Gift cards are life savers

By Stephen Rhodes

Got that thousand yard Christmas stare;  the vacant look on your face as you stand dead centre in the aisle of your local shopping centre, at least until someone elbows you out of the way?

Christmas shopping can be a terrifying experience.  And as I get older, buying for older friends – many of whom have a houseful of stuff just waiting to be de-cluttered – is even scarier. They have spent a lifetime collecting stuff they don’t need. Daunting.

Enter the gift card. What a marketing phenomenon! Maybe it is not as esthetically pleasing as the big box under the tree but surely more practical.  It gives Christmas Eve shopping a whole new meaning and I don’t even have to go to the retailer whose card I want to purchase, because some marketing genius has placed oodles of these things on racks in convenient retail outlets like Shoppers Drug Mart and Canadian Tire. Even better, I can buy a gift card online and email it to the intended recipient as a simple bar code.

I know, I know, I sound like the Grinch. Hi, Merry Christmas. Check you inbox for your gift. And if you don’t like the card, you can swap it for another. Ho Ho Ho.

Speaking of the Grinch, a consumer watchdog is advising against giving gift cards this holiday season, saying they often go unused and put restrictions on recipients. “Actually, if you see a gift card hanging on the wall, you should run in the opposite direction,” said Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers’ Association of Canada.

Surveys show 86 per cent of people like giving gift cards, but only 40 per cent of people like receiving them. He says 40 per cent of gift cards never get used even though there are companies that will convert your gift card to cash. What a boost for the economy.

Gift cards are a $6 billion a year industry in Canada. I don’t think they are going anywhere soon, and for me it makes buying a gift for that impossible to buy for person easy smeasy.

View our Winter Newsletter.

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