Quick rant against gift cards
Gift cards are absurd and ridiculous, and in that order. As if our commodity-driven lives need yet another milestone icon of consumerism, the popularity of gift cards seems to have soared off the charts in recent years.
Gift cards are merely the latest evolution of an age-old concept known as scrip, a practice where tokens or certificates are used in place of actual value or currency. Such practices used to be initiated only in dire situations like remote coal towns or countries being occupied during a time of war. Other occassions included the military who wanted to prevent black markets from springing up or various cheapass companies who want to concoct a sort of cyclical internal loyalty by “allowing” employees to cash in payment scrip for goods at regulated company stores. (And of course we can’t forget the huge yet shortlived 1990’s trend of using scrip for school fundraisers.)
All to say, scrip was never particularly desirable. “Ain’t nothing like cash in the pocket!” is how the saying used to go. But these days, oh how things have changed. After corporate America discovered the unending benefits of tricking consumers into obsessing over scrip and gift cards, the pace has sped up exponentially.
Partial list of ways corporations steal money by pushing a “gift card culture”:
- – Consumers lose, break, or misplace gift cards
- – Consumers forget to use their gift cards (In 2006, the value of unredeemed gift cards was estimated at almost $8 billion with total sales of gift cards nationwide exceeding $80 billion)
- – Gift cards are only valid at “participating locations”
- – Gift card balances are often impossible to use up completely/exactly
- – To get their full gift card’s worth, consumers must make a purchase whose value is higher than the total worth of their gift card
- – Gift cards often charge “maintenance” or “late” fees when executed
- – Gift cards often have expiration dates (except in some occassionally humane places like California and Ontario)
- – Gift cards create a sense of urgency among consumers to repeatedly visit certain stores or services in order to finish their scrip, even when they don’t need or even want the goods in question… this not only encourages mindless consumer behavior but it also increases the potential of consumers adding certain stores/services to their list of “favorite places to visit even though I don’t need or want to”
- – etc. etc. etc.
And of course, this entire sham is pushed under slogans like “Giftcards.com – always the perfect gift!”… more like “always the perfect way to be a lazy consumerist American who has lost all creativity and self-worth and deserves to be swiped up the arse with a gift card because they are stupid enough to fall for retarded marketing gimmicks that tell them that being a sincere friend involves an impulsive gift card purchase at the grocery checkout.”
Is thinking of a unique, useful gift for someone that you are close to really that hard these days? And dare I mention making your own birthday card?
Stop buying gift cards, America! You’s turnin’ into a bunchafuckin’ robots!