Keep your old Confederate money

As I’ve mentioned here before, my house is overwhelmed with clutter. I’ve made some good progress, but there is still a long way to go. The level of disorganization usually hovers just under my threshold, but occasionally I need to find something that I know I have, and I get pushed over the line.

In December, Nate’s school held a Cluster Cash auction. Parents were asked to donate items, and students could bid on them using the scrip money they earn by being well-behaved in class. I knew I had a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card, but the last place I saw it was on a piece of furniture that we retired three years ago.

I tore the house apart looking for anything remotely shaped like a gift card, and I ended up with a four-inch-high stack of gift cards, loyalty cards, and stored-value cards. I did actually find the Barnes & Noble gift card too, but I set it down for a minute and it walked away. We ended up having to send in a different card for the auction.

Some of the cards I unearthed were from a long time ago. The oldest one was a wedding gift from my first wedding: a Filene’s gift card. The last Filene’s was converted to a Macy’s in 2006. I didn’t know how much the card was for, but I knew I would enjoy myself with it. First I called the Macy’s gift card customer service number. The rep told me I would have to take it in to a store. Last weekend, we went to the mall to use up as many of the gift cards as we could manage. Nate and I left Sandy at the Sephora counter and promised that she would be done before we were. We marched into Macy’s and I asked the nice lady at the makeup counter where I could find the customer service desk. She said there wasn’t really a customer service desk, and maybe she could help me. I showed her the card and she got very nostalgic: “Oh, I miss Filene’s!” Then she sent me upstairs to the executive office.

We got to the second floor and I asked the man at the perfume desk to direct me to the executive office. He asked if maybe he could help me. I showed him the card and his eyes got wide: here is a potential headache. The office is just through the towels department, have a nice day.

We found the office and knocked on the door. A nice young lady looked at the card and got the same expression on her face as the man at the perfume counter. She said that she couldn’t do anything from the office. Any salesperson with a cash register can do a gift card exchange. They might have to call a manager.

I went back to the perfume counter. The clerk called the number for a manager but there was no answer. He sent me back to the office and suggested that the woman in the office could page a manager. Fifteen-love, your serve.

The woman in the office finally found a manager on the phone. She came in and asked us to have a seat in the waiting room. She took the gift card and said she would be right back.

After about 15 minutes, when Nate had run out of Minecraft things to talk about, Sandy called. I gave her directions to the towel department. She could not understand why I was so happy. I tried to explain it, but I’m afraid I didn’t do a very good job.

When I was little, we used to go out for ice cream at Friendly’s. My father would always order the chocolate nut sundae. Invariably, they would bring him a hot fudge sundae and he would send it back. We would see all the waitresses clustered around the three-ring binder of ice cream recipes. My dad was the only one who ever ordered that sundae and no one knew how to make it. It was our family’s running joke. This was sort of the same thing. There was no way this gift card was still good. I got it in 2001; Massachusetts law was changed to say that gift cards can’t expire starting April 1, 2003. Whatever database held the stored value amount was probably in a landfill somewhere. But I was 100% certain that there was a process for this exact situation, written down in a dusty Macy’s three-ring binder somewhere, and I was delighted just imagining the phone call that poor manager must be having.

After 30 minutes, Sandy was ready to keep shopping, but we couldn’t just leave without the gift card.

After 45 minutes, another manager came through the executive office waiting room. “Are you being helped?” I explained the situation. Five minutes after that, the first manager came back, most apologetic, and handed me a Macy’s gift card for $100. Amazingly, she was able to determine that the Filene’s card had $50 on it, and yes, it had almost certainly expired but they couldn’t tell for sure but then a fixture fell on a customer’s foot and the customer’s father was very angry and she was so sorry for making us wait that she had added another $50 and she was really very sorry.

Sandy agreed that it had been worth the wait. We bought a new coffee maker and a stainless steel pan, and we still have a few bucks left for another trip.