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Gift card adventures

Gift card adventures

I took my son to get something to eat the other day. He had a gift card that he was going to use for part of the cost. The store was empty when we walked in, so he ordered and talked pleasantly with the workers while they fixed the meal.

When it came time to pay, the gift card didn’t work. I asked if they could try it again, and the person obliged. By this time there were other people in line behind us. Another worker came over to see what was going on. She tried to run the gift card as well, and it didn’t work for her either. My son called the number on the card and showed that it did in fact have money on it, so we were kind of at a standstill.

I began to feel worried about holding up the other people in line, and it seemed as though the cashier was getting stressed too. It’s stressful to have a line of customers and to wonder if they’ll be angry that they had to wait. She tried to get the card working another way, but that didn’t work either. Finally she pushed the meal toward us and said “Just take it!”.

I didn’t feel right about doing that, so paid with a different method instead. It sort of felt like I was being petty by insisting on trying to use the gift card while there were other people in line behind us. After all, it was only a little over $5. But five dollars is five dollars, and I hadn’t planned on spending that money outside of the gift card anyway. I haven’t encountered a problem like that before, so I’m sure it was just some kind of problem with the magnetic strip on the card.

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I think this just goes to show that sometimes people make decisions about buying things or spending money based on “what people will think”. The rational thing in this instance would have just been to accept the free meal, or at least part of a free meal. After all, it was a problem with the gift card that prevented us from using it. But I felt bad about doing that, so shelled out money I hadn’t planned on spending instead. I rationalized that I would surely get the money back eventually.

Have you ever had a similar experience? How did you handle it?

View Comments (7)
  • I would have taken the free food. Think of it as the establishment’s way of apologizing for taking up your time due to their system failure.

    If you want, you can go back and ask them to cash out your gift card. You almost always need a receipt to do that- but, if the same cashier is there, she should remember the whole ordeal and understand why you want to cash out.

    Cashing out gift cards is something that is so rarely done, most cashiers and even low level managers, don’t even know that you can do it- let alone how to do it. However, every retailer I’ve worked for has a way of cashing out gift cards. So yes, with a receipt you can return gift cards or replace stolen/lost cards..

  • Luckily gift cards have worked well for me so far, but I did hold up a line one time while a manager had to call and authorize my credit card, since it was the first time I’d used it.

  • Hi there- what a shame you had to experience that! A real dilemma, I most probably would have done what you did, but not really wanting to either. Will you be able to replace the gift card, as you don’t want to go through that again?

  • I had this exact same thing happen at Wendy’s. I knew the exact amount on the card, and they gave me the free food too. I was in the drive thru and there was a bit of a line. I gladly took the free food and left them the gift card. I figured they could deal with it later.

  • I think it was the way she shoved it toward me that made me insist on paying. It was more like “Here, go away!”.

  • What I like to think I would have done is taken the food and left the giftcard. Let them work it out later.

    In real life? Not sure.

  • Hi,
    If the person was rude with you then really you should have not paid. Cause the fault is in the system and the employee needs to take care of it. Not only were they not able to handle it they were also rude.
    Anyway I can understand you dilemma.

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