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Friday, February 18, 2011

Q: When is a gift, not a gift?

A: When it is a Borders Gift Card.

The international Borders bookselling group has been in difficulties for some time now. That is hardly news in itself. The operations of its Australian arm were bought out a little while back by the corporate group that includes Angus & Robertson booksellers. I recall reading some media speculation not long ago which was suggesting the Australian Borders operations were likely to survive due its divorce from the US Borders, which was in turn expecting to crash. Hard. Soon.

Earlier this week, news broke that the group containing A&R and Borders was going into Voluntary Administration ie going broke.

Earlier this evening I was down the street, doing a little shopping. I happened to walk past the local Borders. To my surprise, the following signs were prominently placed in the store's entrance.

Due to Borders being placed in Voluntary Administration, the administrators are redeeming existing Gift Gards when the transaction is double the face value of the card.


Gift card value = $50
customer needs to spend another = $50
total transaction value needs to be = $100

This is outrageous.

A customer has come in and paid say $50 to Borders, receiving a 'gift card' with a face value of $50. This is a commitment to honour that 'gift card' by the bearer presenting, to claim goods to the value of $50. In contractual terms, the payment is called 'consideration' and is the sealing point of an implicit contract being present. Why are Borders are not allowed to unilaterally change contract conditions simply because they have gone into voluntary administration! Could you or I get away with pulling a stunt like that? Could a car dealership accept payment for purchase of a car but then suddenly decide to refuse to hand over the keys unless the full purchase price is forked over a second time? No way. But will Borders get away with this form of corporate theft? Almost certainly. Because for some strange reason, our society supports that sort of behaviour, despite all the supposed laws to the contrary.

Out of curiosity, I then went for a walk past the nearby Angus & Robertson outlet. Interesting that no such notices were present there.

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