Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Plastic Jungle: It Is A Jungle In There

Lured in by the promise of "instant" sale of my cards, with money deposited into my PayPal account, I just gave Plastic Jungle a try.

What an exercise in being peeved-off.

The Instant Funding option to sell your gift cards for cash is supposed to be simple: You select the store, fill in the card number and PIN, if your card has one, and click submit to get your offer.

What's supposed to happen after that? I have no idea.

After I clicked to submit my gift card information, the screen showed one of those by-now-too-familiar "spin" icons to signal the technology is working.

But, after an agonizingly long wait, nothing happened.

I checked my account in case I wasn't understanding how the process was supposed to work; after all, Plastic Jungle is short on information where you need it. But no transactions or notifications of any kind. Ditto my email inbox.

After trying to submit three times, followed by three checks of my account, with no apparent success, I clicked "help" and that's where I discovered the fine print: cards must have a value of $15 or more. My card's value was only $10.

I wouldn't have entered it had I known that. So why the hell do they bury that info? And why didn't the system tell me I had committed such a sin with a specific error message?

I then tried three other store cards -- three other cards, each from a different store, each well over the $15 minimum, each attempted submission followed-up by a check on my account, and each with the same infuriating result: Nothing.

No error message. No offer. No page change.

No transactions, no notices, no emailed notifications.

I called customer service -- during normal business hours; and was forced to leave a voice mail message (and the list of information they request from you is ridiculous to ask; upset, frustrated people are calling, not some potential date who's really into you). Plus, we all know how frustrating it is to leave a message for a company -- one that boasts how large they are on their corporate page. They are supposed to be there for us; we aren't supposed to sit idle, by the phone, waiting for a call from them who-knows-when, hoping we don't miss it and have to call and start the cycle all over again.

After 30 minutes of waiting, I used the site's contact form. I received an email "thanking me" for my contact (without a copy of what I wrote). But did not hear back.

I then tried a different browser. I'm a huge Foxfire fan, so I hate to use Internet Explorer. Here I discovered an annoying advertising widget that I couldn't close and so had to navigate around it. (As I do not use IE except in extreme circumstances like this, I have not bothered to install Adblock Plus on it as I have on Foxfire so that I can employ it on sites that are uber annoying.)

Navigating around the annoying ad, I tried one of the cards again. This time, the only difference was that after the submission-spinning, the window changed -- leaving only the page header and footer. No offer, no message, just a shorter window.

WTF?

I once again checked my account page; no transactions or notices. So this apparently trying a different browser wasn't the solution either.

You might think I'm not being gracious enough in my waiting for returned phone calls &/or emails -- but this was supposed to be Instant Funding, remember?

The bottom line here: Plastic Jungle is hardly "instant" and hardly any sort of convenience; quite the opposite.

But if you love to be aggravated, frustrated, annoyed -- and not sell your gift cards -- then you'll love it.

UPDATE: More than 24 hours later, I did receive a phone call from Plastic Jungle customer service -- however, as I projected, it was an exercise in frustration. The call came from a "restricted" number, so, fearing telemarketing, I didn't admit who I was and suggested that they call back in an hour. The woman clearly didn't want to call back; "If she has any problems, she can call us back." Which would only start the process again. *sigh*

Several hours after that, I received the following email to my complaint via email contact form:

Our apologies for the overdue response. We have been overwhelmed with phone calls and emails due to the holidays and have been diligently working on resolving every issue for each customer.

We were experiencing a technical issue with our instant paypal but since has been resolved. Please let us know if you are still experiencing problems using this method.

I find this unsatisfactory.

Yes, their excuse may be probable; but then why not use the system to contact all members to let them know there was an issue and it has been fixed? Why not post a note site-wide to communicate that all is now well? Something to assure that the difficulties were temporary and reassure that during this time, our information was safe, etc.

Since that time, I listed my unwanted gift cards for sale on eBay. Each sold -- and I received my payments for them -- within hours of listing them. Still far more "instant" than any other service. No minimum gift card amounts either. The fees were low and I daresay that all-told I received what I would have from any other site buying gift cards. While eBay limits you to listing one gift card per store at a time, once one sells, you can list another rather simply.

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