TB-Chicago-Tribune-Co 11-18

Gift cards tagged with doubt

When you’re looking to quickly scratch a few names off your Christmas list, those gift-card trees at the grocery store sure are tempting.

But with retailers struggling this holiday season, and big names like Circuit City closing stores and filing for bankruptcy protection, some consumer advocates warn that store gift cards are the gifts that may stop giving.

If you buy a gift card from a retailer that goes bankrupt, it’s uncertain when, or if, it can be redeemed, experts say.

In the case of Circuit City, the company sought and received permission in bankruptcy court to honor its outstanding gift cards, a spokesman said. But such petitions are optional. If the retailer doesn’t ask or the judge rejects the request, gift-card holders have to file a claim in bankruptcy court and get in line behind all the other people the company owes.

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