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The beauty of a gift receipt is that you can give a present without a price tag and the gift can still be returned.
But when you use a gift receipt, how do you know you’re getting the right amount back?
Our investigation found that Walmart’s gift receipts don’t always return your money’s worth.
David Schmitz used a gift receipt to return a present he bought at a Walmart in West Sacramento.
“When I purchased the item it cost $15 plus tax. When I tried to return the item using the gift receipt, I was offered $7.50 plus tax,” he said.
The makeup kit Schmitz bought had since gone on sale, so he was only offered back the reduced price — not what he originally paid.
Schmitz said, “It seemed very obvious that a person should be getting the full amount, and that’s the purpose of a receipt.”
The Walmart eventually gave Schmitz a full refund, we wanted to test Walmart’s policy.
So, with hidden cameras rolling, we visited stores in California and our sister station in Philadelphia stopped by stores in New Jersey. We purchased items and returned them with gift receipts after the items had gone on sale.
An electric blanket cost $31.03 at a New Jersey Walmart, but when it was returned, they received $20.33 back.
On a hidden camera tape, a producer said, “I thought it was more than that?”
The Walmart associate replied, “It probably was, but if you don’t have a receipt with the actual price, I have to give you whatever comes up.”
We originally paid $14 for a pair of boots and a t-shirt, but only got $10 back.
When asked why it was $10 instead of $14, the Walmart associate says, “It doesn’t tell us the price, whatever scans in is what you get.”
We and our sister station spent a total of $106.85 at Walmart, but the gift receipts returned $62.32. The total loss was $44.53.
Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, told CBS News, “I think it’s reprehensible. Consumers are cynical enough about company policy. This just adds to their sense of mistrust and disappointment.”
Walmart says the employees seen in our investigation weren’t following company policy. Lorenzo Lopez, a Walmart spokesperson, provided a video statement. In it, Lopez, said,
“The customer is at the center of everything we do and we’re committed to providing them with one-stop shopping convenience and low prices every day, on everything. We know our customers count on us to have the lowest price in the market and that’s one reason they continue to shop with us. In order to maintain their trust we need to meet the expectations of our customers.
“Recently, we learned that there may be some confusion on how to process gift receipts. In order to address this matter, we have sent a high priority notification to all store management to help ensure all cashiers and service desk associates follow the proper refund process.
“It’s our expectation to refund the original purchase price when returning an item with a gift receipt. We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers. If they have questions regarding a gift receipt, we encourage them to speak with a member of management at their local store.”
But Schmitz isn’t buying Walmart’s explanation — or any more items with a gift receipt from its stores.
Schmitz said, “It was set up to where the person giving would not know if the gift was returned and the person receiving the gift would not know the amount paid.”
Following the investigation, Walmart says, it issued this memo to its more than 3,800 stores nationwide to make sure all employees know that consumers with gift receipts should receive a full refund for the original amount paid, under company policy. It’s also worth noting — not all store items have the same return policies. You’ve got to be clear on the rules before you buy that next gift.