Can you help me with the worst shopping experience of my life?

After Sam’s Club charges Sharon Guo for items it can’t ship — and then fails to refund her for the items — she reaches out to our advocacy team for help. Can we fix her problem?

Question: I had a bad Sam’s Club shopping experience and I feel helpless. I placed an order this summer. About a month later, I received a cancellation notice because the item was out of stock.

I made a phone call to Sam’s Club right after I received the email to talk about the refund, because I made the purchase with gift cards and a credit card. Because it was a month past, I have thrown out all the gift cards. The representative told me that the company would issue four new e-gift cards within 24 to 48 hours.

After a week, I hadn’t receive any refund. I called Sam’s Club again, and I was told somebody would contact me on the next business day. Nobody contacted me within the following week.

Then I sent an email. I’ve received no response.

I called again multiple times, and every time the representative told me that someone would contact me the next business day. I’ve never received a call back from Sam’s Club.

To be honest, this was really the worst shopping experience in my life. Please help me solve this issue. — Sharon Guo, Corinth, Texas

Answer: You’re right, that is a bad shopping experience. Sam’s Club shouldn’t have charged you for items it couldn’t ship. But you might have also held on to those gift cards, just in case. I’m sure you won’t make that mistake again.

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Permit me a quick rant about gift cards. I’ve covered the folly of gift cards many times before, including my own misadventures with these payment systems. Combining them with cash is a recipe for an even bigger disaster. Don’t mix fake money and real money.

Let’s just get this out of the way: Executive contacts for Sam’s Club. Use our list. It will open a few doors that all the calls and emails in the world will not. I think they might have resolved this issue for you.

My amazing advocacy team jumped in to help you. First, we asked you to examine your credit card statement to see if you’d been charged for the unshipped item. You were not. That explains why you never got a refund of the four gift cards, each worth $200.

Our team suggested you make another run at Sam’s Club, this time asking for the correct reimbursement of $800. You did, and Sam’s quickly sent you the cards it promised.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at

  • Alan Gore

    Gift cards started out being exactly that, a painless way of giving your teenage granddaughter, whose current fashion tastes you know little about, birthday money for a specific store. Suddenly we find that they are being used for every kind of promotion, rebate, and cash transfer. What this means is that businesses are using a toy mechanism to do banking, an activity that requires real security at both the purchase and cash-in steps of the process. The scam artists have moved in, causing large stores to regard any large purchase with gift cards as fraud by default and customers to find that the cards they bought directly from the store have already been drained.

  • cscasi

    Good for Chris and team; once again. Of course it helped when your team suggested to Sharon Guo that she make another run at Sam’s Club, this time asking for the correct reimbursement of $800. She did, and Sam’s quickly sent her the cards it promised. What this shows is that one has to write a concise and proper letter requesting what is wanted; i.e. the refund of $800.

  • joycexyz

    The root cause of all the confusion is the combination of gift cards and credit card. “Combining (gift cards) with cash is a recipe for an even bigger disaster. Don’t mix fake money and real money.” Sam’s didn’t charge the credit card for the unavailable items, but needed extra prodding to refund the gift card “money.” Glad you were able to help.

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