business
Mark Dampier: Maybe boom, maybe bust, but we'll probably just muddle along
- 1 The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
- 2 Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
- 3 Andy Murray takes to Twitter to show off his Christmas jumper
- 4 Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
- 5 Top 10 travel destinations for 2015: From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
iJobs Money & Business
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...
Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens