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How much thought is behind a gift card?

Julie Sherrier

Is a gift card still considered a bad gift?

A friend forwarded me an article interviewing
Gettysburg College professor Steve Gimbel, who railed against the giving of
gift cards to friends and family for the holidays. His argument: “The gift
card is about the giver, not the recipient. It sends the message that happiness
is to be found in acquiring the things you want, not in being close to people
who care about you …”

Gimbel also implied that while gift cards are easy, they
don’t require much thought, rendering the gift impersonal and, well,
thoughtless. That argument has weight, of course, as gift cards have always had
the reputation for being a little “cold.” But as they grow in
popularity — and as people have come up with cool ways to wrap gift cards
is their bad rap lessening?

While I cannot claim to never have taken advantage of the
ease of throwing a gift card or two under the Christmas tree (especially for
those hard-to-please teenagers), I tend to agree with Gimbel.

To illustrate, here’s a conversation I had with my sister a
week or so ago:

Me: “Hi. What do you want for Christmas?”

Sister: “I dunno. A gift card?”

Me: “But what do you really need and want?”

Sister: “Money to buy stuff I want. How about I get you
a gift card, too?”

Me: “So, I spend $50 for a gift card for you, and then
you turn around and spend $50 on a gift card me? Sounds like a wash. What’s the
purpose in that?”

Sister: “Yeah, I get your point. So what do you want
for Christmas?”

Me: “I dunno. Maybe a new yoga mat?”

See my point? This year, no one in my circle is getting a
gift card, except, of course, my teenager, who is broke and needs some cash to
take his girlfriend out. I have picked my gifts with thought and care, and even
if they don’t like them, at least it’s evident (at least I hope so) that some
thought was put into the purchase. I’ll just tuck in those handy gift receipts,
just in case.

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