November 26, 2008

BBB has been made aware of emails being forwarded to peoples’ email boxes that are spreading concern about purchasing gift cards this holiday season. Unfortunately, these emails focus mostly on doom and gloom, adding fear to consumers spending practices. They even contain false and/or inaccurate information concerning certain companies listed by name that may or may not be in or headed for bankruptcy.

BBB believes that perpetuating the circulation of these emails only creates misconceptions about the marketplace.

Follow this link at Snopes.com for further details: http://www.snopes.com/politics/business/storeclosings.asp

Despite these negative-toned urban legend emails, the fact remains that people are still looking for ways to enjoy their holiday gift giving season, and gift cards are still one of the most popular methods of giving this year.

“Consumer spending is the lubricant that keeps the economy moving locally. There are enough false reports and sensational stories in the news to scare people into not spending this holiday season,” states Jan Quintrall, President/CEO of the BBB Serving Eastern WA, North Idaho and Montana. “The BBB wants to encourage careful and thoughtful purchases this holiday season. These emails circulating half baked ideas and store closing rumors are doing nothing but further harm to the marketplace.”

BBB wishes to dispel negative rumors by offering some sound advice on gift card-giving this year:

1. Check out the business at www.bbb.org

2. Two types of gift cards exist: Those sold by retailers, which can only be used at that store or sister stores; and bank cards (VISA, MasterCard, American Express) which can be used just about anywhere, but ask for specific terms regarding additional fees and restrictions.

3. Buy from reputable sources, preferably directly from the store of your choice.

4. Know the Terms and Conditions of a gift card PRIOR to purchase. Also ask such things as whether the gift card can be redeemed/utilized online, if there are fees or restrictions accompanying the card purchase, and if the card has an expiration date (WA State residents, read all about Gift Card Laws here: http://www.atg.wa.gov/askcolumn.aspx?id=11930)

5. Keep the original purchase receipt with the gift card as proof of purchase, and send it to the recipient. Some issuers require the original receipt to replace a lost, stolen, or damaged card.

And if gift cards aren’t your thing, consider a donation to a charity of choice in the name of your gift recipient.

For more trustworthy advice on how to become a savvier consumer this holiday season, go to www.bbb.org.