Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Shoe'nuff - on the eighth day, God created (gift card) hell

For several weeks now, I have been struggling with a shoe vendor and a gift card vendor. I will not name either company, because similar things probably happen with other shoe and gift card vendors.

The shoe vendor is one who offers shoes in the $150-$200 range, via its own stores, its own outlet stores, third party stores, and online. I have been buying these shoes on and off for some time, and my current pair of shoes is in need of replacement.

So I decided to go to one of the shoe place's own stores - one that I had visited in the past with good results. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a shoe that I really liked, but did find one that I sort of liked. I told the salesperson my size, and mentioned that I wore a narrow width. The salesperson checked, found the shoe in a wide width, and really wanted me to try that shoe on because perhaps it might fit. I declined and left, surprised that this particular store would go to those lengths to try to make a sale, regardless of whether the product was actually best for the customer.

I subsequently visited the shoe vendor's website and found a style that I really liked (and which was less expensive than the one the salesperson tried to get me to buy). I called the store back and asked if it had that particular style. The store didn't.

There are other branches of the store, including an outlet branch, within driving distance of my home, so I called them up to see if they had my preferred style. They didn't.

Finally, on Sunday, February 7, I decided to do something that I had never done before - order shoes online. Ordinarily I wouldn't risk this, but I had been wearing these shoes for years.

So I took my gift card (a general gift card, not one that could only be used for the shoe vendor), entered my purchase information...and my purchase was declined because my shipping address didn't match the billing address for the gift card.

Did I mention that this was a gift card, so the billing address (I didn't know gift cards had billing addresses) normally WOULDN'T match the shipping address?

So I tried again, making a guess as to what the billing address should be - and then my purchase was declined because I didn't have sufficient balance on my gift card.


What happened was something that often happens with gift, credit, or debit cards - a temporary hold was placed on the card for a particular amount, awaiting resolution of the transaction.

Unfortunately, in my case there was no transaction - the first attempt was declined, and I cancelled the second attempt. Yet I had about $400 tied up on my gift card until the hold was lifted.

On Tuesday, February 9 I called the shoe vendor, and it confirmed that no transaction was posted, and no transaction would be posted. I would need to talk to the gift card vendor, but these things usually take 3 business days.

The shoe vendor was wrong.

By Friday, February 12 when the balances still hadn't cleared up, I called the gift card vendor and was told that the transactions would take eight calendar days to clear, since the vendor had up to seven calendar days to post a transaction. And there was no way to speed that process up.

If I was depending upon that gift card alone, what this meant was that the shoes that I wanted to buy on the weekend of February 8-9 probably wouldn't have been purchased until the weekend of February 20-21.

Of course, by this time I had already Googled/Binged the question "Who are the primary competitors to this particular shoe vendor?" On Saturday, February 13, I visited one of those competitors - without the gift card - and bought some shoes.

I'm not sure what this means about future shoe purchases - I have to see how the competitor's shoes hold up over the next few months - but the next time that I consider buying a gift card for someone, I'll probably get cash instead.
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