I don’t know why I haven’t blogged about this earlier. I guess I was waiting for the slow wheels of justice to grind. But the Better Business Bureau has just told me I’m SOL, so I’m resorting to complaining about it here.
Don’t shop at the Gift Assistant .
Last Christmas, I decided, instead of being the usual Scrooge that I am, it would be a good idea to get all the kiddies in my family Barnes and Nobles gift certificates. That way, the little whippersnappers would have a fighting chance to get a little learnin’ in their empty lil heads.
Somehow I found my way to the Gift Assistant website. On December 10, I purchased 13 ten-dollar gift certificates from them, which I was told would take about a week for delivery. On December 22, I got a nicely worded email from an employee of the Gift Assistant telling me that the certificates would not arrive in time for Christmas, and would I like to cancel my order. I thanked her for the information and agreed that cancelling was probably the best idea.
The matter should have ended there. Instead, in my December credit card statement I found that the Gift Assistant had not cancelled my transaction, and that I was out $130. And they never sent me the gift certificates. Grrrr.
Many, many emails and phone calls later, I became fed up with their empty promises of refunding me the money and I reported them to the Better Business Bureau in February. It was my first BBB complaint, and it felt good just filing it. I got a few responses from them that they were on the case over the past months.
I recently got an email from BBB telling me that the Gift Assistant was "non-responsive" and that there was nothing further they could do. They suggested I contact my Attorney General or the Internet Fraud Unit. The BBB now lists the Gift Assistant as having an "unsatisfactory record with the Bureau" due to "unanswered complaints and a pattern of complaints concerning delivery issues." They have over 80 complaints about the company on file, the large majority unresolved.
It’s nice to know that I wasn’t the only one taken. Still, it galls.
And next Christmas, all the kids are getting socks.
Update 8/23/06 5pm: The Consumerist is on the case! Thanks, Ben! Also, here’s a recent story on the Gift Assistant from WKCR out of Cincinnati that doesn’t make me feel any better.
UPDATE 8/6/08: The attorney General of Ohio has contacted me
about filling out an affidavit in the case of The State of Ohio vs. The
Gift Assistant. Looks like something is proceeding on this.
15 thoughts on “Gift Assistant provides no gift and no assistance”
check here too
Thanks Paul for the link.
I forgot to mention the other galling bit. The only reason I bought from Gift Assistant in the first place was that I was referred by my own credit card company to them as a “preferred merchant.” That’s what I get for trusting citibank.
I have also had no luck in getting a refund or getting a hold of that Gift assistant…..the only assist to me was losing money. I just don’t understand how they can do that and get away with it!
The worst part is that their web site is still up, so I assume they’re still taking people’s money without any intent on fulfilling the orders!!!
I lost around $500 in unfulfilled gift cards. Neither Attorney General nor BBB were of any help!!! Is it something that could be filed at the small claims court?
Here’s some cell phone numbers you should try. I called and left messages, but so far no luck:
John Gerlach 513-317-1558
tom Candelaresi 513-317-1947
I,too, lost moeny to TGA to the tune of $667.00. I am a Realtor and bought a bunch of cards to use as Thank You gifts for referrals to me. Forntunately not too many cards were given out and I got them back once I learned from a past client that she had problems getting her certificate. I also filed with the BBB and Ag and received the same responses as above. But after a lengthy dispute process with my credit card company it appears i will be getting a credit – they have already refunded my finance charges which were not insignificant. If you want more info, email me! Good luck. It’s pretty annoying to still see their website active and them likely taking money from unsuspecting consumers, and of course it is IMPOSIBLE to reach the company…and I can’t find anything about Chapter 11 filing.
I too am a victim of their fraud. I am a Realtor and I gave the gift cards as closing gifts. In the beginning it was a great service, since my customers were able to select where they could purchase their gifts. However, since Gift Assistant stopped sending out the certificates that were redeemed, I have been in the unenviable position of making good on the loss. Since I paid for each card in cash directly from my business account, I could not stop payment, and now have a loss totalling close to $3,500. Not only have I paid for the certificates once, but I have made good to my customers on their losses – thus paying twice. I have spoken to the FBI and a special agent is looking into it, but ultimately it is a financial loss to me.
Since I recommended Gift Assistant to other agents in my office, there are now five of us suffering in this way. One agent actually spoke to the President of the company in the early part of this year on his cell phone. He told her that the company was in the midst of an acquisition, and he promised to make good on our situation. That is a promise that he has yet to fulfill.
What makes things much worse in my view is that they are still ‘redeeming’ certificates and therefore taking money. I am astonished that this is continuing.
Wish I would have read this sooner. I just sent them more cash a couple of weeks ago…gave cards as donations for baskets sold for charity. Got a call this morning that someone tried to redeem a card and the website was down and the phone number was disconneted. The cell phone numbers above no longer accept incoming calls either. At least the website is finally gone and no one else will get screwed. I hope somebody tosses these punks in jail.
I filed a report at Ripoff Reports on the internet. Three of them, I think. Our stories are the same. I, too, spoke with the “owner” on the phone who twice assured me the redeemed cards were on the way. That was April 2006 for cards purchased for Christmas 2005. The attorney general and BBB (where I also filed complaints) were useless. What’s the contact for the Internet Fraud Unit?
http://www.ic3.gov . Good luck.
I am a mortgage professional and used these cards as a way of saying thank you to the borrowers until I was contacted by a borrower saying they never got their gift certificates and I can’t get in touch with the gift assistant. How this can be such an ongoing blatant scam is beyond me, and I feel dumb for falling for it. I have a lot of prepaid cards that aren’t worth the plastic they’re made of.
I’m a Realtor and I’ve given away a bunch of these cards. Several of my clients let me know, in a nice way, that they never received their gift cards from gift assistant. I had the same problems and issues that everyone else is upset about. I did complain to the BBB and the state’s attorney as well. Originally, I got the same response – the gift assistant didn’t respond to the complaint. Well, yesterday I got a form to fill out from the state’s attorney about going after TGA and today I received the following from the BBB:
BBB Alerts: Consumers Report Problems with Online Gift Card Vendor
November 28, 2006
The Better Business Bureau issued an initial alert about The Gift Assistant, LLC in May 2006. The alert was based on a pattern of complaints received by the Bureau. Since December 2005, the BBB has processed over 219 complaints on this firm. Complainants state that retail gift cards purchased through the company have never been received or that the company failed to provide promised refunds. Complainants also report that the company is hard to reach and that the voice mail box is often full and unable to accept messages. Although the company has responded to some complaints, most remain unanswered. The company has an unsatisfactory record with the Better Business Bureau due to these issues.
On November 16, 2006, Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro filed suit against The Gift Assistant, LLC. The suit alleges that the company violated the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act by failing to deliver promised refunds, entering into consumer transactions while having knowledge that the consumers would not receive substantial benefit, and by accepting money from consumers when the company knew that due to their precarious financial situation the cards had no value to consumers. Petro is asking that the money be returned, that the company be fined $25,000 for each violation of the law and that the company not engage in any consumer transactions in the State of Ohio until judgement is satisfied in its entirety.
Please note that the Better Business Bureau has already submitted your complaint information to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office in cooperation with their efforts.
Has anybody had any success getting money back from the gift assistant? I am out over $1000.
How do we get in on the Atty General’s action? I’m a Realtor out about $700, not to mention the embarassment of a non gift to clients. What about a class action suit?
Looks like the REALTORS took the hardest hit on the scam. Myself and my two partners thought it was a great thing. We purchased the personalized gift cards and spent hundreds of dollars on our credit cards. I learned about the scam from a client who I ran into telling me about the TGA was a scam. How embarassing! I don’t even have a record of who didn’t redeem their cards. I’m probably too late to get a refund with the credit card companies?