mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A tale of two gift cards...

Slate Econ editor Tim Harford ponders why giving a gift card is the worst possible gift - it combines the impersonal aspects of giving cash with the possibility of being useless to the recipient that comes with a gift.

But a gift card, like any gift, reflects the knowledge that the person has about the recipient and his or her wants -and thus, like any gift, can range from useless to awesome. The very act of giving a gift card suggests that you don't know a whole lot about what the recipient wants, so if you are thinking of giving a gift card, it seems fair to say that you aren't likely to choose the perfect gift - I mean, not everyone can come up with gifts as creative as what I got for, say, bsom and t.

But like any gift, you do need to know enough about what the person wants and has available to them. Tim comments that twice he's had problems with gift cards - he gave a Border's gift card to someone who lived 90 minutes from a Borders, and someone gave him a Bed Bath and Beyond card and he never found a store.

In the age of computers, this seems like an easy problem to remedy - every retailer big enough to sell gift cards also has a website with a store locator, so it should be pretty easy to put in your recipient's zip and make sure they have a store nearby - or to find a store near you if you are the recipient (I don't know about DC, but there are plenty of Bed Bath and Beyonds across the state line in MD, including one around the corner from my house).

The inspiration for writing this post, however, comes from my own gift card receipts this year. I got two - one was from my brother, and was for Target, a store I shop at at least once a week. I love Target for a number of reasons - the occasional insane clearance deal (like my $400 32" LCD), good everyday prices, pleasant atmosphere, and the ability to buy everything from Vault Zero to kitty litter to clothing in the same trip. My brother knows me well enough to know I shop there, and I'm sure it will be used up in the next week or so.

The other gift card was from an uncle I only see at holidays. Every year, he gives me a gift card to Sears. While I live around the corner from Sears, I pretty much never set foot in it. I think I was in there twice this year - once to spend his gift card, the other time while looking for a sportcoat to wear to a funeral.

I can't be too hard on his gift, though, since I never know what to get him. In past years, I've gotten him some sort of gift basket of meat or chocolate. This year I gave him a gift card to PetSmart, since he has a beagle and I'm sure he could find something there that the dog needs. And yes, I did verify that there is a PetSmart right around the corner from his house.

Of course, there is something both funny and pathetic about the fact that we gave each other gift cards for the same amount to stores that we may or may not shop at. It would be a lot more efficient if we just kept our money, but since tradition seems to dictate a need to exchange gifts, I guess we need to make it as painless as possible.


At 4:55 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

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