VOUCHERS for HMV are now worthless, it was confirmed today.
GIFT tokens sold in the run-up to Christmas will not be honoured as the company went into administration, putting 300 jobs at risk.
The future of HMV's stores, including outlets on Grafton Street and Henry Street in Dublin city centre, was thrown into doubt.
The company has 16 stores in Ireland, employing 300 people who were today being told of the extent of the financial troubles.
They were also told they could no longer accept gift vouchers.
"I went in with vouchers for €100 to buy a boxset but they wouldn't accept them," Miriam Nolan told the Herald outside the store today.
"In line with the administration process, gift vouchers and tokens already issued won't be redeemed unfortunately," said Gannaro Castaldo from HMV's head office in the UK.
"There is no good way of looking at this, we are hoping to continue to trade and hopefully a new chapter will emerge for HMV in the future."
The Consumer Association has hit out at what it described as poor business practice.
"It is a breach of a contract," said Derek Jewell of the Consumer Association.
"THOSE who have paid money are now being told that they are not entitled to goods. It is very bad," said Mr Jewell.
Miriam Nolan, from Navan, was one of the first people to go to HMV on Grafton Street this morning to see if they would accept her Christmas vouchers.
"I wouldn't mind so much but I got the vouchers as a Christmas present from somebody who doesn't have a job and probably couldn't afford them in the first place but now it seems like it's money down the drain," she said.
Herald consumer expert Sinead Ryan said, though, that people may still get money back if they bought vouchers with certain debit or credit cards.
The 90-year-old company has 250 outlets in the UK and Ireland, where it employs more than 4,000 people. Staff arriving for work at the Grafton Street branch today did not want to comment on the future of their jobs.
Big name stores to close on Grafton Street in recent times include Korkys, Laura Ashley and Thomas Cook.
Deloitte, which has been advising HMV's lending banks, will act as administrator after suppliers refused a request for a €360m credit line for the retailer.
HMV is understood to have approached its suppliers -- including music labels and video game makers -- for several hundred million euro in financing to pay off bank debt. But the proposal was turned down, meaning that the company will be forced into administration.
Under administration HMV will continue to be operated as a going concern while various options for the chain's future are explored.
HMV already said in early December that group like-for-like sales sank 12pc in the first half of its financial year and cautioned that its future was in danger.
Best known for its Nipper the dog trademark, HMV has failed to find a way through difficult economic conditions and changing shopping habits, with more and more people now buying online and using phones to listen to music or take photographs. HMV suspended shares trading in the UK today as the administration process was announced.
It has been struggling with debts for just over two years. The Consumer Association said today that the best chance of customers recovering money spent on vouchers was if they paid using a credit card.
"If the vouchers or gift cards are paid for by credit card, there is an opportunity under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act for the customer to approach the credit card company and ask for the transaction to be reversed," Dermott Jewell explained.
"But in the absence of any legal provisions whatsoever in relation to gift vouchers, there is very little than anyone can do.
"If there is a decision taken by the administrator, the question we need to ask is how long they intend to deny consumers their gift cards and vouchers."
Mr Jewell said the decision will negatively impact the business in the long run.
"It is unfair to staff who find themselves alienated by consumers denied the ability to take the money that was paid to the company."
Derek Keating TD called for protection for those who purchased in good faith gift vouchers at HMV.
He said that he will raise the issue in the Dail this week by way of special notice question that gift vouchers be honoured or the Director of Consumer Affairs take action.