This guy is making threats to the wrong company!

Bradford Roberts was cheated out of $356. That’s what he paid for a Bed Bath & Beyond gift card with a face value of $400. But when he tried to use the card, he learned he had purchased a fraudulent gift card. He’s angry with Bed Bath & Beyond and has been making threats to the company. Now he wants our advocates to join him on his quest. 

This case is an example of what not to do on several levels. It also forces us to consider the key question of who is responsible?

Buying a Bed Bath & Beyond gift card

Buying a gift card is usually a pretty straightforward transaction. However, Roberts’ problem started with three critical mistakes:

  • He bought this Bed Bath & Beyond gift card from a total stranger.
  • He bought it through an online reseller that he should have researched more thoroughly.
  • And he did not verify the value of the gift card before completing the transaction.

Then he compounded those mistakes by letting too much time elapse between when he bought the card and when he tried to use it.

Roberts bought the card through an online company called GiftCardRescue.com, which has since shut down. Its business model was to sell gift cards at less than face value after buying them at a bigger discount from sellers who didn’t want them.

Buying a fraudulent gift card

In Roberts’ case, the seller of the gift card had used a stolen credit card to acquire it, so Bed Bath & Beyond voided the fraudulent gift card. But the original crook still sold the worthless card to the online company which resold it to Roberts.

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The fraudster made money. The online reseller made money. But Roberts was the one who took the loss.

By the time he tried to use the Bed Bath & Beyond gift card and learned it was worthless, GiftCardRescue.com had already gone out of business. But even if the company had still been in business, it likely would not have helped him. I did an online search on that company and found many complaints, including accusations of unwillingness to stand behind the gift cards it sold.

We don’t know what kind of due diligence Roberts did before buying the gift card from a third party. But a quick online search will bring up many articles about the risks of buying them that way and how to protect yourself. In fact, the FBI put out a news release on gift card fraud.

By the time he discovered he had purchased a fraudulent gift card it was too late to request a chargeback with his credit card company. So Roberts wrote to Bed Bath & Beyond, demanding that the company reimburse him.

Making threats to Bed Bath & Beyond

The company’s customer service manager was polite in his reply. The company’s position was that since it had not sold him the fraudulent gift card and had not received any money from the transaction, it was not responsible for his loss. The FBI news release mentioned above makes that same point. It says, “The re-seller of a gift card is responsible for ensuring the correct balance is on the gift card, not the merchant whose name is on the gift card.”

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The Bed Bath & Beyond representative tried to be sympathetic to the situation. She even offered Roberts discounts that he could use over time that would make up the $400 face value of the fraudulent gift card. But he refused that offer and responded with threats to post negative reviews online. He also threatened to file complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce. And he let the company know that he would never do business with them again until the company met his demands.

At this point, I should mention that our publisher, Christopher Elliott offers valuable tips on how to write a complaint letter that works. In his article on the topic, he details things not to do in your attempts to resolve your problem, including making threats.

Contacting our advocacy team

When Roberts didn’t get the results he wanted, he started posting those negative reviews. Bed Bath & Beyond saw his postings but stood by its position. So he then wrote to our advocacy team and asked them to join him in his battle against Bed Bath & Beyond.

After reviewing the details of the case, our advocate concluded that this was one we would not mediate. He felt that Bed Bath & Beyond had done nothing wrong and had made Roberts a fair offer. The FAQ section of our website explains that we do not mediate every case that comes in and includes a partial list of the kinds of cases we won’t mediate.

It’s easy to understand why Roberts was angry. But he should not be making threats to Bed Bath & Beyond. That’s not the appropriate target of his anger.

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So who is responsible? Certainly, the thief who used a stolen credit card and then sold the fraudulent gift card is the real villain. But good luck finding him or her. And it’s too late now for Roberts to go after the defunct online company that bought and resold the fraudulent gift card.

Unfortunately for Roberts, there is no way to recover his money from those who are to blame. It’s a painful lesson for him and an important reminder for the rest of us that caveat emptor, let the buyer beware, is still relevant when doing business online.

Abe Wischnia

Abe started his working career as a television news reporter and newscaster before moving to corporate communications and investor relations. Now retired and having learned useful tips from Elliott.org, one of his volunteer activities is writing for us. Read more of Abe's stories here.

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