Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

For Immediate Release:
May 24, 2011  
Contact:
Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-3553

Boxer Urges Federal Trade Commission to Look Into Troubling Walmart Gift Receipt Practice  

Customers with Gift Receipts Receive Only Fraction of Original Purchase Price When Returning Item

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission calling on the agency to look into a troubling gift receipt practice uncovered at several Walmart stores across the country. As reported by KOVR-TV in Sacramento, customers that returned items with gift receipts received only a fraction of the items’ original purchase price.

As Senator Boxer wrote in her letter, “In most circumstances, people returning gifts are unaware of the cost of the gift, making it easy to take advantage of these customers. A gift receipt should be honored at the identical amount originally paid for the item.” The Senator said the agency should investigate the allegations to ensure that the practice is not being repeated at other Walmart stores or by other major retailers nationwide.

The full text of the Senator’s letter is below:

May 24, 2011

The Honorable Jon Leibowitz
Chairman
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580

Dear Chairman Leibowitz:

I write to bring to your attention the results of an investigation conducted by a television news station in Sacramento, California on the troubling gift receipt practices at area Walmart stores.

The report, a copy of which is attached, discovered that customers returning items using gift receipts were not reimbursed for the full purchase price of the returned items. Over the course of a few months, the station’s producers purchased various items from Walmart locations totaling $51.82, but when they later returned the items using gift receipts, they received $26.99, only 52 percent of the original purchase price.

Walmart blamed staff for the errors, but similar results occurred at their stores in other areas of the country, raising the possibility that this practice is common.

It is unfair for retail stores to take advantage of customers returning items with gift receipts. In most circumstances, people returning gifts are unaware of the cost of the gift, making it easy to take advantage of these customers. A gift receipt should be honored at the identical amount originally paid for the item.

I request that the Federal Trade Commission investigate these allegations and take any appropriate action to protect consumers.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator