As gift-giving season rolls around Karen O'Leary has taken her journalistic skills to Christchurch to investigate the troubles surrounding the popular gift voucher, Prezzy Card.
Her new best friend Rosie is having an issue with a Prezzy Card she was gifted earlier in the year by her sister Karin, whose name is "a bit more posh" than Karen.
Rosie left the card unused in her wallet, but when she finally did attempt to use it, she got a nasty surprise.
"I went to use it and it declined, and every other time I've tried to use it... it did the same thing."
It turned out the card needed a four-digit code to activate it, an instruction that was not on the packaging nor in Karin's emails. Having attempted to consult the Prezzy website, Karen decides to assist Rosie with the one thing millennials can't do: make a phone call. In doing so, she discovers they charge money for calling customer service.
"Up to $1.50, sounds like National Party policy," exclaims Karen. The customer service provider confirms the four digits are crucial for using the card, but provides an email contact that might be able to assist.
Armed with Rosie's story plus those of multiple people who have emailed in, Karen heads to Consumer NZ to talk to Gemma Rasmussen.
"We do get calls about Prezzy Card and people are quite annoyed," Rasmussen confirms. She then launches into a list of things that Consumer NZ takes issue with. As well as the fee for speaking to a customer service operator, there are several additional costs.
"To buy the card costs $5.95. If you want to get it sent to you that's going to cost $7.50, and you'll get charged a surcharge of 2.6 percent if you use it as a credit card... if you lose it you're going to have to pay $10 plus courier fees... if you need it to be replaced overseas: $50... If you lodge a dispute and that dispute is not upheld, they're going to charge you $15... You'll be charged 3.5 percent for using a Prezzy Card if you have a foreign currency transaction."
Follow Paddy Gower Has Issues on social media:
The conversation expands to gift vouchers in general. With many gift vouchers remaining inactivated or expiring, or with small amounts left on them, Karen asks how much money consumers are losing.
"We think it's about $10 million every year that the retailers get to keep," she tells Karen. Part of this problem is that vouchers expire relatively quickly. Prezzy Cards last two years, but legally they actually could expire much faster.
"There's no law at all. You could have an expiry of three months or six months. Within the law, they'd be able to just pocket that money."
After reaching out to Prezzy Card for comment, Karen received an email explaining their position.
"On our website, it clearly states during the checkout process the customer creates their own four-digit lock code during the order process, it also states if you are purchasing the Prezzy Card as a gift you will need to send this code to the gift card recipient.
"The reason for this lock code is to stop theft or losses from couriers or mailboxes and to prevent fraud," they explain, noting "our customer care team always try and provide a quality service for all Prezzy cardholders and the fee for this is a marginal one but if the customer cannot use the card we can see why they maybe feel aggrieved."
Despite the lost code, they unlock Rosie's card so she can finally spend her $50.
She may have solved the issue for Rosie, but now Karen wants to change the rules for all gift vouchers. She assembles a room of, in her words, "corporate creeps", and with them comes up with the worst gift voucher imaginable: The Lezzy Card.
She heads out to the streets of Christchurch to hand out free Lezzy Cards, all loaded with $10,000, but there's a catch: "You might want to check the expiry date."
The Lezzy Card has a 15-second expiry date. It is far too short to buy anything, but totally legal. The shoppers scramble to spend the cards in time, but it is impossible. Karen has succeeded in making the worst gift voucher of all time.
There is good news for gift voucher users: change might be on the way. A bill was recently drawn up in Parliament, and passed its first reading, to mandate a three-year minimum expiry for gift vouchers. Consumer NZ believes this should be a five-year minimum, but it is much better than what we have currently.
If you have an issue you would like Karen to tackle, email her at email@example.com.
Patrick Gower hosts Paddy Gower Has Issues - watch it on Three or ThreeNow.