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I work for a retail company and recently won a gift card for a significant amount (between 1k and 10k) during an event with multiple other winners. After winning they said they want me to spend it in store before a certain date and record my process and how it changed my life. Problem is, I have no need for anything in the store and would much rather have cash. I didn't sign any papers or anything; the rules are only spoken. However, I don't want to get fired.

I'm allowed to use it on family, but obviously I could use the cash instead as I have bills to pay etc. I'm also not meant to use it on family and claim money from them but they can't stop me from that theoretically.

I have the gift card in my possession. But, I'm worried they took down the number and will void it out if for whatever reason they think I've gone against their wishes. I feel as if that's illegal (gift cards cannot expire).

What should I do?

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  • 3
    Gift cards do expire. The law may be different around the world. Sep 23, 2023 at 0:46
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    (why not accept the gifts or chose some and then sell them or gift them?)
    – DarkCygnus
    Sep 23, 2023 at 0:53
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    It seems like you won a gift card and think you are entitled to get it's value in cash paid out. Leaving the whole workplace issue aside, is there a specific law in your juristiction, that would back you up on this? Because this is not how gifts normally work. If I win a car, I cannot turn around and say "no thanks, but give me the retail price in cash please". I won a car. I can take it or leave it. But it might be different in your location? Where are you located?
    – nvoigt
    Sep 23, 2023 at 6:57
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    Could you not simply buy something expensive, pose with it for all their publicity material, then quietly sell it when they have lost interest? Sep 24, 2023 at 6:28
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    thank you for proving my assertion that people will complain about anything, even things they are given for free.
    – Tiger Guy
    Sep 24, 2023 at 7:10

8 Answers 8

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This line is perhaps the most important:

After winning they said they want me to spend it in store before a certain date and record my process and how it changed my life.

It's a PR stunt. They want to use the Winner of the competition to go on Camera and say nice things.

To answer your question directly:

'Can I just get the money' - most likely, No.

The reason is this - it might be a '$10,000' Gift card, but in terms of cost to the company (depending on the markup) - it's in reality only going to be about $5,000 or less.

You asking for the cash value is going to cost the company more than they wanted to pay.

In addition, the company is clearly wanting this exercise to pay-off in terms of a marketing campaign or internal promo video. They could just write a script and have actors do it, but they want an authentic experience - in the hopes that will connect with the audience more.

To answer your other question - Are you going to get Fired? Probably not either (caveat here about At-Will states if you are in the US).

First question though - you say there's nothing in the store that you need. I'm presuming that you can't say the store for fear of revealing who you are etc. So let's do a hypothetical - let's say the Store is 'Bobs Firearms and bullets' and you are a principled Pacifist who refuses to even touch a weapon.

Starting from the most extreme position - where you have a fundamental moral objection to the product being sold - I'd sit down with the company and discuss this aspect with them. Bob might have a sister company that is Bobs Mowers and Gardening - which might be more to your taste (as I'm assuming a prize of that magnitude isn't being done by a small business). There might be some wiggle room or there might be other institutions in the chain that you might be more interested in that could come to some arrangement.

Keeping with our initial hypothetical, let's say that you don't have a moral/philosophical issue with the product, let's just say you don't like to shoot. In which case, how I'd handle this:

I'd do my research as to which products at the store sell second-hand for the highest percentage of the original sale price, Buy a bunch of those till the card is maxed out, Come up with some half-truth spiel about how it changed your life - then flog them all on Ebay/Trademe/Amazon/Wherever as soon as you've fulfilled your contractual obligation. It might take a bit longer, it's not the $10K hard cash in your hand, but it's still better than nothing.

Next option (keeping the Gun theme) - you've got yourself a sufficiently stocked Gun Safe with a .22, a Shotgun and your hunting rifle and 'that's all I'll ever need' - in which case my suggestion would be to simply splurge. There's stores that I go into that I might have very little interest in spending my own money on, but if you give me $10K of your money and tell me I have to spend it there - I'm sure I can find things to buy. It might be something that you envision yourself only using once or twice - but now you own it and you don't have to hire it or rent it and you can lend it to friends etc.

Then as above - come up with some life-changing message 'Since buying the splurge-9000, it's really brought my local community together - we've had neighbours come and borrow it, seeing them be able to beautify their little spaces has been more reward than any monetary gain' or some other sappy spiel.

At the end of the day, think of it from the Companies PoV - what is it they want?

They want marketing material - whether it's internal to say 'Wow, aren't we such an amazing employer that gave this person the chance to change their life direction! Work for us and you too could be the next person!'

or External:

"Buy our product because we don't treat all our workers like Slaves! See we even had a competition where one out of our 5,000 strong work force was able to do this with our generous giftcard!"

Talk to them and find a way to satisfy what they want to achieve, and you'll probably find that they are okay with just about anything else.

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    I'm going to assume the gift card is for the store the OP works at. So if he's working there he probably hasn't got a major moral objection to the store products. Oct 15, 2023 at 23:55
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Its a gift and comes with rules. So follow them.

You can enquire if they will give you cash instead. If they do, it will be substantially less.

Do use it for your family and friends for gifts in return. And get them to give you feedback that you can pass on.

Note gift cards do have an expiry date. And they can be voided. There is no contract, you havent paid any money.

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After winning they said they want me to spend it in store before a certain date and record my process and how it changed my life.

What should I do?

Seems obvious to me that you should spend it in store before a certain date and record your process and how it changed your life.

The company made it clear what they wanted you to do with the prize. You should do that, or just decline the prize and let someone else have it.

If they wanted you to do whatever you pleased, they would have given you different instructions, or would have given you cash.

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Note that, especially if it's a gift card for your own company, the cost to the company is almost certainly much lower than the face value of the card -- basically, as a promotional item, its cost is the wholesale value of the goods rather than their retail price. So even if you could take equivalent cash instead you'd lose about a third to half of the value.

Surely you can find something that you don't _need_and might not otherwise have purchased but can use, as a gift to someone if nothing else. That would still let you enthuse about why you chose that item and how much you appreciated it. (I didn't need the fancy clock I got as a quarter-century employee reward, but I'm still grateful for it and proud of what it represents. Even though it wants a rather expensive maintenance session every decade or so to clean and lube the mechanism.)

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First of, figure out the tax implications of accepting such a "prize" before you do anything else.

After winning they said they want me to spend it in store before a certain date and record my process and how it changed my life.

In other words, they told you those conditions after the fact? Did they tell everyone this? Or only the winners? You should research the laws and regulations governing contests and raffles in your jurisdiction. Or if the contest was an incentive somehow linked to your performance as an employee, you should probably contact the Labor Department of your State (or equivalent for your country) and ask for their advice.

Also, I recommend you document everything as much as possible. In other words, create a log of everything that transpires, keep copies of anything that mentioned the contest, use email when asking questions about the gift card and the contest. Keep that dossier in your home, should you ever get fired.

For instance, if it turns out that you may be liable for additional taxes for using the gift card, you should email the contest organizer and HR, asking for a clarification. In addition, depending on the results of your research, you may want to ask what the rules are for spending the gift card, so you have those rules documented for your dossier.

As to the item(s) you need to purchase by a certain date. I don't want to repeat the advice given so far. It's all very good. But if your store doesn't have what you want in inventory, you may want to consider asking them if you could special order something through the store instead.

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This may be a far fetched idea, but if you can't get cash directly, and you don't want a house full of stuff you don't need:

  1. Sell the card at a discount to someone else. For example if it's worth $100, you sell it for $95. You win, they win.
  2. Donate the card to your favorite charity that can actually put the card to use.
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  • And even if the card cannot be donated, things can be bought and give to a good cause Sep 23, 2023 at 20:41
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    There may be tax consequences to this idea. OP might be on the hook for a significant tax bill, depending on the amount & where they live. Sep 28, 2023 at 22:44
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A few things to keep in mind:

  1. You still have to pay taxes on winnings like this.

  2. They didn't have to give you anything in the first place.

  3. They obviously want some form of publicity for this gift, so it's unlikely you can get cash instead.

Do a cost benefit analysis. If you can get more value out of this gift card than the taxes you have to pay, use it according to their rules and get as much out of it as you can.

Say you won a 5k gift card and you have to pay 1k in taxes. Does the store have any items that can easily be sold?

Buy a 5k item. Take pictures of yourself with said item, and write an essay about how awesome it. Then sell the item. Even if you assume 20% depreciation of 1k + another 1k in takes, you will still be 3000 dollars richer and no one will be the wiser.

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Maybe there is someone at your company who could actually use the card in the store? You could then sell them the card for a smaller amount, let's say 50%. You get 50% in cash, they get a 50% discount in the store and your employer gets the promo video they want. All parties involved win.

We used to sell gift cards to our colleagues at our company for 33% less. The value of the gift card was substantially lower however, which made things much simpler for us I guess. In any case, that's another option to consider.

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  • Would the promo video show the OP talking about what they bought or the person they sold the card to? Sep 23, 2023 at 14:25

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