Fight for your rights: We feel ripped off by House of Fraser over unused gift card
Have you ever been tempted to buy a friend or family member a gift card for a store? My advice? Don’t. For some retailers gift cards are simply a money-spinner, as firms pocket customers’ cash if they don’t use the cards quickly enough.
Does that sound like a rip-off? That’s because it is. Why is there a time limit on using the cards? The only reason I can think of is that shops hope customers don’t remember to use them in time.
If the recipient doesn’t act at once to use the card, it’s likely they’ll be put to one side to be spent later. And once they’re in a drawer or sideboard, it could be months or years before they eventually get spent. And that could be too late.
The card will be rejected and the unsuspecting card-holder will simply be told: “Tough: you’ve lost your money.”
That’s what happened to Moneywise reader NG of Glasgow. He and his wife had been happy customers of department store chain House of Fraser for many years, which is why they had been given presents of gift cards for the store totalling £125.
Sadly, for personal reasons, they were unable to pop to the store to spend the cards for some time. When they eventually did last year, they were shocked to be told that they had expired in July 2016. That came as a total surprise to them.
When they wrote to complain, they were fobbed off with the bonkers explanation: “In order that we provide a uniform level of service to all of our customers, we will be unable to comply with your request to refund or reissue your Gift Card.”
To be fair, House of Fraser pointed out that the expiry date was printed on the card – but neither NG nor his wife had thought to look for an expiry date. They, like millions of others who have fallen for the gift card rip-off, assumed that the card was as good as cash. Sadly that’s not the case.
House of Fraser also pointed out that the expiry date was two years on from when the card was bought. The store reckons that’s plenty of time for people to spend them. But that doesn’t take account of human nature, that basic habit people have of putting things to one side to deal with later.
NG turned to Fight For Your Rights for help and we appealed to House of Fraser’s decency and sense of justice. Sadly its greed won out and it simply told us: “The Terms and Conditions of our Gift Cards are transparent and clearly visible to all of our customers. They are displayed on every Gift Card we issue, and also freely available on our website, and across our stores.”
In other words: “Get stuffed, even if you’re a loyal customer.”
So the warning to all Moneywise readers is: don’t buy retailers’ rip-off gift cards.
But here’s a tip if you do have a gift card close to its expiry date: go and spend it on something and return the item the very next day. You’ll be handed a credit note or further gift card to use at a future time. There should be a new expiry date of a year away or more on it and you can repeat the process if you don’t use it before the new date. That means you’ll be able to shop at your leisure, which should have been the case from the beginning.
Outcome: House of Fraser refuses to play fair
A property chain is a line of buyers and sellers (the “links”) who are all simultaneously involved in linked property transactions. When one transaction falls through – for instance, someone can’t get a mortgage or simply withdraws their property from sale, the entire chain breaks and all the transactions are held up or even fail entirely.