A recent survey revealed that approximately 27% of gift cards are never redeemed. In 2006, that came to over $8 billion in gifts that ended up going back to retailers. The most common reasons that respondents cited for not using their cards included that they never had time to shop or that they never found anything they liked.
Well, you can now chalk up another reason. In a follow up to last week's story about Sharper Image's decision to file for bankruptcy, the high-end retailer announced on Friday that it will no longer accept store gift cards, gift certificates, or merchandise credit.
This means that if you are currently holding any of these items, it is probably worthless. The bright side is that you may have a legitimate claim against Sharper Image's bankruptcy estate; the downside is that Wells Fargo is in line ahead of you, and it probably wants its $20 million back. You can fight over the remaining scraps. If any.
On the other hand, if you got your gift card through Leverage, an online gift-card retailer, you may be in luck. Yesterday, the website announced that it now extends bankruptcy protection to all cards purchased through its site. In other words, if you are holding a Sharper Image gift card that was purchased through Leverage, you can transfer your balance to any other retailer that Leverage works with.
Additionally, Leverage has features to allow you to easily purchase cards, check your gift card and rewards card balances, and transfer money from one company to another. You can even earn interest on your gift cards!
I'm not a huge fan of gift cards (I don't have time to go shopping! I can never find anything I like!), and I'm not sure how I feel about the fact that buyers now need to get bankruptcy insurance to protect their gift cards. Like Sharper Image's bankruptcy, gift card bankruptcy insurance seems like an ominous portent of an economic downturn.
That having been said, if I buy a gift card, I'm definitely getting it from Leverage!Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and co-author of Military Lessons of the Gulf War and A Chronology of the Cold War at Sea.