Kohl’s Staff Is Helpless When Gift Card System Goes Down

One of the most important factors in determining whether a retailer provides quality customer service is how it handles unexpected problems. Unfortunately for one Consumerist reader, no one at Kohl’s seemed willing to do any creative thinking when the store’s gift card system went down.

Kirk says he received a pair of Kohl’s gift cards over the holidays, but since it’s a 30-minute drive to his nearest Kohl’s, he hadn’t gotten around to using them until today.

Things went swimmingly at the store until the cashier attempted to scan in the cards at the register.

“She kept getting errors, as if they weren’t activated,” Kirk tells Consumerist.

He says that a manager eventually showed up after being called to the front of the store multiple times. Alas, the manager could only say that the gift card system was down and that Kirk would need to try again later.

Thinking on his feet, Kirk called the number on the back of the card, entered the info and verified the amount (on speaker phone) that was on the card. Given that he didn’t want to drive all the way home, wait for another day when he finally had free time, then drive all the way back, he was hoping that the manager would be able to use this information to ring up his purchase. The store could keep the cards, pay him any difference in cash, and scan the cards in later when the system came back up.

“I’ve worked in the service industry before, you don’t just turn a customer away,” he says. “You find a solution. It may not be a perfect solution, but you do your best to make it right and not just shrug your shoulders.”

But the manager insisted that all she could do was hold on to the items he wished to purchase so he could get them at a later time.

Even the Kohl’s phone support, which Kirk called after leaving the store, only repeated what he’d been told in the store.

And we know that this is not unique to Kohl’s. We’ve heard similar stories about all major retailers, of cashiers and managers who can’t or refuse to think of a creative solution to a customer service issue.

We can understand the store staffers’ reluctance to go along with Kirk’s suggestion, but because they chose to not deal with the minor hassle of finding a work-around, Kohl’s has lost a customer.

“I’ll try to make it back soon to use the money on these cards,” says Kirk, “and then I’m done.”

If you’ve worked retail and have a story about how you or one of your co-workers used a little creative thinking to get around an unexpected obstacle, shoot us an e-mail at tips@consumerist.com

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.