How My Smartphone Saved my Butt


I write a lot about Sears gift cards. I’ve written about how you can use them to meet minimum credit card spend; how to use them to buy airline miles cheaply; and how to use them to create a “perpetual point machine“. Frankly, it’s a little embarrassing how much I’ve written about Sears gift cards especially since I’m not much of a Sears shopper in general. And, to make matters worse, I have a whole new series of posts planned that will push my Sears gift card legacy to a whole new level. So, I’m sorry to say that today’s post does involve Sears gift cards, but it is my iPhone that is the hero of this story.

About a month ago I had to make an in-store purchase at Sears for about $300. Before heading out to Sears, I logged onto the Ultimate Rewards Mall, clicked through to Sears, and purchased a $500 e-gift card for myself. At the time, the Ultimate Rewards Mall was offering 10 extra points per dollar for Sears purchases (they are now down to 6 extra points). So, by buying the gift card this way, I would get 5000 valuable Ultimate Rewards points in addition to the usual credit card points for the purchase.

I knew from experience that the e-gift cards take about an hour before they are sent so I planned accordingly. I headed out to handle some other errands before going to Sears. Luckily, after one errand, I checked my email on my iPhone and saw an email from Sears. The Fraud department needed to verify with me that the purchase was legitimate before they would allow it through. OK, so I used my iPhone to call them. I had to answer crazy questions about what street I lived on 27 years ago, what mortgage companies I’ve dealt with, and my favorite pizza toppings (OK that last one is made up). Finally, they approved the purchase and I headed toward Sears with the hope that my e-gift card would arrive in time.

When I got to Sears, I checked my email again. The e-gift card was there! Sort-of. I had an email with a link in it. It said that to get my e-card number and PIN I should click through the link. So I did. And I got to a web page that reported an error. I tried this several times with the same result. Finally I realized the likely cause. The web site was setup to automatically route me to the mobile site since I was logging on from my iPhone. Apparently the mobile site is not equipped to show gift cards. Yikes!

I tried to find a “show full web site” link, but to no avail. I then looked through my apps to see if I had installed a third party browser that allows mimicking a desktop browser. Nope. I tried downloading one, but it was too big to download through 3G. Finally I remembered that I had the LogMeIn app. This app allows viewing and controling a desktop computer from an iPhone. So, I logged in, took control of a laptop I fortunately had running, and opened my email. From there, I clicked through to the e-gift card and it worked! I then pressed the power button and home button on my iPhone simultaneously in order to take a snapshot of the current screen. Now the gift card number was stored locally to my iPhone as a photo. Finally, I proceeded to Sears and made my purchase. When it was time to pay I simply showed the clerk the photo on the iPhone and I was all set.

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