As we approach the holiday season, it seemed a good time to discuss Gift Cards and why I care for them less and less. It started two years ago when I read a CNNMoney article that said 27% of recipients never used their gift card. Whether it was due to lack of time, selection at the card’s store, or a lost card, the 2006 unclaimed gift cards totaled $8 billion.
Shortly after, I wrote A not so Sharper Image in which I described how I found myself with $800 in gift cards that became worthless as Sharper Image went bankrupt. Linens n Things and Circuit City soon followed, and depending on the timing, most of the outstanding gift cards of these companies also became worthless.
In the old days (as when I was a kid), there were two choices for holiday gifting, an actual item, whether it be a toy, clothing, book, etc, or old fashioned cash. Sure, there was always the risk the clothes didn’t fit, the toy wasn’t age appropriate, but if the giver knew the recipient well enough, the gifts were good. When did we become so lazy or so disconnected from the target of our gifting that we decided it was better to tie the gift to one store and leave the effort to someone else?
If, by chance, you should be on the receiving end, a couple bits of advice. Be aware of your state’s gift card laws. Whatever you do, don’t put it in a drawer, use them quickly during the post holiday sales, and avoid the risk of finding an expired card years later.
You still have gift cards on you holiday shopping list?