Gift Cards Are Not Particularly Thoughtful, But They Are Convenient and Great Presents For Some
Published 12/14/07 (Modified 3/8/11)
I'm a lazy guy. I'm also not a very big shopper. This combination tends to work against me when I have to buy presents for others during the Christmas holiday shopping season. Some people are easy to shop for but for others, it's an ordeal trying to figure out what to give them.
Sometimes I just want to take the easy, effortless route by dolling out cash to the masses. But I think most people are still very traditional and find the idea of giving out plain old cash very distasteful. This is how the marketing braniacs came up with gift cards. The way these businesses promote gift cards is quite brilliant since they've managed to convince many that giving a gift card means something more than just giving out cash, and that somehow the gift cards can convey the message of "I love you" better than cash ever could. But essentially, they are the same as cash except they don't carry the same gifting stigma. I know some people find gift cards and gift certificates to be tacky and unoriginal, but the cards do serve a useful purpose and in fact, I myself sometimes prefer gift cards over receiving an actual present.
Cash Is Best, But Gift Cards and Gift Certificates Are The Next Best Thing
Who doesn't like cash? It's the most versatile gift since you can do whatever you want with it - use it, spend it, save it, hide it, earn interest on it. One of the problems with receiving regular conventional gifts is that they occasionally end up as clutter, particularly if it's something you wouldn't normal use. Yes, it's the thought that counts when it comes to gifting, but people don't always know exactly what you want. Especially when it comes to electronics, I think I can usually do a much better job researching and nailing a great bargain than the person giving me the gift.
The same idea applies to wedding presents as well. Why receive something you don't really need, like yet another blender, when you can accumulate all of your gift cards and funnel them towards something you can really appreciate? Because cash has a social gifting stigma attached to it, I think gift cards and gift certificates can serve as useful and versatile alternatives.
Only Give Gift Cards To Those That Don't Require The Personal Touch
You have to be choosy to whom you give a gift card to as a present. My brother and I are very casual and easy going with each other. During the holidays, we never have any real expectation of swapping Christmas presents. If one of us decides to give the other person something it's considered an unexpected bonus. Thus, my brother is the perfect candidate for receiving a gift card present.
It just so happens I received an Amazon.com gift card from a surprise drawing at Wisebread not too long ago. Today, I also received a pre-paid American Express debit card from my employer as a small Christmas thank you present. Well, holding these two cards, I now know where these two gift cards will be headed - regifts for my bro! :)
But gift cards are not for everyone. It's really not something most people consider to be a thoughtful gift. Since it's generally very easy to purchase a gift card, not much effort is involved. If you're trying to convey a loving or personal message, gift cards should be your very last resort. But if it's just for a regular friend or an understand sibling, it should be perfect enough to do the trick.
I highly advise against giving gift cards and certificates to anyone who may be easily saddened or disappointed at receiving a present that didn't require much effort or thought - namely wives and girlfriends. I probably will take some flack for this, but despite all the marketing we see on television, I don't think most guys have a preference of what they want for the holidays, so long as it's something useful. Giftcards epitomize usefulness since they can be converted into whatever the person wants. They can even be resold on eBay for a tidy profit if one cannot come up a reasonable way of spending it. That's why for some easy going folks it's the perfect gift to send and receive.