Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The annual Gift Card debate

So the war is now raging, Violent Acres has weighed in:
Fuck the Cheerleader; Buy a Gift Card, Save the World - Violent Acres

And so has Liz Pulliam Weston, already the reason I don't read MSN money, she now claims to know that Gifts cards are not gifts. Now I don't think she's totally off-base, here's a great quote:
A gift, ideally, says, "I thought about you. I considered your likes and dislikes, your needs and wants, your dreams and desires, and found you this token of my esteem that I hope will delight you."

But she really takes the whole thing one too far with some other notable quotes:

Would a lover, in the flush of romance, lean close to the object of his affection and present . . . a gift card?...

Heaven forbid that givers use their own judgment and spend a little time picking out small items that might give the recipients pleasure. Just give us the cash and get out of the way.

Followed-up by some interesting advice:
1. Make certain events off limits.
2. Combine a card with a real gift.
3. Think twice before giving one to someone you love.
4. Don't add to the recipient's burdens.

V of course has some strong views the other way:
Every year for my birthday, I always get a gift or two in the mail from someone I haven’t spoken to in months. I find it incredibly insulting. All year long, these people couldn’t be bothered to call me on the telephone, shoot me an email, or meet me for dinner. Yet, they feel as long as they mail me a fucking candle on my birthday, our friendship status will remain.
And yes, I’m giving out gift cards this holiday season. Merely because I know most people aren’t yet at a place in their life where they can look into a box and simply say, “This is just an object. It doesn’t mean anything.”

Idea #4 is actually pretty key to giving a gift card, giving a $50 gift card to Banana Republic is like saying: here have a pair of expensive socks. But it's really no better or worse than just buying a bad pair of socks from BR and giving them as a gift.

Idea #1 is tainted by the adding that weddings should always receive gifts, which is exactly the opposite of what couples want. Most modern couples are paying for their own weddings and they're already living together long before they wed. So why do they need another toaster? Weddings are expensive gatherings, so basically every couple that I've known that married in the last 5 years (and that's like 10 of them) would have preferred cash or a good gift card over anything else.

Heck the fiancé and I were saving up about 10k to pay for our wedding expenses, the best gift (other than something hand-made and personal) would've been straight cash to help pay for the catering and the rental. Of course, this isn't true for everyone, some couples really are moving out right after marriage and for these guys, I'll buy a gift off the registry.

As to the rest of the advice and the raging debates, I figure that Liz has some useful advice it's just mixed in with being a little extreme. V of course, is practical as always (if a little evil), but doesn't always think highly of people.

I'll draw a line in the middle and say that gift cards are a fine gift as long as they're as thoughtful as the gift you would've purchased. Buying a GC is like buying a night out for friends or buying a week of morning Starbucks or a freebie nail job or a couple of reams of fabric for your next quilt. Buying a $50 GC to a $50 / plate restaurant is just as bad as buying diamond studded earrings for a girl who doesn't have pierced ears or giving a crisp, red $50 to your independently wealthy friend.

The nature of the GC is not inherently that it's a bad gift, it's that it's gift that requires thought just as much as any other gift. Bad gifts are bad gifts, cash, cash-equivalent or wrapped in a big box. So just buy gifts that are appreciated (and take the time to wrap them, it shows that you care)

Of course, YMMV

No comments: