Hot Topicreceived fake money as change; associates provided awful service and kept my money

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a verified customer
Verified customer

On 7/29/17, I purchased three shirts for my daughter and paid by debit card ($49.80). My daughter came up and wanted to buy six buttons and a choker. I paid for these items with a $20 bill. The total was $13.85, so I received $6.15 back in change. We left the mall and I went to a another store and I attempted to use the $5 I had received from Hot Topic, but was told it was "fake". (the $5 bill and $1 bill were folded within the receipt from Hot Topic.)

I called the Hot Topic store immediately (at 8:07pm) and spoke to a Sierra. I explained that I had made purchases at 7:33pm, but that the cashier gave me a bill that was not real. I explained that if I had not gone to the next store and attempted to use the change I had received from Hot Topic, then I would not have been able to place exactly where the fake $5 had come from. I expressed that I was relieved that I could pinpoint that I had received the $5 bill and $1 bill as part of the $6.15 change from my $13.85 cash purchase.

Sierra said that she "had never experienced a situation like that and was unsure of how to handle it". Sierra asked me to give her my telephone number and stated she would call another store manager to see how to resolve the matter. I gave her my number, but I also asked why I could not simply come in for my $5 since I could specifically pinpoint that the associate Melissa gave me the change. She replied that she would call me back. This reply did not sit well with me, but I figured that she wanted to speak to the cashier and/or a manager.

About 15 minutes passed, but I received no call back (the mall was to close at 9pm). I decided that I should go back to the store and allow them to see the receipt and the money, so that even logically they could assess that I was not lying about the $5 bill or how I was able to pinpoint exactly where the fake money had been received. I made it back to the store around 8:30(ish), and I still had not received the "call back". I waited patiently in line. When I got to the cashier, Melissa (the very person who gave me the fake bill), I explained that I had called ahead and was back to return the fake $5 and get a "real" one.

Sierra came over and asked to see the $5. I handed it over along with the receipt showing that I had received a $5 and a $1 bill as change a short time ago. I explained that I had just spent $65 in the store and there would be no logical reason to attempt to lie/scam anyone for $5. I just believed that if I pay with authentic cash, then the business should provide me with real money as change.

At this time, Sierra stated that I had left an hour ago and by leaving the store it was no longer their problem!!! I was shocked. I explained that I had left the store and driven to another store to buy a bag of ice, took the $6 change out and handed over the $5 bill to pay, and it was at that time that I learned the change I had received was not real money. Sierra reiterated that they had no way of knowing that. I asked if I was going to receive another $5 bill. Sierra said "no". I said that was unfortunate especially as I had paid for all of my items with REAL money. I then stated that I wanted to RETURN all of the items I had purchased with my REAL money. Sierra said "no problem" and proceeded with the refund process on the $65 worth of merchandise that I had purchased for my daughter. (My daughter would have really loved to keep the items that we had found while shopping, but there was no way I wanted to patronize a business that responded that way to a logical line of reasoning to events that were no fault of the customer.)

As Sierra conducted the return process, I asked her for her manager's name. She stated that she was a manager, but that the store manager's name was Sam Wise. I inquired as to whether she had really called another store manager when she got off the phone with me. She stated that she did and that she was told "exactly what she told me." Sierra seemed to find the whole ordeal humorous, particularly the part wherein I decided to return the items I had purchased. I told Sierra that the situation was not funny, and I asked her if she had ever been in a situation like this? Her reply was, "No, I always check my money before leaving the store!" Wow! The denomination was five dollars, I didn't think that a store would give me back fake money as change. I also didn't think that a business would enjoy losing a repeat customer over mishandling a $5 transaction.

I know that $5 is such a small amount of money to haggle over, so I have taken that loss. However, the handling of the entire situation is what has me writing this complaint. As the customer/consumer, I was made to feel as if my money spent in the store was not needed. I was made to feel as though I would spend an hour leaving and returning to the store all so that I could tell a lie to cheat Hot Topic out of five dollars. I was embarrassed at the second store for presenting a counterfeit bill to pay for my item. I was lied to over the phone that I would receive a call back. I was laughed at and told that I did not do my due diligence by checking my money for authenticity before leaving the store.

If Sierra and Melissa (associates) did not know how to handle the matter, then I think that proper training would have prompted them to refer me to a store manager (the following day). Instead, the cashier decided to make up rules as she went along. I think that based on the explanation provided, the cashier being present for the purchase and the return visit, as well as the low denomination amount, that Sierra and Melissa should have simply given me my $5 bill back without the hassle. Had it been $20, $50, or even $100, then logically it might raise a brow. However, knowing that I was a customer in the store a half an hour prior, who had spent far more than the $5 in question, the situation should have been handled better. My daughter and I are repeat customers to this store, as my fourteen year old loves the merchandise. It was a blow to my daughter to have to watch her special items be returned because of sheer principle: my business at this store is unwanted or unappreciated.

As far as a desirable resolution to my complaint, I don't know what to request. I was embarrassed at the implication that I would try to fraud the store. I was embarrassed that I was told by another business that I was in possession of fake money (received from Hot Topic). I was embarrassed when I returned to the store when told that the cashier "was not going to give me my money owed" and that she "checks her money before leaving the store." Aside from the embarrassment endured, my time and effort was wasted. My daughter and I had spent time in the store shopping for the items we purchased, which we no longer have. My daughter and I spent time driving back to the store/mall to see if the problem (due to no fault of our own) could be resolved. Also, time was wasted as Sierra took her time to complete the "return" transactions of the items my daughter and I had purchased/wanted.

received fake money as change; associates provided awful service and kept my money
received fake money as change; associates provided awful service and kept my money
received fake money as change; associates provided awful service and kept my money

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