Consumers have gotten used to getting rain checks from their favorite stores. So when Target refused to offer them recently, we here at 7 On Your Side received five complaints and decided to look into it.
Target's promotion to get a $200 gift card generated a lot of buzz.
"I thought wow, that's a really good deal and I shared it with some other friends on Facebook," said San Francisco resident Brent Martin.
Target advertised it on social media. The company even emailed news releases about the offer to newsrooms across the country.
"I saw a news story online about redeeming iPads at Target," said San Francisco Resident Peter Oberdorfer.
Target advertised that customers could trade in their old iPads between November 3 and 9 and get at least a $200 gift card in return. A picture posted on Target's Facebook page showed a line of people hoping to get in on the promotion.
Oberdorfer tried to talk to the manager. He told us the manager, "had no explanation other than to say that his bosses were informing him that that's what he should do is not honor the claim."
Brent Martin of San Francisco posted a video on YouTube of his conversation with a manager named Di.
Di: "My name is Di, I'm the team leader in electronics. We have no more trade-in cards."
Martin: "And you are not honoring the sale or the promotion."
Di: "Because we have no more trade-in cards. Correct."
Martin: "But your ad did not say limited quantity and..."
Di: "But we can't because no more trade-in cards."
Martin says Target did nothing to try to accommodate its customers
"No rain check, no nothing," said Martin.
Joe Ridout is with Consumer Action in San Francisco. He says stores will often offer rain checks to promote good will, but there is no requirement to do so. There are just a few exceptions.
"Where you have a company luring consumers with a gift or a prize to come to a sale presentation, if they run out of a prize, in that situation, they are required to provide something of equivalent value within 80 days," said Ridout.
Grocery stores are the other exception, but only if they launched a sale without a reasonable stock in hand.
The California Department of Consumer Affairs confirms Target can't be penalized for underestimating the demand for its promotion, as long as the supply of gift cards was reasonable. Target told us, "The response to the iPad trade-in promotion was overwhelmingly positive and far exceeded Target's expectations. We worked continuously to replenish the electronics trade-in gift cards in stores with low inventory levels."
But Ridout says Target made a mistake not stating the gift cards were limited in supply.
"It's understandable that some customers would be upset and feel like they were misled," said Ridout.
And that's how many felt.
"The people after me were saying this is a scam and you can't get people over here and not fulfill the deal," said Oberdorfer.
"It just sort of got under my skin a bit, more so than I think is healthy," said Martin.
Target would not say on the record how many gift cards they gave out, but they say the amount was significant.