Employees prefer cash to vouchers for Pessah gifts

Israel Consumer Council (ICC) has reported scores of complaints over the vouchers and their various hidden limitations.

The old adage says, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” but asPessah approaches, many employees are grumbling about the holidayshopping vouchers they receive from their employers.
TheIsrael Consumer Council (ICC) has reported scores of complaintsreceived from consumers over the vouchers and their various hiddenlimitations.
“Most of the complaints were about improperdisclosure on the part of the issuers of the voucher, but some wereagainst the behavior of the businesses,” said ICC spokeswoman RakefetWeintraub on Monday.
According to a recent study compiled by theICC, roughly half of all adult employees in Israel receive vouchers asgifts from their employers for the High Holy Days. The vouchersthemselves cost less than their equivalent in cash, which is whyemployers buy them. Vouchers redeemable for NIS 1,000 are sold for NIS875.
The study also showed that 63 percent of employees wouldrather receive cash of the same value instead of vouchers. The reasonis that the limitations placed on the purchasing power of the cards, alimitation that doesn’t exist when dealing with cash, sometimes makesthem worth less than what was paid for them.
“Receiving giftvouchers may be nice, but it turns out the vouchers have restrictionsthat make them less attractive to many consumers,” said Weintraub. “Tobegin with, unlike in cash, NIS 100 in vouchers is not always worth NIS100. Some chains honor the voucher at less than its advertised worth.This is particularly true in cases where there are discount chains thatmay honor a NIS 100 voucher as only 85% or 90% of its worth.”
Otherproblems reported were that the vouchers were only valid up to acertain date and could not be redeemed afterward; that many stores didnot provide change in cash for the vouchers and would only offer storecredit; and that they often could not be put toward products that wereon sale or discounted. In some cases, stores even refused to honorvouchers because the establishments’ names had changed since thevouchers had been issued.
According to the ICC, Israeli lawrequires any provisos or limitations to appear clearly on the voucheritself, and failure to do so is an offense. The ICC recommended thatpeople who buy the vouchers look closely at the fine print that appearson it and request to see any accompanying regulations that may containadditional restrictions.
It also urged consumers to call the customer service number on the voucher with any questions or concerns.
TzvikaLevin, CEO of consumer advocacy organization Yachad, Zeh Koach (unityis power), said he needed a magnifying glass to read the fine print onthe vouchers.
“Unless the issuers provide a poster-size sheetwith all the regulations with every voucher, there is no way theconsumers will be aware of all the restrictions,” Levin said, addingthat the way the voucher companies treated consumers was “absurd.”
“Thesevouchers are, in effect, a way for billion-dollar businesses to gaincredit at their shoppers’ expense,” he said. “Since the vouchers arealready paid for, it’s like you’re giving them a loan – but unlike anyother loan, in this case, the lender is in a bind.”
The twomajor voucher companies are operated by two of the country’s majorretail outlet chains, Shufersal and Blue Square Israel.

Levin estimated that the voucher market in Israel was worth hundreds ofmillions of shekels and that despite a reported reduction in the scopeof their use, companies were still earning handsomely off the ignoranceof consumers. Like the ICC, he urged the public to examine the voucherscarefully before going shopping.
“It will save you time, money and disappointment,” he said.
Levinadded that he was in the process of advancing a Knesset bill to helpregulate the gift voucher market and make sure they were honored infull.