Wal-Mart Gift Card Servers Malfunctioning Day After Christmas

John wrote in yesterday to tell us, “I just got back from Wal-Mart trying to buy stuff with my gift cards, but the employees told me that they gift card servers were down across the country. I waited for about 15 minutes as cashiers and managers tried to get my gift card to go through and nothing occurred.”

The television station NBC5i in Fort Worth, Texas, got some first-person accounts of the screw-up.

Shopper Mary Garcia said she eventually got her card to work.

“The first time she scanned it, it didn’t beep, and I thought, ‘Hopefully, whoever gave this to me did really put money in there,'” she said.

Misty Kiesendahl, another Wal-Mart customer, said no one at the store told shoppers there was a problem with the cards.”They weren’t saying anything,” she said. “There was no one there to help us. We went through the self-checkout line, and no one came to help us.”Kiesendahl said her card worked after four or five tries.

According to BusinessWeek:

In a statement, Wal-Mart said once it discovered the problem, it investigated and found that a “third-party verifier’s systems had an inadvertent processing error.” The retailer said the error caused delays in gift card verifications.”We are working with the supplier to resolve the issue as quickly as possible and we apologize for the inconvenience to our customers.”

(Thanks to John!)

“Computer Glitch Affects Use Of Wal-Mart Gift Cards” [NBC5i]
“Wal-Mart finds gift card error” [BusinessWeek]


Edit Your Comment

  1. 7j6cei says:

    And this is the reason I give cash! No problems, and the people I give it to can spend it WHERE THEY WANT. Nothing can say Merry Christmas than $100.00 in cold hard cash.

  2. pegr says:

    No kidding. Why someone would encumber their money so it could be a nice card with a corporate logo is beyond me.

    With money, it’s universally appreciated, and everyone wants the same size, extra large! ;)

  3. pepe the king prawn says:

    I have a friend that passes out $100 bills and puts them in fancy envelopes printed with “universal gift card”

  4. rasbach says:

    A third party? Got caught outsourcing your gift cards did ya? I like the $100 bill idea.

  5. chipslave says:

    I usually just make donations in peoples names to “The Human Fund” (c:

  6. parad0x360 says:

    Dunkin Donuts was down this morning for a few hours and it made me VERY sad!

  7. backbroken says:

    @pepe the king prawn:
    Can I be your friend?

  8. DeeJayQueue says:

    I’d much rather have cash than a gift card myself, but here’s why I think people give them:

    Giving cash is like saying “I have absolutely no idea what you’d like, and no taste, which means I obviously don’t know you as well as I ought to, and can’t pick out anything to save my life, so here’s some money I just pulled out from my wallet, go buy yourself something nice, which you could have just as easily done with the money you spent on my gift, had we not decided to exchange them.”

    Whereas giving a gift card, while only a small step up from that, is like saying “Here, I’m not quite sure what you’d like, but at least I know you well enough to know that you shop here, or that you like the things they sell, so have fun!”

    Take my niece for example… she’s 13, she likes abercrombie and hollister, but I haven’t been 13 in *mumblemumble* years so I have no idea what physical items she’d like, or even what her size is, so I got her a gift card there… it shows I know her well enough to know what she likes, but that I don’t know potentially pervy things like what size she is.

    Target or Wal-Mart gift cards are kind of a cop-out… they’re like saying “I was just so damn lazy I couldn’t be bothered to even think of a gift for you, but I at least made the effort to get in my car and go to the store, so here’s a gift card to a place that has pretty much everything.”

    Grocery store gift cards are a great way of telling someone you think they’re a junkie. “Here, I don’t trust you not to buy drugs with cash, so I’m getting you a gift card to Acme so that I can be sure you buy food with it.”

  9. no.no.notorious says:

    i had a similar problem with joann fabrics yesterday. i was paying for some thread on a gift card, and the cashier kept sliding the gift card and it wasn’t working. she said ‘the thing isn’t working, do you have another way to pay?’

    i was like ‘uh, can you punch in the numbers on the back?’

    and tadaaa! it worked.

  10. misskatybean says:

    I wait tables at a national restaurant, and yesterday during lunch, our credit card machines took about 5-10 minutes to process credit cards, and our gift cards would either take a long time to process, or “couldn’t connect.” *shrug* It was kind of annoying but not the biggest deal in the world, you just had to keep trying them.

  11. SadSam says:


    I disagree, giving cash or a personal check (which is what I do b/c I hope my niece or nephew might deposit a bit into their college savings when they are in the bank cashing the check) says I trust you to pick out what you want or spend this money as you please with no restrictions.

  12. Mr_Human says:

    @SadSam: I guess then it would be disappointing to you if they didn’t put the money you gave them in a college savings. I didn’t know that giving gifts were tests of personal responsibility. Anyway, it’s a high-minded excuse for giving cash. It’s still tacky.

  13. vlv723 says:

    Wal-Mart was not alone…I know a few retailers uses the same company they use to activate and redeem Gift Cards. Not a good day for them to go down the day after Christmas because they know that everyone that got a gift card for Christmas will be redeemed the day after.

  14. GreatCaesarsGhost says:

    You win the thread! You hit on almost everything I hate about gift cards.

    There is one more though: the inappropriate specific gift card. I got a Barnes and Noble gift card one year because the giver knew I like to read. Or I at least I used to when I was a kid. Now I read 2-3 books a year I get from the library or used book stores. B&N is flippin’ expensive. I ended up with a DVD I knew I could get cheaper elsewhere.

    And I almost did give a grocery card to a junkie, but there stuff is beer and cigs, which they can buy there. (Course, I think some gift cards can’t be used on that stuff?)

  15. DrGirlfriend says:

    For the life of me, I will never understand the strong feelings attached to every gift card vs cash discussion, anywhere. Whether it’s cash or a gc, you are saying the same thing: I have no idea what to get you, go get yourself something nice. And I don’t say that to put down either one, because I am happy to receive cash or gc’s as gifts. And I personally prefer to give gc’s when put in the situation of simply not knowing what to get someone, because at least it shows that I know at least a little bit about them. But if we’re going to scrutinize this way, then come on, let’s not think one is soooooo much better and sooooo much more thoughtful than the other!

  16. bombaxstar says:

    The same thing happened at Sears yesterday. It was absolutely infuriating and I felt awful when I couldn’t get ahold of the “gift card authorization center” because it was busy and the customer said, “I’ll just come back later, dear.” I waited until AFTER she left to have a complete fit and throw everything in the cashwrap. I have an awful temper. =[

  17. SaraAB87 says:

    Money is the best gift, at least you don’t end up with ugly clothes that aren’t your size and cannot be exchanged due to the fact that no stores take back things without a receipt anymore and they are from a store that you don’t even shop at, or end up with stuff you already have, or end up with things in general that you don’t want when you could rather have money to buy what you want.

    Children change their minds about what they want at least 10 times from black friday until Christmas so you never know what to get them since it changes almost every day and god forbid you get the wrong item then you have a fit of whining and crying at your house on Christmas morning. For teens each teen is interested in something different, while Hannah Montana stuff might be what one teen is gawking over another might think its repulsive.. never assume anything with teens.

    I would rather have money then have to go back to the store the day after Christmas to exchange an item only to find out they are giving me a hard time for not having a receipt and then finding out that the item the person bought was on clearance for 3.99….

  18. Copper says:

    I love gift cards and cash. Sometimes I prefer gift cards because then I’ll actually buy myself something that’s nice and present-worthy instead of spending it on McDonald’s, which is usually what I end up doing with cash.

    You can be creative with gift cards so they seem more like an actual present. My dad got me six different gift cards to different retailers, put each one in those little gift card boxes and then got some more of them and put a few $1 bills. Then he put them all in a big box and I got to go through them all. It was amusing and a little more time-consuming to open than a simple card.

  19. niteflytes says:

    When my daughter was in her pre-teens she loved gift cards and I felt it was safer for her to have those than to carry around large amounts of cash. She felt really grown-up using them herself to purchase things. I think the giver should get a feel for what the recipient prefers. If a person loves gift cards then it’s ok to give them but if they hate them or you’re not sure cash is the best way to go.

  20. coren says:

    I just wanted to throw out that I don’t think the idea of gift cards shows a lack of “understanding” a person any more than asking for, or buying from, a wish list. “Oh hey, here’s some stuff I got you because you told me you wanted it” How is that any better than a gift card (hell, I think a gift card is better; at least then you’re showing you understand the person better than just a simple “got you exactly what you asked for”)

  21. design_chick says:

    Not exactly related but I went to Wal-mart the week before xmas and I asked for a gift receipt. The cashier told me sh e didn’t know how because she’s not normally a cashier. You would think that companies would make sure that right before the holidays they would educate their workers on how to ring up a gift receipt or or make sure their gift cards would work at the most important time of the season!

  22. dantsea says:

    You know, there’s only a handful of merchant processing systems for gift cards in North America, and of that group there are only one or two (perhaps three) high-profile processors handling major retailer gift cards for WalMart, Target, Apple, etc. And every Christmas, those processors faceplant immediately after Christmas. It’s only forgivable once, now it’s incompetence.

  23. dragon:ONE says:

    … Which is why I ordered stuff with my gift card on Christmas morning after I got it.

    … But of course, people with Wiis (and Shop Channel cards) caused server lag and errors on the Shop Channel… damn those 11 year olds with their new Wiis just HAVING to download Photo Channel 1.1 and updating their consoles when I want to buy my damn games.

  24. morganlh85 says:

    Apparently this was a problem at Red Lobster, Bahama Breeze, Olive Garden, and whatever restaurant that company owns as well.

  25. uricmu says:

    Gift cards are a joke that only works in the US.
    The corporations earn in so many ways:
    1) Interest on the money
    2) Many cards are lost
    3) You’re likely to buy there rather than at the cheaper competitor
    4) You’ll have to spend extra since you’ll never fully use the card
    5) All kinds of processing fees on the credit cards.

    If you can’t get a gift, give cash. Give the other person respect as an informed consumer to pick where to use them.