I took advantage of a gift card promotion. Then Target took advantage of me

By | February 21st, 2017

It sounds like the next verse of the same song: Muhajirah Payne purchased a gift card from Target online — only to find out from the recipient that the card wasn’t usable.

Our advocates have been hearing versions of this story quite frequently – and wondering why Target won’t stand behind its gift cards.

First, we advocated for Denny Eaplin, a loyal Target customer whose $200 gift card balance was stolen, but whom Target refused to assist “because Target leadership decided that he could have sold his gift card.” Then Kathie Nguyen asked for our help in restoring her gift card balance after Target deactivated her card for “abuse” when she made a purchase.

Payne bought a gift card from Target using an online promotion for 10 percent off the face value of the card, up to $300 in gift cards per customer. When the recipient of Payne’s gift card told him that it didn’t work, he immediately called Target to find out what was wrong. But after an hour on the phone, all he was told by Target’s representative was to call back the following day.

Unfortunately, when Payne called Target the next day, his call was dropped while he was speaking to a representative. He still didn’t know why the card didn’t work — and nobody from Target called him back.

Payne tried calling Target a third time. At first he was “again told a lot of nothing,” but was finally transferred to an agent who admitted that there was a mistake. He apologized to Payne, reinstated the card, and offered Payne a $50 gift card of his own “for his troubles.”

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But less than an hour later, the recipient of the original gift card told Payne that she had tried to use the card and was told that it was “invalid.”

And on Payne’s fourth call to Target, he was told that “nothing could be done.” He was also told that he had “abused the promotion” because Target believed that he was a reseller of the cards.

Payne complained to the Better Business Bureau, as have other customers who have not been able to use the balances on their Target gift cards. In response to Payne’s complaint, he was banned from shopping at Target.com. He then contacted our advocates for help. (Executive contact information for Target is available on our website.)

It turned out that Target had discovered that some customers were trying to get around the $300 per customer limit for this promotion by purchasing some cards online and some cards in person. In these instances, Target closed the accounts of both cards — and unfortunately, it mistook Payne for one of those customers.

Target disclaims responsibility for all transactions through its website, its gift cards and promotions in its terms and conditions:

Target reserves the right, with or without prior notice, to do any one or more of the following: (i) limit the available quantity of or discontinue any product or service; (ii) impose conditions on the honoring of any coupon, coupon code, promotional code or other similar promotion; (iii) bar any user from making or completing any or all Transaction(s); and (iv) refuse to provide any user with any product or service. …

All gift cards, e-gift cards and other gift certificates are deemed purchased in and issued from the State of Minnesota. The risk of loss and title to such items passes to the purchaser upon our electronic transmission to the recipient or delivery to the carrier, whichever is applicable.

But to automatically accuse customers of bad faith and delete their gift card balances, even when further investigation proves that they have not acted fraudulently, is itself an act of bad faith and poor quality customer service. Target needs to make these customers whole by offering genuine apologies and restoring their balances immediately.

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Which brings us back to Payne. Our advocates reached out to Target on Payne’s behalf. Target refunded Payne the original purchase price of his gift card, along with the $50 he had been offered “for his troubles.” Payne has also been able to shop on Target’s website and at its brick-and-mortar stores with no problems.

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