Friday, January 23, 2009

Robot Girl and the Wal-Mart Gift Card

Ever seen the commercial of the mom who gave her son a Wal-Mart gift card for Christmas? As she's speaking about how wonderful it is to receive one of these plastic rectangles, all her son can do is look at the card. It shows them going in to the electronics department and then, him coming home with a great newfangled toy. They made it look so easy!

For Christmas my daughter received a Wal-Mart gift card with $25 on it.

Keeping in mind the commercial, I set out with my daughter to go happily spend her money and watch her face light up as she picks out exactly what she wanted. So far, so good. In the checkout lane the cashier takes the magical little gift card and swipes it.
It doesn't take.
She swipes it again.
It still doesn't take.
The cashier makes a face at the machine and then smiles at me.
I'm smiling like an idiot still thinking of the commercial.
My daughter is still smiling.
The cashier takes a plastic bag and puts it around the gift card and swipes it.
(Let's see if you can guess what happened next).
Right, it still doesn't take.
She turns the card over, scratches off the silver stuff revealing a 16 digit code and types in the numbers on the computer. The machine makes a beeping sound and spits out a piece of paper that tells her to get a CSM. The cashier tries to type in some code on the keyboard but the machine crosses its arms, scowls at the cashier and refuses to let her do anything else until a CSM arrives with the proper authority.
After about 5 minutes of waiting for the CSM, who doesn't look to be much older than 20, and listening to the mumbling of impatient customers ready to take their frozen goods home already, the CSM finally comes around.
He tries the same tricks the cashier did. Plastic bag and everything.
My smile is fading. My daughter is looking rather worried and is now white-knuckling her toy to her chest.
The CSM tries the same tricks again, each time getting beeped at and having the machine stick its tongue out at us all.
Finally, he asks me if I have the receipt for the gift card.
I want to stop here for a moment and ask a general question to all those reading...
Through clenched teeth, a forced smile and steaming nostrils I state that I do not have the receipt.
He cringes and tells me there is nothing he could do but that I should call the number on the back of the card when I get home.
I oblige, much to the relieved annoyance of the ever-so charming people behind me, and just pay for the toy with cash. My daughter's death grip on her toy has loosened and she is smiling again.

As soon as I arrive home I call the Customer Service Hotline on the back of the card. After a series of inane options like "para conocer de estas instrucciones en espanol, pulse dos", I finally feel like I'm getting somewhere.
"If you are calling about damaged merchandise, please press 7"
"If you are calling about our Wal-Mart gas cards, press 8."
"If you are calling about...blah, blah, blah."

3. hours. later.

"If you are calling concerning problems with a Wal-Mart gift card, please press 176."
Finally! Now I can talk to a live being.
"Please type in or say the 16 digit number on the back of your card."
So, much for the human I was hoping for.
I have been punching my way through the maze of options for so long that I have misplaced the card. It takes me a good minute to find it again.
"I'm sorry, I didn't get that", says Robot Girl.
"That's because I haven't typed anything in yet", I say out loud.
"I'm sorry, I didn't get that", she repeats at the sound of my voice.
I roll my eyes. Found the card, type in the number.
"One moment, please. (millisecond pause) I'm sorry, the number you have entered is invalid. Please try again."
I type it in one more time.
"One moment, please. (millisecond pause) I'm sorry, the number you have entered is invalid. Please try again."
"Well, maybe if you'd wait for more than a millisecond to let it work its way through your pea brain computer system it would be valid!" I say to Robot Girl.
"I'm sorry, I didn't get that." Did she just snicker under her breath?
At this point, I have no where else to go. And I'm not about to hang up! I remember from previous experiences of dealing with automated phone services that if you screw up enough they will eventually send you to a customer service rep.
So, I begin talking to Robot Girl.
After about 13 minutes of listening to her say, "I'm sorry I didn't get that" to every blasted thing I said to her I reluctantly hung up on Robot Girl.
But I was determined. I went to the computer and got on I searched for a way to contact them via email.
I wrote them a short and civil letter briefly explaining what had happened with my gift card. This is the email I sent:

I bought a gift card from our Durant store and put $25
on it for my daughter. When we went to use the card, the associate couldn't ring it. When she called a CSM to check on it, it wouldn't work for him either. I have been trying to contact a live person all day but have failed. I just need to know what to do to be able to use this card.
Thanks so much!
Carissa Mason"

About 4 days later this is the email I get back:

"Dear Carissa,
My name is Camille. I am with the Customer Service team. Thank you for allowing me to assist you today. I am writing in response to your email. I am sorry the your recent order from the local Walmart store did not meet your expectations. Due to the nature of your concern, your information has been forwarded to the Wal-Mart Stores Customer Service Team. They will forward all concerns to the appropriate department. If you would like you can call the Customer Service Hotline for faster more efficient service."

I write back to Camille and have determined that she must be Robot Girl:

"Dear Camille,
I have called that hotline. I have punched in my 16 digit code on the back of the card and the 4 digit pin 5 times. All the automated response woman says is "The card number you have entered is invalid."
I wrote to this email hoping to get a DIFFERENT form of action. If I could have found a phone number that would have connected me directly to a human I would done that. But I settled for an email hoping to at least still be connected with someone who could help me. I don't feel like this is a very difficult situation. I have $25 on this card that I would like to be able to use. I just want someone to tell me what to do to make that happen other than call that useless hotline. There has got to be a more functional, more personal way of handling this.
Carissa Mason"

About 4 days later this is what I get in my inbox:

"Dear Carissa
Thank you for your message. If you require information regarding Wal-Mart Gift Cards please call the Gift Card Customer Service Hotline at 1-888-537-5503
Thank you,
Customer Relations"

I have a feeling my 2nd letter could have been cussing them out with words no sailor would dream of using and I would've receive this very same message. They've probably hired some smelly, greasy-haired, pimply-faced guy to sit at a desk in a small closed-off cubicle away from society and just hit send each time a new message pops into the Wal-Mart gift card inquiry box.
I still have not gotten another response from them despite me writing sickly sweet, even nun-ish like emails pleading for another way to resolve this conflict. Their options have not changed on their hotline. Robot Girl still taunts me with "I'm sorry I didn't get that."

I have decided that on the commercial, while the little boy is looking at his gift card, he's actually praying that the 16 digits on the back of that card make up whatever sum they have to to make the card valid!


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