Gift Cards

by Ryan

I have this theory about gift cards.

No, not the one that says you are a cold, heartless person with no real emotional attachment to someone when you give a gift card. That one’s a bit inaccurate because you can be really, really close to someone and still not know what to get them.

Let’s face it, some of us out there are just a wee bit picky at times, and should never have anyone shop for them. Other times a gift card is a way of opening doors to a new store you would never otherwise venture into. The options are endless.

However, there is one essential truth to a gift card: it’s a marketing scam.

Think about it: the only way you will ever feel good about a gift card is when you use all of it. If you leave a few dollars on say, a $20 gift card, you will feel like a putz because someone spent their hard earned cash on that gift for you, and you didn’t feel like buying your full worth. Ungrateful swine. The gift of spending ability is a powerful thing, my friend.

This means that you are going to spend more than what’s on the card, essentially ensuring a store that they make their money back and then some. A gift card is a guaranteed sale. No matter what happens to that card, once it’s paid for they have their profit. The card recipient may as well fall off a mountain once they receive it, unless they plan on overspending that card by a long shot once they hit the store. In that case, good heavens watch your step.

That is the second part of the scam. The classic example is the $25 gift card. I’ve been a consumer, oh, all of my life, and very rarely is something I’ve wanted to buy $25. Maybe I’ve been using my gift cards the wrong way, but I always seem to land in the $20 or $30 region, with nothing in between. A $25 card tells you one thing: you are going to pay at least $5 bucks when you leave this store. Don’t forget tax.

Don’t even get me started on that one extra Tim Horton dollar. I’ve had one of those in my wallet for a solid 13 months now.

What I’m getting at here is no matter what you do with a gift card, you are screwed. Ignore it and it’s a waste of money and space in your wallet. (Post Christmas wallet stretching must kill millions of cows a year. PETA should be firmly against gift cards.) Use it and you are going to overspend and wind up paying yourself.

Why do I bring this up? Well, my wonderful sister gave me a $25 gift card to as part of her Christmas gift. That’s right, the dreaded amount of $25. To an online shopping destination no less.

So what did I buy just now?

Yeah, I had talked about it before, but after that what choice did I have? What was I supposed to buy, another hat?

I’m not trying to say it was a terrible gift (I’m a big fan, actually), but how great a scheme is that? It’s pretty unsatisfying to get a gift card and wind up with a shirt out of the deal. Go big or go home, people.

After I made the purchase I thanked her and told her what I bought with it.

“I figured you would buy a jersey,” she said.

Great. They all know.


  1. dave in Rocha

    Gift cards are a saviour to stores. Not only do recipients usually overspend the value to ensure using it all, but a lot of people end up not using them at all. That means that the store sold a little piece of plastic for anywhere from $5 to $100 (or more). It’s pure profit when recipients forget about them.

    Good to hear about your purchase. Go Goose.

  2. Chris

    i’ve got 68 cents left on a Burger King gift card. I plan on getting 3/4 of a hamburger for lunch.

  3. Melissa

    Your sister is a very smart girl! Isn’t a Gaustad jersey the best gift ever!! However, you should have gotten the Captain’s jersey because you know its coming!

    We love you Goose!! HONK!