Ways to Turn Off Customers: My Bad Experience with Gift Certificates at Tomato's SM Megamall Branch



Gift certificates (GCs) are usually given to members of the media as gifts, tokens, or prizes. 




It says there, "Upon effectivity of the order, 16 July 2010, all gift checks/ certificates/ cards issued must bear a date of issue and an expiry of two (2) years." This was revised to ...

Starting 01 July 2012, all suppliers, issuers, distributors and sellers are prohibited to issue and/or sell gift certificates/check/cards with an expiry date.

-- Gift certificates/checks/cards that are distributed to consumers under awards, loyalty or promotional programs are not covered.
-- All gift checks/certificates/cards with no expiry dates shall be redeemable until used by the bearer.
-- Holders of unused and unexpired gift check/ certificates/ cards after June 30, 2012 shall be entitled to replacement after revalidation by suppliers.
-- Terms and conditions of unused gift checks/ certificates/ cards issued before the effectivity of this order shall be honored; but those bearing expiry dates beyond June 30, 2012 shall be subject to revalidation or replacement.
-- Goods and services that are paid with gift certificates/check/card are qualified in promotional sales activities, loyalty programs, warranties, return policies for cash purchases, and discounts for senior citizens/persons with disability.
-- The suppliers cannot be held liable for gift certificates/ checks/ cards under that are:
(a) lost due to no fault of the supplier; and
(b) mutilated or defaced due to no fault of the supplier and such damage prevents the supplier from identifying the security and authenticity features thereof.


Last May, I won Tomato gift certificates in a media event. For those who are not familiar, Tomato is a store that sells clothes and accessories. The GCs can only be used in three of their branches and will expire at the end of November this year. Earlier today, I went to SM Megamall while waiting for my husband to finish a meeting in the Ortigas area. I didn't know that there's a 3-Day mall-wide sale.

I dropped by the Tomato branch and looked at some of their items. While browsing, I saw a mother and her daughter returning clothes on a rack. One of the salespersons asked them if they found anything they liked and the mom replied nothing fitted her daughter well. A few seconds after they left, I heard the salesperson sarcastically tell a colleague, "Sa dami ng sinukat nila sa loob, wala man lang binili?!" I felt it very rude of them to be talking like that about customers in front of other customers! I was very much tempted to tell them, "Hey, your sale items only come in certain sizes. Don't expect them to fit everyone who tries them on!" 

Anyhow, ignoring the negative vibes, I just selected three blouses, brought them to the changing room, tried them on, and decided to buy two. The sign on the rack says "2 for P500" which, I thought, was already a good deal. But when I tried to pay for the clothes using one of my GCs, the cashier told me that GCs can only be used for regular items, any of which, unfortunately, were not my type. 

So I told her to let me pay for the blouses using the GCs at their regular prices which were P500 each. I was told it was not possible because they are on sale and that sale items can only be bought using cash or credit card. What the?! So, I'm supposed to bring out cash or my credit card to pay and not use the GCs I have?! What stupid customer would opt to shell out money when she has gift certificates in her wallet?!

I left the store feeling very disappointed and thinking, "What a way to turn off customers!" I've bought clothes, shoes, and watches from them in the past. I still have P1500 worth of GCs with me and I don't know if I'll ever come back to Tomato to use them.    

photo borrowed from ignitewoo.com
I hope the DTI would come out with additional guidelines and enforce them strictly to protect consumers. Despite the existence of DAO 10-04, my media friends and I continue to receive gift certificates with expiration dates that, sometimes, also come with disagreeable terms such as "Only one GC can be used per transaction" or "Valid only on regular items not in conjunction with any other promotions/discounts." Hey, store owners, please see fifth bullet point on the guidelines above!

For example, if I have four P500 GCs but can only use one per transaction when buying a dress worth P1200, I would have to shell out P700 instead of just P200 because of the stupid rule. It is also worth mentioning the so-called gift certificates (which should actually be labeled discount vouchers) that only give bearers 10%, 20%, P500 off, etc. on purchases amounting to thousands of pesos (e.g. "Get P500 off when you buy P3000 worth of products!" Duh!)

If that's the case, I don't see why there should be the word "gift" on gift certificates when recipients still have to spend a lot just to redeem an item! 

Have you ever had bad experiences with using gift certificates too? I still have lots to tell but, for now, let me hear from you. Share your story, too, so companies would take notice and follow government guidelines, and let's hope DTI would take further action about these continuing irregularities soon. 


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