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SHOPPING | THE BIG DEAL

Paper For Plastic

January 13, 2008|Erin Weinger

Tired of lugging around a wallet bursting with partially redeemed gift cards? Sick of the clerk behind the counter insisting that you spend the remaining $2.86 at the store -- and then having to cough up the balance for something actually worth buying?

Thanks to a new law (SB 250), signed in October, that went into effect Jan. 1, retailers are now required to give you cash for the balance on any gift card worth less than $10. Before that, any unspent amount on those rectangular pieces of plastic, no matter how paltry, belonged to the stores until it was spent.

The legislation, introduced by state Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), is a boon to anyone eager to shed a little extra weight after the holiday season. Aimed at whittling down the estimated $8 billion a year (how's that for chump change?) that goes back to retailers from unclaimed -- and often discarded cards -- the so-called gift-card bill gives the consumer a little more power, even if it's only $9.99.

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-- Erin Weinger

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