RANT: What the hell is the point of gift cards?

This is a discussion on RANT: What the hell is the point of gift cards? within the A Brief History of Cprogramming.com forums, part of the Community Boards category; On my way into work this morning, I was listening to the radio, and a commercial came on for Walmart. ...

  1. #1
    Mayor of Awesometown Govtcheez's Avatar
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    RANT: What the hell is the point of gift cards?

    On my way into work this morning, I was listening to the radio, and a commercial came on for Walmart. They had their standard line up of ethnically and age diverse-sounding people saying things like "I'm gonna buy my favorite video game!" "I'm gonna get the latest tunes!" "I'm getting some really cheap off brand cereal!" "I think I'll pick up clothes that fall apart after being washed once".

    It was a commercial for their gift card, which they described as "the thoughtful choice this holiday season". That doesn't make any sense to me (especially at Walmart). If you really don't have any idea what to get someone, just give them cash, for chrissakes. Gift cards sell for cash value, so there's no savings either way, and it's just more convenient for everyone involved.

    First, getting someone a gift card forces them to shop at one place. If they find something similar at another store for a cheaper price, they're just SOL, since I doubt Circuit City will accept Best Buy gift cards. Also, you rarely get a chance to use the whole value of the gift card. Have you ever gone to a store and spent exactly $25? $50? It's possible, but really rare. Most places don't give change until you're under a dollar left on there or something equally pointless.

    For some reason, people seem to think that giving cash isn't very thoughtful. That may be, I mean, you didn't go into a store and say "oh yeah I think Bobby might shop here, give me that $20 gift card that's so conveniently placed right next to the checkout line so I don't have to look for it". Cash has way more advantages than gift cards; it can be split up and spent however or wherever you want. It's pretty and green. Strippers don't take gift cards. It's just as easy for the people working to process, too.

    In summation, if you're not really going to put any thought into gift-giving anyway, just give cash, it's at least as thoughtful as a gift card.

  2. #2
    and the Hat of Clumsiness GanglyLamb's Avatar
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    Totally agree with Govtcheez.

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    Yes, my avatar is stolen anonytmouse's Avatar
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    Companies love gift cards (aka gift vouchers).

    1. People take a long time before spending them and the company earns interest off the money in the mean time.
    2. People never spend them. They either lose them, they expire or they don't shop at the selected store. Company takes face value as pure profit. I would take a bet that this is surprisingly common.
    3. As mentioned, people don't spend the exact amount. Either way, the company wins.
    4. They force the consumer to spend at the selected store.

    With all these advantages, you would think that gift cards would sell at a substantial discount. For obvious reasons they don't. Moral of the story: gift cards are a rip-off and a massive boon for companies.

    Bah humbug: Gift cards that stop giving
    Last edited by anonytmouse; 11-30-2004 at 06:37 AM.

  4. #4
    Mayor of Awesometown Govtcheez's Avatar
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    I didn't even think about either of the first two, that's a good point.

    Gangly whenever you post I hear it read by Homestar in my head, heh.

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    5|-|1+|-|34|) ober's Avatar
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    Interesting indeed, anonytmouse. I agree totally with you, Govt. Gift cards are a bunch of crap.

  6. #6
    Mayor of Awesometown Govtcheez's Avatar
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    I did think of a good use for gift cards. They're a really easy way for people to shop at online only stores. Amazon's the only one of these I can think of right now where it might be preferable to do that over cash, since they carry pretty much everything under the sun and draw prices from a ton of different stores. A couple months ago I got a book there that had a cover price of $50. I paid, I think, $11 including shipping, brand new.

  7. #7
    It's full of stars adrianxw's Avatar
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    Here, we have several "gift tokens" which are for a type of item rather then for a particular shop. A "book token" can be used in any book shop which is a member of the scheme, (most of them), same is true of a "music token", they can be used in most "record" shops which these days also sell DVD, some still VHS.
    Wave upon wave of demented avengers march cheerfully out of obscurity unto the dream.

  8. #8
    Mayor of Awesometown Govtcheez's Avatar
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    I guess that makes a little more sense, but I still don't like the idea that you're locked into buying a specific type of thing.

    How does redemption for those work? Is it just like 1 token = 1 book, regardless of price?

  9. #9
    5|-|1+|-|34|) ober's Avatar
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    Well, here's another way to look at it. They could have just bought you something you really hated. At least this way, they're giving you the option of getting something you at least like.

  10. #10
    Mayor of Awesometown Govtcheez's Avatar
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    Right, I realize that, but at least if they buy you something you'll hate, they at least, y'know, thought about what to get you.

    With gift cards, they're usually right near or next to the checkout lane, so 90% of the time the person just picks it up and says "hey, now I'm done shopping!" At least with cash you're a little more flexible.

  11. #11
    Super Moderator VirtualAce's Avatar
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    Ok cheez so which store do you want us to buy you a gift card from?


  12. #12
    It's full of stars adrianxw's Avatar
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    >>> How does redemption for those work?

    Works like your do. You buy them to a certain value. The other objections still apply, but you are not linked to a particular shop/chain.
    Wave upon wave of demented avengers march cheerfully out of obscurity unto the dream.

  13. #13
    RoD
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    Redundantly Redundant RoD's Avatar
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    i agree, but what about those visa checkcard things? Its a gift card "credit card" thats good like almost everywhere visa is.

  14. #14
    Mayor of Awesometown Govtcheez's Avatar
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    Visa is accepted pretty much everywhere, but it'd be better if there a way to combine the remaining value with your other money.

  15. #15
    Bob Dole for '08 B0bDole's Avatar
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    >remaining value with your other money.

    at almost every store you can pay for stuff using a couple credit cards, or a credit card and some cash, or a check and a credit card.

    Cash registers are set up that way. FME
    Hmm

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