Bend business sold with outstanding gift certificates

Some lose out; BBB has consumer protection advice

Bend man warns of purchasing gift...

BEND, Ore. - It’s a cautionary story for anyone who buys gift certificates or cards: A Bend man went to cash in hundreds of dollars worth of gift certificates and found the business they where purchased had been sold, and they won’t be honored.

"My wife Nancy bought a couple gift certificates last year to assist with cleaning up a couple cars,” Bob Harper said Thursday. “We took off for the winter and came back, and that's when I found out that Rod's was no longer, but that it was a new business."

On Jan. 1, Rod’s Detail Service became M.A.R.S. of Bend.

"We've had a lot of people come in and a lot of calls,” M.A.R.S. owner Lonny Chambers said.

Chambers said he’s heard from a lot of previous customers who are upset their gift certificates won’t be honored.

Stephen Mayer, marketplace manager for the Better Business Bureau Northwest, said their investigators have found Chambers did nothing wrong.

"It's completely legal to buy a business's assets and not their liability,” he said. “So in this case, the person apparently bought the assets -- the building itself and any tools -- and not the liabilities associated with the business -- outstanding debts or gift certificates.”

Chambers said he was told by the previous owner there were only two outstanding gift certificates.

"We honored a bunch of them, and they just keep coming out of the woodwork. We just had to stop. We couldn't afford it any more, because he sold so many before he left,” Chambers said.

Chambers said accepted about $10,000 worth of gift certificates before stopping.

Mayer couldn’t comment on the previous owner, and said they are still investigating. He did, however, offer some advice for consumers.

"I really highly recommend you purchase these gift certificates with a credit card,” he said. “You’re going to have that record that's going to be there forever that you actually purchased that gift certificate.”

He said most credit card companies have safeties in place to protect their customers if something like this happens.

Harper said he isn’t mad, he just wants to raise awareness and help prevent his situation from happening to anyone else.

Mayer also recommended checking out businesses on the BBB website before making a purchase, and reporting bad business practices to them and the attorney general, so there's a record.

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