Let’s All Try to be Good and Avoid the Gift Card Trap

Louisville-themed Snow Globes are better than gift cards

I’m going to try and stay out of trouble for one more week.  I really do want that Amazon Fire thingie, and I’m hoping Santa is a LouisvilleKY.com subscriber.

Today at 1 I’ll be on Joe Elliott’s show at 970 AM – WGTK, and also knocking out some Christmas shopping because we’re on location at A Taste of Kentucky at Mall St. Matthews.  An elf tells me that the Louisville-themed snow globe is a great gift idea for that Friend Of Lou who has you stumped on what to get.

Which reminds me that I’ve not done my annual rant against the gift card industry. Now, those of you who know me know what I think of the whole gift card idea — it’s basically a gift of money with strings attached. It’s the gift that says “I know I’m obligated to get you a gift, but I’ll just give you some money instead.” And not just any monetary gift, but one that you’re required to use at a specific location in a limited amount of time on something you may or may not really want.

Socks, Underwear, Goofy Tie. Sweater. Cookies. Pocket Knife. Hammer. Board Game. CD. Christmas Ornament. Clock. Jewelry.  Golf Balls. Bourbon. These are ideas that you can use for anyone. All of them are better than a gift card. What is fun about opening an envelope with a piece of plastic in it? Ever seen a 10-year-old get excited about that? Most kids just stack ’em up like playing cards. And don’t forget the burden you put on their parents to go spend ’em after Christmas.

You know that Paul Thorn song about those relatives you see once a year? The “I Don’t Like Half the Folks I Love” crowd.  Don’t fall into the trap of getting them all gift cards.  What’s fun about a Christmas tree loaded with envelopes instead of being stocked with presents that you actually open under them?

For several years, I’ve written a piece like this before Christmas, and looked up all the statistics the retail  industry puts out. But you don’t need numbers to know that a lot of those cards kids get from aunts and uncles and grandparents end up not getting used. They end up between the couch cushions, thrown away with the wrapping paper or saved in a closet past the expiration date, because parents forget about them and don’t want to go shopping with their kids anyway.

Here’s one eye-opening number — $5,000,000,000. That’s the amount that retailers earn annually from spillage — the amount of money spent on gift cards that’s never redeemed, according to the National Retail Federation

Therefore, I suggest if you’re going to give someone a “green” (as in cash) gift, as opposed to thinking of the person, making a trip to a store, and purchasing something you think they’d like, then just give them cash. The recipient is going to be no more impressed that you went out and charged $25 on your credit card to get them a credit card they can only use in one place. Statistics show that cash always is spent by the recipient. If they end up using the loot for groceries, or a bottle of Makers, they’ll still thank you for it.

Or try getting a snow globe instead. The ones pictured here are available at A Taste of Kentucky, the Visitors Center downtown and a few select spots.