Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Amazon Gift Card From Hell

This story has a happy ending (no….not that kind…..get your mind out of the gutter!) but man, oh man, did I have a few really frustrating hours dealing with an Amazon gift card I received.

My birthday is just around the corner and over the weekend I visited my friends Luv Malts and Woody, the two people most responsible for me starting this blog, this past weekend.  They gave me a very generous birthday gift.  It was a gift card from Amazon.  We were headed to dinner but I had my laptop with me and since I had some time, I tried to enter the gift card code on my Amazon account so I would have the money there when I needed it.

Should have been easy, right?  But no, it wouldn’t accept the code that was on the back of the card.  I tried it multiple times.  I had both LM & Woody read the number and we all agreed on what the number was.  Now there was some doubt whether one of the characters was an “I” or the numeral “1” but I tried it both ways and no luck.  LM took to my keyboard herself to enter it and it didn’t work.

One thing that was weird was that on the page it said that the activation code was a 14 or 15 digit number.  But the code on the card was 16 digits.  I tried the code without the last number, no luck.  I tried the code without the last two numbers and….no luck.

Finally we realized we had to call Amazon.  That’s not easy.  They make it real hard on Amazon to figure out how to contact them by telephone. In fact, you can’t call them.  You have to give them a phone number and they will call you.  What is this, the CIA?

They did indeed call me back right away.  And were unable to help me.  They said the activation code that I was looking at was invalid.  I should mention that my friends had bought the card at the local CVS pharmacy.  I’ve bought gift cards in retail outlets before and I knew that you had to be very certain that the cashier “activates” the card when you buy it, otherwise, it’s not worth the plastic it’s printed on.  They showed me the receipt and it clearly stated that the card was activated.

But Amazon customer service couldn’t locate that number.  There’s another number underneath the code and they had me read that to them and, although they recognized it as a good number, all they could tell me was that there must have been some problem with the activation process at the store it was purchased and that I should see if the people who gave me the gift still had the receipt and could take it and the card back to CVS and resolve the issue at the store.

Well that was convenient.  OK, so now it was just damn lucky I was still with LM & Woody, and luckier still that I had thought to register the gift card while I was still at their house.  Suppose I had waited a few days?  Possibly after they had lost or thrown out the receipt?  Yikes.

But ok, I had gotten “lucky” I suppose.  I was with my friends and had the receipt and the CVS was on the way to where we were going to dinner so it wouldn’t be too big a deal.

We arrived at CVS and Woody told the store manager what happened.  He said there really wasn’t anything he could do because according to his system, the card was properly activated and “gift-cards are non-refundable.”  But he said he would call Amazon right then and there and see what he could do.

Oops.  As I already pointed out, you can’t call Amazon.  Fortunately, they had called me on my cell phone and the number that they had called me from wasn’t restricted. It was right on my phone.  I was concerned that the number would only be good for calling out and would not accept incoming calls.  But no, the number worked and the manager was able to get through to a human being.

He explained the problem and then they asked for my email address.  I should have stopped that conversation right then and there.  You see, in my original conversation with a different customer service rep, we had never gotten to the point of discussing my account.  I was just trying to get them to acknowledge that the card was valid.  They had no idea what account I was trying to get money applied to.  They were telling me the card was not valid.

Nevertheless, the manager handed me the phone and from that point on, I was on the phone, standing at a CVS register, talking to Amazon about this gift card for about 45-minutes.

I remind you that this was all about a gift I received. 

The young lady from Amazon, like the guy I spoke to before, said the activation number was no good.  We now had another set of eyes—those belonging to the CVS manager—confirming that I was giving them the number as it was printed on the card.

The customer service rep was at a loss.  She put me on hold and when she came back, she asked for the number underneath the activation code.  I gave that to her.  She had to look that up in a different system, I believe.  Finally she came back on and told me that the second number was good and that it did indeed show there was an amount available on that card number for the amount of the gift card.  Victory!

No, not quite.  I asked her to give me the correct activation code for that number so we could be done with this.  But no, she couldn’t do that.  She didn’t know what to do and put me on hold again.

Finally she came back and said there was only option left.  I needed to scan the front and back of the gift card and email a copy of the scan to their “Escalation” department. And send them a detailed explanation of the issue I was having.  I must admit that I found that option totally unacceptable.

After all the time I’d already invested in this, to do this additional work seemed totally unreasonable.  Suppose I didn’t have access to a scanner?  Not everybody does.  And then I had to put this all down in an email explaining to them?  Do they think I have nothing better to do?

I told them that this was way too much for something that was supposed to be a gift to me and she apologized but insisted that was all that could be done.  I suppose I might have made a bigger stink if I wasn’t in a public place but finally, after repeating how unacceptable this was, I finally wrote down the email address of the escalation dept.

I still don’t get why they just couldn’t give me a working activation code right then and there, they must have had one assigned to that card number, right?  And also, reading between the lines, it sounded like what they were telling me was that that the card my friends purchased was misprinted, that it came with an invalid activation code.  This was clearly Amazon’s fault and yet somehow, I was the one who had to do all the work to get it fixed.

Didn’t seem right.

I should mention that while I was on the phone with Amazon from CVS, I did hear the store manager tell LM and Woody that one way or the other, he would see that the issue was resolved satisfactorily.

Anyway, when we got back to their house after dinner, LM volunteered to scan the card for me so I could dash it off to Amazon right then and there.  Well, to prove that Murphy’s Law is absolute real, her PC decided to die right there and then, before she could scan the card!

Seriously, that’s what happened.  Truth be told, she knew that her PC was on its last legs and was planning on taking an inventory of all the important files on it the very next day before buying a replacement.  And the damn thing died about 12 hours too early.  We wasted another hour trying in vain to get her PC to actual boot.  She kept getting an ominous message warning her that a fatal hard drive failure was eminent!  Unreal.

It was kind of ironic I was there to witness the death of this particular PC.  I was actually there at this computer’s birth, many years ago.  I helped LM set up an elaborate dual-boot mechanism that she needed for her work when she first bought this computer.  So I had come full circle with her PC.

When I got home later that evening, I was able to scan the card and email it to Amazon, with a long explanation (do I ever do any other kind?) of the issue and expressing my frustration with the whole process.  I sent this off right before retiring for the night.

When I awoke, there was an email from Amazon saying that they had credited my account for the amount of the gift card.  So at least I didn’t have try to enter a damn activation code.

Anyway, the issue is resolved and I got my gift.  I think I worked harder for that gift than I do for my paycheck (but don’t tell my boss that).

I think there’s a lesson here.  Be careful with those gift cards you buy at retail outlets.  Maybe don’t send them to someone who doesn’t live near you, in case they have to bring that card back to the location it was purchased.


  1. I give Amazon cards for Christmas gifts, but I get them directly from Amazon. Too bad this was such a hassle for you.

    1. Thanks, MOJO. Yeah, in the past I've given Amazon gift cards by going directly on their website and just having them email the person I was giving the gift to. Worked out fine. This was pretty strange.

  2. I felt bad for you (and still do) all the way through that explanation, AND THEN you got to the part where you said, "...with a long explanation (do I ever do any other kind?)," and I felt angry with myself for not having caught that earlier...

    "WHAT?! You expect ME to send you a detailed explanation of the issue I'm having?..." :) Happy Birthday anyway, and may all of your flush draws hit (you know, that 8% that haven't been)... ;)

    1. Thanks, Coach! I stuck that line in for my many readers who think my blog posts are too short.

  3. Interesting story, but looooongggg story about gift cards. I usually can handle the length when it is about poker or boobs. : ) Speaking of gift cards, I always wondered why poker sites didn't pay with gift cards when they were having difficulty getting checks to be cashed due to UEIGA.


    1. Thanks, cowboy...yeah LONG because of all the hoops I had to go through. Sorry no poker or boobs, maybe next time.

      The offshore poker sites using gift cards would be a good idea, I agree.

    2. Yeah Rob ... what a fiasco! So glad you finally did get your account credited. I suppose I won't ever buy a gift card from a retail store again. I like to give Starbucks cards to my step-daughters but I will be forced to go into a Starbucks to purchase them from now on .... tee hee ... I love Starbucks!

      One more element to your story: Even the same cashier who originally activated the card was at the CVS store when we were there and she remembered and confirmed she activated the card at the time.

      Wonder Woman ... an Amazon! I was wondering how you were going to squeeze in, so to speak, a bodacious gal!

    3. Thanks again for the gift....and the blog post!

      I think if you do use retail, you must make sure you give them the receipt that shows it was activated. And hopefully there's a location of the retail outfit near where the person receiving the gift lives.

      I thought it was gonna be a challenge to come up with an "appropriate" pic....then I remembered that Wonder Woman was an "Amazon" and I was good to go.