OMG, Another Unwanted Gift Card—You Shouldn’t Have!

The woman is glad to get a gift wow pop art comics retro style Halftone. Imitation of old illustrations. Emotion is the reaction of the holiday

By MJ Plaster

When someone receives an unwanted gift card and says, “OMG! You shouldn’t have,” it might be a Freudian slip. And if the person leans toward the sarcastic, the gift giver knows he’s made a mistake and feels terrible. Don’t let that happen to you.

Why People Give Gift Cards
Let’s face it—we give gift cards on holidays and birthdays because they’re convenient, and they’re easy to buy at the last minute. That’s why 80 percent of holiday shoppers buy at least one gift card.

When you’re rushed and giving little thought to a gift, you tend to choose what you like to receive. I love Trader Joe’s, but my oldest and dearest friend wouldn’t be caught dead there. She would die of starvation if Whole Foods closed its doors. I’m in a panic when I buy at the last minute, and Whole Foods isn’t on my radar. It wouldn’t occur to me to get her a Whole Foods card. It happens to all of us; the Golden Rule kicks in.

Golden Rule vs. Platinum Rule
The Golden Rule teaches us to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The lesser-known Platinum Rule states, “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” Words have meaning, and there’s a big difference in the two rules.

When you have all the time in the world, you can think of a dozen appropriate gifts for friends and loved ones. When you’re under pressure during the holidays, it’s easy to think of what you would like to receive for a gift. Which describes you during the holidays?

5 Problems With Gift Cards
Follow along as we count the ways:

  • Choice – The top problem with gift cards is choosing the wrong one.
  • Get out your magnifying glass to check the fine print for expiration dates. Will the recipient check the date, or will the gift card sit in the back of a drawer until spring-cleaning fever hits five years down the road?
  • Theft – It’s difficult, if not impossible, to replace lost or stolen gift cards.
  • Loss – Same as above.
  • Balance – Suppose you buy a gift card for $20 to a clothing store. It’s not enough to buy anything, so the recipient has to fork over additional money. If you give a larger sum, a small balance could be left after a purchase, often too little to buy anything.

Qui Bono?
Who profits from gift cards?

The retailer collects money up front. If there’s an unused balance on the card, the retailer pockets free money. The New York Post reported that a recent study found that since 2008, $44 billion dollars have gone unspent. But that’s only half the story.

Retailers don’t have to claim revenue until the money is spent. Sure, they hold a liability, but what are the chances that the full value will ever be spent? In the meantime, they’ve earned tax-free income–$44 billion over the past few years.

Someone else benefits from unwanted gift cards: me. I discovered “discount gift cards” a few years ago. There’s a huge secondary market for unwanted gift cards. Twice a year, I buy gift cards for a clothing store at a 25 percent discount of the remaining value at the discount sites, and I use it when the 80 percent closeout sales hit. I win, but the person who received the gift loses because she had to sell it at a discount.

Check Your Premise
“But, it’s so tacky to give money,” you say.

In Ayn Rand’s tome Atlas Shrugged, one of the recurring themes was summarized in this quote:

       “Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.”

If you think that a gift card is the only “classy” way to give money, check your premise. The answer is hidden in the quote—literally as well as figuratively.

Write a Check, Give a Gift
Most everyone appreciates a gift of money including all the people who serve you year-round. They appreciate a tip at Christmastime or for any special occasion.

CheckWorks Introduces Gift Checks
CheckWorks understands the problems associated with gift cards. Their employees have the same problem you do when they want to give money for special occasions. They put their heads together and came up with a solution: a new set of personal checks just for gift giving—the Gift Checks set. A box of Gift Checks is only $9.99 with free shipping.

If you’re normally a no-nonsense, blue-security-checks kind of person, you can keep a box of personal, gift checks on hand for just for gift giving. The Gift-Checks set includes three checks, each adorned with a pretty bow—the perfect touch for a thoughtful gift:

You don’t have to hand them cold cash. When you give the gift of money, it’s all in the presentation.

Tips for Giving a Check:

  • Use a beautiful check
  • If you’re old enough to write a check, you’re old enough to know how to write in cursive and to use attractive penmanship. Dig deep and pull out those age-old skills.
  • Skip the horrid money envelopes and place a check in a beautiful card. Add a nice decoration to the envelope.

So trade in those unwanted gift cards for a classy gift check, and you’ll turn “OMG, you shouldn’t have” into, “How considerate of you!”