So I had to mail a check to a pre-paid gift-card company, and I included this letter.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
455 South Gulph Road, Suite 405
King of Prussia, PA 19406
2 January 2014
Dear Card Services-
In response to the recent bill for $14.90 I received from you regarding my pre-paid gift-card, I wanted to reach out.
When I received your bill, I polled the people I know. While the overwhelming suggestion as to how to respond was to simply ignore the bill, some of the suggestions were pretty creative—my favorite being to send you a check for $20.00, and include an invoice to you for $5.10.
The sheer ridiculousness of that suggestion sheds light on the sheer ridiculousness of the bill I received from you.
I test drove a car in October, and was told that for my time, I would be sent a pre-paid $50 gift-card. When I received the card, I took the necessary steps to activate it, and used it for an initial purchase of around $25. Then I took it to a local bookstore, accrued a $40 tab, handed the clerk my card and let her know to run the card for $25—the remaining balance on the card. She attempted to, but said that the card was processed for the full $40. We were both confused, and I told her that I must have been mistaken about the amount initially on the gift-card. Early Merry Christmas to me—my $50 card must have been for $75!
Just kidding. The following week, I received the attached letter, letting me know that I owed your organization for the excess charge, and a reminder that it was most definitely for sure my fault that I owed it—the “Cardholder Agreement” was referenced several times.
I’m paying my tab—I would forever regret by stubbornness if this ended up on my credit report and ruined my shot at qualifying for the best iPhone 6 deal ever in the future—but I felt that I owed it to you, to the bookstore clerk, to myself, and to society to let you know this:
Sending people gift-cards for $50, but allowing them to spend more than $50 on it is a really, really bad call.
1—It makes you all look really shady.
I’m not saying you ARE really shady, but yeah, it doesn’t look great for any legitimate business to operate by tricking their customers. You may as well update your “Cardholder Agreement” to say “Congrats—you have $50 from us, OR more than that, depending on if the store where you run your card is able to split payments on more than one card, or if they have a system that runs the card for the amount left on the card. In that case, liiiike…in the case that you shop at Barnes and Noble, you have an unknown amount of money from us…you’ll just have to wing it, then mail us a check at some point. Probably. But might be completely on the honor system…you’ll never know for sure if we would have taken this to a debt collector. Merry Christmas!!!”
2—No one else does this.
I like to consider myself a gift-card connoisseur. I change my favorites every ten minutes, which means that no one is ever sure what to get me, so they get me gift-cards. I’ve had all the pre-paids—Visa, MasterCard, mystery bank XX, the department store cards, the restaurant cards, the fast food cards, the boutique cards, the individually written cards from shops that give out gift-cards so rarely that they don’t have them mass-produced…and literally zero of them have ever, ever, ever allowed me to “overdraft” my card total. Do they decline if the clerk tries to run them for more than is left on them? Sure. Do they run for only the balance of the card? All the time. Because that means that I only spend what’s actually on the card. Smart. Imitation-worthy.
3—This just seems like a REALLY bad business call.
What if I’d been car shopping instead of book shopping?! Your only recourse would have been to sit down, write me a letter saying “Listen, you better send us a check, because YOU OWE US THAT MUCH AT LEAST SHANNON,” and were I not an honest (or credit-monitoring) person, I would have been like “Nope,” recycled that thing and driven off to Mexico in my new (free) VW. Be honest…could I overdrafted my gift-card for $20,000?! If yes, please let me know, because at that point, I’m no longer worried about my credit score.
4—Isn’t this also a waste of time and money for you??
I think we can all agree that it’s a waste of time for me—and a check, and a stamp, etc. But it seems like you guys would have to be getting tired of sending these notices out. And I cannot imagine that most people receive this and think “Oh, sure, let me go ahead and just send this gift-card company my money for their mistake,” right? So you are either wasting MORE time and money on the follow-up, or wasting time and money on NOT following up, and having people completely blow you off (like I will always wonder if I should have), leaving you with an unpaid bill for however long, because there’s no due date.
Long story short, my check is attached, so hopefully my credit score will remain untarnished, and I imagine that the feedback of one girl with a pretty small gift-card isn’t even a blip on your radar. However, it’s my New Year’s wish for you all that this policy is changed to save what I’m sure are countless others from the wasted time, check and stamp as a result of this extremely annoying policy, so I felt like I had to say it.