Gift Card May Be Empty
We received a gift card last Christmas season, which we immediately used for a dinner out to celebrate my wife’s birthday.
With more than $48 left on the balance, we decided to use it again for our anniversary dinner six weeks later.
Despite a great meal, our delight turned to disappointment when our water returned, handed me the card, and said, “There’s only $3 left on it.”
Afterwards, I talked with a friend who had had a similar experience to ask what I should do. He advised calling the toll-free number on the back of the card and wade through the phone tree.
I did and finally reached a pleasant woman who took my fraud report, apologized for the inconvenience, and said an investigation would be opened.
Fixing the Problem
A month or so later, I received a new card in the mail. Enclosed with it: a letter saying their investigation determined that an error had occurred. A credit of $45.03 had been posted to my account.
However, when I called the toll-free number to register the card, I learned it still only had a $3 balance. Obviously, the $45.03 had never been credited.
I tried to reach a live person on that call to ask about it, but without succeeding. So I stuck the letter on a corner of my desk, planning to tend to it later.
A month later on a quiet Friday afternoon, I called the number again.
After another lengthy wait, I finally connected with a person. She placed me on hold several times; during the last wait, the phone went dead. I waited for about 10 minutes and hung up.
While that was my first unpleasant experience with gift cards, it wasn’t the last.
In late April, I received a $25 gift card, a bonus from our insurance plan for meeting certain exercise and health goals.
A couple weeks later on a shopping trip, my wife pulled out her bank card to pay for a few items.
“You don’t need that,” I said. “I’ve got $25 on this card.”
I handed it to the clerk, expecting to have nearly $17 left after the purchase.
“That will be $1.78,” she said.
“Why?” I replied. “That was a $25 card.”
“There was only $8.02 on it,” she said.
We explained that this card had been sitting unused in a drawer since we got it. But we told her we understood; this had happened before.
It took about a month to find the time to call the company about this latest fraud.
When I did, a recording told me I qualified for a free medical gizmo. I said I didn’t want a free gizmo; I wanted to ask a question about fraud.
When the recorded voice kept babbling, I hung up. I went online and waded through the high-tech version of a phone tree, bouncing between various menus and options.
At one point, I discovered a different phone number that could be used to report fraud and abuse.
“Ah, hah,” I thought. When I dialed it, I got the same recording I had encountered originally.
I finally surrendered, figuring it was going to take more than $17 worth of my time to resolve the problem.
Soon after this maddening experience, we went to see a couple celebrating a special anniversary.
I had considered giving them a gift card to their favorite restaurant.
Instead, I told my wife, “Let’s give them cash. It will be good anywhere.”