Gift Cards – Revisited

Posted 4:57 pm

A few years ago, I posted how much I hate Gift Cards. Well, I feel it’s been long enough that I should send out a friendly reminder about how much they suck and why you should never buy one. Ever.

Okay, maybe not ever, but pretty damn close to never.

Gift cards signify an intent to give something, but without any of that thought, effort or care that usually goes into giving someone something. It’s a simply way of saying “I don’t know you well enough or care enough about you to gift anything meaningful, but for some reason feel I should get you something anyway.” They are also a handy way to hand out prizes for contests or parties.

Gift cards remind me of the scene in Dead Poets Society where Todd has receive a desk set for his birthday, the very same desk set he received the prior year. The same desk set he never really liked, likely said as much, and will most like receive again next year. Todd may have well as got a gift card.

Despite how evil and heartless giving gift cards are, I feel I should provide a few instances where it is not really evil or heartless to gift one. First, is when you are gifting to someone long distance. Gift cards fit into an envelope, preferably along with some sort of heartfelt well wishing card, far more easily than most things. In this instance make sure the gift card is for a store you know for certain is of personal interest to the recipient. You department store card will do here. Find a specialty shop you know the recipient has an interest in, or if you know then well enough you are certain they will enjoy once introduced. Also, only do this for children ages 8-18. Any younger and they likely haven’t developed a proper sense of shopping, and any older and you might as well send cash (or a check).

Another instance is when you have already provided a suitable gift (or several) and just want to sweeten the experience a little. Again, this is best suited for children, not adults. Children like getting gifts. It’s fun. Adults like getting gifts too, but tend to appreciate things they’ve personally earned rather than something they picked up with free money (and more easily resent being told where to shop). Two good examples here are stocking stuffers at Christmas, and attaching one to a gift only useful with something else added in, such as a video game console (card can be used to buy the games).

EDIT: I left out restaurants! Gift cards for restaurants (real restaurants, not any place with a drive thru) are “real” gifts. Such things are no different than taking someone out to eat, or otherwise providing a meal for a family that isn’t yours (or just a household that isn’t yours if it really is your family),  only you don’t have to come along. /EDIT

There are a few times when you might think getting a gift card would be okay, but it really isn’t. One such time is when you are part of a random gift exchange. Maybe you are buying a gift and you have no idea who will receive it, or you know who will receive it but you know nothing about them. Sounds like a job for gift cards, right? Wrong! Would you really like to open an envelope at a party and find you’ve been given a piece of plastic which suggests you shop for you own gift? Worse, maybe you hate that store. Instead buy something neutral, or go for the wacky gag gift. A box of fancy chocolates or elegant cookies would do, so would anything “artsy” which could include anything from an original painting to a unique sculpture picked up at a curio shop. If you are at a total loss, get a tiki mask. I swear everyone I know who owns one of of those has  put it up. There is no such thing as a tiki mask collecting dust in the back of a closet.

Once again, it’s the thought that counts; if you don’t do any thinking, your gift doesn’t count for anything.

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2 Responses to “Gift Cards – Revisited”

  1. Cende

    For the most part, I agree with you – for the most part. However, I have to say that there’s a rare exception and I’m doing that this year.

    My father is dealing with host vs. graft disease – he’s rejecting his bone marrow transplant from his leukemia. My step-mother has had several surgeries in the past few months, and is going to get several more in the next few. They have explicitly said they do not want anything else – no more books, no more movies, and for god’s sake, no more dust collectors (as it is, they’re giving me their china, once they find it).

    The only thing I can give them, for his birthday and this Christmas, is a little bit of relief. In this case, it’s the ability to not cook. So I’m finding restaurants I know they like take-out from in their area, and getting them piles and piles of gift cards for those restaurants, which they are then able to use at their convenience.

    I would prefer to get them a couple of movies I think they’d like. I’d love to get them some books. I really wish I could give them something – anything – that would make their life much easier. It’s simply not possible. So this will have to do.

  2. Dust Raven

    Ah yes! I kinda skipped restaurants. Gift cards for a restaurant is kind of like a meal voucher. That’s a real gift. I think I mentioned these in my post years ago, in that such a gift card is like taking someone out to dinner, only without the complication of coming with them. This is good, and thanks for reminding me of it!

    I would be remiss if I did not offer a few alternatives though. While they don’t want an dust collectors, have you considering getting them a dvd rental subscription for netflix.com or blockbuster (there are several, and many offer gifting options)? This would give them nothing to collect, just a prepaid revolving collection of movies. Provided they already make use of the Internets of course.

    Wish everyone well for me and also a happy holidays!

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