The Ol’ Gift Cards Debate

We’re getting down to the nitty-gritty last few days before Christmas, aren’t we? The ones where we frantically turn to the premade cookies,  scrawl our names faster on Christmas cards, and glance at our shopping lists only to turn to the gift-card rack at the convenience store.

I know two people who absolutely refuse to give gift cards for Christmas. Refuse. Absolutely. (“It’s so impersonal,” says one. “It puts a price on the relationship” says the other.)

I myself don’t feel so polarized on the issue, and yet I’ll argue with these friends, always playing the other side. (Sometimes I just like a good dinner conversation.)

But I’m okay with giving gift cards. Even at the last second, in the last few days before Christmas — they were usually on my gift list to begin with. And I don’t find them impersonal at all. I find them quite practical, actually, and sometimes downright perfect. The gauge I typically use is How much does this person like to shop?

My mom, for instance, LOVES to shop. So, to her, a gift card comes with the experience of shopping, which she loves. You’re not just giving her the thing she’ll ultimately buy, you’re giving her the whole need to plan a day to go to that store. (My mom has been known to wait on the curb with her purse for me to zoom by and take her to the mall.) Sending her out to a particular brick-and-mortar is part of the gift for her.

My sis-in-law, on the other hand, would rather get a root canal than shop. She wants to just wear something you picked out for her – otherwise, she’s perfectly content in her sweats. She knows she needs clothes for work and events, but she hates finding them. So the selecting for her is part of the gift, really. She would love the actual jacket, rather than the gift card to have to go to that shop.

And restaurants? I think gift cards to restaurants are always great. Especially for a couple who doesn’t get to go out to restaurants often, or a nephew who might want to move up from his usual pizza. Same goes with gift cards to “experiences,” like to movies, or to Dave and Busters, or even to Build-A-Bear. You’re giving that person a day away, is what it feels like.

So I don’t think gift cards are impersonal at all.

What about you? Do you ever feel insulted if someone gives you a gift card? Do you avoid buying them for others?

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4 thoughts on “The Ol’ Gift Cards Debate

  1. I love gift cards! I know that some people think it is the gift that says “you were too lazy to shop” – but I don’t agree. Like you, I always have several gift cards on my list to begin with. I love that the grocery store offers so many to choose from – I think it is especially nice for older folks who don’t want to go to the mall, but can get a gift card for Nordstroms, Old Navy or Macys right there! One of my kids has always been impossible to buy clothes for, yet she always wants clothes – thus the gift card is perfect! Also, I always get grocery store ones for a few people I know that are on fixed incomes, they love them cause they can use their money on something else and still go grocery shopping! I think you can make it personal by adding a little trinket to go along, or by having a personal card, or just by knowing what store or place they enjoy the most! After all, it is the thought that counts =)

  2. Gift cards are GGGGGRRRRREEEEAAAT!
    Just look at the “returns” line at ANY store startingthe day after Christmas, for at least 2 weeks thereafter. That’ll tell you that we almost always get it wrong when choosing gifts for someone.
    I agree with Laurie and Debi.
    Oh, and ironically, our sister-in-law who would hate getting gift cards (because thateans a tripto the store and shopping) is actually the gift card giving queen-again that whole shopping hatred thing. But we LOVE getting them so it works out perfectly!

  3. I love gift cards! They are always at the top of my list…but some people don’t like to get them for me because they think the gift cards are impersonal. I insist that that is what I love…I save my gift cards and use them sometimes up to a year later! My friends can never understand how I do that…I just save them for when I really find something I want 🙂

  4. Well, we’re all in agreement, then!

    Debi, I agree with you about the teens — they love to have clothes, but their tastes are beyond me (and Rene, especially, loves the mall-shopping experience), so gift cards are a double-whammy joy for them.

    And M., I’m SO WITH YOU on the waiting thing! I totally do that, too! I have three gift cards right now, in fact — all to awesome places — that I received last year or even (gulp!) the year before, but I’m just saving them for that very special day when I have that crazy urge to buy something I really want, and then I know it’s going to make me really happy. I sort of “hoard” them, actually. Hmmm … That’s weird, now that I think about it. But that’s what I do! I don’t know why I do that.

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