Note: As you read this you'll probably say to yourself "So what?" "Big Deal" and "I'll make sure I use my gift cards right away." But you'll miss the bigger picture: This is not about unused gift cards, it's about a government entity deciding it has complete and total dominion over your personal property.
Live in New Jersey? Saving up your gift cards to buy something really special for yourself? If you answered "yes" to both of these questions, don't bother being responsible because the State of New Jersey, backed by "conservative" Governor Chris Christie, has laid claim to your unused gift card balances.
Simply put, if you don't use the entire balance of a gift card within two years, the State of New Jersey has decided your money belongs to the collective kitty in Trenton. Graciously, the State of New Jersey has decreed that you can get your money back by filing a claim with New Jersey's Unclaimed Property Administration, but the fact is you wouldn't have to file a claim if the State didn't confiscate your private property in the first place. Also, the State will make you expend effort to retrieve your money but they won't pay you any interest for the time they had use of your money. Ten dollars left over on a gift card sitting on top of your dresser is like found money. Ten dollars sitting in Trenton that you have to file a claim with the State to get back is ten dollars the State just stole from you.
You might have a perfectly good reason to hold on to your gift cards, or you might not -- either way it's nobody's business. But the reality is, the State of New Jersey has decided it has control of your private property and they will tell you when you need to use it.
Even though estimates of lost sales tax revenue range between $64 million and $94 million a year, as American Express and others prepare to pull out of the state, Giant SmartAss Governor Chris Christie cavalierly and ignorantly said in reference to the law, "I’m not worried about it and [I'm not] not losing any sleep over it. If they want to move out, move out. It’s their call."
This is the guy Republicans all over the country love.
Christie also said this law keeps private companies from keeping unused gift card balances as profit. No one had the nerve or intelligence to point out to Christie that the State is confiscating the private property of its citizens without the consent of the person they are confiscating the money from, which is actually worse than what they were trying to prevent.
Why is no one upset that a government entity is limiting the ability of a company to earn a profit from money earned in a private transaction at the same time the government entity is confiscating that profit for its own use?
Should companies that sell gift cards be allowed to implement charges that whittle away at the balances of unused cards? Absolutely not. They also shouldn't be allowed to confiscate the balance after a pre-determined amount of time -- unless the consumer is aware of the terms of the transaction.
If the State of New Jersey was actually as concerned about these practices as Chris Christie claims it is, it could have just made it illegal to charge fees or institute expiration dates on gift cards. But why do the simple thing when you can confiscate even more money from New Jersey's taxpayers?
In yet another example of legislative idiocy, The State of New Jersey claims it is trying to protect consumers from predatory corporate practices by enacting a law that legalizes the predatory act of seizing the funds of consumers without their consent.
The next time a gift card vendor asks for your address or ZIP code, understand they are asking because Chris Christie and the rest of the State of New Jersey are standing behind the salesclerk with their greedy little fingers twitching in anticipation of confiscating even more of your money -- all while they are telling you they are "protecting" you.
Don't lose any sleep Chris, just let the government continue to chip away at the rights and possessions of private citizens while you flaunt your complete and total lack of American values under the guise of being a tedious and boring Jersey tough-guy.