Dec 31, 2006

On Gift Cards

I sometimes wonder about the recent proliferation of gift cards as an acceptable form of gifting. Where, exactly, does it lie in the food chain of presents? The cash gift is, of course, at the bottom - it's either the gift from the generous aunt or uncle or grandparent that believes that you'd know best what you want, and should buy it yourself, or it's the hasty gift from the friend who forgot about your birthday until approximately ten minutes ago. Normal gifts fall higher up, more or less, depending on how personalized the gift is. College apparel? Not so high. Book relating to inside joke or personal experience with letter written inside to the receiver? Much higher.
So, the gift card. One one hand, it's probably better than cash - at least the giver thought about where you frequently shop, and/or where you'll soon spend money. On the other hand, if they're giving you essentially money, then wouldn't it be more considerate just to hand you the money and let you use it where you most need it? But what if the point of the gift card is that you won't utilize the money to buy groceries? What if the point is that the money has already been spent at the GAP, and you now have the choice of exactly which luxury to squander it on? Perhaps the real meaning of the gift card is for you to not feel guilty about spending money somewhere where you wouldn't normally spend it.
It has, after all, already been spent.

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