Portrait of an attractive woman at table grabbing her head
Portrait of an attractive woman at table grabbing her head

BYTE ME: The trouble with gift cards and software purchases

This week we look at a slightly off beat topic, but one that several customers have had problems with in the last month. We are going to look at some of the purchases, including gift cards and more often now - software titles that are made from retail stores that require activation. This topic covers iTunes cards, gift cards and even a heap of software titles.

This weeks' topic has been brought to our attention several times previously and again just this week when a customer brought in their PC and a Trend Micro Anti-virus package that they had purchased from BIG W. They had been able to install the software but could not get it to activate, so they had brought everything it for us to fix. After a phone call to Trend Micro which proved rather useless it became apparent that the software pack had not been 'pre-activated' at the BIG W checkout counter.

We were not able to help the customer any further with this 'lemon' purchase either, which is a disappointing result from an otherwise great Anti-virus company which we have promoted, recommended and resold exclusively for the last 22 years. If you purchase this sort of product from a retail store that is meant to pre-activated the licence at their checkout then you too could run into the same problems. The customer ended up purchasing Trend Micro Anti-virus from us which activated over the Internet immediately.

So what is happening here? Because many of these products no longer contain a CD or any real package weight they have ended up the size of a credit card - with just some basic details and a unique code. For this reason they are an easy mark for shoplifters. The same as gift cards - which retailers like to display in prominent locations - which again, make them an easy mark for shoplifters.

Older Australians are popular targets for scammers
Older Australians are popular targets for scammers

To combat this retail crime manufacturers have made the cards / packs worthless unless they are first pre-activated at the store check out and then fully activated over the Internet. Retail stores use special scanners at their checkout counters for this and these scanners are linked to the back-end database of many companies such as Trend Micro. However, if a cashier forgets to do this separate scan - or if this back-end database link fails then you may have just paid for a product that you are unable to use.

Once in this situation, going back to the retailer to ask for a remedy is not an easy ask. You could have pocketed the product straight off the shelf and not paid for it, or alternatively even if you have a sales receipt - it if for this gift card / pack or for another one that you did pay for? Retailers have no way of knowing!

When I did some research on this topic there are numbers of disgruntled customers and it is another example of the small percentage of dishonest people spoiling it for the rest. There is even a growing number of thieves that are temporarily snatching or recording the numbers on gift cards and then returning them to the place of theft, so that someone else will pay for and hence pre-activate the card. The thief can then profiteer from the pre-activated gift card that they have detail for!

So where does this end? Either the packaging needs to be a bit too large to easily conceal or they need to be kept behind lock and key. In either instance above - at least the product could be pre-activated and ready to give the normal consumer their money's worth. Future Byte Me topics can be emailed to bytemearticles@gmail.com and Bruce is contactable at Kerr Solutions, 205 Musgrave Street or on 49 222 400.