A gift card? “Isn’t that impersonal?” you ask. “Won’t it seem lazy, as if I gave no thought to the person or their present?” Nonsense. In today’s hectic world — and with your equally hectic, globally time-zone-inclusive days and nights online — it’s OK to take the easy road once in a while, especially in the midst of holiday madness.
Besides, this isn’t your grandmother’s paper gift certificate from back in the day. Gift cards come in every monetary denomination. They’re colorful, brightly decorated and available from almost every retailer. They also come as straight-out cash, a la Visa or AMEX. Some even offer incentives on purchases — things like a $100 card for $90 or bonuses for the purchaser (you). Supermarket giant Kroger, for example, credits you with cash back on groceries when you purchase certain gift cards. Win-win!
When you come to think of it, the idea that gift cards are impersonal is actually not all that true. Barring the REI gift card for grandma (see below), they actually may be one of the most desirable gifts. In fact, a Dec. 6 poll on Swagbucks.com showed gift cards in first place among the responses to “What item is on top of your shopping list this holiday season?”
So, before you rush out and grab something random off the rack or — God forbid — dip into a “Perfect Christmas” convenience bin, here are a few things to keep in mind about gift cards.
Don’t get an REI gift card for your grandma — unless she likes REI.
This may seem obvious, but match the card and the recipient. If you’re considering food of any kind but don’t know the person well, err on the side of caution. Your best intentions could go wrong if the individual is diabetic, dieting, vegetarian, gluten-intolerant, allergic to certain ingredients, does not drink coffee and so forth. A gift card for a restaurant or food store, whether a supermarket such as Kroger or upscale retailer like Whole Foods, is a much safer bet than, for instance, a specialized food or beverage card that limits choices.
It’s a gift. Don’t get preachy.
Proceed with decorum. What may seem like a wonderful idea to you, if you were on the receiving end, might not be the case for the intended. For example, don’t give someone a gift card for the gym if they haven’t made it clear that they want to work out. Otherwise, you’re risking the all-too-common “No, I don’t think you need to lose weight!” conversation. Likewise, don’t gift a vegetarian a card for meals at a steakhouse, or purchase a music or movie gift card without knowing whether these are someone’s interests. In the spirit of giving, it’s easy to think about what we like and mistake it for a universal pleasure.
Say it with me now: “Target…”
Keep it simple for safety. As impersonal as they may seem, gift cards from large retailers are often your best bet if you don’t know someone well enough to know their likes and dislikes. Not everyone likes chocolate (unfathomable!), but everyone can find something they like or need at Target or Wal-Mart, or on Amazon. We all buy shoes, clothing, food and toiletries. A retail gift card guarantees some or all of those things.
Santa loves M-O-N-E-Y.
No one turns down money. If the thought of offering someone a gift card that’s 100-percent cash feels cold to you, think again. Everyone loves money — everyone — and most people actually need money. A cash card can be spent anywhere, from Louboutin to your utilities company, so you can’t go wrong. Eliminate the risk of buying the incorrect thing by going directly to the source.
As a cam model, you know all about personalizing visual and virtual interactions, so why should a gift card be any different? Go to a service like GiftCards.com and choose from more than 10,000 options in the predesign gallery, or upload the photo of your choice. Make it cute, touching, humorous or hilariously tacky — the opportunities are endless. Just remember it is a gift card, and the recipient will present it publicly when shopping, so keep it safe for work. (Their work, not yours.)
There are also many ways to bring retro personalization vibes into today’s way of gifting. For instance, does one of your girlfriends play background music when she’s in open chat? Surprise her with an iTunes gift card. Better yet, if you know her taste in music, create a playlist and gift that. It’s like a mixtape for today’s world, and some of us are old enough to know how thoughtful that always seemed.
It’s all about the box.
Finally, don’t forget the packaging. A gift card inside a stocking or gift bag works well as a stuffer, but merely handing someone a small envelope may seem trivial. Affix the card and envelope to a large candy cane, box of cookies, giant-size chocolate bar or any other item(s) of your choice. Here is where you can take a chance on making a mistake, since the gift card is the focus of your holiday wishes.
And there you have it: quick, easy and one size fits all. Gift them a gift card and eliminate those many unhappy returns!
Jenna Andre is a total gearhead who also appreciates the simpler things in life. Email her at Jenna.Andre@ynotcam.com.