Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I Hate Gift Cards - a Rant

I know this might be a bit Scroogey and I may be looking the proverbial "gift horse in the mouth", but I hate gift cards.

I know they have allegedly been the "hot gift" for Christmas the past few years due to some marketing genius, but they suck.*



A few reasons why gift cards are an awful awful gift....

1. The store always wins.
Whenever I'm using a gift card I feel like I'm playing some bizarre Price Is Right/over-under game where I'm trying to spend exactly $25 or $50 or whatever my gift card is worth -- calculating tax doing all kinds of crazy mental math. I don't want to be over because the only reason I'm at the store it to spend my free money -- I'm not trying to spend more money at the store. And I don't want to be under because I don't want $3.27 left on the card that I'll either never spend or carry around in my wallet for the next three years. I usually end up going over and the store scores a cool few extra dollars from me that I never would have spent without the infernal gift card.

2. You have to remember to bring the gift card to the store.
I'm not going to carry around 10 gift cards in my wallet for the off-chance that I happen to stop into Ikea/Williams-Sonoma/Bath & Body Works on my way home from work. Case in point: I still have a $15 Best Buy card from last Christmas (I know because it has a dancing Santa on it) that I have not yet used. Not because I don't shop at Best Buy, because I never remember to bring the dang thing with me. **

3. There is an amazing alternative to gift cards.
Did you know there's something that works just like a gift card except it can used at any store, never expires, has no restrictions, and you can always carry it with you? It's called cash (or a check). Cash can be used for all kinds of amazing goods and services! Feel weird about giving cash or check? Remember a gift card is just restrictive, annoying cash.***


I'm not trying to be a brat about the whole gift card thing, I'm still a very thankful and gracious gift receiver. I'm just stating the truth; gift cards are a giant pain. I've made a personal vow to never give gift cards except in extraordinary cases.

Does anyone share my sentiment, or am I alone in my gift card loathing?




*I will admit there is a time and place for gift cards -- like giving someone a gift card to the place where they set up their wedding registry. But that's about it. Giving someone gift cards to a random store as a wedding present? Not cool. I still have some of those over a year later.

** Another acceptable gift card one to a place that you know I frequent, like Starbucks or Trader Joe's. That would be considered acceptable because I would carry that card with me in wallet and would not be worried about over/under because I pretty much visit those places weekly.


***Don't even get me started on the Amex or Visa "anywhere" gift cards. That's a whole separate rant.

38 comments:

Meant to be a mom said...

Your funny, I don't mind gift cards because sometimes its just easier to pick out what you want. But it ruins the fun of getting random things from people. It ruins the fun of going home with a gift.

Snaves said...

I LOVE giftcards! I like getting to pick out exactly what I want. I have so many people in my life that I have no idea what to buy for, but I know certain stores that they love. Buying them a giftcard to a store I know they like shows I am trying to get something I know they will love and use, but allows them to make sure the item is actually something they want.

Jessica said...

I'd also rather get cash!

Sonja said...

I love them but hate them at the same time. I hate giving them because I feel like it says "I didn't want to spend the time figuring out what you really wanted". lol and sometimes I feel like it's tacky! However I don't mind getting them! As long as its to a place that I frequent like you said!!

Brown Girl said...

I honestly never thought about it until you just wrote this post but I agree with you, cash is way better!!! Or take the time to buy them a gift they asked for, it's Christmas for goodness sake!

Taylor @ Jimmy Choos and a Baby Too said...

I could not agree more!

EthidiumBromide said...

I think people prefer to give gift cards because at least then they know you are actually spending the money on something for yourself and not on say, your bills (because what is the fun in that?). My parents always give us a check with the stipulation that it should be used for something fun, and my husband puts the money straight into paying off his medical school loans every year. My parents would not be pleased to know this, but my husband cannot think of anything more valuable than paying off his loans. Most of our other family members have caught on to this and give us gift cards instead... and it means I actually get to spend it on something for me, instead of my gift going to paying off his loans!

Crazy Shenanigans said...

I always love getting a "real" gift instead of a gift card, however I can kinda understand. Sometimes a person can be so hard to shop for that there's no way of knowing what they want....so a gift card gets bought.

Patience said...

I love gift cards and I actually beg for them. I typically get them for an entire mall and not just one place so I can use it where ever I want to. I am also the first person to buy everyone a gift card for their bridal shower and baby shower. The registry is far too complicated for me.

Eileen said...

ha, I used to like gift cards because it meant that I could buy myself stuff (usually clothes) guilt-free. But at some point it became ridiculous - right now I have accumulated gift cards for Express, the Gap, Sephora, and Macy's that I've had quite awhile and just haven't used. It's annoying when it feels like such a waste. I finally made use of a couple for Christmas gifts. But yes I am with you, I'd prefer cash at this point - it could go towards bigger items I really want, like a new laptop!

Classy Fab Sarah said...

I LOVE gift cards - when I have them I know I"ll eventually find something to spend them on - whether I was planning to buy something from that store or not.

Cash, on the other hand.... eh. I love it, don't get me wrong, but I usually end up putting it in the bank and not spending it on myself - which is the point of cash in the first place, right?

Rachel said...

I totally see your point, but I love getting gift cards! Especially from family members who (in the past) have bought me items that only end up at Goodwill. I'd rather take a gift card over that!

And I will say that I love Starbucks cards. That's one gift card that will ALWAYS get used :)

Mrs. Smith said...

I actually love to get gift cards, but I hate to give them. Irony...

Mandie said...

I love getting gift cards...but think it is a lame cop out to give as a gift!

But ewww....cash I feel like that is SO impersonal!

And the VISA/ Mastercard gift card does not count. It is AMAZING and I can spend it anywhere!

But I agree for the most part..gift cards=lame.

Lindsey said...

You are funny! I love giftcards, but I do like opening a gift rather than an envelope.

Lil' Woman said...

I like gift cards but like you said, only at places I frequent often! :)

Linda said...

I love gift cards but when they are to some place that I go. You could give those gift cards to someone else who might use them.
I only give a gift card if I have no idea what to get the person. Most people don't use them.

Shalay said...

I'm okay with gift cards... I do prefer to give an actual gift though, because I feel like a gift card basically looks like a last resort when you can't figure out what to get the person.

My favorite gifts for my birthday and Christmas last year were actually the $300 giftcards my dad gave me to Nordstrom. I got new Uggs, Seven jeans, and a few more pricey items I would never have been able to afford on my own. LOVED those gift cards!

I remember for my wedding someone gave us a Home Depot gift card. I was like, seriously?! Home Depot? But when we moved 6 months later, it actually came in handy! Same with some other gift cards I have in a drawer. I know I'll eventually use them, so I don't mind saving them. And it's always nice to have a gift card to a restaurant that you can use spur of the moment.

The Mrs. said...

Completely agree!!! Did a whole post on it!!

CJ said...

LOL! I dont mind gift cards. we always use it buy some expensive stuff. So we pay a bit of cash and the gift cards pay the rest. That way it wont go waste :)

Good Gals Inc said...

I totally agree. I just can't stand how not personal they are. It's become so easy to just get one and not put any thought into it! I give them in instances if I know someone if crazy obsessed with a certain place. For example, my best guy friend Patrick, is OBSESSED with Outback and I mean obsessed! I just knew that he would appreciate a gift card from there than anything else. But 99.99% of the time, I do not give them!

Christie said...

I think gift cards are great when you know the receiver of the card frequents the place. It allows the freedom of picking out what they like. I'd rather have a gift card then get another gift that I cant use or dont like. I feel bad returning things that people picked out for me that I dont like and wont use.

Lucy Marie said...

I think gift cards are good to get from people who always give crappy gifts. I'd rather have a gift card and get what I want than have a crappy, useless gift. But, I do agree - the store always wins. I almost always spend more than the amount on the giftcard.

Anonymous said...

vab банк
vab банк
[url=http://www.ricardo.com.ua/news/releases/110220]vab банк[/url]
http://www.ricardo.com.ua/news/releases/110220 - vab банк

birth said...

I agree that gift cards are a bit impersonal, but I do love receiving them. I don't like to give gift cards because the person will know the price and of course they are worth much more. Lately I have been giving Ribbon albums, www.pwallace.ordermygift.com Its a gift album with about 40 gift choices the the recipient choses the gift he/she want. I love the pamper for women, guy albums are great and the Delicious album. Great post!

Becky said...

We have so many gift cards that I forget which ones we have! I keep them all in a change purse that I received as a gift and keep that in my purse with the other 84 billion items. At least I always have them with me, but I forget to use them!

Anonymous said...

Good day !.
You may , probably curious to know how one can manage to receive high yields .
There is no initial capital needed You may start to get income with as small sum of money as 20-100 dollars.

AimTrust is what you need
AimTrust represents an offshore structure with advanced asset management technologies in production and delivery of pipes for oil and gas.

It is based in Panama with structures around the world.
Do you want to become an affluent person?
That`s your chance That`s what you desire!

I feel good, I started to take up income with the help of this company,
and I invite you to do the same. It`s all about how to choose a correct partner utilizes your money in a right way - that`s AimTrust!.
I make 2G daily, and my first investment was 500 dollars only!
It`s easy to get involved , just click this link http://japulyrem.bigheadhosting.net/pudemelu.html
and go! Let`s take our chance together to feel the smell of real money

Naturally Caffeinated Family said...

hahaha, this is so true! I definitely agree that a gift or cash is better but it IS better than random things that go in the white elephant gift pile=)!

Shoshanah said...

I think gift cards can be nice, but mainly when its somewhere I go a lot. I know if its a card for a bookstore, or movie theater, or Starbucks it will probably get used in a week or two. Its the other ones (mainly restaurants) that aren't so practical. I mean, a $25 dollar gift card to dinner at Macaroni Grill only barely covers one person meals. And yes, in general the stores do wind up winning with gift cards since most people never use them.

Chelsea Talks Smack said...

eek! i love gift cards!

Ladyvet said...

I agree...I hate gift cards. They really don't show any real thought. It's an easy out

Steph said...

I'm totally on the cash bandwagon! We registered for our wedding at myregistry.com for the sole reason that they let you make cash gift funds. I don't like being limited to one store by gift cards, so cash is definitely key for me!

liane said...

argh, gift cards... I have a whole bunch of cards sitting in a drawer to places I rarely frequent.
I really only want gift cards to starbucks--- i go there often enough that the card will be used!
Although, my mother gave me a gift card to the running store I frequent after I'd complained about how expensive my running shoes are (and since I run a lot, shoes wear out a lot) and I really, really appreciated that gift card!

Leesie said...

I love giftcards, but the one improvement that would make the better are being able to get the remaining cashback. BTW, I'm a new follower had to add you cause I live in So-Cal too.

Jenna said...

I much prefer cash too! Well, with one teeny tiny exception - I can always use a Starbucks gc! Ha!

Perfectly Imperfect said...

I'm actually with you on this rant. My issue is how impersonal they are. Hate them.

Anonymous said...

In these difficult and trying financial times every one of us feels the burdens associated with a down economy but none more than those in need. We donate what we can afford to donate when we remember or are reminded that there are many less fortunate than us, less healthy than us, less capable of receiving the proper medications than us. We also donate when we are shown the ecological downsides of deforestation, global warming and any other form of desecration to our natural environment and the animals with which we share this glorious planet.
The time has come for a company to put aside huge profits as its bottom line and refocus its efforts on creating a world where every one of us can help make this a beautiful and viable global society: a company which enables everyone worldwide to pitch in without interfering with their own financial needs and burdens. Matter Of Change is that company and has created the product by which we can all donate in the smallest way without added expense and while still giving a friend or loved one a gift of their own.
We here at Matter Of Change have created a new concept in gift card giving: a way for everyone to give a gift worth much more than the cost of the actual card. To date, regular gift cards have monthly fees and expiration dates and with the new Card Act coming into effect in August those fees will be limited and the expiration date limited to 5 years BUT where does the money left on those gift cards go after the cards expire? Right now the issuing banks and corporations cash in big with those leftovers, to the tune of $8 BILLION and now some state governments are looking at that money and fighting the banks and corporations for a piece of the pie! That’s your money, and if we have not used a gift card within the first 12 months or even within the first 6 months then the likelihood of ever using it is greatly diminished and we are left making a NON TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATION to Corporate America and the State Governments.
Instead of this all-to-common scenario we have developed a system where the purchaser of the gift card “links” a charity of their choosing to their card then has the option to expire the card within the first 6 months, 12 months or let the card run its 5 year course and any leftover money would be disbursed according to applicable laws. If the purchaser chooses the 6 month or 12 month option they are instructing Matter Of Change to donate any balance left on the card to the charity which they “linked” it to at purchase. Once the charity receives the donation a tax deductible receipt is either mailed or emailed to the recipient or purchaser of the card.
The concept is actually quite simple and extremely beneficial for every one involved yet finding a company willing to forego some of its initial profits for the betterment of society is, as one can imagine, very difficult. Matter Of Change holds a preliminary patent on this concept and business model, allowing Matter Of Change to be the only company with the ability to provide this service and tap into an $8 BILLION niche which has to date been monopolized by the banks and corporations which already issue gift cards.
Just for a moment try to imagine what magic these cards can perform. We already spend hundreds of billions of dollars on gift cards worldwide for every occasion possible and estimates range from 8% - 14% of that money does not get used! That’s a huge profit for no service! Now imagine those people buying Matter Of Change gift cards and the same 8% - 14% going unused, that’s a huge amount of money being funneled straight to charities as well as receiving the benefit a tax deduction. We are allowing people to donate from their usual spending rather than asking them to find something extra in their already tight budgets.
This plan is simple yet radical enough to shake up the gift card business and make our world a better place for humanity. Everyone can donate it’s simply a Matter Of Change!

Darren Cannao, President, Matter Of Change
www.MatterOfChange.com

Jan said...

I think its tacky to give gift cards. Most people give gift cards because they earn points on their credit cards this way. This is really a selfish motive for giving the cards. Its not about the recipient at all, its about the giver.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin