Gift cards – great gift idea or the ultimate cop out?
Opinions are widely divided on this issue. Personally, I love gift cards. I’m at the point in life where I have what I need, and my list of “wants” isn’t very long. Most of my needs are in the areas of replacing things that wear out or break (like clothes), and gift cards make this much easier. In fact, one of our favorite post-holiday traditions is taking a day after the family get togethers are over is taking advantage of great post-holiday sales with those gift cards.
My family agrees, and buying gift cards does make holiday shopping much easier. Ah, but herein lies the debate. The opposite end of this argument is that buying gift cards is too easy – that it’s not personal and shows no consideration for the recipient. I had a friend once that thought gift cards were not only a cop out, but insulting and rude as well, because “if you know someone well enough to buy them a gift, then you should know what they like and take time to select an appropriate present for them.”
I can see both ends of this debate. On the one hand, gift buying is tough when you buy gifts for the same people, year after year. After some time, you’ve given them everything you know to give, and finding unique gift ideas becomes impossible. I know that the last thing I need are more trinkets or nick-nacks to clutter up my home or work space and collect dust. Gift cards are a great way of acknowledging that you know what kinds of places they like, and giving them the gift of choosing a present that they want or need. Plus, it’s great if you have to ship gifts to people, because there are greeting cards with gift card slots, so you can send it to them with little (or no) additional postage.
On the other hand, there are some situations where giving gift cards is inappropriate. I’d never suggest giving it to a child that’s under about 10 years old, because they want to open presents and the concept of waiting even longer to get their gift is torture. Likewise, it’s also inappropriate for a person you’ve been in a romantic relationship with for less than two years. There are plenty of special, personal gifts you can give for these occasions. It’s also not practical for elderly people that have health issues that limit their mental function or mobility, as they simply can’t use them unless a caregiver takes them out or uses it on their behalf. The point of a gift is to give the recipient something they can use personally, and this point is moot if the person isn’t able to go out or use the Internet to cash in the card.
Then there are the people that just don’t like them. I guess they do have a point – gift giving is about considering the recipient. Perhaps they just don’t like going out much, or buying online. If that’s the case and you’re completely stumped on what to get them, well, these are the people they make the nick knacks for. Every store I’ve been so far has had gift racks of miscellaneous items and kits for use around the home. Charging stations and desk organizers seem to be very popular this year, as do flashlights, handkerchiefs, mini game sets, whistle key rings, make up sets, nail polish sets, lotions, holiday jewelry, and small cleaning kits. Some people appreciate these fun, whimsical items. I don’t. But somebody must because they’re on sale every year and seem to keep moving every holiday season.
In the end, I believe the safest course of action is to ask. It’s not insulting or rude, and I think it’s much easier to be honest than to guess and risk giving them a dud gift (which is something I’ll address in a future entry). After all, our time and energy are limited, and we are at a point where we simply don’t have time to play games or guess anymore.
And if all else fails and they really hate gift cards, suggest skipping the gift and going out for a meal or a movie together after the holidays are over. Because it really is the thought that counts – and in the end people care more about the thought behind the gift than the gift itself.