When William Aton lost his $300 Walgreens gift card in early 2010, the company froze it, he said.

“I figured I was covered,” said the Sacramento man, who found the card a few months later.

When Aton tried to get the card unfrozen, however, he said Walgreens gave him the cold shoulder.

“It feels like they’re putting you off,” he said.

Customer service couldn’t fix it, and the company promised to have a manager call him back within three days, he said.

But for 18 months, that call never came, he said.

“How do they think they can get away with that?”

So when a consumer loses gift card or has it stolen, what responsibility does the company have?

“Once the company has sold you the gift card, they’ve completed their part of the transaction,” said Russ Heimerich of the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

Since stores set their own terms for gift cards, Heimerich said they aren’t required to do anything — even if you have a lot of money on it.

“Under the law, they have no responsibility to the customer,” he said.

Walgreens said if a customer reports a gift card lost or stolen, as long as the money hasn’t been spent, they’ll try to replace it within 48 hours.

So why didn’t Aton get a replacement when he reported his card lost back in 2010?

Jim Cohn of Walgreens Media Relations told CBS Sacramento: “We’ve apologized to the customer and are sorry for any inconvenience.”

A few days after Aton’s interview, a replacement card from Walgreens finally showed up.

“It’s a process that could drive people bonkers,” he said. “It almost drove me bonkers.”

To replace most gift cards, customers will need the gift card number. This is usually available on the original receipt, but oftentimes it’s smart to take a cell phone picture of the card after you buy it, according to Ben Woolsey of CreditCards.com.

Woolsey said if the company allows you to register your card under your name, that can help locate a card number you may not remember.

“If they can register it with a retailer’s website, that certainly something they should do,” he said.

Comments (2)
  1. Robert Bartlett says:

    Just remember when you do have your gift card make sure you know the balance.


  2. Judd Lillestrand says:

    Great piece. It’s important to know the terms of a gift card and the replacement policy is just one aspect. When scoring cards on ScripSmart, it’s one of many features we like to see.

    Also, I love the idea of taking a picture of the gift card number so you have it in your phone.

    Judd Lillestrand
    Founder, ScripSmart.com

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