Gift card fiasco leaves families in need w/out gifts


ORLAND PARK, Ill. — Less than a week before Christmas, Firehouse Chapel Pastor Steve Troglio is trying to solve an expensive problem.

The problem began with a philanthropic act of generosity — the church spent $13,000 on 130 Sam’s Club gift cards that were included in Christmas boxes for families who take part in their ‘Boxes of Hope’ feeding program.

Boxes of Hope is a program ran by Firehouse Chapel that is designed to help kids in need. According to the church, around five years ago, they discovered area students would go home on Friday afternoons and sometimes not get another meal until Monday morning at school for breakfast, so they began preparing boxes of food to help keep those kids fed over the weekend. Since starting the program, the church said they’ve helped over 5,000 students in need and expanded their services to include gas cards, hygiene products and Christmas gift cards.

The Christmas gift card portion of the program was all going according to plan this holiday season, until last week when families tried to use them, only to find out they weren’t activated.

“They’re standing there knowing somebody gave them a gift card and there’s nothing on it,” Troglio said. “And what they had in their carts, they got to put back? That makes us sick to our stomachs.”

Troglio said his family has tried to get the gift card situation sorted out but calls to customer service have not been very productive.

“I told [customer service] the other day … she goes ‘we really care,’ I said you don’t care. You’re a multi-billion-dollar company, you could care less about $13,000,” Troglio said. “To you guys [this] is nothing — but to these kids — it’s something. They’re messing with God’s money, not mine. They’re messing with God’s children. That bothers me.”

Online, Troglio is not alone.

” … There must be a glitch in the system but their activation system doesn’t work,” reads a one-star review on Sam’s Club’s own website.

“There was no indication when I purchased that it needed to be activated,” read another one-star review on Sam’s Club’s website.

A deeper dive into Sam’s Club’s website shows they do have a guideline explaining how to activate a gift card:

Sam’s Club gift card guidelines from their website.

It is unclear whether Troglio, his family or the families who received the gift cards ever received the necessary information via email to activate the gift cards.

Steve Bernas from the Better Business Bureau in Chicago said it’s important to read the fine print, especially when it comes to gift cards.

“Because of the world we’re living in today, because of the scams, because of the theft, there’s a lot more policies and procedures put into place,” Bernas said. “For consumers, the Better Business Bureau suggests you ask ahead of time and not after.”

For Troglio, the entire ordeal is a test of patience as he navigates trying to get the gift cards activated before Christmas.

“We’re really passionate about helping kids,” Troglio said. “… And that just got us. You can mess with me, I don’t care. Mess with kids? We have a real problem, it’s sad.”

WGN News reached out to Sam’s Club for comment on the situation, and a company spokesperson provided the following statement:

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience we have caused. Due to an internal error, the gift cards were not activated when they were shipped. We’re working with the church on a resolution, and we’re in the process of making sure all the gift cards get activated appropriately. Our goal is to expedite the activation of the gift cards so they can all be used as the church originally intended.”

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