GUEST COLUMN: Don’t look a gift card in the mouth
Thursday, 31 January 2013 by Mark Magnan
Well Christmas is over. I hope everyone got the gift they really wanted. The big shopping season is over, and there is a bit of a lull until the next major retail event. Although there will be some trumped up holiday to try and entice you to spend your money.
We made it through Black Friday, then Cyber Monday. The last shopping day before Christmas should be called Gift Card – Whatever-day. That would be the day that all the hopeless shoppers just give in and purchase a gift card for that one person on the list that is difficult to buy for. Don't get me wrong, gift cards are a good gift. It gives the recipient the flexibility to purchase whatever they want instead of another pair of house slippers or that yearly bottle of cheap aftershave.
The idea of a restaurant gift card is really good. It benefits the receiver by allowing them a night on the town, so to speak. No one has to cook or do dishes, and there is a change in the menu. I know that getting a free meal at a nice place is always welcome.
Gift cards as a whole get a bad rep at times. It is sometimes seen as a thoughtless gift. One that is either purchased at the very last moment, or chosen when a reasonable amount of thought is exhausted in trying to buy that perfect gift. And realistically there are some people that are just impossible to buy for, they either have almost everything or are so difficult to please that nothing short of a box of cash will make them happy.
For me, I appreciate any gift. But gift cards are something that, well, drive me crazy. The giver certainly gets their money's worth in giving me a gift card.
There are two different types of gift cards, one that can be spent anywhere, and one specifically for a certain store. Either type is welcome. But the store-specific type is a bit more frustrating for me.
When I get a gift card my mind immediately has about four million possibilities for spending options. Some are so ridiculous that they are immediately eliminated. They we get down to the three million that are more reasonable, but most of those seem a bit out, too. The vast number of choices is what drives me nuts. There are a lot of things that I can spend the gift card on, things that I normally wouldn't buy, or things that are just frivolous and not something that I would spend regular cash on. But then there is the choice of combining more than one gift card, or spare cash (like that happens real often) to buy something expensive.
The real problem is when I get to the store. My mental list of ideas goes out the window, or the hole in my head perhaps. I am suddenly tempted by almost every item in the store, except the women's section. I see so many things that seem to call my name. I am literally like a kid in a candy store. I have no idea what I want or how to spend my gift card. I am, by nature, a horrible shopper. I even irritate myself at my inability to make a decision and purchase something. With a gift card in hand I am even worse. I wander through the store in a daze, finding an item only to put it back once I find something more desirable. I am diligent and put the returned items back where they belong. I can fill a shopping cart several times before finally forcing myself to get into a checkout line and finalize my purchase.
There is just too much on that buffet table for me. There are items that would be nice to have, but I wouldn't spend my money on them. The items that I need, but are not a real necessity. Things that I truly do need, but it seems like a waste to spend a gift card for something I should just buy myself. Then finally the things that are just for fun, that there would be no way you would spend your own hard earned money on. Therein is the problem, just too many choices for my mind, the same mind that has a hard time focusing on one thing for more than just a few moments. One big thing, lots of small things, things that I want, things I need, things just to impress someone else, things.
I usually spend the gift card on something in the middle. I drag myself, kicking and whining, to the checkout. And instantly when I walk out the door I regret something I did purchase or remember something I really should have bought.
The giver that originally gave me the gift car really misses out on all the excitement of my shopping experience. If they only knew the torture that they have given me, they would probably follow me through the store filming my antics, only to laugh at them later with other friends and family.
I really do appreciate the ability to pick my gift, the stress is something I just have to deal with, and will benefit me in the long run. I am thankful to get any gift, it means the giver cares about you, and that is special. I just wish they cared enough to get a reasonable gift card for the European sports car dealership.