|You live several hundred miles from your nephew, but you want to send a special gift for Christmas. Unfortunately, you donít really know what clothing or shoe sizes he wears, what sort of music he likes, or even what possessions he already owns. He has a video-game system, but you donít know what games he already owns: picking one from the shelves and shipping it to his house could result in either a gift that he doesnít like at all or a duplicate of a game that he already owns.
So, should you give that nephew a gift card to his favorite video game store, knowing that heíll be able to go after Christmas and pick out any game that he desires?
In one word: yes. Itís not uncommon to give friends and relatives a gift card for any occasion, from birthdays to Christmas. Even if some people say that this is impersonal Ė and even a little rude Ė that isnít necessarily true. There are several advantages to giving these cards that both the giver and the recipient will appreciate.
The first is that the card is just like cash, but for a specific store. You should always pick a card that your recipient will appreciate. Grandma probably wonít like having thirty dollars to spend at the mallís food court, but your teen aged nephew might. As long as the store fits the recipient, youíre giving a gift that is sure to be appreciated. The gift card says, ďI didnít know exactly what to get for you, but I care enough to know that this store is one of your favorite places to shop, so have fun.Ē
One major problem with shopping is that you never really know exactly what every other gift giver is going to buy for your recipient. Many people have opened identical birthday gifts, only to find that they already have the same thing. Not many people enjoy the hassle of returning one of the duplicate items. Gift cards eliminate this problem. Even if everyone else in the family gives your nephew a gift card, he wonít have to return or exchange anything: heíll probably be ecstatic about having all that money to spend on video games.
People who receive gift cards for Christmas can also take advantage of post-holiday sales and specials. The fifty-dollar record-store gift card will get your recipient more merchandise because that store, like almost all others, is trying to get rid of the unsold goods that they bought in anticipation of major pre-holiday sales.
And, because many gift cards are redeemable both in person and at the storeís Web site, youíre also giving the gift of convenience. The busy executive in the family can shop from his desk during lunch. Your niece can pick out a new record from the computer room. And if youíre the lucky recipient of a gift card, you too can shop without bundling up and braving the cold winter weather.
You might still think that giving a card is impersonal or even uncaring. To make this idea less troublesome, some companies offer personalized cards. Wal-Mart, for example, offers a personalization option: buyers can use their own photos to create personal, thoughtful gift cards. The new father in the family, for example, will enjoy a card featuring a photo of his newborn Ė even if he doesnít intend to spend the cardís balance on diapers or bottles. Even after the cardís funds are spent, he can keep it in his wallet: a handy picture to show off to his co-workers and friends.
So, stock up on gift cards and stuff them into stockings this Christmas. If you pick the right store for each person, your recipients will love your presents Ė and youíll be happy knowing that nobody is going to stand in the exchange line for three hours.