Holidays: Gift Cards

I was reading a fluff article the other day.  I forget where I stumbled across it–maybe MSN; I don’t know.  However, the topic was something along the lines of Presents Never to Buy Someone.  For the most part, the blogger had some pretty practical thoughts–don’t buy underwear or diet books.  Well, duh.  Yet, I was completely stumped when I reached the last slide and found that gift cards were being decried as thoughtless gifts. 

Ummmm, what?

I’ve encountered the Gift Cards Are Teh Evil argument before. It goes something like, “If you really care about a person, you’ll try to find them something that they’d really like.  A gift card is just a cop out.”  And these are the same people who get a gift card and say, “Oh.” 

I have to tell you in all sincerity, this boggles my mind.  My favorite presents are often gift cards–especially ones to places like Barnes and Noble.  Yeah, the gift cards are small and don’t take up a lot of space under the tree.  And, yes, I will readily admit that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to go into a store and pick up a gift card.  But, you see, that’s about as much as I’ll give you, because I don’t find gift cards to be thoughtless at all, whether I am the purchaser or the purchasee. 

It takes thought to choose a gift card.  If you’re just running into a store with a rack of gift cards and you play eenie-meanie-miney-moe and grab a card to Starbucks and the recepient detests coffee, then yeah, you fail at the gifts with meaning game.  However, if you know that the individual passionately loves books, but you don’t know what he or she wants, needs, has on the shelf, or may get from others as a gift, then a gift card is optimum.  Or if you absolutely know that your best friend adores Godiva chocolate, but would never buy some for herself, then why not give her that gift card to Godiva?  Yes, gift cards are money, but they are “fun money,” meaning money that you don’t feel bad about spending in certain places because they were made to be spent that way.  And that, that takes more thought that handing someone a twenty dollar bill or a box of chocolates that might melt or not be the kind she likes.

Often, when asked what boy wants for birthdays and holiday, I always suggest that a gift card is a good option for him (occasionally, I get the stink eye from some people, but I persevere), then I list some places that they might try.  Barnes and Noble–he’s got a book collection like you wouldn’t believe an 8-year-old could have.  PetSmart–for his fish that he loves so much.  Target–he gets to pick his own toys and games, and he actually plays with them instead of sitting them on a shelf to forget about.

Understand, I don’t think that all gifts should be gift cards.  I still believe in having a little something more to open beneath the tree; however, I don’t see anything wrong with sending a gift card to dear Aunt Sophie or Cousin Bill, especially if you know Aunt Sophie is an avid Williams-Sonoma fan and Cousin Bill can’t get enough of Best Buy.   Gift cards are like any other present.  They should take serious thought.  I mean, you aren’t going to buy Cousin Bill an ice cream maker if he’s lactose intolerant, right?  So why would you throw a gift card to Baskin Robbins at him?  Chances are, you wouldn’t. 

There’s nothing, I repeat, nothing wrong with the idea of a gift card as a present.  Now, the terms of some of the gift cards, check those before you buy, seriously.  But that’s a post for a different blog.

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