Jay Cronley: Gift cards exemplify the best, worst of giving
BY JAY CRONLEY World Staff Columnist
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
11/27/12 at 5:18 AM
The store was on the moon.
That's an angle that plays to a merchant's advantage during the gift-buying season. It's like making a person walk past all the slot machines to get to the cashier and blackjack tables at the casinos.
The more difficult it is to get there, the harder it is to leave the action.
Did I want to make this drive again anytime soon?
A trip by chopper would have been long enough.
I had $4.11 to spend.
It was what was left on a gift card.
"It's going to be pretty hard to spend that amount," a fellow shopper said.
"On something I need."
"That could be impossible."
Time is money: My birthday gift card was for $75, with no gasoline allowance, and was to a store that contained high-dollar merchandise.
Gift cards exemplify the best and worst of giving.
They're everywhere, from the checkout counters at the specific stores themselves to display racks in pharmacies.
Talk about one-stop shopping. In a few minutes, you can give everything from home improvements to sporting goods to electronics to food to an oil change.
When you send a gift card, you're giving this message, along with love and friendship: There went 10 minutes.
Writing a holiday check could take more time than buying and sending a gift card.
The companies issuing prize cards or gift cards wouldn't mind if some were set aside and lost, or if a million people left $4.11 unused.
Oklahoma tax refund cards aren't issued because they love us. They're issued because they hope we'll forget about the $24 refund.
Most cards have rules. Some expire. The reward cards that give you money off a gas purchase if you buy $50 worth of groceries are talking $50 worth of shopping not including taxes. So you might have to stuff your bag with some M&M's and beef jerky to hit the limit.
Leaving money on a gift card is like tipping the CEO of the issuing company.
Pay to play: Gift cards to restaurants are easy to even out. The balance after food is left as a tip for good service.
Cards for merchandise are harder to handle. Has anybody not gone over the gift card limit in a big store with high-quality goods?
Here's the way it works.
You don't want to leave $4.11 on the card.
You don't want to spend $5 or $10 more on something you don't want or need.
So your gift card winds up costing you $48 of your own money.
Original Print Headline: Gift cards exemplify best, worst of giving