December 24, 2020 – Chasing my own tail.

Tomorrow? I don’t know about you, but I’m not leaving my house. I spent the last two days chasing my own tail and I’m over it! A lot of my frustration is thanks to some of the newfangled ‘gift cards’ that are available for purchase. I always buy several during the holiday season from my local grocery store because they give me ‘rewards’ for future purchases. I thought I was pretty smart this year! I knew I had to make a couple of shopping trips to Lowes and Home Depot (in order to buy yet more items to complete our bathroom) so I went ahead and purchased some ‘gift cards’ from Albertson’s so I could stretch my dollar even further. And I was so proud of myself after I bought them! As soon as I got home, I told my husband how I ‘scored’. “Look what I did!” I told him excitedly. “I bought two ‘gift cards’, one to Lowes and one to Home Depot, and because I bought them at the grocery store, I got 20 rewards points that we can use for grocery or gas purchases!!”

Most of you folks are probably familiar with gift cards. They are generally found near the checkout counter or on an endcap in the stores. There are gift cards for most major retailers available in varied amounts. The gift cards themselves are ‘usually’ plastic and are ‘usually’ attached to thick paper or paper sleeves (with some unusual adhesive that reminds me of mucus) which are hung from hooks to keep them nice and orderly and make them easier to display. The retailers range from Amazon all the way to Ulta Beauty. I like to purchase them at the grocery store over the holidays because there are incentives. The primary incentive is that you get 10x the rewards points rather than the regular amount. But what I noticed this year is that Albertson’s changed things up. I used to be able to buy a regular gift card for a specific retailer, and once I had it rung up at the register, I could use it immediately to make a purchase.

How times have changed! I found that out today!! What I noticed, first of all, is that Albertson’s is only offering incentives for ‘specific’ cards this holiday season. Every single card that has the incentive, aside from two, is either a ‘happy’ card or a ‘giving good’ card. These cards can apparently be redeemed at multiple retailers. Never heard of them before? Neither had I, until just a couple of days ago. These ‘gift cards’ leave much to be desired, and I bought two ‘happy’ cards and was anything but happy when I realized how complicated they were to use. I thought they were like all the others I bought in the past and I treated them as such. I bought one card that had Lowes as one of the options and another with Home Depot as one of the options. And guess where I went after I purchased them? I went to Lowes and Home Depot, of course! I had towel bars and mastic and grout and paint and lumber to buy after all!

And as life generally works, everything went swimmingly. Hang on! Not so fast! No, it didn’t go that way at all! It went ‘sideways’! And worst of all? I ended up being one of THOSE people. Yes, those people that hold up the line for an inordinate amount of time. How embarrassing!!! What happened? Well, I’ll tell you! The first store I went to was Home Depot. And before I continue, I should let you know that my husband accompanied me. When we walked into the store, I was feeling on top of the world. I had my newly purchased ‘gift card’ in hand, along with my list, and I was ready to shop! After loading up the cart, we made our way to the check stand. The female cashier rang everything up and when she was done, I proudly handed her my ‘gift card’. “What is this?” she asked. “I’ve never seen one of these before.” “It’s a gift card,” I told her confidently. “I just bought it yesterday at Albertson’s. It has $100 on it.”

That poor girl tried everything in her power to make it work. She asked the people working behind the counter alongside her. They’d never seen anything like it before and had no idea. She called customer service twice. No one ever answered. And while this was happening, the line (behind us) started to grow. I could feel my face getting hot and I could sense my husband getting impatient. He finally pulled one of our regular credit cards out of his wallet and started to hand it to her. “No, hang on!” I insisted. “This is going to work.” After entering the card number and the pin number into the computer multiple times to no avail, the cashier finally gave up. “I’m sorry,” she said. “It looks like you have to redeem it online.” Huh? Ok. I get it. She’d pulled out all the stops and despite everything, nothing worked. It was time to admit defeat. But what could have possibly went wrong? I’d never had a problem using a gift card before!

Despite feeling defeated once we got home, I was determined to figure out what went wrong and fix it. I called the customer service number listed on the ‘gift cards’ and once I’d provided the ‘gift card’ numbers and pin numbers, it indicated that I had $100 on each one. Fabulous! They’re valid, they’re good! Problem solved!! Or so I thought. Now, let me backtrack a little bit. I told you that my husband accompanied me to Home Depot, right? But what I didn’t mention was that he’d already gone shopping at Lowes earlier in the day without me. And when he’d gone, he’d forgotten to bring the ‘gift card’ so he just used one of our regular credit cards for the transaction. Damn! I had wanted him to use the gift card for the purchases, that was the whole reason I bought them in the first place. Do you see where this is going? I bet you do! If you know me by now, you’ll know that I then loaded up the car with the things he bought earlier with the intention of returning them (to get the money put back on our credit card) and repurchasing them using the ‘gift card’.

I wish I could say it went as planned. But unfortunately, the scene played out like ‘Groundhog Day’ except substitute ‘Lowes’ for ‘Home Depot’. I brought everything back and had the female cashier credit my account. And then I asked if she could ring it all back up and use the ‘gift card’ to pay for the purchase. Best laid plans. After multiple attempts, just like the other cashier at Home Depot, she wasn’t able to get the card to work. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “I’ve never seen one of these before.” Sigh. What now? “Why don’t you help the folks in line behind me while I make a couple of calls?” I suggested. While she got busy assisting another customer at a different register, I made a couple of phone calls. I got the same information as I did when I called earlier, that I had $100 on each card. Grrr. What could possibly be wrong? How come these damn things don’t work?! When the cashier finished up the transaction she was working on, I got her attention. “You know what?” I said. “I’m just going to go ahead and pay and worry about this another day.”

What was I going to pay with? Another gift card that I just happened to have nicely tucked away in my purse, you betcha! I swiped it through and just like that, magic! But it didn’t cover the balance. It was only good for $60. No problem, I’ve got another! And I did. I had one from Firestone that I got as a rebate when I bought my husband some new tires, and I got another one from Lowrance when I bought my husband a fish finder. Once I used the one from Firestone, I pulled out the one from Lowrance and swiped it through the credit card machine. ‘Denied’. What? Maybe I entered the pin number wrong? Let me try this again. I swiped it again and after entering my pin number VERY carefully, ‘Denied’. Are you kidding me? Maybe a third time? You know the saying, ‘third time’s a charm’. Nope. The third time didn’t work either. As much as I hated to do it, guess what I ended up doing? I ended up putting most of the stuff I had just returned back on the original card. Yes. The same card that a credit had just been applied to.

Now do you understand why I feel like I’ve been chasing my tail all day? What a big, fat waste of time! Between running back and forth to the store and making phone calls, I managed to do little else. I did manage to f-i-n-a-l-l-y figure out the %#*&@%^!! ‘gift cards’ once I got home and calmed down. When I actually ‘read the fine print’, I realized that all I really bought was a paper sleeve, but there was more work to do. I had to then go to a special website and enter the ‘gift card’ number as well as the pin number, and then I had to ‘choose’ which retailer I wanted to use. Once I had made the selection and confirmed it, I had to enter my information along with my email address. When I checked my email later, I saw that I had something new in my inbox. When I opened it, I got the following message, “Your eGift has been delivered!” My eGift? What the heck is that? Well, it’s pretty much like it sounds. Just like the ‘e’ in ’email’, the ‘e’ in ‘eGift’ means ‘electronic’.

I’m getting too old for this! I guess nowadays, rather than having something tangible in your hand that works the same as cash, now it’s in ‘e’ form. That’s not going to work for me. I need something I can carry in my purse, something I can grasp with my fingers. Fortunately, after some additional research, I discovered I could go to the website (that I was originally directed to) and ‘print out’ the ‘gift cards’. So instead of plastic gift card(s) to store in my purse, I now have a full sheet of paper, two actually. Seriously? Is this what I get for complaining about people’s overuse of single-use plastic? Haha! You got me this time, Universe! See if I ever do another five-part series called ‘Trying to Save the World’. I guess I deserved this. But did it need to be such a cruel, drawn-out lesson? I wasted a whole day! And because I was so tired, I didn’t even cook dinner. I ordered fish and chips from a food truck and they weren’t even that good!

Wah! I think I’m done with gift cards (but don’t hold me to it). It depends on the incentive. They might have to do better if they ever want to convince me to purchase another one of those ‘eGift’ versions again. I think I’m just going to stick with the 5% offers I get when I use my regular credit cards. Much less of a hassle and I can apply the cash back against my balance. But enough about ‘gift cards’. I need to direct my attention towards something else. Sleep! Yes, sleep sounds good! My head hurts and my eyes are tired and it’s time. Just need a little Melatonin and I’ll be well on my way. You have yourself a lovely Christmas eve and I’ll be back on Christmas day. And Santa will, too, if you’ve behaved yourself. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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