The New York Yankees have a creative way to separate their fans from their money. It's called Bomber Bucks -- a cute name for gift certificates that are really hard to use.
On the face of it, it appears to be a great gift idea for a fan of the Bronx Bombers. It's not until the person actually wants to use them that it becomes a problem.
You see, Bomber Bucks can only be redeemed at the Yankees ticket window in the Bronx, and tickets for regular folk are hard to come by, at least in person. While you can hunt for tickets as often as you want online, and sometimes get lucky, forget paying for them with Bomber Bucks because you can't use them online. Tell the ticket window about the tickets you found online on the Yankees official site and somehow they become invisible.
OK, so you can't buy the tickets. Fine. I'll take some t-shirts and a hat. No dice. How about a hot dog and a beer when I actually get to a game? Nope. All they are good for are the tickets (at the ticket window) and a tour of the stadium. That's it.
"It's very upsetting," one fan with Bomber Bucks told me. "They're a waste. How many people can go back and forth to the stadium to try to buy tickets?"
She ended up sending her son to the ticket window (the fifth attempt to get tickets), who finally found a pair of $90 tickets. The lifelong Yankees fan was hoping for something a bit less expensive, but was glad to get anything. She lamented that she's still stuck with another $20 of Bomber Bucks.
For years, fans have lamented the challenge of using what someone had intended to be a present, posting tales of woe on internet complaint boards. But no complaints have been filed with the New York State Consumer Protection Board, said spokeswoman Deb Rausch.
To add insult to this already injurious experience, Bomber Bucks expire in one year. In other words, a lot of people don't get a second chance to use them.
To be clear, though, what the Yankees are doing is legal in New York. The law says they must disclose the terms. They do. Yet in heavily regulated New York, the law doesn't have rules about gift certificate expiration limits, which most other states do.
That could change in short order, since the Credit Card Bill of Rights the president has signed would require gift certificates to be honored for five years after purchase.
When you buy Bomber Bucks online, there is a note about the expiration and the requirement to use them at the ticket window. Clearly, some people will overlook that. That happens all the time. But what it doesn't say is how difficult they will be to redeem.
The Yankees, who have been taking a beating of late on New York talk radio over how their fans have been treated since moving to their new stadium, have chosen to remain silent on the matter.
"We do not have an official comment for you," spokesman Michael Margolis wrote in an email.
That certainly clarifies things.
One reason why gift certificates need longer limits is to prevent businesses from creating obstacles that would prevent their redemption. A year, given the conditions the Yankees create to prevent their use, shows a decided lack of caring about their customers -- a loyal and hopeful, if demanding, bunch.
If you want to see a Yankee fan (I'm one) suffer, you might consider giving them Bomber Bucks. You would, however, be making essentially a donation -- to one of the richest teams in sports.
If you actually care about the Yankee fan in your life, take a pass on Bomber Bucks. They're a bomb.
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