Never look a gift card in the mouth


I tried to get Mike and Maddie a couple of gift cards for their birthdays, so they could buy equipment for their new cell phones. They recently switched to Nextel (which was bought by Sprint).

I ended up giving them cash. Tacky tacky cash.

Thanks for nothing, Sprint.


The unfortunate odyssey began a month ago, when I visited or called most of the Sprint outlets in town. The kiosks and the independent stores don’t do gift cards, only the official company stores.

Even that turned out to be a lie.

Gift cards, by the way, are free money for corporations. I hand you 50 bucks, you hand me plastic cards. Some people never use their cards, or use only part of them, or end up spending a whole lot more than they intended.

Free money.

Plus, some unscrupulous companies charge a fee for unused cards. They take back the money dime by dime.


Still, I wanted to get a pair of gift cards for presents. I checked the Sprint Web site. No info.

I called the Sprint national hot line. The operator had no idea if her company sold them, and had to check. It did, but I’d have to buy locally.

The first store I called said they sell them only at Christmas time. Oh good God, that’s stupid. These cards take up very little shelf space but can make good birthday, graduation, Easter, Arbor Day and corporate gifts.

Did I mention I was trying to give these idiot cell phone company people $50?

The second store had them in stock. When I went there an hour later, they said they didn’t have any.


I reminded them I had called just minutes before. They dug around and found a couple, then fumbled at the computer register for awhile to put money on the cards.

After some back and forth, they managed to charge them up. Done, finished. Birthday presents ready.

Except, not.

Mike and Maddie tried to buy their equipment, only to find the cards had no money on them.

Looks like I succeeded: I gave Sprint $50. It gave me two worthless cards.

I called to complain. No apology, no help. The manager, Randy, wouldn’t budge, even after I asked to be charged another $50 to have cards mailed to me.

Double grr.

A second trip to the faraway Sprint store was equally pointless. I stood in the showroom for 30 minutes as another manager, Matt, tried to figure out how to either add money or get me a refund.

I waited like an idiot. He didn’t bother giving me updates, just kept making call after call. Funny how they said they couldn’t do this by phone.

I ended up leaving, with receipt and worthless gift cards in hand. I never got a refund.

And he never apologized.

I went to the ATM and gave Mike the 50 dollars, hoping he’d spend it anywhere but Sprint.

Don’t worry. Sprint will receive a nasty letter from me. The credit card company will make sure I get my money back.

As I remind fellow consumers, document everything. Be polite. Write follow-up letters to corporations. Use a credit card that will settle disputes quickly and fairly.

And then write long reviews that incorporate phrases like “Sprint sucks monkey balls” so they’ll be forever burned into the Internet, a time capsule of corporate incompetence, greed and malice.


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