This I Believe

Alexander - Plantation, Florida
Entered on March 14, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
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I believe gift cards are the worst gifts anyone can give. I hate gift cards. It seems today that more and more people give gift cards as gifts. I’ve received quite a few myself, and I always wonder “why?”. Why give something that’s just like cash only worse, as you can only spend it at a certain store? Once, while waiting to get my caffeine fix at a certain chain coffee house, I saw a woman pay for her Mochacino with a $50 gift card. I wondered why someone would give you $50 worth of coffee. Do you drink it so much that someone gave you fifty dollars, which can be spent exclusively on coffee? If so, I believe an intervention would be a better gift. This brought me to wonder what other problems gift cards can cause. What if you’re stranded without gas and you have a Shell gift card, but the only station open is a BP? One can’t parlay one store’s gift card into another’s. So you’d have to call your auto club or end up stranded. So, as I reach the end of the queue and step up to pay for my cup-o-Joe, I glance to the right of the register. What do I see? More gift cards! Nothing says happy birthday like “I forgot, so I got this with my coffee this morning”. At least when someone gives cash, they have to take the time to pick out a nice card, and maybe scribble something in it.

The worst gift cards are the ones without a preset denomination, the ones where you can put as much money as you want on them. The only flaw in this system is that you have to remember to write how much is on it. There’s no embarrassment like learning that you have insufficient funds to pay for your CD, all because Uncle Ted forgot to write that he only spent a measly five dollars. But if you thought that was bad, imagine learning that your gift card is worthless. Many things will cause a gift card to become nothing more than space filler for your wallet: the store may go out of business, or the gift card wasn’t used in a certain time period and thus has expired. The only way cash becomes scrap is massive inflation.

Now, these are all good reasons why gift cards make awful gifts, but the best reason is that they’re just tacky. What a gift card says is “I didn’t think enough of you to buy a nice card, write ‘happy birthday’, and shove a twenty in it, so I got you this gift card. And look, it’s already got ‘happy birthday’ written on it, what a timesaver!” So please, next time you want to give a gift, just give cash and an amusing card.