If you’ve bought vouchers or gift cards to use as an incentive, you’re technically known as an ‘unsecured creditor’ of the retailer where the vouchers can be redeemed.
Customers who bought gift cards in high street music, film and game retailer Zavvi will have discovered this to their cost. Now that Zavvi is in administration, it will no longer redeem Zavvi gift cards in store, leaving recipients to try and claim a refund in writing from the administrators if they were issued after 27 November 2008. Vouchers and gift cards issued before this date will not be refunded.
Vouchers and gift cards come with a hidden cost to recipients, and to the businesses that use them as an incentive. This article in the New York Times paints a sorry story of consumers in the US, who lost over $100 million last year through unredeemable gift cards, when retailers such as Sharper Image and Circuit City went out of business.
Increasingly, it looks like gift card sales are being used to prop up failing retail chains, as a means of generating revenue or cashflow without incurring costs.
The article goes on to state research by Consumer Reports, that showed that 25% of people who received giftcards last year had yet to redeem them, with more than 50% of that group having more two or more cards. (“The most common reasons: They didn’t have enough time, forgot about the card; couldn’t find anything they wanted; or the card expired and became worthless.”) How many of these gift cards will never be redeemed, either due to the card expiring via recipient inactivity, or by the retailer going bust?
Non-redemption remains the dark secret of the voucher industry.