THE popularity of gift cards at Christmas has grown significantly in recent years.
In fact, according to Australia Post, 75 per cent of people questioned as part of a recent survey said they planned to purchase a gift card this Christmas, with one third of respondents planning to buy a gift card for a family member or close friend.
These stats got us thinking at the Times – are gift cards a great gift, giving those who receive them the chance to choose their own present, or are they just a lazy choice?
With this question in mind and just for a bit of fun, journalists Susie Cunningham and Tim Schaefer have squared off in ‘The Great Gift Card Debate’.
AT some point in life, each of us will experience that awkward moment of opening a Christmas gift that leaves us lost for words.
The gift-giver leans in expectantly, waiting to see how much you love your new (insert awful gift here), while you politely feign admiration, pulling out a line like “Wow, I always wanted a battery powered singing mermaid bench top water feature”.
The gift – either a well-intended but misdirected purchase, or a careless afterthought grabbed from the bottom of the re-gift box – has quite simply missed the mark.
If you’re one of those people-pleasing types, the unwanted gift finds its home amid a pile of odds and ends, waiting to be brought out and put on display when the gift-giver comes to visit.
The bad gift burden can sit there for years, leaving you feeling guilty for your ungrateful attitude and bemused as to how someone thought it would be good gift in the first place.
Eventually, in an unsentimental spring cleaning induced moment, the unwanted gift either goes to the charity bin for the op shop volunteers to deal with or joins the region’s landfill at the dump.
Just think for a moment. All this could have been solved if they had…
a gift card.
Sure, it can be debated that gift cards are impersonal, but who seriously doesn’t like receiving free money to spend on whatever they want, even if it’s at the supermarket?
It’s a win-win situation for all involved, really.
The gift-giver most likely won’t get a genuine, “thank you so much, this is so thoughtful and special” response when the recipient opens an envelope containing a $20 supermarket gift card.
But there’s a pretty good chance they’ll see the card go straight into that person’s wallet, ready to be used rather than relegated to the bottom of the ‘awkward gifts of 2014’ pile.
And that’s got to be better than all of us ending up with a whole lot of useless stuff we don’t need this Christmas.
Disclaimer: I do like thoughtful gifts, I just wanted to win this debate.
PICTURE it. You and your family are all camped around a glittering Christmas tree, knee-deep in wrapping paper.
Mum’s well-worn Christmas tape is belting out Do They Know It’s Christmas for the umpteenth time and the whiff of roast potatoes fills the air.
This is Christmas.
This is what it’s all about.
And then it happens.
Dad’s found something hidden deep beneath Wrapping Paper Mountain.
It’s small. It’s thin, too.
He only needs one hand to lift it…
A gift card.
The bane of modern gift-giving.
Has anyone ever handed over a gift card without a slightly sheepish grin on their face?
I’m yet to see it.
Giving a gift card screams ‘I’d feel guilty not to get you something, but I’m not bothered enough work out what you like, so here’s a $20 voucher’.
Remember the excitement as a kid of opening a huge box on Christmas morning?
You could barely hold it in your arms.
Mum and dad were sitting in front of you expectantly, knowing you’re going to love it.
After several minutes manoeuvring past seven layers of wrapping paper and two rolls of sticky tape, you see it.
That LEGO logo.
Santa got it right again.
Gift-cards simply take the fun out of Christmas morning, and often turn a personal moment between two people into just another business transaction.
All the convenience and ease of a gift-card can’t compare to the genuine look of appreciation on someone’s face when they unwrap a gift that means something to them.
It doesn’t need to be worth much, and it might require a little more thought, but that glitter in the eye and the warm hug that follows will make your Christmas morning.
And last time I checked, the North Pole isn’t pumping out any gift-cards.
This Christmas, get personal. Keep Santa’s elves in a job.
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