Sunday, September 20, 2009

When is a gift card not a gift card - at Santana Row in San Jose

Ok, I don't normally do product rants - but this time I just have to. I received a Santana Row gift card about two years ago as a gift. I used it once or twice then it became lost in an old wallet. I rediscovered it during a recent purse/wallet reorg and it went into a little wallet where I keep all my gift cards. I went to use it last night and was horrified to find it had expired - which I challenged because in California gift cards can't expire. We went over to the Santana Row Concierge and found out that the card shouldn't have been expired but I did discover to my horror that Santana Row had been assessing a $2.50 per month "fee" on the gift card - so in the time the card lived in my old wallet it lost about a lot of its value.

I got home last night and immediately checked all my other gift cards. None of them are due to expire (I have a lot of Starbucks cards from an old boss who handed them out at the drop of a hat - since I don't drink coffee I use them very rarely but they are great for buying water in airports). So why does Santana Row, a bastion of high end shopping, feel that they have to charge such fees? You think they'd want to encourage shoppers to patronize their stores and if I have a positive experience I'm more likely to return to shop again. I doubt the purchaser of my gift card ever thought to look at the fine print (really fine - I had to get my reading glassed to read it) . As a recipient it never occurred to me that I should read fine print on a gift card since I knew they couldn't expire.

So this is just fair warning to everyone as they gear up for the holiday season - check your gift cards carefully - it seems that Santana Row has found a loop hole in California's law on gift cards/gift certificates. Who knows what other desperate retailers might do? The Santana Row concierge said - it's not really a gift card - she got that right.

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