Economies of Scale in Everything

While cleaning out my desk, I came across old gift cards to a number of fine retail establishments. Since I’d forgotten whether I’d spent them all, I called up the appropriate 800 numbers to learn what the unspent balance was.

(No, that I’d bothered to hang on to a card was not sufficient evidence that it still had value — I found one with a balance of $0.00. Yes, I’m a packrat.)

Interestingly, several different companies’ gift card hotlines had the same automated voice. It was obviously the same recording of the same person. Even more interestingly, she wasn’t always reading the same exact script. On one hotline, she also provided Spanish directions. On another, she didn’t. My best guess is that American Express provides gift card implementation services for major merchants (some of the cards have the AmEx logo on the back) and that those merchants have some flexibility to customize what their customers hear when they call up.