Use it or lose it - Photograph a voucher or gift card when you get it
Lose your voucher and, sorry for you, you lose out.
That's always been retailers' stance when it comes to gift vouchers, because they're as good as cash, they say.
But it's really not that hard for companies that issue gift vouchers to keep track of them, especially in the case of electronic vouchers.
And even with paper ones - all that's required of a company to know when a voucher has been redeemed is to number the vouchers and keep a register.
Of course, if the consumer doesn't know the number of the lost voucher - paper or digital - he or she can't be helped.
So here's a good tip - photograph a voucher or gift card when you get it, particularly since, thanks to the Consumer Protection Act, consumers have up to three years to redeem a prepaid voucher in full.
Sadly, many service providers - spa and beauty salons in particular - continue to issue vouchers valid for just three or six months.
And consumers who don't know their rights simply lose out.
Vimbai Manyukwi of Sunninghill, Johannesburg, and her husband of just two weeks, Gcina Magagula, discovered after opening their wedding gifts that a Clicks gift card to the value of R1000 was missing.
"I had the receipt, displaying the card details and balance, but when I called Clicks' customer care, I was told the only thing it could do was block the card so no one else could use it," Manyukwi said.
"On its system Clicks can see the card hasn't been used yet - the balance is R1000 - but Clicks tells me it sees the gift card as cash and if you lose the card, you lose the cash. This makes no sense," she said, turning to In Your Corner for help.
I took up the case with Clicks, arguing that it had nothing to lose in reloading the R1000 onto a new card and allowing the newlyweds to spend the money which was intended for them.
"No loss to Clicks, a very happy day for the couple and lots of goodwill generated," I said.
Happily, the company agreed. "We encourage customers to safeguard gift cards and treat them like cash, as our normal policy is that lost or stolen gift cards cannot be replaced,'' said spokesman Susann Caminada.
"But, seeing that the customer's balance is still available, we have made an exception and transferred the balance onto a new card.
"We wish her all the best with her recent nuptials and lots of happy shopping at her nearest Clicks store."
I do love a happy ending.
One hopes that the company's customer care agents will be trained and empowered to exercise such discretion in future.
EXPENSIVE EMPTY: You know it's a must-have product when retailers won't risk openly displaying it, for fear of shoplifting. Despite not being company policy, you'll find only empty bottles of Jameson whiskey on the shelf at Checkers' liquor outlet in Overport, Durban - you have to ask for full ones.
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