By Donnabeth Leffler

Does a Gift Certificate =$$?

By Donnabeth Leffler Posted November 25, 2012 at 3:59 pm

A friend from out of town gave me a gift certificate for an e-tailer dedicated to one of my passions: shoes!  I received the gift a few months ago but our recent cold weather had me hungering for boots so I visited the site to see what I could find.  

Imagine my delight when upon my visit to Shoebuy.com, I found not only a pair of boots I liked but also a site-wide promotion for 20% off.   With my gift certificate, that would still leave a small balance remaining for me to pay but that was fine.

The website form wouldn’t accept both the promotion and the gift certificate despite there being two clearly marked and distinct fields in which to enter them.  Oh, a tech problem, I thought.  I called.  Talked to Rodney.  Nope, he said, pleasantly, you can’t use both.   “But I’m not trying to use a second discount,” I explained.  “It’s not a coupon.”  Yes, he said, but he couldn’t help me.  He suggested I write an email, which I did, and call back, asking for one of two people, which I did.

I never heard back from that email and when I called back was never able to speak with the two people I was told to seek out.  Instead, I was told that my gift certificate, which I understood to be my money, was no good on the site if anything was discounted. 

If any of you reading this are retailers and/or e-tailers, please weigh in:  If I want to buy something you’ve discounted and I want to pay a partial amount with a store gift card, you wouldn’t blink an eye, right?  After all, that’s money someone gave you so that I could spend it in your store- how I see fit.  

I’m fairly sure this isn’t legal.  Attorneys, also feel free to weigh in below.  I researched gift certificate/card laws for both NC and the state where it was purchased (NY) and forwarded relevant details to Shoebuy.com.  It took a few days, but this email someone deigned to answer, writing that “the matter is under review”.    In the meantime, as a web-based business, I’ll have to look into the state where it’s located and also find out what interstate commerce laws may apply.  Again, if anyone knows, please comment below.

My outrage over this is not built on the loss of the amount of the gift certificate.  It’s a question of consumer fairness and what’s right.  My friend bought me a gift in good faith.  It is not being honored in good faith.  No one can be a savvy spender when one side isn’t playing fair.   

This was a gift from out-of-town and the internet has, mostly, made that easier.  But if ever there was an argument to shop locally, I believe I’ve made it above.  Do you have a consumer story to share?  Especially after this past shopping spree of a weekend for much of our nation, it’s a good time to think about savvy spending. 

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