How To Get Cash From Best Buy With Only A Gift Receipt

Reader Nick writes in with a bit of social engineering.

Here’s a fun tip for fellow Consumerists who would like to return gifts to Best Buy, but would prefer cash over a gift card (the only refund possible with only a gift receipt)

* Before you do anything else, ensure that the person that bought you the gift paid with cash, debit card, or a check. The amount has to be under something like 150 dollars, otherwise Best Buy corporate will issue a refund check. If they paid with a credit card, you’re out of luck, the money will go back on the card.

* Look on your gift receipt and find the “four-part key” – it’s just under the “Val #” and just above the text “GIFT RECEIPT”, and follows this format: “#### ### #### ##/##/##” The first section is the store number, the second is the register number, the third is the transaction number, and the fourth is the date. Write this number on a piece of scrap paper.

* Bring your item and the scrap paper into Best Buy. Head up to the service counter, and tell the Rep that a friend/relative/whoever bought you the item and gave you the receipt, but you left it at home. Here, you can either actually place a call home or just tell the rep that you know that they would need the “four-part key” and have it written down. Either way, this takes just a tad of social engineering, but you somehow need to convince them that you knew they’d need the “four-part key”.

* Give them the scrap paper and the product, and tell them you’d like to return or exchange it, and keep the difference *as cash*. If the person bought the item with the methods listed above, there should be no problem and they will gladly hand over the cash!

* Enjoy your cash, and not being locked in to spending your gift money in just one store!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Nick J

Thanks, Nick! We’re sure someone out there could use this bit of advice.



Edit Your Comment

  1. rolla says:

    yeah, i wonder how many in practice can get away with this. I bet the salesperson will require you to show an actual receipt.

  2. warf0x0r says:


  3. lpranal says:

    I had a kind-of-related experience at Scheels (a local sporting goods chain)- I bought some Uggs for my girlfriend (got the wrong kind…) and had to return them after finding the right ones only on ebay. I didn’t have my “real” receipt with me, only the gift receipt. After driving 45 mins away in holiday traffic to return them, was told I could only get store credit, even though I payed with my debit card. I searched my car for 5 minutes, said EFF THIS and spoke with the store manager. I leveled with him, and he was cool about it, and even though his underlings already denied me, gave me a full refund. Escalation, FTW!

  4. snazz says:

    so consumerist is telling us how to lie to companies and violate their store policies because….???

  5. darkened says:

    @snazz: If it was against the policies why would the store do it? Obviously they just hope most people don’t do it and make it hard to do because most ppl won’t do anything that requires more than 15 seconds of speaking and even less than that of thinking.

  6. chipslave says:

    @lpranal: Scheels? Whats your location? Fargo, ND here.

  7. ManiacDan says:

    @snazz: Because…a store’s policy is not law, there’s nothing wrong with violating it. Regardless, the policy seems to be that a cash refund can be given if you have the “four-part key” in any circumstances, but if a gift receipt is present, only store credit will be offered. Therefore, if you bring in an item with a four-part key and no gift receipt, store policy is to process the return as a cash transaction (depending on the amount and method of original payment, of course). There is a certain amount of lies involved, but there’s no violation of store policy, only utilizing it to get the most value.

  8. lpranal says:

    @Snazz : Survey says: Because the policies are arbitrary and harmful to the consumer. This is, afterall a consumer-oriented site. Most likely , this post would have been censored on the little-known sister site, FatGreedyCEOist

    @Chipslave: Wow, didn’t realize they had those out there- Actually I went to the Appleton, Wisconsin store. Guess it’s more of a regional chain.

  9. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    So…regular customers have trouble getting Best Buy to handle returns within their own policies by following their own rules, and it is expected that this will work for most of us? Hmmm…

  10. parad0x360 says:

    Why would the give someone cash for knowing some numbers? I could copy a friends receipt, walk into the store and grab something off the shelf that was on the receipt, social engineer the return person to believe the security forgot to sticker my product and attempt to get cash that way too…i find this hard to believe. Maybe you got someone who didnt care about the store rules and just wanted to go home.

    Anyone besides the person who sent this in get it to work?

  11. vk2tds says:

    Also, CFL’s cannot be used in a Van Der Graaf Generator used in Science Class. The Van Der Graaf requires the electrons emitted by the incandescent light in which are picked up by a rubber band which are then transferred to the head of the unit. CFL units are not designed to emit electrons and therefore will not work really well.

    This is not well understoof – I had science teachers at school who would operate the units with a blown globe and wonder why the performance was so poor.

  12. Gopher bond says:

    @parad0x360: er, the numbers have meaning the the product purchased. You can’t just make them up.

  13. ceriphim says:

    @ManiacDan: How about not doing it because it’s dishonest? I’ve been a retail manager for a long time, and I know both sides of the argument pretty well, but in general it’s probably not the best advice to instruct people to lie.

    At best you’ll get your money back, yes, but I can guarantee any halfway intelligent manager will be able to tell something’s not quite right with your statement/story. Anytime people start throwing around terminology that generally only insiders use I start getting interested…

  14. Gopher bond says:

    @testsicles: meanting TO the product purchased.

  15. Yeah, it doesn’t sound suspicious at all that you forgot the receipt, but you happened to remember to write those 4 sets of numbers down. Pure genius.

  16. ManiacDan says:

    @ceriphim: Most people have no trouble with being dishonest towards a company, that’s just something companies have learned to deal with, mostly with draconian return policies which, in turn, force consumers to get more dishonest in order to get what they want. It’s a terrible thing that has happened to our society, and it’s dishonest, but that’s a shame. Cash was paid for the item, cash should be refunded for the item when returned, period.

    Also, “I used to work at best buy, let me call my girlfriend and ask her for the code you need” is a perfectly believable lie, you could even say “I used to work HERE” since best buy has such an astronomical turnover rate.

    There will always be a war between consumers and companies, but in this case, if best buy accepted cash for the transaction, they should give cash when reversing the transaction. If you have to lie to them in order to get that to happen, then that’s a bad mark for Best Buy, not the customer.

  17. SpaceCowgirl01 says:

    @chipslave: @lpranal: Scheels, FTW! I grew up in Grand Forks, ND.

  18. ceriphim says:

    @ManiacDan: War? Jesus, man. What’s wrong with if you want them to get cash back, give them the damn receipt. If not, deal with a gift receipt. That’s why they were invented…

  19. Nekron says:

    I have issues with people saying companies have “Draconian return polices” (MANIACDAN I’m looking at you!) I feel companies have very generous return polices. If they sell a product that turns out to be defective, then by all means return it and the company should take it back. However, how many things are returned simply because they “didn’t like it”? And the stores still take it back. Wait a minute? Didn’t they sell you a working product at an agreed upon price? Then that’s your tough luck if you “don’t like it”. Am I standing up for Big Business? No. I’m simply stating that people should stop bitching and feel that they have the right to return anything they want for any reason. You bought it. It works. You don’t like it. Tough, lesson learned.

  20. Copper says:

    Unless you are the king of bullshit and happen to convince some idiot to not follow the rules on this, it’s not going to work.

  21. Copper says:

    @Nekron: I definitely agree. A customer one time wanted to return a computer SEVEN MONTHS after she bought it, just because she didn’t like it.

  22. flamincheney says:

    What I see is a problem is that Best Buy and other stores are issuing gift recipts that really mean nothing. Often times you get the same treatment without any reciept at all.

    All this consumer is doing is having Best Buy reference their own reciept database for a reprinted copy of the original reciept- a service most all stores do now a days. There is no fraud involved at all, just someone actually using a store’s policy to work for them rather than against them.

    However, now it is on the interwebs BB will surely revise their policy to further screw their customers.

  23. Nighthawke says:

    *Lofts a bottle in a salute while watching the post-season funsies at the local best buy.*

  24. Falconfire says:

    @Nekron: The issue here is though if you got the item as a gift, with a gift receipt you can only get store credit. Well what if you dont WANT store credit. In the past (as little as 10 years ago) you got cash.

    The only reason you can not get cash back is because Best Buy doesnt WANT you to have it back. It has nothing to do with being dishonest on the consumers part, but has everything to do with making sure the company gets your money and keeps it. God forbid they have to honestly give cash back because they sold a product someone felt sucked.

  25. elislider says:

    you could probably do the same thing at any store, compusa has a similar ### structure on their reciepts. however, the managers will probably enforce you ACTUALLY having the reciept, not just some numbers on a piece of paper. besides, i doubt any of the employees (managers included) will say you “can call home and get the numbers off the reciept, cuz thats all they’ll need”, so when you come in knowing already they are capable of just having those numbers and making the return, you are already subject to a raised eyebrow and inquiry from a manager. anyways, YMMV on this, but good tip for getting around the system.

  26. eelmonger says:

    The employee is going to know something is fishy if you use this method. If they choose to continue the return or call the manager over depends on how they’re feeling, how nice you were to them, how attractive you are, etc. Definitely a YMMV. When I used to do retail customer service we had to staple the receipts to the return form or get a manager to sign off on it. So no receipt would be no return in my book.

  27. ceriphim says:

    The bottom line is, when people are up front and make their case in a polite manner, most of the time they’ll get their return. When people start getting shifty and trying to BS the managers is when things complicated.

    If you had any idea the BS people try to pull these days you’d have a bit more respect for those of us just trying to do their jobs. As “draconian” as you say companies are, keep in mind you’re dealing with real flesh-and-blood people when you’re in the stores, and you’ll always have better luck.

  28. persch5 says:

    @falconfire: I will admit it has a little to do with getting the customer to keep the money in the store. But bear with me for one second. A typical Best Buy store during the Christmas shopping season does probably 225k in transactions that involve what is considered cash transactions. Consider just 10 percent of the consumers that received these “gifts” want them returned for cash. Not knowing what day these customers want to return the “gifts” BBY would have to keep 600k on hand for these people to receive cash. Doesn’t seem like a lot though huh. What does that have to do with overhead and keeping the prices low for the consumer?

  29. blkhrt1 says:

    Too bad that without a receipt, you get store credit, whether or not you have the “code” or not.

  30. HOP says:

    good idea,’cept i never go into a best buy….and i put the word out not to get me involved with them…… buy sucketh………

  31. erratapage says:

    @busydoingnothing: Dude… that’s what the phone call home is about. You get your “wife” to read the numbers to you. That’s the social engineering part of this story.

  32. sleepydumbdude says:

    I miss the days when I used to get cash back on gift returns and gift certificates. Oh well. This past Christmas I paid cash for most my gifts and on some I just put the actual receipt with the price blacked out so they could get cash back. I didn’t have too many people to buy for though so there weren’t multiple items on the receipts.

  33. Blueskylaw says:

    @vk2tds: You’re one post above the one you need to be. LOL

  34. ptrix says:

    @erratapage: So exactly what’s to stop the employee from saying, “oh, you KNOW where the receipt is? great, just go back and return with it, and THEN i can help you with that return. until then, i have these other customers to serve who have more familiar with established retail conventions *SMILE*”

    store employees wouldn’t want to take risks with their jobs by issuing questionable refunds under such circumstances. if I were working retail, i know I wouldn’t

  35. stevekuze says:

    They are going to ask you for recipt on return… “it’s policy” – or maybe just a leaked story (hint hint) haha

  36. parad0x360 says:

    @testsicles: and if you really read my post you would have seen this line right at the top…

    “I could copy a friends receipt”