09 December 2007

Why I am uneasy about giving gift cards

In a previous post I mentioned some of the benefits of gift cards. So as a gift receiver, I don't mind getting one especially if I've had input into the location for which it is valid.

Of course, I am aware of the inefficiencies of gift cards vs. cash (gift cards may not be redeemed, they constrain the choices of the recipient, they may expire). But in one way gift cards are very much like cash -- and that's why I'm uneasy about them. Just like money, the value is printed on the gift.

I think part of the "sentimental value" gets lost when you know the exact monetary value of the gift. That's why we peel price stickers before giving gifts! Even when we give a gift that we don't know if the recipient will like, at most we add a gift receipt. Sure, the person will find out the value of the item when he returns it to the store, but that is for another day, after all the festivities and insecurities of Christmas day are long past.

With cash and gift cards you know exactly how much was spent on you. Inevitably, this will be compared with how much you spent on the other person, which, depending on whether the balance sheet comes out in the red or the black may make you, or I, uncomfortable. And that is the last thing anybody wants on Christmas.

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