The state will soon begin requiring gift card sellers to obtain ZIP codes from buyers so it can claim the value of cards not redeemed after two years. At least one major seller, American Express, has pulled its cards from shelves rather than attempt to comply.
There is no way American Express Co. can ensure compliance with cards not bought directly from AmEx, company spokeswoman Vanessa McCutchen told The Associated Press. So the company began pulling gift cards in New Jersey last week.
By Monday, there were none left at groceries, pharmacies or convenience stores in the state. The only way for New Jersey residents to buy AmEx gift cards, which can be used practically anywhere, is directly from the company.
The state saw unused gift cards, travelers' checks and money orders as potential new revenue sources and projected the state could get $79 million in the 2011 fiscal year.... New Jersey appears to be the only state trying to collect data at purchases time to help collect unused gift card balances...
Unbelievable. How dare the state determine for any private citizen how long they have to spend their money before it is confiscated? I personally know plenty of people - kids, especially - who ask for gift cards during holiday and birthday season, so that they may save up for a higher-priced item they might want (a laptop or a video-game system, in experience with my family members) but cannot afford. And sometimes this may take two years. Maybe longer.
And the government of New Jersey knows this, and is counting on this unbelievably short turnaround time to help them steal tens of millions of dollars from private citizens who are likely not even aware of these new restrictions.
Hey punk! You better steal that XBox 360, 'cause I ain't gonna let you save up for it...!
And of course, the inevitable result: Businesses fleeing New Jersey, or refusing to come here, and additional burdens placed on retailers in an extremely fragile economy.
Ironically, it is Democratic lawmakers who are sponsoring a bill to overturn this escheat mandate by Chris Christie. Ironically, escheat law was first established as a way for the crown or state to take control of property of persons who perished without rightful heirs. New Jersey has perverted that, to mean the taking of rightful property from people still quite alive, who have different plans for it than the government.