Last Modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 11:31 PM
JENNINGS — A local restaurant owner is urging patrons to use caution and common sense when buying coupons or gift certificates online.
Brenda Babineaux, owner of Babineaux’s Cafe, said she has received several unauthorized gift certificate coupons from customers purchased online at www.restaurant.com.
She said she does not have any ties to the company or website, which sells certificates for restaurants throughout the United States.
“I did not participate in any program they offer,” Babineaux said Friday. “I have my own gift certificates.”
The $10 certificates are being sold online for $4 at restaurant.com without Babineaux’s permission. Customers must spend at least $15 to get the discount, she said.
The discount certificates began appearing this week at Babineaux’s Cafe. By Friday, five certificates had been presented by various customers, Babineaux said.
An employee accepted the first coupon Tuesday without knowing the coupons were not authorized, she said.
Babineaux said she tried to contact the company using a telephone number on the certificate, but was unable to talk to anyone.
“The first time, I got a recording asking for the certificate number,” she said. “The next time I called back they kept me on hold.”
The American Press also tried to contact the company, but also received recordings asking for a certificate number to validate.
Several other Jennings-area restaurants are listed on the website, but Babineaux said to her knowledge she is the only one to receive the coupons from customers.
Babineaux said anyone who has purchased the certificates online should contact the Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357 or www.ftc.gov to file a complaint. Complaints may also be filed with the state Attorney General’s Office at 800-351-4889, using reference number 47198602.
Complaints may also be filed with the Better Business Bureau. Carmen Million, president of the local BBB, said the only complaint the office has received was from the restaurant owner.
After researching it, Million said several complaints have been filed in Illinois since the company originated in 1999.
The American Press found several online complaints and lawsuits against the company involving expiration dates and for selling gift certificates to restaurants no longer in business or to restaurants that had not agreed to participate.