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Recently, I asked with an online form for some receipts to get added to my rewards card (because I forgot the card when paying).

However, they accidentally added more than a thousand times the amount that should have been added. As a result, I could eat there for free for about the rest of my life, simply using up those points.

I am not sure what to do now.

  1. Of course, as a 'good' person (or maybe a 'stupid' person), I should call them, (wait 30 minutes in the queue), and then try to explain the issue to the service desk. I actually did that, and the guy thought I am nuts to even call, and told me to 'just use them they are yours now'. I don't feel like calling again and again until I get someone that believes it, just to return them their points.
  2. I could just toss the card and forget about it. However, I had quite some points on it that really belong to me, so that feels like I pay for their fault.
  3. Use them and play stupid. It's not my duty to check their math, right? Probably nobody will ever care (let's keep religious considerations out here). What would be the consequences if they do realize their error some day in the far future? (I understand this borders on a legal question).

Edit: This is not about credit card rewards, but a specific restaurant chain. Each $ you spend there you get a point and for X points you get a free meal. I got points as if I had eaten about 150 k$ of food. This would give me free meals for around 4 k$; depending on what exactly I pick.

  • 16
    They will probably find it and correct it. At which point you will owe them money for all the points you used that you weren't entitled to. Personally, I would strongly suggest calling this to their attention via a letter (help desk folks are generally clueless once you get off their scripts) and hoping they give you a few bonus points for saving them the work of tracking this down. – keshlam Jun 13 '16 at 21:21
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    The fate of Susan Madakor under somewhat similar circumstances is relevant... – DJohnM Jun 14 '16 at 3:38
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    In my opinion (not a lawyer, not legal advise): from a legal standpoint, depending on jurisdiction, once the service rep has been specifically notified of the error and tells you "just use them they are yours now", they are yours. It is no longer an error. The points have specifically been given to you with the full knowledge and consent of the person the company has delegated to provide service to you. As long as the amount is not above the limits placed on verbal contracts, the points are now yours to use as you please. – Makyen Jun 14 '16 at 7:52
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    @TimMalone, It is quite different. In this situation Aganju reported the error and was told "just use them they are yours now" by the representative. That is quite a bit different than just using them, not reporting what you believe to be an error, and then making false statements to try to get the portion you have not already spent. Note: there is no way that we can actually know what the reason for the charges were from a news article. The only way to know that information is to look at the actual case. – Makyen Jun 14 '16 at 8:11
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    Note that there is precedent in the law for somewhat similar situations where the item(s) are certainly yours: See 39 U.S. Code § 3009(b). This is the law that makes merchandise mailed to you which you did not order a gift to you. – Makyen Jun 14 '16 at 8:15
48

I can't give you proper legal advice, but if I called their customer service and used half an hour of my time to wait and explain the situation in detail, and their official response was "just use the points," I would do just that.

Of course you would have stronger legal standing if you had recorded their answer, or had it in writing from them. But I don't think spending these points will come crashing down on you. And morally I see absolutely no problem with spending these points; it is not as if you are stealing from someone else. These points can usually be given away in any kind of crazy manner. Sometimes there are lotteries or events where they give away 100,000 points for new customers who open up an account on a specific weekend. Sometimes they give points to customers who want to terminate their contracts as an attempt to coax them into staying.

They have given you a lot of points and don't really care. As a result you are probably staying their customer forever – and will most likely tell this story to many friends. This is free advertising for them. Heck, maybe they would even make a news story out of this some day, it could be good publicity.

Everyone is essentially getting these points "for free" but in fact the company has a business case by improving their image and customer retention with these points. So you can spend these points with a sound mind morally.

Legally you would have to contact a lawyer, but I think chances for legal repercussions are small if you have done your duty, informed them and their customer service basically said it's ok.

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    The Downvote is mine. Obviously OP did not steal the points, but he now has something of value which is not his. The fact that he asked the question implies that he knows there's something wrong about this. "not like you are stealing from someone else" is not quite right. When he uses these points that are not earned, that's stealing, morally. Someone pays for this on the other side, whether it's a soda you steal from the corner store or the flat screen from Best Buy, when he cashes them, there's a person/company, etc that is at a loss. – JoeTaxpayer Jun 14 '16 at 9:48
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    @JoeTaxpayer But Points are not something hard earned. They are more akin to a stand giving out free samples of a new Soda. If you got a whole box of free sample-sodas by accident and ask at the stand what to do - and they tell you "it's free soda, just keep it" and you go home give it to your family and friends - all of you like it maybe you become future customers. The free soda was meant to be a giveaway anyways. Just as points are a bonus given away for various reasons, but essentially a free bonus! – Falco Jun 14 '16 at 10:40
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    @JoeTaxpayer There's a difference between spending the points that you know were added in error, and calling up the company and being told by them that you can go ahead and spend the points. The minute the customer rep said that, the company transferred ownership of the points to the card holder. That probably removes any legal obstacle, and certainly removes the moral one. There's no room for ambiguity here - the customer service rep's words were "'just use them they are yours now". – JBentley Jun 14 '16 at 12:56
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    @JoeTaxpayer: why do you say they are not his? Do you mean that the customer service rep didn't have the authority to confirm that they were a gift from the company to its customer? This does seem possible, since probably the rep has a limit of discretion. Hypothetical, but what if it was the CEO or the CFO that confirmed they were a gift? Then would they still be "not earned" and therefore (you say) morally stealing? In short, who does the questioner need to contact in order to find someone with the authority to resolve this, if not customer services? – Steve Jessop Jun 14 '16 at 13:37
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    @Falco - I edited. A tiny nothing, which is what the system required to let me reverse the DV. In theory, that's so if you edit the answer, and it's suddenly good, a DV can be undone. There's no option for "good answer, I made a mistake, and misread/messed up, etc." – JoeTaxpayer Jun 14 '16 at 17:09
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I would behave exactly as I would expect it from others. If you were the one giving away too many points by accident you would be thankful if somebody notifies you about this error. You can write a letter or call them. I would not use the points (of course only not use the points which are added in error).

Other options are possible but I would advise against them. It's just about fair play and the points are clearly not yours.

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    Who knows, they may even give you some bonus points for letting them now, as a sign of good faith and to encourage others to do so in the event it happens again. – SGR Jun 14 '16 at 7:34
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    I thought he said he did call and was told the points are his to use. If I was the executive of the company and this happened I would expect the customer to use the points, because one of my representatives told him that he can use his points. Unless you're saying you would override your representative's decision, I'm not sure how this would not be behaving as you would expect from others. – Mehrdad Jun 14 '16 at 8:47
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    Unless he has it in writing, I'd be very hesitant to base any actions off of a call center representative's words. In the worst scenario, it would be very difficult to legally prove that verbal permission had been given to use the points. – AHiggins Jun 14 '16 at 12:01
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    @Mindwin: "Or just call again and record it." -- subject to your jurisdiction's laws on single party consent. – Steve Jessop Jun 14 '16 at 13:43
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    OP Updated the question. They were given enough points as-if they bought $150,000 USD of meals from the restaurant. They'll certainly discover this sooner or later, and OP may be on the hook. It's risky to spend those points (probably more than a year's worth of free meals), so it's more advisable to just "sit" on them until it works itself out. – SnakeDoc Jun 15 '16 at 18:14
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If you want to maximize your expected benefits, at minimal risk of financial repercussions or sleepless nights, I would suggest the following.

Send an email explaining the situation, and announce that you plan to use the points if they do not advise otherwise.

Here is an example message:

Dear sir/madam,

I recently contacted your helpdesk to mention that I believe my points balance is higher than it should be, and I was told that I could consider the extra points a gift. I assume that settles it, but in case I am mistaken please contact me within 4 weeks. My customer number is xxxx.

Kind regards,

Note that it is no problem if they don't reply, but you may want to push for a (possibly automated) confirmation of receiving your message.

I would not be surprised if they still reduce your balance sometime in the future, but you should be reasonably covered if they try to reclaim any points that you already spent.

8

Of course, as a 'good' person (or maybe a 'stupid' person), I should call them, (wait 30 minutes in the queue), and then try to explain the issue to the service desk. I actually did that, and the guy thought I am nuts to even call, and told me to 'just use them they are yours now'. I don't feel like calling again and again until I get someone that believes it, just to return them their points.

Calling generally does not solve this problem. You would need to write a letter using certified mail and send some reminders. Hopefully they should notice it, if not you at least have evidence that you have communicated.

I could just toss the card and forget about it. However, I had quite some points on it that really belong to me, so that feels like I pay for their fault.

There is no need. You can continue to use the card as usual.

Use them and play stupid.

This is not a good idea. They are clearly not yours. Somewhere in Terms and Conditions you will find some fine print about notifying Bank/Financial Institution about the errors.

Best course, after intimating informing them via letters, keep using your card as normal and use your points as normal. You would roughly know your points balance.

  • How do you "intimate" someone via letters...? – Mehrdad Jun 14 '16 at 8:47
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    @Mehrdad en.wiktionary.org/wiki/intimate#Verb – AakashM Jun 14 '16 at 8:52
  • Oh wow, I learned something new today, thanks @AakashM! – Mehrdad Jun 14 '16 at 8:55
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    @Mehrdad it's quite an uncommon usage these days so not too surprising to have not encountered it before! – AakashM Jun 14 '16 at 9:11
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    @akashM While intimate is a verb it still can't be used the way OP uses it. You intimate something to someone. As opposed to someone. It is almost an exact synonym of imply except it's somewhat less straightforward. – DRF Jun 14 '16 at 10:49
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An ideal option for you would be to use as many or as few as you choose, but have all of them available to you. The service desk guy told you you can do exactly that.

Problem, though: you have no proof that a representative of the company told you that. Get proof. Recording, written statement, whatever. If writing a letter, make it clear you expect a response.

The time you spend "being a good guy" is not free, you should get something for it. No idea how to go about that - mentioning the service desk guy in a letter might give him trouble. Maybe suggest that you could allow your image to be used in a short advertising campaign, as thanks. But whatever you do get, enjoy it.

Consequences? Any number of things can happen, from lifetime free meals to court cases, negative points and being banned, regardless of who is right, legally or morally. Someone in Management there might still choose to burden you with responsibility even if their own CEO declared you a saint and lifetime customer of honor.
But you might never get to that bridge. For now, get proof, and use what points you know are yours anyway.

  • 6
    I would add that the best course of action would be to request a copy of the call recording (if it exists, and if the jurisdiction is one that makes such requests legally enforceable). Requesting a new response runs the risk of that response being different. – JBentley Jun 14 '16 at 12:59
  • "Maybe suggest that you could allow your image to be used in a short advertising campaign, as thanks." Most companies pay you to use your image in their campaigns, I don't think giving them free modeling assets is a very good remuneration for your hard work, – DasBeasto Jun 14 '16 at 16:36
  • Negotiable. You want to keep the bargeload of points; agreeing to say you won them seems O.K. – kaay Jun 15 '16 at 5:47
0

First IANAL!

This is going to depend on the kind of points. If it's an internal point system that the business is doing on their own, then they may very well, give you that many "extra" points. They may really not care. Specially if the cost of the points is low enough. Remember that steak dinner that you paid $60 for only really cost them $2 and that they use $60 worth of points on it.

If the point system is tied to a bank or credit card, then it's far more likely that the "just use them" is not the proper answer. The company doing the reimbursing is giving the location $60 and using your points. The points have a much higher value.

With that said, your responsibility is to notify, and follow their rules. So notify them in writing, and use the rewards card as you normally would. If your being honest, then the worst that happens is that your point balance is a little negative (because you spent 100 points but really only had 98 after adjustment). Most likely, if your being honest, they will just eat the few points over that you went on accident.

If you get an answer in writing to just keep the points, then I guess you know where your daughter's wedding reception will be. Let's hope it's a classy place.

Of course, as a 'good' person (or maybe a 'stupid' person), I should call them, (wait 30 minutes in the queue), and then try to explain the issue to the service desk. I actually did that, and the guy thought I am nuts to even call, and told me to 'just use them they are yours now'. I don't feel like calling again and again until I get someone that believes it, just to return them their points.

You will want to do this in writing. Email will work, but you really want a paper trail, either way.

I could just toss the card and forget about it. However, I had quite some points on it that really belong to me, so that feels like I pay for their fault.

There is no need to do this. It's like a bank error. Talk to them and they will give you an answer. In the mean time, do your best to only use the points you actually have.

Use them and play stupid. It's not my duty to check their math, right? Probably nobody will ever care (let's keep religious considerations out here). What would be the consequences if they do realize their error some day in the far future? (I understand this borders on a legal question).

Nope, don't do this. If you play dumb and spend 5000 points when you know you only have around 100, best case scenario you end up with -4900 points (effectively canceling the benefit of the card). You may also be banned form the program, the location, the network, etc. Worst case scenario they want the monetary value of the points and sue you for it, and the legal fees. It may even be considered fraud.

TL;DR Use your card, but be honest, and handle the mistake in writing.

0

Most likely scenario (A):

You spend tons of time and effort talking to them, with the end result that they take away the extra points. You feel screwed having to do their job for them - they've given you no benefit for looking out for them, and you're left with the points you've earned but maybe less desire to go back and use them.

Most likely scenario (B):

You just use the points, they eventually figure out the problem and fix it. They send you a nasty letter, demanding some sort of compensation that they have no legal obligation to (because points are not money, you will have rendered existing points for service, and they have, per your existing phone call which can be substantiated in existence though not content through phone records, confirmed that they are yours) - they may go so far as to bar you from their premises. If you don't use enough points to go "negative" before they fix it, you may avoid this.


If they can deal with this competently from a customer service/PR standpoint, then in scenario (A) they may understand you quickly, and they may leave you with some extra points for your trouble. In scenario (B), pretty much the same thing - they'll let you have the points you used and even leave you a little extra.

I suggest in either case you only engage in written communication with them or, if your jurisdiction allows it, record voice conversations. You need a record of what you've been told.

-1

What would be the consequences if they do realize their error some day in the far future?

You've informed them of the error and they've informed you that nevertheless the points are yours and you should use them. So you have a couple of issues: have you made what your jurisdiction considers a reasonable effort to correct the mistake, and did the customer service rep actually have the authority to make such a large goodwill gesture as letting you keep all the points?

The first is your legal responsibility (otherwise you're stealing), and you need to know specifically for your jurisdiction whether a phone call is sufficient. I can't tell you that. Maybe you should send them a letter, maybe you should wait until you've had written confirmation from them, maybe you're OK as you are. You might be able to get free advice from some body that helps with consumer issues (here in the UK you could ask Citizen's Advice).

The second is beyond your ability to know for sure but it's not dishonest to work on the basis that what the company's proper representative tells you, is true.

With the usual caveats that I'm not qualified to give legal advice: once told you've been clearly told that it's an intentional gift, I don't see any way you could be held to have done anything fraudulent if you then go about enjoying it. The worst case "far future" problem, I would expect, is that someone decides the gift was never legitimately made in the first place. In other words the company made two separate errors, first crediting the card and then telling you the erroneous points stand. In that case you might have to pay them back whatever you've spent on the card (beyond the points you're entitled to). To avoid this you'd need to establish what constitutes a binding gift in your jurisdiction, so that you can say "no, the point balance was not erroneous and here's the legal reason why", and pay them nothing.

You might also need to consider any tax implications in receiving such a large gift, and of course before paying tax on it (if that's necessary) you'd probably want to bug them for confirmation in writing that it really is yours. If that written confirmation isn't forthcoming then so be it, they've rescinded the gift and I doubt you're inclined to take them to court demanding that they stand by the words of their rep.

Use them and play stupid. It's not my duty to check their math, right?

That's potentially fraud or theft if you lie. You did notice, and even worse they have proof you noticed since you made the call. So never say you didn't notice.

If you hadn't called them (yet), then you've been given something in error, and your jurisdiction will have an opinion on what your responsibilities are. So if you hadn't already called them, I would strongly suggest that you should call them or write to them about it to give them the opportunity to correct the error, or at least seek assurance that in your jurisdiction all errors in the customer's favour are final. Otherwise you're in the position of them accidentally handing you their wallet without realising, and you deciding to keep it without telling them. My guess is, that's unlikely to be a legally binding gift, and might legally be theft or fraud on your part.

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