Roboshop Gift Cards

Q: What do you get from a retailer who makes tens of millions of dollars each year in unredeemed gift cards?
A: Some really cool gift cards!

Ames saw a Fatwallet thread yesterday titled “Moving LED message banner on Gift Card = FREE from BB“. At the very minimum, this sounded like a good gift idea, so we decided to go to Best Buy last night and check them out. Sure enough, they had a BUNCH of them on the gift card display at the front of the store. We grabbed 5. One for each of us to keep and three to give out as gifts. When we got to the cashier I asked what the minimum amount was that I could put on each gift card. The answer: One Penny. He rung up all 5 gift cards, Ames dug a quarter out of her purse, and he gave us 20 cents back. SWEET!

Roboshop Gift Card from Best Buy

Each Roboshop gift card can store up to 6 different messages. The first one can be a whopping 512 characters and the others can each be up to 256 characters. The back of the card has 3 buttons to operate and program messages for the display. You can adjust the speed and luminosity of each message to a value from 1-9. All the instructions you need to program the gift card are written on the back of the packaging. You can read more about the technical circuitry/LED/battery details from the über nerds in the Fatwallet thread, but for a penny each, I could think of hundreds of cool uses for these little scrolling LED message banners.

  1. Cover the top and bottom of the gift card with duct tape and wear it as a scrolling LED Belt Buckle (That doesn’t cost $13.99).
  2. Save “Occupied”, “Empty”, and “Do NOT go in there!” as three of your messages and use it outside the bathroom as a status message.
  3. Program the same message into several LED units laid end to end and try to turn them on sequentially so that the message appears to scroll seamlessly across all of them.
  4. Dissasemble (Johnny 5) and try to find a way to input messages into it through a computer.
  5. Set up a scavenger hunt, hiding several units around a city and save the clue for the next stage of the hunt as a message on the LED.

I could go on for a while, but I’m curious – what would you do with a super-cheap scrolling LED display unit?

PS: I feel no remorse about paying a penny for these things as it’s Best Buy’s own policy and because they make millions each year from unredeemed gift cards. I do not however, advocate buying a bunch of these things for a penny each. The fun wouldn’t last very long if very few people horded all of them. Have fun!

10 comments on “Roboshop Gift Cards

Ken Seals says:

twitter for the real world!

Very cool. I need to convince my wife that we need to go to Best Buy this weekend and get some of these. I dunno if she’ll bite, but we’ll see.


I think I am going to best buy during lunch now and I will buy many of them to use here at work for status messages on what project our designers are working on and place the card on the door to alert project managers of what we are doing… very cool. I like your ideas too Jason. I just might buy these things out this afternoon at the best buy. LOL.


btw. fatwallet rocks! I’ve been using it for years now.

Darragh G (Seachmall) says:

Wish we had your American stores in Ireland, I can’t even get a decent deck of cards without going to a card/poker shop and ye get scrolling LEDs for 1c?!? I might be going over for Christmas though :).

Ryan says:

That is pretty sweet. With retailers cashing in SOOOOO much on unredeemed giftcards its nice to see them putting in a little back to us, the consumer. I wrote a piece that looks at how much retailers are making off gift cards. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Christopher H says:

I took the guts out of one (I’ve purchased 47 so far), spraypainted the case black, reassembled it, put Velcro on the back, and stuck it to the front of a top hat for New Year’s. I have PLANS for the others…

That’s fun Chris. I think you’re in violation of my “PS” statement above though. 47!?! As a random side note, I was looking at my referrer logs yesterday and saw that someone came to this page via BestBuy’s Microsoft exchange mail server. So, Shhhh Big Brother is watching. 🙂 Just kidding, and welcome to my site Best Buy person, whoever you are.

Christopher H says:

I did put at least a dollar, sometimes five, on each card. I didn’t think BB would be too happy if I got all those for a penny each. I then used the cards on their website to purchase some ink cartridges and DVDs, which I picked up at the store. That way the poor cashier wouldn’t be ringing up 40 1 dollar cards.
Also, I tried to synch 3 cards- it will work for a while, but their scroll rate isn’t consistent, so the message “drifts”.

jred says:

I lost my instructions 🙁

Could someone email me & tell me how to reprogram the message??


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