A JCPenney gift card instead of cash refund — is that fair?

Connie Shomin says she will never shop again at JCPenney. She recently returned two pairs of jeans to the store, but the representative offered her a JCPenney gift card instead of a cash refund, and that didn’t sit well with her.

The problem started when JCPenney credited the refund to a bank account that the store claimed was closed. (How that happened is anyone’s guess — Shomin said the account was still open.)

Yet, after three times that Shomin checked in with the bank, a representative told her the bank never received the funds.

We’ve seen this happen before

This website is littered with stories where company representatives promise one thing but end up delivering another, tell you to “overlook the fine print,” or speak in corporate doublespeak.

And we’ve posted stories in our forums about stores offering customers a gift card instead of a cash refund. In case you’ve never visited our forums before, check them out. They’re a great place to post about your consumer problem.

So what do you do when something like this happens to you?

Shomin’s case highlights one of the most effective procedures to follow when companies don’t fulfill their obligations to consumers.

She doesn’t want a JCPenney gift card

Shomin was able to produce from her bank a notarized affidavit stating that the funds never landed in her account. A representative from JCPenney agreed that perhaps the funds didn’t make it to her bank.

So what was the company’s solution? To provide the refund — as a gift card and not the cold, hard cash that she originally paid and rightfully deserved back from the store.

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“If they really did issue a credit, why would they even give me that?” Shomin asked. “I don’t want their gift card since I don’t plan to ever buy another item from them due to the way this matter has been handled. They have my cash and the merchandise and I want my cash back.”

If you’ve read stories from our website before, you’ll know that quotes that this one should never be used to negotiate a positive settlement. Christopher Elliott recently wrote a story on this website about how to avoid using cringeworthy phrases.

Help us make your case for a cash refund

Frustrated with what she felt was a less-than-satisfactory solution, Shomin could have emailed executive contacts at JCPenney on her own. Often, emailing a simple, polite letter to the first name on the list will “grease the wheels” and lead to a satisfactory result. If the first contact doesn’t yield results, go to the second one, and work your way up the corporate ladder. We list the company contacts for JCPenney on our website. The website also has a list of effective tactics for resolving a customer dispute.

Instead of reaching out to JCPenney’s executives on her own, Shomin contacted our advocates, who asked her for a copy of the paper trail, showing her correspondence with the company and her bank.

Unfortunately, Shomin has yet to provide us with the ammunition we need to help advocate her case. This is a big problem, especially because JCPenney is another one of those retailers that is falling on hard times. Perhaps offering gift cards in lieu of cash is the company’s way of generating new sales.

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Meanwhile, without a paper trail, there is nothing we can do at this point to help Shomin get a cash refund instead of a gift card.

Mark Pokedoff

Four-time Emmy-award-winning television sports production specialist and frequent traveler. Longtime freelance writer and travel blog enthusiast. Proud papa of four amazing kids who have been upgraded to first class more than all their friends combined. Read more of Mark's articles here.

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