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Businesses report problems with 'Buy Downtown Knoxville' gift card

12:29 AM, Feb 28, 2013   |    comments
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A gift card program the City of Knoxville started is proving to be a headache for some businesses.

The Central Business Improvement District, CBID, started the "Buy Downtown Knoxville" gift card program a little more than a year ago. Their goal is to encourage folks to shop locally.

A viewer on Facebook contacted 10News and asked why his gift card wasn't working.

We called around to the businesses listed on the gift card's website and 10 of the 22 we talked to said they had problems with the card-- four businesses have dropped out of the program completely.

Rita's Frozen Custard is one of the four.

"It just got frustrating because it took so long for things to get resolved so we decided last Friday was our last day taking the downtown card," said Nancy Langkamer, Rita's owner.

Langkamer said she likes the idea of the gift card and jumped on board immediately.

"It's a great way to promote the downtown businesses, small businesses, locally owned businesses," she said.

But nearly a year later, the program wasn't what she hoped it would be. It turned into more of a hassle than a promotion for her.

At least six others, including Latitude 35, Union Avenue Books, and the Market aren't currently accepting the card either. Three more say their machines that read the cards don't work properly.

"We have a third party helping us with the transactions from the back end side of that and we're working trying to resolve problems. We've got some businesses who are doing great and haven't had any problems. Some that are having one or two problems that we're trying to get resolved," said CBID Director, Michele Hummel.

The businesses say the issues mostly come from equipment and a slow response time from the Chattanooga company that manages the cards.

Despite the troubles, CBID says they have seen success in sales.

"In 15 months we've sold approximately $50,000 worth on cards, and we have seen redemptions of about $31,000," Hummel said.

But Hummel says they are no longer taking new businesses until the issues with the company who runs the card program can be resolved.

If things start running a little smoother-- Rita's says they would accept the cards again.

"We would love to get back into it," Langkamer said.

Below is a list of each of the businesses 10News reached before the article was published about their experience with the cards:

Dropped out of program:

  • Latitude 35
  • Rita's Frozen Custard
  • Union Avenue Books
  • Rick Gallaher, D.D.S.
  • P.C.

Not accepting cards at this time:

  • The Market at Union & Gay
  • Blue Slip Winery
  • Downtown Wine and Spirits

Problems with machine, would like to see program revamped:

  • Trio

Accepting cards, machines have issues:

  • Nama
  • Lenny's Subs

Accepting cards, no issues:

  • Tomato Head
  • Crown & Goose
  • OP Jenkins
  • Mast General
  • Lox Salon
  • Earth to Old City
  • Crowne Plaza
  • CRUSH
  • Blue Coast Burrito
  • Just Ripe
  • Bliss

We should also note that WBIR has been a media sponsor of the program.

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