Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Shopping Tip #6: In defense of gift cards

Every year around this time, you'll see articles like this and this, denouncing the use of gift cards as the ultimate in thoughtless, insensitive gift-giving.

Their argument? A gift card says, "I don't really know you well enough to know what you would like, so I'm going to let you choose instead."


So, what's wrong with that? Ever need to choose a gift for someone that you don't know especially well? I notice all of your hands are raised.

Your options, then, are: (a) get them something they probably don't need, might not like, and most likely will never use, or (b) gift card.

The thing is, even among family and friends, I don't find gift cards to be all that impersonal. I will freely admit that they are my favorite gift to receive. To me, a Barnes and Noble gift card means, "I know you like to read. Here's an excuse to go spend an afternoon browsing in a bookstore and bring something home, guilt-free." A Starbucks card says, "Take some time to yourself, and go sip a latte while writing down all those thoughts that have been swimming around in your head."

If someone loves music, you could get them an iTunes card. If they spend all their free time renovating their house, how about a Home Depot card? A cinema buff might appreciate a gift card to the movie theater.

Even the least personalized of gift cards can be a welcome treat. It seems to me that the average person, if presented with a gift card to Target, would not curse the gift-giver's poor manners and insensitivity. Perhaps she would finally purchase that item that always catches her eye but never falls into the category of "necessities." Maybe he would pick out a movie or video game. Who knows, maybe using the gift card to relieve the grocery burden frees up a little money so they can go out for dinner.

Certainly, gift cards are not the answer to every gift-giving situation. If we were all just going to trade gift cards with each other, maybe we should skip it altogether. I'm just saying, let's allow them their place on the gift-giving spectrum.

For more ideas and thoughts related to gift cards, including some warnings and possible down sides (such as stores going out of business), check out these links:

Gift Card Warning: Check Retailer's Health

Gift Cards: The Thought Counts

Gift Cards Not as No-Hassle as Once Thought

Gift Cards Are Gifts

What do you think? How do you feel about giving or receiving gift cards?


Christina said...

Thanks for the link. I enjoyed your post!

Angela said...


especially to starbucks.
or target.
or anywhere, really.
love them.
looooooooooooove them.
the end.