CEO Offers 10 Simple Tips for Giving Gift Certificates

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What to know when giving gifts of choice.

Honey, where did I put my gift card?

Gift certificates and gift cards can be the perfect way to make a "picky" person happy or fill the need for a last-minute gift. A little extra thought will make the experience smooth and rewarding. So says Cary Chessick, president and CEO of

Chessick, whose company recently passed the milestone of $50 million in customer savings through restaurant gift certificate sales, offers 10 helpful holiday hints for giving gift certificates.

1. Take the credit. Be sure to enclose the gift certificate in a personalized greeting card so your nephew will know where to send the thank-you email. Some retailers also allow you to personalize and send your "gift of choice" via email.

2. "Honey, where did I put my gift card?" Lose a store-bought gift card and you're out of luck. Chessick advises to choose stores that offer secure user accounts that track gift certificate codes. Buyers should also find out whether a duplicate certificate is easy to obtain if the original is lost.

3. ID Required. Some gift certificates or gift cards require proof of identity at redemption. This extra measure of security prevents the wrong person from using your gift. Many store-bought gift cards can be redeemed by anyone without showing an ID.

Chessick says's personalized gift certificates and validation system protect the giver, the recipient and the restaurant.

4. Around the corner. All too often, Grandma goes online to buy a gift certificate to her favorite store--a local bead shop that's 2,000 miles away from her granddaughter. Chessick says recently redesigned its Web site to make it easier to search for participating establishments by ZIP code.

5. I need help! No one wants to get into an endless loop of emails with a customer service department. When buying gift certificates online, make sure the company has a toll-free telephone number.

6. Save money. Search for an online retailer--such as sells gift certificates at a price much lower than the face value. In's case $25 restaurant gift certificates are available for $10, or less.

7. Read the fine print. If you don't like the "terms and conditions" that apply to the gift card or gift certificate you're about to buy, don't buy it. And if you "re-gift": remember, those restrictions for use still apply.

8. Avoid a pants fire. Don't let that card or gift certificate burn a hole in your pocket. Use it soon. Enjoy the gift.

9. Don't forget about tipping. If you get a restaurant gift certificate, be kind to your server. A great way to leave a gift under the tree for any server is to calculate the tip based on what the bill would have been without the certificate.

10. Take a friend. If you receive a gift certificate, don't use it alone. "Some of the most memorable experiences in my life took place with friends or family while dining together in a restaurant," says Chessick.

About connects restaurant seekers and food lovers to savings at more than 8,500 restaurants nationwide and to various online retailers. As the nation's leading online directory of restaurants and restaurant gift certificate provider, the company brings people together to relax, converse and enjoy well-prepared and -served meals at affordable prices. To date, customers have saved more than $50 million through the gift certificate program. has operated continuously since 1999 and is based in Arlington Heights, Ill.

Editor's NOTE: Cary Chessick is available for media interviews, taped or live, on such topics as consumer tips, online retailing, gift-giving and the restaurant business.

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Jeff Conlin
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