Banana Republic Register Mishap Leaves You With Neither GIft Card Balance Nor Clothes

The good news: There is a store that will accept American Express gift cards without even trying to throw you in jail. It’s Banana Republic. The bad news: A still-unexplained register problem left Andrew without the $90 remaining balance on his card or the items that he tried to purchase.

He writes:

I received an American Express gift card for Christmas this year, so I headed to my favorite retail store Banana Republic. I had already used a portion of my $200.00 gift card, so when I got to the store it only had a balance of $90 and some change.

After finding what I wanted, I proceeded to the register to make my purchases. The total came to $110+. I asked the cashier if I could use the remaining amount on my AMEX gift card and then pay the leftover balance with cash. The cashier swipes my AMEX card, leaving me with a small balance to pay in cash.

Before paying the balance, my friend brought a shirt to the register that I hadn’t seen. I liked it so I asked if I could add it to the transaction. The employee said it was fine and she added the shirt to the transaction. Upon scanning the new item, the amount owed jumped back to over 125 dollars, instead of just adding the balance of the shirt to the small balance that I owed. I swiped my AMEX card again, only to have it denied and have the computer screen tell me that I again owe 125 dollars.

I called AMEX gift card service and the automated service informed me that I had a balance of 0.00. I immediately understood what had happened: my available balance dropped to 0 because the gift card was charged, but then the whole order was re-entered when I added the new shirt, causing the new total to show up as what I owe.

I explained this to the manager who had been called over. After a 40 minute exchange that went absolutely nowhere, the manager goes to the back to try and call AMEX. I left to go shop elsewhere, returning less than an hour later. A new manager was working and he explained to me that the charge had been made and is now pending, but because the charge hadn’t processed, the company did not receive the money so I could not get my merchandise.

Why should I be waiting for the holidays to end so that I can call Gap’s customer relations so that I can reexplain what I have already spent an hour too long explaining? As of now, I am out 90 dollars and the Gap doesn’t even know what happened. Give me my money or give me the clothes I already paid for! I pour so much money into that company and it disappoints me that I have to make up for their mistakes!

Let this be a cautionary tale: if you receive an American Express gift card, be extra cautious when redeeming it. Don’t add extra items to your transaction. Don’t do anything unusual. Don’t even breathe funny.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Hi_Hello says:

    Someone pushed the wrong buttons. And manager didnt seem to know how to push the buttons on the register.

    I would not have left the store to do more shopping until it was resolved.

    • ageekymom says:

      Yeah, I wouldn’t have left either. I would have stayed on it (and the original manager) until it was resolved.

      • ryder02191 says:

        Unfortunately for both of you, it’s completely their decision as to whether you stay or not. And the police they’d inevitably end up calling would agree.

        • Twonkey says:

          Yeah, I’m pretty sure that they wouldn’t have any reason to call the police if you keep your cool while you’re waiting for something like this to be resolved. So might I suggest that you resolve this coming year to be less of a sarcastic, snarky know-it-all?

      • JennQPublic says:

        Yes, the original manager would have been far more interested in resolving the situation if they couldn’t just go home, because they were still dealing with this customer. I wouldn’t be rude, bit I would definitely not leave without my money or my merchandise, just like they wouldn’t let me leave with their merchandise with a vague promise to pay them later, when I figured out how.

  2. rick_in_texas says:

    Or finish one transaction before starting another one.

  3. rpm773 says:

    Worthless currency? No merchandise? It’s not called “Banana Republic” for nothing!

  4. Abradax says:

    Very common thing.
    When the swipe was made, an authorization was put on the card bringing its effective balance to 0.

    When the new item was scanned it voided the gift card from the system however the bank still has a hold on the funds.

    The authorization will fall out of the system usually within 24-48 hours depending on the bank.

    • ludwigk says:

      That’s just buggy pos software. I’ve worked with several systems tha could handle a split tender then add an additional item without freaking out. But of course, there is a lot of shit pos software out there.

    • Lucky225 says:

      I’m going to have to agree, it’s a pending authorization, there is no loss here. It boggles my mind that credit card users haven’t figured out how transactions work *sigh*

    • jessjj347 says:

      Yes, exactly. These “gift cards” work like credit cards. Apparently no one understands this, either because the cards themselves have deceptive advertising techniques or because people don’t bother to read about how things work (e.g. fine print).

  5. odarkshineo says:

    Should have went to old navy.

  6. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    The register auhorized the amount, then either voided or didn’t capture the balance.

    If you can get the manager to call Amex they might release the hold, but generally you have to wait 3-7 days (potentially up to 30) for the hold to release.

    And you can’t chargeback or dispute unposted transactions. You have to wait.

  7. tr41nwr3ck says:

    Mastercards are 3-7 days. Visa can be up to 30!. That’s why I use Mastercard for car rentals or other transactions that require large credit holds. I’m sure the gift card system has pre-auth holds hooked up the same way.

  8. TonyK says:

    Really. If it had been me, I would have completed the first transaction and then did the shirt as a new separate transaction.

    Gift cards can be tricky and it is best to keep their transactions simple, very simple.

  9. IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

    This is why I hate those kinds of gift cards. Fees and such, even for the person purchasing them, I see no reason that it isn’t better just to give cash instead of paying AmEx the convenience of having a card to give.

    Also, I make my own Republics at home.

  10. Kestris says:

    He should never have left the store to go shopping elsewhere before the issue in THAT store was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

    Smart thing to do would have been to complete the initial transaction, THEN buy the extra shirt.

    • jessjj347 says:

      I don’t even understand what went on here. You can’t pay for something over the amount of the AMEX gift card. It works like a credit card, and should’ve been declined. That’s the way these cards work…like a credit card.

  11. Salty Johnson says:


    Just need to make that clear. This would have happened no matter the store, no matter the cashier, and no matter the gift card provider. When OP swiped her card, an authorization was placed which essentially puts a hold on all that money until the authorization expires. Authorizations are placed before the transaction is finalized so that the merchant knows that you have the funds to cover your purchase, and authorizations put holds on money so that the bank knows that you can’t overdraw your account.

    This is exactly what happens with credit and debit cards… it’s just not as obvious because it doesn’t cause problems very often. A Visa debit card of $200 is going to be completely fucked by a large pending authorization, while your credit card (unless you’re knee-deep in debt) will still work just fine because you’ll still have a couple thousand dollars of credit past that hold.

  12. jenrevenant says:

    I’m surprised that the system even let them add an item. In my, albeit limited, experience, once payment has been tendered (even partial) you can’t back up, you must finish the transaction.

    • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

      That’s probably what happened. The dipshit employee couldn’t add the shirt after partial payment was made, so the transaction was voided although the authorization was already put on the card. They brought up the purchases again, bringing the total to $125 but since the card was already emptied…. you see where this is going.

      I’ve worked a small amount in retail and with registers. Never EVER ask to add something once you’ve partially paid. This wouldn’t of happened if the OP paid the entire amount with one source- credit card, cash, etc. Not that I’m blaming the OP of course, just a word of advice.

    • Charmander says:

      That has been my experience as a cashier as well. There would be no way to add another item to the existing transaction. I would have just had her complete the first transaction, then move on to the new shirt she wanted to buy.

  13. MikeVx says:

    I’m with those who say “change nothing once payment has started.” Most of these payment systems are barely functional under good conditions, (another reason I prefer cash where feasible) throw anything unusual at them and there is almost no chance it will work smoothly, if at all. I also advise never mixing a gift card with any payment method other than cash. Think about broken software and full-cost holds vs remainder-after-gift-card final clear.

  14. coren says:

    This is obviously not the OP’s fault..but would it not have been simpler to just purchase the additional item on a separate transaction?

  15. Joedel263 says:

    The managers excuse was amusing.. most charge transactions are batched and aren’t submitted until COB, therefore they let a lot of merchandise out of the store before the charges are processed..

    Once the temp auth clears the system the money will be back on the card, don’t try to get Amex to clear it manually (the store would have to make this call, not the customer), historically they won’t..

    and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD if you return anything you purchased with a Visa/Amex gift card, DO NOT LET THEM PUT THE CREDIT BACK ON THE CARD. it just doesn’t work..

  16. heyoldstyle says:

    Leave your gift card and take your $90 worth of clothes and leave the store. Return soon after to purchase the remaining clothes you want. it’s their problem that they screwed up, not yours. You paid.

    • Difdi says:

      Exactly. You don’t have the money you paid, which means the items you paid for are now your property, not the store’s. It’s not the customer’s problem any more.

    • Lucky225 says:

      Wrong, an authorization is NOT a payment.

  17. Lucky225 says:

    If you purchase something ON A CREDIT CARD AS A *CREDIT* TRANSACTION, the merchant is REQUIRED by their MERCHANT AGREEMENT to credit it back to the card, the only exception is pin based debit transactions. The reason is obvious and simple, they don’t want you using a stolen credit card to purchase a $600 flat screen TV and then return it the next day for liquidated CASH.

  18. jessjj347 says:

    Stories like this piss me off. It’s not the cashier’s job to know how your credit card works. The OP is responsible for understanding how it works. You cannot use a AMEX gift card for a balance higher than your gift card unless you a)pay in cash first b) tell the cashier to charge the card the EXACT or lower amount on the gift card (not all registers can do this) c) you make multiple transactions.

    The OP’s transactions failed because you can’t instantly get your funds back after using these cards (e.g. a return). It’s not a real “gift card”.

  19. KingTaco says:

    Anyone have EECB contact information for Banana Republic? These guys totally boned me out of a 25% discount. Apparently just because the checkout process shows the discount, you may not actually get it. They can decide later that your items don’t qualify and charge you full price without telling you.