If you buy a prepaid debit card at Walmart as a gift and only receive a blank Starbucks card in return, who is responsible for getting you your money back? One family in California learned a very inconvenient lesson: customers who buy empty gift cards must go to the company that issued the gift card, not Walmart.
The family shared their story with the NBC affiliate in Los Angeles. (Warning: auto-play video.) The dad of this family purchased what appeared to be four sealed Vanilla MasterCards. Inside, they found Starbucks gift cards. Worse: Starbucks gift cards with a zero balance.
He took the cards back to Walmart, where the manager opened up the fourth card–still sealed–and found another empty Starbucks card. Walmart wouldn’t issue a refund or exchange, though. They sent the customer to the gift card distributor. After hours on the phone, they turned him around and sent him back to Walmart. Again, the store refused to issue a refund.
Time for some good old-fashioned action news! The customer brought his story to the NBC station, which sent an undercover person to buy four Vanilla MasterCard gift cards of their own. The good news: the packages didn’t contain blank Starbucks cards. The bad news: that’s because they had empty Walmart gift cards, an empty American Express card, and even a Vanilla MasterCard with a balance of three cents left. Walmart wouldn’t give the TV station a refund, either.
What should you do if this happens to you? Gather up the Vanilla card packaging, whatever card you actually received, and your original purchase receipt. If you experience this problem with a Vanilla prepaid card, call the company at 877-770-6406.
A company executive told the TV station that he believes the tampering occurs sometime after delivery: that is to say, that someone tampered with the card at Walmart.
An anonymous Walmart employee tells Consumerist that he had been warned that unknown baddies were tampering with his store’s gift cards before Christmas. He sent in this bit of advice:
When buying gift cards, check the back to see if the card’s number has been scratched off and revealed. If so, do not buy it, and you should turn the card over to the store’s customer service.
That wouldn’t help the customers in this case, though. Watch the NBC video: you’ll see that the packages appear to be factory-sealed. No scratching off numbers here.
Gift Card Tampering Alleged at Walmart [NBC4] (Warning: auto-play video.)