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eBay Auction: Gift Card Stripped of It’s Value Before I Received It

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I rarely buy anything on eBay. Unless I’m looking for a vintage toy I prefer to shop elsewhere. I bought a couple of playskool puzzles for my son’s birthday and a 1960s Lite-Brite for Christmas. Unfortunately, I overpaid for both.

I earned eBay bucks for each purchase and my big cash back total was a whopping $5.  I didn’t need anything, but decided to poke around on the site for a couple of minutes, just in case something caught my eye. I ultimately convinced myself to purchase a discounted gift card. I figured I could buy a $10 gift card for less than half price. The eBay bucks would knock $5 off the price and it would probably be discounted by at least a couple of dollars. Of course I couldn’t find any $10 auctions I liked so I upped the ante and settled on a $25 auction. With one minute to spare I placed my bid, won, paid immediately and waited for my gift card to arrive in the mail.

I used to buy discounted gift cards quite frequently. Back in the day there was a site that would allow you to swap cards. Let’s say you had a Crate and Barrel gift card and wanted a Babies-R-Us gift card instead. You could create a wish list of the cars you wanted and another list containing the cards you had available. Thirty seconds later the system would match you up with someone wanting to trade. I swapped fifteen or twenty gift cards this way and bought others at deeply discounted prices. That site went out of business, (total bummer), so I stopped buying discounted gift cards as often. Every once in awhile I come across a good deal, but otherwise it’s a whole lot of hassle to save five or ten percent. The fact is you never know if the person will actually ship the card to you. Even if it does arrive the description is not always accurate. I’ve received two or three that were actually merchandise credit cards not true gift cards, which cannot always be used interchangeably.

If I hadn’t wanted to burn the $5 worth of eBay credit I would not have poked around eBay and I would not have bid on an auction. I will admit that eBay bucks suckered me into buying something I didn’t really need.

Nevertheless when the card came I did not check the balance. I was busy that afternoon. I looked through the mail while I was making dinner, stuck the card in my wallet and didn’t think about it until I was at the store today returning a couple of items. When I presented it to the cashier she told me it had no money left on it.

Ugh. I bought a gift card with no value. I immediately contacted the customer service number on the back of the card and asked for a history of transactions. I was told the entire amount was used prior to the time I bid on the auction and certainly prior to the time I received it. I contacted the seller immediately. She apologized and refunded the money, but why would a seller send a gift card without any money on it?

Here is what I think happened. I bid on the auction at the last minute without looking clearly at the photos.  It seems there were two attached.  The first contained a picture of the front of the card. The second contained a picture of the back of it. I can honestly say I never noticed the photo of the back of the card. I would have taken note of it because it clearly displayed the gift card numbers.

My guess is that someone was trolling eBay, came across the listing, wrote down the numbers from the card and used it before the auction ever ended.

The lesson here: NEVER, EVER, EVER buy a gift card from eBay if the numbers are listed or photographed. If you are a seller NEVER, EVER, EVER sell a gift card with the numbers are listed or photographed. There are a lot of crooks and scammers in the world so don’t post valuable information like this out on the internet.

Luckily the seller felt bad about the situation and refunded my purchase. I’m not sure what would have happened if she hadn’t been so nice about it.

My lesson has been learned. 1) Do not buy things you do not need just because you have a coupon or in this case expiring eBay bucks. 2) Do not bid on an auction without looking at all aspects of it including descriptions and photograph.s 3) Do not buy a gift card if the numbers are made available on the internet.