The saddest part about this is that the misspellings don't make it as confusing as wording itself. In short, correcting the spelling does little to mend this sign.
The (spelling-adjusted) sentence reads, "Michael's accepts cash or debit only when purchasing gift cards of any kind." The first and most horrible mistake is the placement of only, leading, on first read, to the phrase "only when purchasing gift cards." The corollary of this statement might be that unless you're buying gift cards, you have to use a credit card or check.
The only in this sentence is supposed to narrow the focus to "gift cards." What they mean to say is that "Michael's accepts only cash or debit when purchasing gift cards."
Which leads to the other problem with this sentence: Michael's isn't purchasing gift cards -- it's selling them. If they don't want to actually address the reader personally with you, then they should consider talking about "the purchase of gift cards" (or something similar) instead.
Here are a few ways this sign could have been written better:
- Michael's can accept only cash and debit cards for the purchase of any kind of gift card. We cannot accept personal checks or credit cards for the purchase of gift cards. (Maintaining the original structure as much as possible.)
- To purchase a gift card, you must use either cash or a debit card. Michael's cannot accept a credit card or personal check for the purchase of gift cards. (This, to me, is the clearest.)
- No credit cards or checks for gift cards. Cash or debit only. (The KISS principle in action.)
- Nobody wants a gift card from Michael's for Christmas. Try a bookstore, toy store, or electronics store instead. Better yet, just put some money in an envelope. (The truth.)
Whoever created this sign was either a) in a horrible hurry; b) not a native English-speaker; or c) a subversive employee trying to embarrass his or her employer. Or all three.
It's true that anyone reading this sign can interpret its intended meaning -- even without the spelling corrections. But not without reading it twice.