November 17

Positive Gift Card Experience: Make Every Transaction Count

The Fear of Being Declined

Have you ever tried to check out at a store or restaurant only to be told your payment card didn't work? It's embarrassing, regardless of whether or not you have sufficient funds to pay for the purchase. In a flurry, you might quickly explain to the cashier (and everyone in line behind you) that you DEFINITELY have enough money to cover the transaction. Or, you quickly throw another card on the counter, hoping you can pay for your goods and leave.

Did you know that this same potential embarrassment is one of the reasons some people don't use their gift cards at all? A handful of consumers have told me they won't use gift cards because they don't want to risk that same type of scene.

That's also why I always tell the cashier I have a gift card to use before they start ringing up my purchase. If I know the gift card's balance, I'll also share that information with the cashier. If I don't know the card's balance, I'll say, "I want to use this gift card, but I do not know how much money is on it."

This approach makes the situation more comfortable for me and helps the cashier know what form of payment to expect.

marshalls gift card receipt

Using a Gift Card at Marshalls

I recently did exactly this when shopping at Marshalls.

Here's what happened.

I wanted to buy a new blouse. When I approached the cashier to pay for the blouse, I shared that I had a gift card with an unknown balance. The cashier rang up my purchase, swiped the gift card, and put the new shirt in a bag.

I was just about to protest that I STILL didn't know how much money I had left on the card when she printed out the receipt and surprised me by also taking out a highlighter pen. She then reviewed the receipt and said, "you started with this amount, and now you have $15.89 left to spend." At this point, she used the pen to highlight the remaining balance listed on the receipt.


This simple act of highlighting the remaining balance demonstrated that she understood my perspective (the customer) and addressed a future potential concern. When I return to Marshalls, I'll know exactly how much money is on my gift card. And if I forget, I won't hesitate to ask the cashier for help.

Since various statistics show that people who use their gift cards are likely to overspend the value of their gift cards, training cashiers to help customers feel comfortable with any and every type of payment--including gift cards--creates a positive payment experience that will likely have a halo effect on the entire visit.

Good job, Marshalls.

If you've had a positive gift card experience, share it with me in the comments below. If you want me to mystery shop your gift card, sign up for my gift card certification program, and let's work together to ensure your gift cards are easy to use, fraud-free, and guaranteed.

That is, after all, what consumers deserve.

Let me know if you have any questions,

~ Shelley

Customers with a positive gift card experience are more likely to return and shop or give your gift card to others.
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About the author 

Shelley Hunter

In 2009, Shelley Hunter launched to show consumers how to turn gift cards into thoughtful gifts. However, she quickly discovered that consumers had more significant concerns--like what to do when a gift card doesn't work or you receive a gift card you don't want. So, on her blog, later acquired by and then by BHN, Hunter spent 14 years answering those questions (and hundreds more) as the one-and-only consumer advocate in the gift card industry.

But it wasn't enough.

Hunter believes consumers are more confused than ever, thanks to increased gift card scams, fraud, store closings, varying state gift card laws, financial practices, and inconsistent products. Now, back as an independent consumer guide to gift cards, Hunter is enlisting the help of retailers and lawmakers in making gift cards easy to use, fraud-free, and guaranteed.

Shouldn't EVERY GIFT CARD be Easy to Use, Fraud-Free, and Guaranteed?

Put your gift card program to the test.