That Target gift card you plan to mail to your niece in college may never get there if the envelope containing the card is not properly sealed or sturdy. According to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), often times during the mail sorting process, gift cards are forced out of their envelopes, and onto the Post Office floor.
A Mesa, Arizona woman recently lost a $100 Best Buy gift card she mailed at a local post office. She found out when a check that was mailed with the gift card was returned to her in a postal service envelope. When she followed-up with the post office, they showed her the original envelope with a slit on the side, apparently roughed-up by the conveyor belt used in sorting the mail. And the $100 gift card? Nowhere to be found. The full amount was used up by someone a week later.
The post office explains that it is common during the sorting process for loosely sealed envelopes to come open and spew gift cards all over. If you find yourself in a similar situation, contact the post office where the gift card was mailed. You will need your gift card purchase receipt to claim your card (if the post office happens to have it). The USPS recommends using an envelope with a bubble-wrap when mailing gift cards since those are sorted on a separate system.
So, the obvious question is; if this happens often, what is the USPS policy on gift cards that fall during the sorting process but are never claimed by their owners? You will be surprised to know that If those gift cards are not claimed within 30 days, they are sent to a Postal processing center in Minnesota and destroyed. Yes, DESTROYED!!
Apparently, during the holidays, the main sorting facility in Phoenix, AZ alone fills up 2 white Postal bins with gift cards that fall from holiday cards. I am not sure what the legal implications are but it sounds very wasteful to me to destroy all these cards right after the holiday season when they can be a blessing to local charities. The postal service may be trying to avoid a sticky situation where the gift card owners may return to the merchant to have the card re-issued should they find out that the card never got to its destination. However, given that some merchants do not replace lost or stolen cards, it is certain that the USPS is destroying gift cards whose values may never be redeemed.