Gift Cards – Revisited

Posted December 8th, 2010 (4:57 pm) || 2 Comments

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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