Whenever I buy a gift card at a grocery store the cashier always hands me a small receipt separate from the regular receipt. I’m told it’s the activation receipt. It serves as a confirmation that the gift card now has value on it. Without activation, if someone just steals the gift card off the shelf, it won’t work.
I usually don’t do anything with the activation receipt. Seeing that the card activated successfully is good enough for me. Until this last time.
I bought a $100 Visa gift card from the grocery store Safeway because the store had a $10-off Just for U digital coupon in its mobile app. After a $5.95 purchase fee I would still make an easy $4. Why not? After I bought the gift card I went to a few other stores for some other stuff. By the time I remembered the gift card the next day, I couldn’t find it. I looked for it in my car and in my recycle bin. No, it’s gone.
Then I remembered the activation receipt. I still had it together with my store receipt. The gift card racks in the store are branded Gift Card Mall. I went to the website giftcardmall.com. It’s run by a company called Blackhawk Network. There is a link at the bottom for reporting a lost or stolen card. The link shows a phone number 888-524-1283. I didn’t have high hopes because I didn’t have the card number. The gift card wasn’t registered to my name. Anyone who found it could use it. Maybe it was already used up. There’s no way to prove it wasn’t me. I figured it couldn’t be any worse because I was already out $96 at that point.
I called the 888 number. The customer service rep asked me when and where I bought the card. I gave her the information off the store receipt. She gave me a case number and she asked me to send a copy of the activation receipt to an email address referencing the case number. I did as instructed. I included my address and phone number in my email. Two days later someone called and left a voicemail saying they would send me a replacement. In another week a replacement card came in the mail. It worked, just like that!
I’m surprised that a lost gift card can be replaced and how easy it was. They very well could’ve said tough luck. Lesson learned: take a picture of the gift card together with its activation receipt as soon as you buy the gift card.
Despite complaints I often hear against financial institutions, I continue to be amazed by the consumer protection and the integrity of the system in this country. Just a few weeks ago I received a $0.27 check from a prepaid card that I closed. It was the interest due to me for a partial month. Sometime last year I received a $100 check from an escrow company relating to my mortgage refinance several years ago. The letter said they had an internal audit and they determined they owed me this $100.
In all these cases I wasn’t expecting the money at all. You’d think they would just keep the money to themselves, but no, they sent the money to the customer. In all these years in doing business with numerous financial institutions I can’t think of one instance a bank, a credit union, or a brokerage firm cheated me. I paid very little in fees to begin with. Any fees I did pay were well disclosed up front. My experience makes me trust our laws, regulations, and institutions.