Owner of Amherst’s Meat House frustrated after losing thousands on gift cards

AMHERST – At first, Allan Bald, the owner of a Meat House franchise in Amherst, thought his business would benefit from the influx of new customers when six corporate stores shut down in New Hampshire.

But, just recently, Bald realized there was something very wrong.

His business had accepted thousands of dollars in gift cards and wasn’t getting reimbursed.

“It didn’t get my attention right away,” Bald said.

Bald said he discovered the problem when he noticed his store’s sale numbers weren’t adding up and, when he contacted the company responsible for processing the gift cards, he found out that service had been discontinued. That service, called Chase Paymentech, said the account with Meat House had been shut down since Oct. 18 of last year.

“I didn’t realize the system had turned off because of a lack of response from Meat House,” Bald said.

Bald’s is a franchise store, meaning he bought the rights to use the Meat House name and some materials, and to follow certain quality and service guidelines, in return for paying a portion of sales to the company.

Up until now, Bald’s store has been left unscathed by tumult in the corporate structure of Meat House.

“We had stocked up, our shelves were full and we were happy to get the extra business,” Bald said.

Last month, Bald even promoted the health of his business by asking loyal Meat House customers to use their gift cards at his Amherst store.

“We’re gearing up in anticipation, ready to service customers from the other stores,” he said previously.

Bald said the recent developments “took the wind out of our sails” but he holds out hope that his business will eventually get back the money it has lost.

He said a new investor has expressed interest in the Meat House stores and has offered to refund the money Bald lost by accepting the gift cards. But, Bald said he realizes that nothing is set in stone yet.

According to published reports, a sign at the Meat House in Amherst now informs customers that their gift cards cannot be accepted at this time.

Bald speculated that Meat House could enter a structured bankruptcy deal soon, though the company has yet to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Bald said he’s “really frustrated” by developments regarding the gift cards, calling it a “heartache,” but he knows things could be worse. He said sales at his Amherst store, in Meadow Brook Crossing Shopping Center, have been strong since the Meat House franchisor went belly up.

“Our cases are full, we’re staffed up and fully open,” Bald said. “Our products are top notch.”

Bald said that, unlike the defunct store in Bedford now accused of buying product at local grocery stores and jacking up prices, his store was “never supplied through corporate.”

Bald said his first course of action after the corporate troubles was to assure his employees that their jobs are safe and his store is still financially stable.

“The last thing I want my employees to do is worry,” Bald said. “We have our foot on the gas to weather the storm. We’ve already seen the worst.”

As for the gift cards, Bald encourages consumers to hold onto their Meat House gift cards in the event that they can be accepted at a later date.

Bradford Randall can be reached at 594-6557 or brandall@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Randall on Twitter (@telegraph_brad). David Brooks also contributed to this report.