Yvonne Zanos: Hold onto Dine Check gift cards, file state complaint

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Q: My wife and I received a "Dine Check" gift certificate in the amount of $25 as a Christmas gift. Last week, when we attempted to use it, we were informed by the restaurant that they could not accept it because it was no good, that the company was out of business. I tried to go on the Web site, www.dinecheck.com, it was gone; I tried to call the 800 number on the flier, got a recorded message that the machine was full.

I was wondering if you have received any other complaints regarding "Dine Check - Taste of America"? Is there anything we can do?


A: Yes, you should send your complaints to the state attorney general's office.

I talked to Deputy Attorney General Dave Sumner on KDKA Radio about this problem last week. Many of you called in on the show. You have the state's attention. Now is the time to take advantage of the moment and send in your complaints.

According to the Better Business Bureau, this company had been around for about five years, selling "universal gift certificates" to consumers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia. Sales were made online and at malls around the Christmas holidays. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gift certificates were sold. These gift certificates could be used like cash at hundreds of restaurants.

I was told by one restaurant owner who accepted these gift certificates that "Dine Check" had told restaurants to "cease and desist" taking them and had given restaurants a deadline for cashing in gift certificates in hand. So far, I have heard of no plan to help consumers.

I have tried to get in touch with Michael Reese, the president of this company, but I've gotten no return phone calls so far.

Best advice: Hold onto those gift certificates. Send your complaint to the state by calling 1-800-441-2555 or go online at www.attorneygeneral.gov.

Q: I called the 700 number you put in the paper last week to find out who my long-distance carrier is. I was told "thank you for choosing Broadway." I was concerned that I had signed up with a new long-distance company. I thought I had Adelphia long-distance service. I thought the call was confusing. Can you help?

Mt. Lebanon

A: The automated phone message at that 700 number confused many of you. You dialed the correct number. You probably received the information you were looking for. It just sounded odd.

When I call 1-700-555-4141 from work, I hear "thank you for selecting Penn Telecom as your long-distance carrier. Your service is now connected."

When I call 1-700-555-4141 from home, I hear "thank you for selecting a Verizon long-distance carrier. Your service is now connected."

The message is thanking you for your selection in the past and telling you your service is active. You have not just switched long-distance carriers.

Now, R., your long-distance service sounds like Broadway, but is actually Broadwing, which I am told is the transport carrier that Adelphia, now Pioneer Telephone, uses for long distance.

In your case, the information is so specific, it's more confusing than helpful. It can be a useful number to check from time to time.

You can also try calling: 1-(your area code)-700-4141. That's the number to call to find out your local long-distance company.

This one may not work for everyone, but remember if you want to verify your long-distance or local long-distance carrier, you can always check your bill and call that company for more information.

KDKA-TV consumer editor Yvonne Zanos can be reached at 412-575-2234, zanos@kdka.com or, in writing, at KDKA-TV, One Gateway Center, Pittsburgh 15222. Please provide your name, address and daytime phone number with your inquiry.


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