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Should I confront my landlords about a $11.13 gift card?

Group Therapy is a relationship advice column that asks readers to contribute their wisdom.

A reader writes: On the renewal of our apartment lease, our landlords gave us a substantial gift card to thank us for being great tenants. When we used the card for dinner out with friends, our server pulled us aside to say the card only had $11.13 on it. Completely mbarrassed, we apologized and settled our tab. My husband was fuming, but I'm trying to convince myself that it must have been a mistake. We rarely see them, and things have been great so far – we don't want to rock the boat and we love our place, but are feeling insulted. Do we bring up the gift-card mishap? Or move on?

Accept it with grace

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It looks like you have received a re-gifted gift card. You can't change the gift, but you can control how you respond. It's possible he thought there was more money left on the card, or he was given a used card by mistake. It's possible he doesn't have much money and wanted to give you something, pitiful as it was. You could just pretend it never happened and continue as you were, knowing you don't have all the facts. You could confront him, but what would that accomplish except bad feelings on both sides. Or you could accept the gift with grace, as if you were given a dandelion by a little child.

– Jeanne Walker, London, Ont.

It's not the size that matters

Likely, the card was found languishing in a drawer, and your landlord had forgotten that they had already used up most of its value. There could be other reasons for this, such as an error in the original issue of the card, or nefarious unauthorized use. Because of this, you should tell them. But make sure that you thank them for the gesture, because it's not the size of the gift that matters, even if they meant to give you $11.13.

– Craig Cherrie, Toronto

Make sure there was no hanky-panky

It is fairly easy for gift cards to be hacked. With this in mind, I'd talk to the landlord. There may have been hanky-panky at the place where the card was issued and the landlord may be even more upset than you are by the fact that the generous gift was used by some unintended third party.

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– Morg Halley, Bangor, Me.

The final word

For being a great tenant, my old landlord raised rent. Your landlord gave you a gift card. I think you got the better deal.

I asked relatives of mine who are landlords about gift card etiquette. They said that good tenants can indeed save them hundreds of dollars in labour, and it's good manners to give them something back in gratitude. And they'd like to know if something went wrong with their gift.

So the question is, as Craig and Morg have pointed out, has the card been hacked? My advice, proceed carefully.

If you have no doubt in your mind the card is new because it has the original receipt indicating value attached, then a polite phone call can be justified – your landlord has been defrauded. But if he gave you a dusty card with a handshake and a promise of it being substantial then Jeanne's right. It's a re-gifted card.

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Telling the landlord will put everyone in an awkward situation. After all, the landlord's idea of a "substantial gift" may have been coffee for two, not an expensive dinner out. And by complaining now you're implying he's cheap and ungrateful. And unlike your grandmother who gives you the itchy, ugly sweaters for Christmas, your landlord controls next year's rent and vacancy. This isn't the time to send out bad vibes.

If that's the case, chalk this one up to experience. The next time you're given a gift card of dubious origin, check its value first before going to town with friends. And in the future, if you decide to perform any repairs, choose to be reimbursed – at least enough to add up to the value of a gift card.

Regina-based Zarqa Nawaz is the creator of Little Mosque on the Prairie.

Next week's question

A reader writes: I have a close friend who has been dating her live-in boyfriend for 10 years. About two years ago, I was told by a family friend that he was sleeping with one of her friends. This family friend has been caught in lies before, so when I approached my close friend about the issue, we also acknowledged that it's a questionable source. She confronted her boyfriend and he had an excuse she accepted, but it didn't completely add up. Now, the same family friend is saying he has been spending nights with another friend of hers. I no longer doubt the legitimacy of the accusations, but how do I re-approach this subject? Is it even my place? Let's hear from you.

Let's hear from you

E-mail us at All questions are published anonymously, but we'll include your name and hometown if we use your advice. (Note: All responses are edited.)

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