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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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I had some issues getting gift cards for Borders from Discover; I get the $25 borders gift certificate for $20 of cash back money option pretty often, since I’m not real big on steaks by mail. In any event, I had one gift card show up, and then nothing else for about a week, so I called Discover, and asked where the other 4 that should be in my order are.

Inner monologue: Yes, in all the genius of Discover, rather than making me a $125 or $100 + $25 gift certificate, they just have a stack of $25 cards in some warehouse, so I get one $25 card per $20 spent.

More inner monologue: Yes, I know that the company (Borders) makes more money if they give me more small cards because I get more margin purchases (what I’m terming the money spent past the $25 on the card; the same money Amazon makes on people getting over the free shipping threshold in extra unplanned purchases).

In any event, I called Discover and indicated I got one of my cards, but not all five. The lady said she was going to re-issue those cards, but if the original cards showed up I can’t use them.

Right, that would be stealing.

Fast forward a few weeks. Two more gift cards show up, and then the original four (I can tell because of the “order date”) show up. I never actually got the whole replacement set of four.

So, now, what do I do? Do I use the two replacements, and two of the original? Do I just use the four original and trash the two extra?

I am not trying to steal money or whatever by using the extra two gift cards; In fact, if anything of late I’ve been on an always do the right thing kick.

But, I don’t know which of the four cards are valid.

Hoping that Discover made it easy for me, I wanted to just check the balance on all six cards, hoping I’d only find four that have a balance.

So, I went to borders.com and went to “Your Account” as directed by the gift card to check my balance. Yes, this actually means I went to Amazon, went to “Your Account” and selected the “check a borders/waldenbooks gift card balance.” I then entered the first gift card, and hit check balance. $25. I entered the second card. System unavailable. The system was from then on always unavailable, even re-entering the original number. My best guess is that this is to stop people from trying to iteratively check gift card numbers to find valid ones. In fact, maybe I triggered it because four cards roughly in sequence (there seems to be a distinct pattern in how the last 8 digits change) probably look an awful lot like somebody trying to probe the system.

The point of all of this: I had to call the 800 number (which is to say 877 number) instead. Hit 1. Hit 1. Then, my favorite: “enter the sixteen digit number on the back of your card and hit the pound sign.” They know they are expecting a 16-digit number. The pound sign is superfluous. It may not be superfluous if they offered an abort and “I messed up” sequence, but they don’t. At least some companies have figured out that if one is expecting a certain sequence, receiving that sequence should be a good enough hint to terminate parsing.

The unfortunate result is that all six cards have a $25 balance. To keep things consistent, I guess I’m going to just use the old four cards and throw out the two replacements that showed up out (and who knows where the other two replacements ended up).