Target gives free gift card with purchase -- but there's no money on it

MARTINEZ, Calif. (KGO) -- Retailers vying for your business may throw in a few goodies to get you to shop at their store. Do you go for it?

For Cathy Rankin of Martinez, an offer by was irresistible. She was looking for a bargain on a new iPhone 7 for her husband. She went online and found Target had a promotion for a free, $250 gift card with purchase of a new iPhone.

"Mathematically, that made it the best deal, when you add in the gift card,'' she said. "That was the only reason I went there to buy it."

The promotion was expiring the next day, so Cathy had to act fast. She quickly ordered the phone. instructed her to pick it up at the Berkeley store along with her gift card.

"So we went to the Berkeley store and they were like 'Ummm, I don't know why they told you to come here, we don't have phones here anymore, and we don't even have an electronics department,'"' Rankin recalled.

And there began a lengthy ordeal of trying to get the deal she was promised.

"I was like, 'OK, but we have to pick up the phone today or we don't get the $250 gift card,''' Rankin said. The Berkeley store clerks tried to help, calling around until they found an available iPhone 7 at a Target store in Richmond, about 10 miles away.

"So we drive to Richmond, we get there and they do have the iPhone, but they had no idea about the gift card.'' Rankin said she had to search the internet on her phone to prove there was a Target promotion that entitled her to the $250 gift card. "We found it. The manager said everything was OK but I had to fill out all the paperwork all over again. That took another two hours."

She finally did get the gift card and the phone, and went home happy.

Until two weeks later.

"I said, 'Oh, I'm going to use my Target gift card,'' Rankin recalls. "So I went to a Target store and they said, 'Oh, there's no balance on the card.' I couldn't believe it."

She was told to call the number on the back of the card and someone would load it. But that didn't work. She didn't have a receipt to prove she loaded it.

"They kept saying, 'Where's your receipt,' and I said there isn't a receipt for the gift card because it was a gift!"

Rankin said she kept calling and emailing the company trying to get the promised gift card.

"I spent at least 10 hours or more on the phone,'' she recalls. Each time, Target said it would send her a new card. It didn't happen.

"We were at dinner with friends and they said, 'Oh did you try calling 7 On Your Side?'"

So she did, and 7 On Your Side reached out to Target. The company said that Rankin was indeed entitled to a gift card with that purchase. A spokesperson said the card may have been improperly activated, or might have been defective.

Target said:

"We want our guests to have a positive experience every time they shop at Target and are disappointed when we fall short. We apologize for Ms. Rankin's shopping experience and are glad we could resolve the situation by issuing her a new gift card."

And it did -- this time providing an all-purpose VISA debit card that really did have $250 loaded onto it.

"Oh it was great,'' Rankin said. "I went out and bought myself an iPhone."

Click here for a look at more stories by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
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