4 Notes on Better Gift Card Giving

26 Dec

I’m going to go ahead and venture into uncharted waters here.  I’m going to explore the unexplored – to encroach upon indecency.  I want to talk about gift card etiquette.

Let me start by saying that gift cards are a lovely thing.  They’re the perfect gift, if well-employed.  Being given a well-considered and well-delivered gift card for a special celebration can provoke a grown man to pee himself with glee (also known as Glee Pee or #gleepee).  In return for their generosity, the buyer typically receives discounts or a free gift card of a smaller amount at their favorite stores.  Thus, when properly employed, the gift card is the gift that keeps on giving.  When not properly employed, it’s a last-minute, lazy gift.  While still appreciated, it struggles to leave an impact.

So here are some of what I believe are useful gift card etiquette tips.  Somewhere out there, I’m sure there’s an incredibly official and highly lauded version of this already that the world has agreed on. If such a thing exists, I hereby declare my willful ignorance.  I am the original and only source for final consultation on these matters.

Be Sure to Notate the Amount on the Card. There are several ways to do this. You can simply write in a card what the amount is,

This is the look of grateful confusion.

along with a personal message.  You can write it in Sharpie on the back of the gift card itself.  Most stores have made this easy on you by setting up the world’s easiest Ad Lib so you can stop scratching your head on how to approach the issue.  “Happy Shopping from __________.  The amount on your card is _______________ and can be used in store or online.”  Or if you’re being totally awesome and shopping small business, you’re dealing in paper gift certificates and this is already handled for you (one more reason to shop small).  No matter which way you prefer, please don’t overlook this detail.  Though we’re thankful for any gift of any size, the difference between the way you thank someone for a $5 gift card and a $500 gift card are significantly different.   It’s like a piece of candy and a car, folks.  Give us a little guidance.

Do Your Homework. Now, I may be a little old school in this thinking, but I’m a firm believer that any gift that is given should be given with great thought.  There are some occasions which call for gifts of light and casual measure; hostess gifts, for example, are the kind that show appreciation for someone without making a personal commentary.  But when you’re buying birthday, anniversary, or holiday gifts, the occasion calls for some forethought.  You can say just as much with a gift card as with a hand-selected gift if you just put the same amount of thought into it.  Consider the stores your recipient likes to shop at.  Extra points if you pick a place the person would like to shop at, but doesn’t do so frequently because of the price points of that store.  If you give me a $50 gift card to a shop I usually can’t justify spending money in, you’ve just given me the best guilt-free shopping trip ever.  More bonus points if you check out the store’s price levels beforehand to gauge an appropriate amount.  a $10 gift card to a store that carries $250 shirts probably isn’t the best choice for a personal and impactful gift.

Get Creative. Consider grouping cards together or selecting a gift certificate for a  particularly great location.  For example, by purchasing a gift certificate for the movie theater and a gift certificate for a restaurant nearby, you’re giving someone the gift of an evening out.  Or if you give someone a voucher to a location near where they vacation or have always wanted to, you’ve just reminded them that you know what they love and given them a reason to go visit it.  Or even just coming up with clever labels for the way you give the gift (e.g. give them a gift card to a liquor store and a bake shop and label them “naughty” and “nice”).  Anything you can do to show that you didn’t just pick a gift card lazily off the kiosk is one step closer to a meaningful gift.

Be a Better Recipient. This is by no means required, but it sure does go a long way to show appreciation by sending the giver a text, call, or casual note mentioning a second thank you for the gift and what it was you just purchased with it.  I bought my brother and sister-in-law a gift certificate to an upscale restaurant for Christmas.  Ten months later, I got a text from him thanking me for a great anniversary dinner.  It’s a fantastic feeling to be thought of and to see how the person chose to use it.

So there you have it: four things I think everyone should bear in mind with gift cards.  I’d even go so far as to say that if you don’t want to consider the above when you’re giving a gift card or certificate, you might as well just stuff money in the card and scribble your name.

It will leave the same impact, but require less of you. 

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10 Responses to “4 Notes on Better Gift Card Giving”

  1. whatimeant2say December 27, 2011 at 12:37 am #

    I totally agree with your first piece of advice. It drives me crazy when people don’t put the amount!

    Like

    • Jackie December 31, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

      thank goodness for online balance inquiries, right?

      Like

  2. pegoleg December 27, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    All good suggestions, but I have no objection to someone stuffing money in a card, either.

    Like

    • Jackie December 31, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

      I’m a fan of it, I just don’t find it meaningful 🙂

      Like

  3. Lori December 27, 2011 at 10:14 pm #

    So what’s your opinion on just giving money?

    Like

    • Jackie December 31, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

      Personally, I’m not a huge fan of it. I like money itself, and I don’t mind receiving it – but it’s not a gift that sticks with me and not something I would do for someone else. Weddings, aside, of course 😉

      Like

  4. Miss Y December 28, 2011 at 12:02 am #

    I wish someone would start a website where you can trade unwanted Christmas gifts including gift cards. I received a cinema voucher that I will never use so I’m giving it to charity so someone will get some use of it.

    Like

    • Jackie December 31, 2011 at 8:19 pm #

      I feel like there has to be something like that out in the world. Go you for donating to charity!!

      Like

  5. Lisa September 20, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    Great summary of things to think about! I’m so glad to see you pointing out that it’s a good way to support local stores. That gets forgotten sometimes in the excitement of choosing a gift card that is accessible AND useful.

    Like

    • Jackie September 25, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

      Thanks! This is about to fire me up again; the holidays are descending upon us 😉

      Like

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