Gift cards are popular items especially around the holidays.
But you could end up with a worthless piece of plastic if you are not careful, as Christina Baker found out the hard way.
"I got a pedicure and a manicure," said the Sewell, New Jersey woman.
Baker told NBC10 investigative reporter Harry Hairston she used half of her $200 gift card -- a surprise gift from her husband and young sons -- to Haven Day Spa in Sewell.
It was a relaxing time for the mother of two sons both less than 2 years old. But frustration set in months later when she tried to schedule another day of relaxation at the spa.
"I called a few times and every time it went to the voice mail and every time I called the mailbox was full. So I knew something wasn't right, so I drove over there and they were shut down."
Haven Day Spa in Sewell closed in late September.
Customers told the NBC10 Investigators they had no idea the spa was shutting down.
"Apparently they just closed they just shut the doors," said Mount Laurel-based attorney Mark Schepps, who represents the spa.
When asked by the NBC10 Investigators what legal obligation the spa has to those who bought cards, some as recent as just weeks before they closed their doors. Schepps responded "legally none," saying the business was incorporated.
"When one incorporates a business it shields one from personal liabilities." Schepps said.
But once the NBC10 Investigators reached out to the company, the spa decided to pay back customers with gift cards, said Schepps.
Those refund checks should be going out as early as next week, Schepps said.
The Gloucester County Department of Consumer Protection has opened up an investigation into the spa’s closing. The state’s consumer affairs office said it has no complaints against the company.
A spokesperson suggests customers file complaints if they feel wronged.
Some former Haven Spa customers found another place to use gift cards -- at a competitor.
"We're willing to take a little bit of a hit for people during the holiday season if they're holding this money they can't use so we decided to accept Haven's gift cards." said Katelynn Morlino, manager of Hair Quarters Salon in Mantua.
"They can come in and use up to 40 percent of their service total they can pay with the gift card."
As many as 15 former Haven customers have taken advantage of the offer, and more are calling, said Morlino.
State consumer protection experts say here’s what you need to know to protect yourself:
- Read the fine print on gift cards
- Check for expiration dates
- And ask about hidden fees
- Know the federal and state laws regarding expiration dates.
- Research the company – look and see if there are been any financial issues.
If you have a gift card from Haven Spa, their attorney wants you to send them an email at email@example.com.