I’m inclined to side with the author of this dozen-year-old Gizmodo article who blames gift cards for the destruction of Christmas present giving, calling their existence “vile,” and “an $87 billion con by the retail industry that Americans, obsessed with convenience, have eaten up.”
(Then again I lazily give my kids cash so I can’t judge).
This year, as in 2009, when that article was written, gift cards are the most popular type of presents to give.
Responsibility for the gift card — like them or not — falls on a neighborhood-loved institution, Neiman Marcus. Although we cannot blame or credit its founder the late Lakewood resident Stanley Marcus, because he retired from any involvement in operations in 1975 when he became the luxury retailer’s chair emeritus.
According to Matt Buchanen for Gizmodo, Neiman’s began selling gift cards circa 1994, albeit understatedly and sans pomp, so it did not popularize the “virus” that is gift-card giving. That honor/responsibility is on the shoulders of Blockbuster, LLC, which also was founded in Dallas. The first Blockbuster store was located in Medallion Shopping Center at Skillman and Northwest Highway.
“Neiman Marcus actually was the first to sell gift cards, in 1994, but because the retailer didn’t quite understand their potential, the cards were kept out of sight and sold only as a novelty item,” Buchanen wrote for Gizmodo in 2009. “Blockbuster was the first to display them, starting in 1995, which was the true beginning of the gift card revolution.”
Note: Indie shop gift cards are exempt from his ire.
WalletHub reports that billions of dollars of gift card value has gone unused in recent years.
The personal finance website compared the 50 most popular gift card options across five categories including whether they can be bought at a discount, transferability, desirability of retailer.
Starbucks, Target, Nike, Chick-Fil-A, iTunes top the list.
WalletHub advises against network gift cards such as Amex, Visa, MasterCard. While they might seem as good as cash, they are actually quite inferior, writes managing editor John S Kieran.
“While retailers make money immediately when one of their gift cards get purchased, these card-network gift cards make money from fees. So if you want the versatility of cash, why not just use cash instead? I will be cheaper. That’s why we didn’t include any card-network cards in our list.”
Some gift cards can be purchased for less than face value. They also list best opportunities for gift card exchanging, here.
So, even if giving gift cards makes you “an asshole” (that’s Matt Buchanen’s opinion), at least do a little looking, and be the best asshole you can be.