Social Question

ETpro's avatar

Gift cards: Yay or Nay?

Asked by ETpro (34208 points ) December 28th, 2011

I had thought gift-cards made great sense for distance giving, as you may not know the needs and wants of distant friends or relatives. But then I got one this Christmas, quite unexpectedly. I hadn’t shopped for this person because we hadn’t exchanged gifts in many years. My first reaction was to order a gift card of equal value online, and have it delivered to him. But that seemed lame. Same goes for sending a check. If we just exchange gift cards or checks, neither of us gain or lose anything. How do you deal with giving gift cards or money? Am I right that the whole idea has its flaws?

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31 Answers

blueiiznh's avatar

Give because you want to give, not because someone gave you something.

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
~Khalil Gibran

PhiNotPi's avatar

“Hey everybody, I have an idea! Instead of sending people money that can be used for anything, I will send them a form of money that has limitations on where they can spend it, but offers no extra advantages in terms of savings or buying power in any way!”

I hate gift cards. The whole reason people buy them is because they feel bad just sending the equivalent in actual money. Placing limits on the money somehow conveys that the person cares more about you? I don’t think so. Sending a gift is what counts. Besides, you worked long and hard for any money that you have, it’s not like you didn’t put in effort.

marinelife's avatar

Yes, it has flaws, but it is great for someone who could use the money. A VISA gift card is best, because it lets you shop anywhere.

tomalarm's avatar

Yay and Nay…

I sometimes give gift cards to close friends that can’t tell me what gift they want. If i know they need clothes, sports equipment, etc. I would give the gift card so they can choose what really suits them.

I don’t like to give gift cards to people I don’t know well, workmates and people who would feel they have to give equal value gift back to you.

jazmina88's avatar

Folks can get what they want. I happen to have $100 walmart card, which will greatly help on a new tv.

I say YAY…..

mazingerz88's avatar

I don’t mind receiving gift cards but when I’m the one gifting, I prefer figuring out what gift I could get that would delight and catch them by surprise.

Blackberry's avatar

Yay. Buying actual gifts is very difficult if you have no idea what they want.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I’ve no less than four JCP gift cards sitting on my desk for the last three years… never used.

Blackberry's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies There’s not even a shirt, sweater, or pants you need? No random appliance? I love gift cards for this reason.

linguaphile's avatar

Best gift card I got was a $100 gift card to my favorite boutique, left at my doorstep anonymously.

Second best are gift cards from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. My point is, the gift cards will be appreciated if they’re to a store or web site that you know that person frequents. Otherwise, it’s a shot in the dark where the thought’s appreciated, but the gift’s a sunk cost.

One year I got a $150 Land’s End gift card. It was agony picking things out from their catalog. Anyone who knows me well will know that I have an utter dislike for anything pastel, preppy or overpriced. I ended up spending it on shoes and a backpack for my daughter. Ugh.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Yay. If you don’t know where they like, it’s generally hard to go wrong with bigger stores like Amazon, Target, Walmart, supermarkets, etc because everyone can find something they could use there. I spent one gift card to Walmart on huge amounts of toilet paper, something I’m always in need of. It was really awesome.
I get the idea that gift cards are impersonal, but either you don’t give gifts to someone you aren’t actually that close to, or you give them something they might not like and wish they could exchange. At least gift cards say “I care enough about you to make sure it’s something you can really use”.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I love gift cards as long as they’re for a place I want to go. I try to only give gift cards to places I know the people want to go. It’s awkward when that happens out of the blue but a lot of times, nothing’s expected from you back. Send a thank you to that person and tell yourself it’s ok to be gifted.

Cash is my own family’s most popular gift for most all occasions. Some years I’m more generous than others but it’s not a reflection of esteem as much as my income at any given time.

jca's avatar

The nice thing about gift cards is that receiving one forces you to buy yourself merchandise. The nice thing about cash is you can spendit anywhere, on anything, not just Kohl’s or not just Toys R Us or whatever.

The downside of cash is that you may end up spending it on stuff that is expendable, such as food or filling up your tank – convenient to have the cash but nothing to remember the gift-giver with. The downside of gift cards is that you have to keep track of them. I have some that are a few years old (and don’t expire – I checked already). However, I have them in my pocketbook, little reminders that I have to go to Barnes and Noble, Toys R Us, specific places and also, if I should lose them, I’m screwed.

In a way, the advantages and disadvantages of both can be seen different ways depending on how you feel. My personal preference would be cash, because it’s more versatile.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

What @jca wrote about cash maybe being spent on stuff other than gifts for the receiver… I’m that person. I get cash and turn it into gifts for other people. That’s a form of regifting I don’t think anyone has minded.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Yay. I love gift cards.
If you give me cash, I’m probably going to pay my bills with it. Honestly.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf Sometimes, the best gifts are the ones where you can pay off some bills or take care of some other necessity. That peace of mind is an awesome gift.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Aethelflaed don’t get me wrong, I agree… but I think the last time my grandma found out that I paid bills with the money she gave me, she slapped me. :D

Aethelflaed's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf Lol yeah, I’ve lied to a couple relatives about what I spent the money on (a really nice purse, I promise!), but it was pretty awesome knowing my energy bill was paid, and much better than an expensive material good I don’t need.

linguaphile's avatar

For the appreciated but unwanted gift cards, there is: this site and others like it.

I have a $100 gift card for a spa experience at select retailers. Dilemma… use or sell…

chyna's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Let me take those JCP cards off your hands…

Bellatrix's avatar

I give gift cards on occasions. Say for instance a person who I know won’t accept cash but has done something good for me. Or I buy them as supplementary gifts for my children. Say like my son who I know needs clothes but I would never buy the right thing, so a gift card works. Or if you only want to spend a little and it is a token gift. If I get them, I try to get them for a whole shopping centre rather than be too specific.

I did a workshop for someone once and they bought me a $10 gift card for a coffee shop. I really appreciated it. I go for coffee all the time but it was sort of nice that they gave me something that meant I sat down and had a cup of coffee on them.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I just checked the balance on the four JCP cards.

2 for $25.
1 for $50.
and the fourth has $3.71 left on it. I must have used that one a long time ago I can’t remember. It looks different than the others. They’ve all been sitting there for years.

I also found an unused $25 Kohl’s Card.

Thanks for this thread @ETpro. Looks like I’ll be getting some new underwear soon!

ETpro's avatar

Thanks everyone. I heard today that Americans leave over $40 billion unredeemed on gift cards, so of course the retailers LOVE them. I’ve decided I am going to repay this gift by contributing an equal amount to The KIND Fund to buy a desk for a school child in Malawi who is currently condemned to sitting on a dirt floor all day long trying to absorb lessons and write. You can make the donation there in soother’s name, and that is what I will do.

Bellatrix's avatar

One thing that REALLY annoys me about giving gift cards in Australia. They come with use-by dates. Usually requiring the recipient to use the money within one year. I didn’t realise money had a use-by date. You usually pay a fee for buying the card, so the cost of the card and management of the money shouldn’t require you to relinquish your right to that money after a year. The company has the use of that money, interest free too. I once asked someone about this in a store and they said “it is to prevent money laundering”.

ETpro's avatar

@Bellatrix Ha! Prevent money laundering? What a hoot. I guess we will just have to go back to using real money and precious metals for that. Just imagining the Mexican Drug Cartels buying $1 billion worth of Walmart Gift Cards cards a month as a money laundering strategy totally cracks me up.

Bellatrix's avatar

I nearly choked when he said it. I was already cranky at being told the person I was buying for had a year to use the $100 I was spending. Now I understand why though I feel so much better! As you say, members of those Cartels are in the local Westfield Shopping Centre, buying up all the gift cards! Who would have thought?

ETpro's avatar

@Bellatrix Yeah, those crafty drug lords. They corner the market on a commodity like refried beans, hold back the supply till the price spikes, then sell, sell, sell. :-)

Leanne1986's avatar

I love getting gift cards for shops that I enjoy buying from but I agree with those that have said you shouldn’t just give because someone has given to you. I woukd simply send a nice thank you card to them expressing what a nice, unexpected surprise it was.

jca's avatar

I was thinking about this last night. The other downside with gift cards is that since the gift card is for a fixed amount, if you are ordering on the internet with it, you either have to buy less than that amount, or buy more than that amount and add some of your own money into the mix. So in the example @linguaphile gave, you’d have to add some of your own money to buy stuff that you might not have really wanted or needed from a store/company that you might not really like, just to utilize the gift card. The alternative is to buy less than the gift card amount, in which case the gift giver AND the recipient are losing money. With cash you can use the whole amount, no other issues involved.

ETpro's avatar

@Leanne1986 That’s a good idea.

@jca This gift card is a great example of that. It’s for a specialty ice cream parlor chain. They do have several desert ships here in the Boston area, but in the middle of a Boston winter, going out for ice cream isn’t likely to cross my mind. If I wait till it’s summer and we are sweltering in a rare heat wave, will the gift card cross my mind? The gift came from a Californian who clearly was thinking of weather there and probably loves this restaurant’s deserts.

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