Spread the Word: Book Sense Gift Cards Have No Hidden Fees

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With the holiday shopping season now in full swing, a number of news outlets have found a new "hot" topic: hidden gift cards fees. "Reports exposing the hidden costs to consumers have recently appeared in print and in radio and TV reports," said ABA Marketing Director Jill Perlstein, but she noted, "Book Sense gift cards have no expiration dates, no inactivity fees, and no hidden costs, and we need to make sure that bookstores selling Book Sense gift cards make this clear to consumers. To help them, we've created a simple downloadable 8" x 11", black-and-white PDF suitable for display that provides consumers with this information." (To download the PDF, click here.)

The recent spate of warnings about gift card fees are usually paired with reports about the growing gift card market, which a recent NRF "Gift Card Survey" found will reach $17.24 billion in sales this holiday season and will account for nearly 8 percent of all holiday sales. (For more on the NRF study, click here.)

And an article in the December 3 Dayton Business Journal reported: "'Gift-card sales are expected to surpass $72 billion in 2006,' said Cathy Heitmueller, associate director of sales with Columbus, Ga.-based Total System Services Inc…. 'Within the past three years, there's been an enormous adoption rate,' Heitmueller said. 'The heavy hitters went first, and the others are branching over to branded gift programs.'"

Among the published warnings of hidden gift card fees was a December 2 front page article in The Journal News, a Gannett newspaper covering parts of Westchester County, New York, which began: "If you're among the millions of Americans who plan to give gift cards as presents this holiday season, be aware that some cards have fees that can greatly reduce the value of your gift if they are not used within a certain time."

And in an article on WPXI.com Becky Thompson, the Pittsburgh station's consumer investigator, reported on November 11 that "a growing number of companies charge fees on their gift cards. One from the Mall of America starts to decrease in value by $2.50 a month after just six months.

"Circuit City also charges a gift card fee: $2 a month after 24 months. Barnes and Noble charges $1.50 a month after just a year. And Starbucks charges $2 a month after a year."

The Journal News article reported that Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) said that he is "considering introducing federal legislation to ban such charges so these plastic gift certificates can be used at any time at their full value. He also released a survey of 32 retailers, which found that 18 charged monthly fees if the full value of the card was not used after six to 24 months."

Perlstein noted, "We're ahead of so many other retailers in this area. Book Sense gift cards were designed to meet consumer demand and exceed their expectations, and we need to get this information out to the public. I recommend that bookstores download the PDF we've created or create their own signs to let consumers know that the recipients of a Book Sense gift card will always have the true value of the card to spend. We've left space at the bottom of the PDF for booksellers to add their store information, that way the PDF can be used as a bag stuffer or a flyer. Booksellers should also consider contacting local media regarding their new Gift Card program."

For more on the Book Sense Gift Card Program, click here.