The Bankrupt Gift Card


My friend Meaghan was recently caught in a really rotten retail situation.

Shoefly, a local boutique-y shoe store got a huge response for their summertime blowout sale.  They were advertising (with a postcard mailer) that everything was  on sale for 50%-75% off, and they were moving a lot of shoes. Meaghan joined the out-the-door line of customers and waited for her turn inside.

She had been to Shoefly six times in the months since Christmas, trying to spend her gift certificate, but thrice hadn't seen anything she liked,  and three other times had been stymied by an unexpected "Closed" sign during normal business hours.

Today was her day.

Inside was bordering on a frenzy, busy enough to put everyone on edge. Fifty people were inside, with shoes everywhere.

Customers directly in front of her were walking out with stacks of 3 and 4 shoeboxes. Meaghan found a pair that she loved, and after AN HOUR AND 45 MINUTES inside, finally made it to the register.

But! They wouldn't accept her $100 gift certificate.  

"I'm no longer accepting gift certificates." was the reply from the apparent store owner. "I declared bankruptcy, and I have sold the business."

The certificate had been a Christmas gift from her sister.

 

"What? That's not right. You still have to honor your gift certificates." She replied. After all, the store was still open, and was selling hundreds, if not thousands of  dollars worth of shoes right in front of her.

"Well, I'll accept it, but only at the pre-sale price." He offered.

The price breakdown under this new, deflated offer:
Use the gift certificate: Pay full price for $130 shoes, minus the $100 gift certificate, total cash out of hand: $30.
Do not use the gift certificate, get 75% off of $130 shoes, pay $32 cash.

Using her gift certificate, which had cost $100 in December, she could save 2 dollars. Meaghan was pissed.

She argued, but the owner wouldn't budge. He kept the shoes and she kept her red & black scrap of paper.

He had sold the store and was liquidating his inventory. Someone else was scheduled to take over and re-open the store in the fall.

She weighed her options. Egging the store was her instant favorite. I advocated shoplifting the shoes.

She did not buy the shoes.
I realize that businesses sometimes go bankrupt, and that they commonly leave their suppliers and investors and landlords short. This seems different to me.  Meaghan didn't want to loan Shoefly money. She wasn't selling Shoefly anything, wasn't investing in Shoefly and she definitely wasn't making money on Shoefly. She was a customer, who had already paid, and was just trying to collect her merchandise.

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