Last year, I outlined some mistakes to avoid when manufactured spending, one of which was “not being discreet (i.e. don’t tell cashiers what you’re doing). I’m beginning to reevaluate this stance based on some recent experiences. For example, I’ve heard of gift card churners who have relationships with people at certain shopping malls and Walmart stores. They tell them exactly what they’re doing (i.e. trying to earn frequent flyer miles through credit card spending). The store employees in turn tolerate their activities, realizing these guys aren’t criminals trying to embezzle money out of stolen credit cards.
In the past, I was against this tactic because I felt the less they knew about our hobby, the better. Years ago, I used to buy $6,000 worth of Vanilla Reload Cards at a CVS near work. At one point, the cashier remarked that I must be loaded because of how often I bought these cards. I told him it was a budgeting tool. That I was buying them for myself and extended members so that I could earn credit card rewards on their spending. After that, every time he saw his colleagues giving me a hard time or getting suspicious, he’d tell them it was cool and showed them how to ring the cards up properly. What I told him was only half the truth, but I think he felt better about my twice-daily purchases knowing I wasn’t a criminal.
On a recent ms run, I went to my local mall and bought $5,000 worth of Visa gift cards. The representative helping me explained that she and her colleagues were aware of us “gamers” and had no problems with our large gift card purchases. In fact, they were glad because we were the only ones willing to buy out their Christmas themed cards.
So I’m starting to think being honest about our activities might be a good thing. There is a lot of fraud surrounding gift card purchases. Store employees might feel more at ease (and willing to work with us) if they know we’re not doing this. The only place where I’d draw the line on transparency is if a store has a specific policy against manufactured spending. For example, most merchants won’t accept PIN-enabled gift cards for money order purchases unless they think it’s a debit card. Thus, telling a cashier you’re buying large numbers of money orders with Visa gift cards probably won’t go over very well, since it goes against store policy. I wouldn’t go into detail and tell the cashier at Safeway how I’m liquidating Visa gift cards. But I don’t think it’s wrong to explain I’m buying gift cards for the purpose of earning frequent flyer miles.
When large numbers of gift cards are being purchased, companies get suspicious and begin researching why that may be. They’ll come across blogs outlining everything, or maybe they’ll come across some article about how scammers are using Visa gift cards to extract thousands of dollars from stolen credit cards. They’ll either find out what the real deal is or put us into a category with criminals. So it might just be best to be open and explain ourselves.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you think it’s ok to be open with store employees about our hobby?
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