Gift Cards Suck: don't give them as (Christmas) gifts

So I'm listening to the Marketplace podcast walking home tonight and on comes a brilliant commentary: Forget the gift cards, give cash.

Bottom line: if you can't figure out something to buy someone, you're silly if you think a gift card is some how better than just giving cash.

They are more inconvenient and they are rarely fully used. Merchants push them because--surprise, surprise--they know that any card not redeemed is pure profit.

If you really care about someone, give them something they can really use.

Or give them cash--which is something they can really use.

Gift cards are the worst of both worlds. Don't buy the hype.

And yes, I accept PayPal.


Anonymous said...

"You're silly if you think a gift card is some how better than just giving cash."

So the gazillion buyers of gift cards are just silly? No. Gift cards are more personal than cash, they may encourage people to try new things, and, most importantly, they make the receiver's buying choices easier by limiting his options. There is real value in that.

For example: I never would have bought my beloved Oster Classic 76 had my brother given me cash instead of a certificate to Sally's Beauty Supply. For further evidence, see Barry Schwartz.

Kevin Moore said...

Ah yes, I'm a fan of Shwartz. So the question becomes: are you a savvy enough gift card buyer where the benefit of the limited choice you offer is outweighed by the probability that the person you are gifting to will lose or forget about the gift card before they get a chance to use it.

I'm a big fan of money plus instructions: you will buy a book wit this. You will go out to a play. Whatever.