TORONTO -- Canadians give millions of gift cards each year as presents to family and friends and usually there are no problems.
But there are cases where legitimate gift card purchases have $0 balances either because of a mistake by the cashier activating the cards or because they've been tampered with by scammers.
An Aurora, Ont., mother bought $1,200 worth of eBay gift cards in early November for her twin sons and daughter as they all have birthdays around that time.
She thought with $400 worth of gift cards each for eBay her children could buy things they wanted for themselves, but when she checked the cards she was shocked to find they all had $0 balances.
“The first card I checked, it said zero balance, then the second card said zero, the third said zero, the fourth, fifth and sixth all had zero balances,” Rita Lopes said.
Lopes, who works as a truck driver, said when she realized there was nothing on any of the cards she was shocked.
“$1,200 to me is like a million dollars to someone else. It might not mean anything to them, but it means the world to me," Lopes said.
Lopes bought the gift cards at a Sobeys grocery store and when she went back and said the cards were empty, she was told there were no refunds.
“I said I just spent $1,200 and this is what you supplied me with as a customer and there is not a penny on it. They said, ‘not our problem,’" Lopes said.
Lopes said that despite contacting Sobeys, the police and eBay, six weeks later she was still stuck with the worthless gift cards.
“I lost $1,200 all because I wanted to give my kids something special and nobody wants to help me, nobody,” Lopes said.
CTV News Toronto reached out to Sobeys after speaking to Lopes.
“Sobeys would never intentionally sell a gift card with a zero balance and we do have processes in place to address this situation should the issue arise. Upon further investigation with our gift card supplier, we were able to identify an isolated issue with the retailer the gift cards were for,” a spokesperson for the company said.
“The gift card supplier was able to fix the situation and load the cards correctly. This customer’s experience is not reflective of our usual process for handling these situations and we are working with the store and our supplier to improve the process going forward.”
The chain told Lopes she could have the gifts cards back, but she said she wanted the money instead.
“I got all my money back. These cards are gone. They are getting cash, cash, cash then I can see it, and they can go wherever they want to spend it,” Lopes said.
Lopes said she was relieved to get the $1,200 back before Christmas.
“This will help put a lot of presents under the tree for my kids,” she said.