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Consumer Rights – Your $$ Update

When last I wrote, I shared my tale of customer service woe about a e-tailer’s gift certificate that somehow couldn’t be used in conjunction with a discount.  The long version is here.  The short version is that I went to happily spend a gift, only to find Shoebuy.com wouldn’t let me use my gift certificate and the site-wide discount even though the checkout page had two distinct fields for it.

After repeated attempts to hear back from the company, my email that included excerpts from state consumer protection laws regarding gift cards and certificates led to me hearing from a customer service representative.  While agreeing to make an exception in this case and manually configure my order to allow both the discount and the use of my money (in both forms: the gift certificate and my credit card), the Shoebuy representative explained the reason the company doesn’t allow both to be used, saying some gift certificates are bought at a discount.  Well, my gift certificate has a unique code attached to it so couldn’t the company attach a real value to the code?  Why put the recipient in the position of the sour feeling about the gift?

Further, the representative explained, the gift certificate buyer should have seen the fine print telling her that the gift would not be allowed to be used with a discount.  Sure.  I know when I give gifts, right after the thank you’s and the hugs the first thing I know I want to say is “You can’t use it with any of the site’s discounts” or “If you go into the store and you want to use it on something that’s on sale, you can’t,”  I know I do that a lot.  And I have a small bet that the Shoebuy rep doesn’t do that when she gives gifts either but I didn’t hassle her about it because she was trying to help and judging from this site, she has her work cut out for her.

There are two endings to this saga I’d like to share.  First, the physical upshot: I used the gift certificate to get my son a great pair of dress shoes and I was able to convince the company to allow the discount to be honored.

Second, during our conversation, the Shoebuy rep expressed her disappointment that I’d shared my story.  Perhaps she has Google alerts or is a regular Chapelboro reader or was contacted by either The Consumerist or The Haggler of The New York Times, both of which received details of my disconcerting interaction with her company.  Again, I didn’t respond directly to her expression of disappointment because I was looking for resolution, not conflict.  But had I not been a squeaky wheel, I doubt I would have achieved what I feel is fair resolution.  My attempts to reach and reason with the company went unheard before I began finding relevant laws and consumer watchdogs.  Isn’t sharing my story the only reason I was?

That was some savvy spending of my time and effort.  Have you ever fought for your rights as a consumer?  Please share your story below or comment on mine.  If you prefer to write to me directly do so at Donnabeth@Chapelboro.com.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/savvy-spender/consumer-rights-your-update/