Say No To Gift Cards

The Geek doesn’t like them. I can’t say I disagree with his logic, yet I have received and purchased a gift card in the past. What is the allure of these things?

In one sense, you could say the person is sending the message “I gave you this gift card, because I know if I give you cash, you’ll just use it to buy crack.” In some cases, that may be true. In others, perhaps it’s a way of saying “I know you well, because I knew a gift card to this establishment would be something you would use and appreciate.” I would have to say the latter is true in most cases. Gift cards have value because they signal familiarity between the gift giver, and the gift recipient.

14 thoughts on “Say No To Gift Cards”

  1. I, personally, like getting gift cards to bookstores. That way it’s money that stays allocated as “book store money” else it ends up being spent on something more “practical” such as food or gas for the car.

    It’s $35 or so that I can spend without feeling guilty about it.

    I wonder if the yarn store does gift cards…. hmmmmm…..

  2. I was going through Bitter’s archives looking for something related to this, but found out that her plain HTML archives display the emails of commentators. That’s a potential spam problem.

  3. I think culturally they have a certain appeal in certain areas.

    Me, I’m from Jersey and from a very italian family. We give cash. For everything. Sort of like Steve Martin family in My Blue Heaven – Tip Everyone.

    At my wedding, all of the folks we invited brought envelopes stuffed with cash. It was good. But my wife’s family were offended (they get offended but lots of stuff) being good and proper Southerners it was embarrasing to them 1) that their guests didn’t see any gifts piled p from my side, 2) they thought everyone was rude, that cash was thoughtless (no its not, not when its in 4 figure amounts), 3) and thought at first that no one had brought any gifts, just cards. They had no idea.

    It was really sort of strange. Still to this day, they refuse to give cash as a gift, and as I’ve met more and more folks from down there, that seems to be a cultural thing. Me, I prefer cash. But for them, it gift cards are a way to give cash while still maintaining their social graces (or something).

    So, in that case I always ask for Home Depot cards, cause I can save them up and get things like a new floor, or a new kitchen (well, kitchen counters and now this year I’ll get a new range from all the gift cards we saved up).

  4. Me, I’m from Jersey and from a very italian family. We give cash. For everything.

    followed by: Sounds like a Goodfellas Christmas.

    There’s a scene in the movie Donnie Brasco where Johnny Depp and Al Pacino exchange Christmas cards filled with cash. And then Al Pacino asks to borrow some of the money he just gave Depp.

  5. I think the thing that’s being completely forgotten here is that sometimes you want to buy something specific for someone, but don’t have specific knowledge of what in their hobby they need.

    For example, I always get a Sears gift card for my dad for pretty much every occasion. The reason is that he wants to buy tools, and I don’t know shit about what he wants or needs as far as tools go. I’d just buy the wrong thing. So a gift card is not symbolic of cash. A gift card is symbolic of buying him the tool he wanted, except I don’t know what the hell it is.

    It’s the same with my parents giving my wife gift certificates to the American Girl doll store. My wife collects dolls, but no one in their right mind should expect all of our friends and family to keep an inventory of every doll in her collection. So instead, they purchase a gift card as an object symbolic of a doll.

    He is completely missing the point. You don’t give someone a gift card instead of cash. You give them to someone when you don’t know what specific item they want, but want to get them something from that place.

    The idea of just giving cash in place of gift cards is absolutely stupid, because at that point, if you’re just exchanging currency around, why the hell are you giving each other something in the first place? If you give me $100 and I give you $100, and we go and spend it on whatever thing we would have spent it on anyway, then there was absolutely no point to the exchange. By giving a gift card, you are giving something symbolic of an object that you think the person would enjoy, but without the chance of buying something that they already have in their collection.

  6. I agree with the first post…that it’s really nice to get gift cards to B&N or Best Buy, because then you get to buy junk there without feeling guilty. Cash usually winds up in my savings account and getting spent on textbooks or something. Gift cards that can only be converted into shiny happy things are in some ways better gifts.

  7. Gift cards that can only be converted into shiny happy things

    Like ammunition

    Or jewelry.

  8. For our friends and family clear across the country, often a gift card makes a lot of sense. I could give them a $50 gift card, or spend $35 on a gift and $15 on postage to get it to them. Yeah, yeah, buy online and they can deliver it right to them. Not and have it wrapped all nice and pretty like my wife wants it. Nope.

    That said, I was in a Kohl’s department store yesterday. Their in-store music/commercials sound system had something like this:

    “Are you searching for the perfect gift to give to that special someone? A Kohl’s gift card makes a nice gesture.”

    I’m thinking that telling people that one of their store’s gift cards is nothing more than a “gesture” isn’t exactly the best way to promote them.

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