DALY CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- Gift cards bring great joy, but they can also waste a great deal of money. Recently 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney met a man from Daly City who got a lot of joy out of using one of his gift cards to treat his girlfriend. But when she died, the gift card wasn't much use any more.
His name is Donald Choy and he says his girlfriend died unexpectedly. She loved coffee, so Choy made sure she got plenty of Starbucks through a gift card he kept reloading.
"I got the card for my girlfriend and then, when she passed," Choy said, "you know, I had no need for it, because she drank coffee and I didn't."
Starbucks are everywhere, so he figured he would give them a call and tell them he had a card he no longer needed, with a balance of $231.22.
"So I explained that to them," Choy said, "and he tells me, 'We used to give refunds and now we're no longer giving refunds.' So I said, what do you want me to do with the card? He says, 'Well, we'll send you another card.' I said, for what?"
Since Choy struck out with Starbucks, he came to 7 On Your Side for help. Before contacting Starbucks, 7 On Your Side checked in with the foremost expert on gift cards, Shelley Hunter. She's the Gift Card Girlfriend on GiftCards.com.
She told 7 On Your Side about getting money back from a gift card: "Gift card sales are final, the money is transferred to that gift card and only a few companies, in a specific circumstance, will decide to do that, but they really don't have to."
7 On Your Side contacted Starbucks and explained this is a special situation with a death involved, and asked if they could see their way through to refunding the unused portion of the card. Turns out they could, and called Donald Choy telling him a check was on the way -- making Choy very happy.
Choy said: "Good, yeah, because if it wasn't for you, they probably would have let it go, just drop it and not give me a refund."
So before buying a gift card, remember that is money that can be used, but rarely refunded.
Hunter says there is one exception to that rule: "In California, if you have a gift card, once the value drops below $10, then you can cash out that gift card at that merchant."
The 7 On Your Side team really wants to thank Starbucks for refunding the unused portion of the card. Starbucks did not have to do that. Now, remember this when buying a card: they are not refundable.
Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
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