I'm sad to say that the older I get, the more disillusioned I get. For example, you wouldn’t believe how many calls I receive asking me to contribute to some charity or other. Seriously, I must get at least one such call each and every day.
I used to contribute to a lot of things, but then I read an article saying how many of these calls are scams in all but name. For example, there's the "Support your local police benevolent fund" type, where the person on the other end of the phone is actually calling you from Colorado or somewhere, and where your "local police benevolent fund" receives only about 3 cents out of each dollar that's raised (the remaining 97 cents goes to cover "administrative overhead" – including the call that prompts you to contribute in the first place).
So then I started checking them out on the Better Business Bureau, but I really don’t have the time to do in-depth checks every day, so it's got to the stage where I now simply say "I'm sorry, I just don’t do anything like this over the phone." Instead, I prefer to contribute to charities in which I have total confidence, like our local Downtown Rescue Mission and the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Operation Smile.
Why am I waffling on about this? Well, as you can imagine, I also receive a humongous amount of emails each day. I try to at least skim through each one, just to make sure I don't miss something relevant. I just glanced at one titled "Five things you need to know before you buy a gift card," then I automatically hit the delete button while muttering under my breath "Why are you wasting my time with this stuff?"
But then – while I was looking at the next email – I thought to myself "Hang on, I do buy quite a lot of gift cards during the holiday season … maybe this is something I should take a look at." So I bounced over to my "Deleted" folder and gave this message a more thorough read through. This is what I saw:
Gift cards may be the easiest option for gift giving this holiday
season, but they are not the safest and carry complicated penalties.
Stores are secretly making a profit off of your thoughtful gifts and
causing many problems for consumers. Before you buy those gift cards,
educate yourself on some of the issues.
Pissed Consumer, the most popular product review and complaint website, shares 5 tips that every gift card purchaser should know.
1. THE DOLLAR AMOUNT IS A LIE – The amount on the card will slowly dwindle as the company will charge you interest on the card. This will range anywhere between 5-10% of what you purchased. In addition to this, you pay a fee to activate the card, so the amount of money for both you and the recipient adds up.
2. GIFT CARDS EXPIRE - Many gift cards only last for 12 months -- or even worse, less than that. To prevent all the money from disappearing read your gift card closely to see if there is an expiration date. If there is, alert the recipient to spend the gift card as soon as possible.
3. STORES LOCK YOU IN - Gift cards require you to spend the set amount of money at that particular store, yet the recipient of the gift may wish to spend the gift funds somewhere else.
4. YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION IS BEING RE-SOLD - Often the store that you purchase the gift card from will collect your personal information and use it for their marketing purposes. Some companies will even go as far as selling your information to other marketers.
5. SPECIAL DEALS WITH GIFT CARDS - Remember that special deals with gift card are too good to be true. For example, two massages for the price of one may be the rate for the introductory massage only. If you are purchasing the card for a regular customer they will not be able to take advantage of the introductory rate which was what the card was intended for.
Remember this holiday season to read all the fine print associated with the gift card to avoid these headaches.
PissedConsumer.com is a premier consumer advocacy group, featuring consumer reviews and complaints in a social networking environment. The company uses online tools to publicize reviews and complaints filed by consumers on the Internet. In addition, the site offers a set of free tools necessary to bring the dispute to a fast and successful resolution, including a consumer complaint letter generator and collection of consumer tips and advice in the site’s consumer advocacy section.
Well, some of this was new to me, and it's certainly given me something to think about. I'm not sure if all of these issues are true in every case, but you can bet your little cotton socks that I will absolutely be reading the fine print in the future before shelling out any more of my hard-earned cash.
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