Gift cards cannot replace real giving

Tuesday, Nov. 30
November 30, 2010
HPD reaches out to area’s needy with food boxes
December 2, 2010

It’s the thought that counts. That is the long-standing phrase used to excuse gifts that failed to match a recipient’s interest or needs. It was also a reminder for those giving gifts to put individual consideration behind purchases made for family and friends.

In an age of convenience and a time when technology has distanced people from really knowing one another, or caring on a level deeper than what a Twitter tweet has to offer, the pre-paid retail gift card is taking the place of thought-filled presents.

According to the National Retail Federation, pre-paid gift cards are now the top purchased items among holiday shoppers, with 57 percent of consumers saying they will give or expect to receive them this year. A survey conducted by business consultants with Deloitte & Touche boost that figure to 64 percent. Total gift card spending is expected to reach nearly $25 billion.

Retailers like gift cards because they generate store traffic. Additionally, many have reported that quite often pre-paid gift cards are never redeemed, making a windfall for the business whose logo is the predominant thing seen when they are opened.

For some consumers the idea of a pre-paid card is one of convenience. The justification being that the recipient can then select whatever he or she wants. Others view it as a symbol of token gift giving that requires no thought or effort on the part of the giver.

It was about 50 years ago when a young boy received a gift, the memory of which has stayed with him for life. The thrill still resonates with the recollection of opening a package Christmas morning that contained a bright red toy Texaco tanker truck.

It was not the toy itself that made the thrill. It was knowing that the item had been admired the previous summer and remembered by the boy’s grandfather, who at some point walked back to the corner gas station where it was displayed and made a thought-filled purchase with the distant holiday in mind.

A pre-paid card to purchase a toy would not have been remembered. The lesson of noticing and acting on that observation was.

That expression of genuine, intentional giving is something that kids of all ages appreciate. But then, it is the thought that counts.