Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Gift That's Never Returned


If you give me a gift card, prepare yourself for some looks that you normally would only see in films about samurais, because I hate gift cards and I always have. I lose a few months off my life each time I receive one and an angel dies each time I have to sell one. Yeah, you heard right! I'm part of the problem, and just when you thought I couldn't like them any less before it became my job to push them on people, you can't imagine how much additional hate has piled on since I’ve learned so much more about them. So here’s a handful of things I’ve learnt on my travels with gift cards.

Has something gone awry? Too bad!
Firstly, I'm not ignoring the fact that some people just have stones inside their heads and naturally those sorts of people can be tricked into buying dumb shit, like stones, but I can’t blame them entirely. I think there's an implication with gift cards, mainly due to their popularity, that no matter what happens everything will be fine. The problem there is that it won't.

When these cards fuck up, they fuck up good! What this means for the person is that they now need to start digging through receipts and invoices trying to prove that this money is theirs like some financial lawyer. It's ridiculous. I've never had to prove that I'm holding an invisible fifty dollar note, because those don't exist! But you see, you could very well be the proud owner of a piece of plastic that says fifty dollars but actually has no value; those do exist. And if that is the case and you don't have a receipt to prove it, I can tell you right now that you're never seeing that money again. All you are to us is some person with two things: a card that's empty and no way to prove that it shouldn't be. Of course, I could just say 'keep the receipt and everything will be hunky dory' - and you should - but if only life was really that simple.

Although on the upside, the glass isn’t always half empty with gift cards, because if I lose a gift card and I have a receipt, with some places I'd be able to get that money back, something I’d never be able to do if I lost real money. So in a way, putting aside the fact that the money needs to be spent before a certain time or it's lost anyway, you’re attaching an element of security to it, so that’s great. But on the other hand, glass half empty, gift cards unfortunately open up this opportunity for people to bitch and moan to people like me because of their own carelessness. For example, when you lose a note, it’s just gone because you lost it, there’s nothing you can do about it and people just accept that; it’s a very, very simple procedure. But with a gift card, it’s just a whole lot oooohs and ahhs and dealing with second and third parties and being recited terms & conditions, which is all a very big complicated waste of time when you consider the alternative if you ask me.

Just spend it, and spend it now, awright!

Secondly, there was this hilarious advertisement hanging around Westfield once that read 'gift cards, the gift that’s never returned' (left) and that's funny because you can't! Getting a refund on one of these things is like pulling teeth from a pack of rabid dogs, and you'd need a pretty extraordinary reason in order to get one. I trusted that this wasn’t just the case at my work, but I wanted to make sure just in case. So I called a few places under the guise of somebody who just found a gift card amongst a recently deceased family member’s possessions but didn’t feel right spending it. But even under my unfortunate feux-circumstances: Myer said no to a refund, Westfield said no, so did David Jones who explained that there’s actually no facility setup to process card refunds and Coles Myer Group said no as well, which covers eight stores in itself. So, forgive me for feeling a little uneasy about something that won’t can't be returned and also something that isn't very well regulated by the law.

On that note, there's been a lot of talk in the government these last few years about bringing in stronger and more elaborate laws, and the main argument is that money doesn’t have expiry dates so therefore neither should gift cards, and I'd have to agree with that. In fact, funnily enough, when I called Coles Myer Group, the dude said that they can’t refund gift cards on the grounds that they’re treated as if they are cash and you can’t refund cash, and I thought ‘well, isn’t that interesting logic.’ So, when it comes to using them wherever you want and putting expiry dates on them, they’re gift cards, but mention the word ‘refund’ and suddenly it’s just like cash! Very interesting.

To be honest, at first I was stumped as to why they would expire, because if the company already has your money and if the dollar appreciates with time making products relatively more expensive, then why would it matter? But then I realised that these companies don't want to take that risk. If there's no expiry then who's to say you won't be moving a cupboard in ten years time, find the card underneath it and use it. You never know, that company could be teetering on the edge of bankruptcy by then and you could be in one of their stores taking stock from the shelves without having to hand over any new money. It's unlikely, but not impossible, and that’s the problem, they would rather make it impossible, otherwise gift cards become loose-ends. You see, the number one drive behind the sale of gift cards is to make money for nothing. So they're counting on you to forget that you have twenty bucks still sitting on your card or to just not bother spending the twenty seven cents left over, so then the card can expire, they have your money and they don’t have to worry about you anymore.

You shop where I think you want to shop. Burn!
Thirdly, getting a gift card feels the same as what I would imagine being handed the keys to a house in China would feel like, you know, because you have no choices. I have to shop where you think I want to shop? Is that a joke? Here's an example, my mum got a five hundred dollar bonus from her work a few times over the years, but she didn't really get a bonus, instead she got five hundred dollar David Jones gift cards. Now I don't know if you've ever stepped into one of their stores, but if you have, you would know that five hundred dollars in the real world is only really about two hundred and fifty in David Jones’ world. Their prices are pretty bloated, like their prices just ate Brazilian barbeque-bloated. And that's just not nice. It's not nice that you have to use your bonus on something that's overpriced when you know that if they'd just given you cash like normal people do that you could get it at a cheaper or at least a reasonable price elsewhere. That’s just a nice gesture that they transformed into a shitty one.


Just to wrap this up. This post itself is a pretty good example of why people shouldn't buy them, because gift cards only serve to complicate something that’s simple. I could never have written this much on normal currency, because normal currency just works. You could simply hand me a fifty dollar note, but instead you've handed me a rigmarole of expiry date this and 'I can use it here but not here and only here if it's there' that. Blah! blah! blah! It’s all noise. I’ll give you this, gift cards are a lot nicer to look at than money. It also shows that you didn’t just pull something out of your wallet at the last minute. But at the end of the day, it’s not enough to excuse the homework assignment that comes attached. Whatever happened to money in a nice card? As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well, I don’t know about yours, but money ain’t broke! So, if you're going to take anything away from this post, just remember to exercise some caution when purchasing a gift card; they're not as nice as you think.

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