Consumer

ConsumerWatch: Gift Cards Bought At Supermarkets May Not Work

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A Starbucks gift card being swiped. (AP)

A Starbucks gift card being swiped. (AP)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – Gift cards are among the most popular gift ideas during the holiday shopping season. But those who purchased or received a gift card recently may face an embarrassing moment.

Cynthia Severn purchased five Best Buy gift cards at Lucky, but when she tried to redeem them for a TV she was denied.

“They said they’re inactive or invalid and to go back to the supermarket where I bought them to get them activated again,” Severn said. But when she took the cards back to Lucky she said she was accused of theft. “They kind of accused me of stealing saying that I had already used the $500 gift cards and I’m just trying to go back to get a refund for it,” she added.

David Dickenson was also embarrassed when his employees found out their Best Buy and Starbucks gift card were not valid. “Two of them went through their supervisor to tell me, I think they were embarrassed to bring it up and the other one came to me and said it didn’t work,” he said. In his case, Dickenson purchased the gift cards at Safeway, which also owns the gift card manufacturer Blackhawk.

But when Dickenson tried to redeem the cards at Safeway, he was told he would have to submit a claim and fax a receipt. After weeks of waiting he called Safeway.

“They said they were really backed up they had thousands of these claims this year,” he said.

Dickenson called CBS 5 ConsumerWatch where we found at least 11 invalid Starbucks and Best Buy gift cards. A Lucky representative said they had no idea there was a problem with the cards. Safeway said they knew about the problem.

It turns out it was a packaging issue. If there is a window behind the gift card that reveals a serial number, the card may be compromised.

Responding to this problem, Lucky said they are clearing their shelves of all Best Buy and Starbucks gift cards. As for Safeway, which owns the company that manufactures the cards said they will reimburse gift cards that have been compromised. But if that doesn’t work, Blackhawk can be contacted by e-mailing pr@blackhawk-net.com.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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