Gift cards are not all that they are cracked up to be. It used to be, I looked forward to receiving gift certificates for Christmas. Now, with the invention of the gift card, it’s turned into a cash grab for the retailers.
Say someone incredibly thoughtful goes out of their way to get you a gift certificate for your local music store because they don’t know what you want, but know that that store has something that will make you happy. Let’s say that they go get you a gift card for $25. Very generous indeed. Anyway, you’re presented with your card and you know exactly what you want to buy, but it’s only $20 + tax. You go buy it and then your card has a balance of about a dollar. What the hell are you going to buy for a dollar if you even remember that you have that dollar left on your card!? It’s ridiculous.
I say they should implement a percentage system. If you’re within 25% of the total value of the card, you get your change. Instead, you’re forced to go over the value of the gift card to get your generous party’s money’s worth and then you’re forced to add to the total value to do so. So the evil corporate fat cat merchant gets even more money by selling that gift card.
Cards that work are ones that are for places everyone uses. In pretty much all Canadian cities there’s a Bay/Zellers/Homeoutfitters (aka: Homo-outfitters) which one of those gift cards will work. They all sell stuff you need for around the house sooner or later. So whether you use your card for kitty litter or a nice new set of knives it’s a very usable card and if you go a little over, it’s stuff you needed anyway. Same with Loblaws/Zehrs cards, you need to eat, don’t try to deny it. That card would be used and you’re undoubtably going to go over that limit over the course of a year no matter how hard you try not to. The same could be said about Home Depot or places like that. You need light bulbs, garbage bags, etc.. Another terrific gift card idea is the mall-wide gift certificate. It works in any store in the entire mall and I believe they actually give you your change. (Hint: if you’re shopping for me and don’t know what to buy, call Stone Road Mall in Guelph and find out if they offer something like this. I don’t know if they do but if they do, there’s your backup plan.)
The other thing that pisses me right off about gift cards is the fact that they expire! You could give me cash and it would never expire, but that gift card that you gave me for Dar’s Delights could expire on me after about a year. That’s totally ridiculous as well. I gave you perfectly good money for my great uncle Ned to buy something in your sports store and you’re telling me he has X amount of time to use it!?
One last thought; what if the gift card you’re given doesn’t work for you? You should totally be allowed to trade it in straight up. Great uncle Ned there doesn’t need a gift certificate for a sports store, he’s got all the hang gliding equipment he could ever want and he’s not interested in anything else. So can’t he walk in the door and get the $50 that I gave him in cash? No. Instead he’s got to piss away $50 of my hard earned money so that he doesn’t feel like I’m wasting my money on him and then he has to spend even more money on crap he doesn’t want to go over the $50 I accidentally imposed on him.
In conclusion, the first thing I want to say is; don’t get me wrong, if you got me a gift card this year, I’m extremely thankful. I just think that the vendors are going about this thing all wrong and incredibly greedily. You want my business? Be nice. I can easily take any of my business to your competition next year.