Over the recent years, our growing indifference to the gift-giving tradition has seen us putting less and less effort into getting people gifts that at least express our sentiments. Instead, our spirit of giving has been degraded further by corporations that, in a bid to “optimize” and standardize the tradition, have created the excellently marketed but rather pointless gift alternatives famously known as gift cards.
Why Gift Cards are absolutely the Worst:
1. They show defeat
Gift-giving in the modern world has quite a few unspoken rules. One of most observed ones is that cash is not a gift and anyone shelling out banknotes on Christmas is branded with the t-word (tacky).
Gift cards are sort of a lazy middle-ground between tackiness and thoughtful gift-giving. They don’t express any sentiment; they just show the recipient that your relationship is worth about $25-$50 worth of stuff they weren’t really looking to buy in the first place. What’s more, people who buy gift cards for others often do it as a last minute resort and unwittingly break a cardinal rule of gift giving etiquette: never show how much you paid for a gift.
2. They’re less valuable than cash
Since gift cards often don’t carry any sentimental value (at least not from the giver), they’re more or less grouped with cash in the hierarchy of appropriate gifts. However, they are actually of less value than cold hard cash for a number of reasons.
First, a good number of gift cards cost more than their face value. The buyer may have to shell out an additional $5 or so on top of the actual cost of the card, which is odd and quite illogical to everyone except the corporations pocketing the tidy profits. What’s more, gift cards may have annoying activation and inactivity fees which the user has to pay before they can use the gift card itself. In other words, gift cards make the recipient pay for their own gift. That’s not how gift giving works, is it?
3. Few people actually get around to use them
Imagine gifting your 17-year-old nephew with a $15 Barnes & Noble’s gift card even after finding out that he is exclusively into punk rock bands and skateboards. It is highly likely that the gift card will spend the better part of the next year or two stashed in a drawer full of old baseball cards, after which it will most likely have expired.
This trend is not limited to teenagers either. Consumer Reports discovered that 34% of all gift card recipients completely forget about them almost immediately while another 36 % just don’t know what to buy with them. The result is often the same; the gift cards are left to gather dust in the back of some old drawer while “spillages” (gift card balances) of close to $1 billion help to further line the pockets of the companies dishing out these effective money traps.
4. Gift cards leave leftovers
If perchance, the recipient of the gift card decides to make full use of it, they may find that no matter what they do, they can’t completely deplete the value of the gift card. For instance, they may use their $25 gift card to buy a $22 outfit at Target, leaving an annoyingly useless $3 balance that they just can’t find a way to spend. This is the case with most gift card purchases. For example, this website is offering free gift cards.
Leftover balances are bound to appear and there is little that can be done about that. In the end, these balances either pile up with the rest of the spillages or force the owner of the gift card to shell out extra money in order to get some value from the $3 balance left on the gift card.
5. Not everyone enjoys a trip to the store
When you give out a gift card, the unspoken words usually are “you will have to go get your gift yourself”. While gift cards from online shops may save us the trips, others require us to locate a store that accepts it, browse several options, and possibly cut at a long checkout line before finally getting some value out of it.
Gift cards might have seemed like a good idea when they have introduced a few years ago but now it is clear that consumers got the short end of the stick on this one. Next time you’re thinking of an impromptu gift for a not-so-close relative, something personalized (even a personalized mug) is miles better than any gift card you can get.