Toys 'R' Us Rewards Program: Where A $5 Certificate Isn't Quite $5

Toys ‘R’ Us should want to reward Dustin handsomely. He has five kids, and his family buys an awful lot of toys there. It’s not the store itself but its rewards program that’s giving him problems. He used rewards certificates and $34.88 in cash to buy a toy, but when he went to return that toy, he learned that the rewards program is less straightforward than it seems when you need to return something.

I signed up for the Toys R Us rewards program (Rewards R Us) a couple of years back because I have kids. Lots and lots of kids. Five, to be precise.

Since I have to buy so many toys for my own kids and for their peers, I assumed it was a win/win – I would choose to shop at Toys R Us, and they would give me essentially cash back on my purchases. I was happy when an email showed up on December 29 with rewards from my Christmas purchases: three $6 certificates and three $5 certificates. My oldest daughter has a birthday on Jan. 12, so I planned on using my $33 toward her birthday presents.

That’s when I found out about Gotcha #1: Toys R Us split the certificates up so that three are valid before Jan. 13 and the other three are only valid between Jan. 14 and 28. I was disappointed that I couldn’t use them all at once, and half of them weren’t valid until after the birthday, but I understand that they are trying to bring me into the store multiple times and I can live with that.

So I used the three valid certificates – and an additional $34.88 – toward some birthday presents on January 4 and figured I’d spend the rest on batteries or something once they were valid.

Unfortunately, when I got home I found out I had accidentally purchased something my wife had already got before Christmas without telling me. It was worth $26.99, so on January 11 I returned to the store to get a refund. That’s when I ran into Gotcha #2.

Toys R Us refused to give me the purchase price of my item back. According to the representative, the $26.99 item had been offset by the reward certificates in some random way ($8.11 of the price came from two of the $6 certificates, while $3.38 came from the $5 certificate) so my item was only worth $15.50. I explained that I had spent more than $26.99 in cash on the transaction so my item should still be worth $26.99, but they refused to refund the money, telling me that Reward certificates are non-refundable.

The manager also refused the refund, so I had no choice but to take $15.50 or keep the toy. I took the refund and filed a complaint with the Toys R Us website, but they were less than helfpul.

If you are a Rewards R Us member, beware.

There you have it. It’s not unfair, exactly, but is something worth knowing if you plan to use reward certificates when shopping at Toys R Us.