Bon-Ton is closing all of its stores, including eight in Western New York, and will no longer accept unused gift cards from customers. The decision has frustrated local shoppers and prompted politicians to call on the department store to rethink its policy.
"Well I'm very disappointed because I've had my charge card since the early 1970s," Donna Baker, from Tonawanda, explained. "I feel very disappointed in the fact that now they're not going to honor the [gift] cards and I feel like I've been a loyal customer to them."
Baker tried to use three gift cards, totaling $120, at the Lockport Bon-Ton location. But, she was told by workers at the store the chain is no longer accepting gift cards.
Bon-Ton did accept gift cards for the first 10 days of its liquidation sale, but stopped accepting them as a form of payment on April 29. Baker said she wasn't given any notice her cards would no longer be honored until after time had run out.
Assemblymen Ray Walter and Robin Schimminger called on Bon-Ton to fix the problem and communicate with customers about how to recoup some or all of the lost gift card dollars. They acknowledge the retailer met the requirements of federal law.
"After decades of loyal patronage, it's clear that it will take much more than the minimum legal obligation for Bon-Ton to meet the moral responsibility it has to customers who have spent their hard-earned money on these canceled gift cards," said Walter. "I hope that this unfortunate situation has highlighted the need for companies to consider the potential damage to consumers when making similar corporate decisions in the future."
"People who are left out in the cold with their Bon-Ton gift cards should not be left without any means of recourse," said Schimminger. "If Bon-Ton does not reverse its decision, then concerned gift card holders may file a claim with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. Copies of the claim form are available in each of our district offices."
When Toys R Us announced it would be closing all of its U.S. stores, Senator Chuck Schumer called on the retailer to allow customers to exchange gift cards for cash.
Bon-Ton filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February and announced it would close all of its stores in April.
Those stores will be closed by August 31.
The Bon-Ton has more than 200 stores in 24 states, including eight in Western New York: at the Chautauqua Mall in Lakewood, Eastern Hills Mall in Clarence, South Transit Road in Lockport, McKinley Mall in Blasdell, Olean Center Mall, Sheridan Drive in the Town of Tonawanda, Southgate Plaza in West Seneca, and the former Summit Park Mall in Wheatfield.