The North Face gift isn't worth the card it’s written on

My relative thought I could spend it in numerous London stores but there’s just two

Last August I was given a £100 gift card from The North Face by a relative who had bought it in the Leicester store. I live in London. She saw there were many stores on its website in London, and that it was also valid online.

I finally got round to using it in January, and went into its store near Charing Cross. But I was told that because it was a franchise, or authorised seller and not a full store, I could not use it there. They advised only “grey gift cards” could be used. I checked online, and found that means the number of stores in London where I can use it goes from 29 to two: Carnaby Street and Regent Street.

The Carnaby Street shop is tiny, with minimal stock, while Regent Street also doesn’t have many of the items listed on the website, and is more expensive than online.

I therefore decided to buy something from its website, but when I tried to enter the code, it said it was invalid. Customer services confirmed that “our gift cards can be used only in physical stores”. I challenged them, and they told me to visit the original place of purchase of the gift card, saying its web page and physical stores were “separate departments”.

I do not live in Leicester and feel it is unreasonable to think that I should ask someone who bought me a gift to go into a shop and argue on my behalf. Additionally, it is a basic level of service to expect that a brand’s gift cards should be able to be used both in-store and online.

I fear that other people may be buying these without realising how unreasonably restrictive and useless they are.

PK, London

We have highlighted these restrictions before in relation to Starbucks gift cards, which are not valid at “franchised” outlets, and with readers pointing out other examples, including Marks & Spencer’s station stores.

The North Face told us: “Unfortunately, the gift card purchased is only redeemable in our flagship stores. We recognise this can cause confusion for consumers, so from late summer all The North Face vouchers will be redeemable in flagship stores and on

“We’ve apologised for the inconvenience and offered the consumer the chance to switch his gift card to an e-voucher to allow them to purchase items online.”

We’re glad to hear The North Face is changing its policy, though we are scratching our heads to understand why this isn’t until late summer.

We welcome letters but cannot answer individually. Email us at or write to Consumer Champions, Money, the Guardian, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Please include a daytime phone number. Submission and publication of all letters is subject to our terms and conditions


Rebecca Smithers

The GuardianTramp

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