Quote of the Day - Gift cards are strongest when there's nothing to buy.
Otherwise, they just might not be valid, even if you're in California. Before I get ahead of myself, let me explain that last qualifier. In Call-e-forn-ya (as only Ahrnold would say it), gift certificates of any kind never expire (well, generally speaking).
Yep, it's right there in California Civil Code sections 1749.45-1749.6. It's the law in this state.
But these statutes won't stop many people from trying. Or filing for bankruptcy, as Sharper Image has done. Unfortunately, California law doesn't trump federal bankruptcy law.
Once a company files for bankruptcy, that gift card you got for the holidays is, well, just a piece of plastic with minimal recyclable value that you can stick in your shredder (hang on here for a moment, Brookstone will give you a 25% discount for a Sharper Image gift card). You actually also get a claim against the company's bankruptcy estate, but who wants to hire a lawyer to prosecute a claim for even a $100.00 gift card?
But don't worry too much, Sharper Image says they'll eventually honor your now-worthless gift card. They're just not saying when.
We're not talking chump change, either, if you look at the bigger picture. According to the AP article in that last link, "Brian Riley, senior analyst at The Tower Group, estimates that shoppers could lose more than $75 million just from stores and restaurant closings in 2008."
$75 million? That's a lot of gift cards. Almost as many as I think I've got stashed somewhere. Quick. Scrounge through your junk drawer and get out all those plastic cards, run to the mall and go shopping and dining.
Who needs to wait for the government's stimulus package anyway?