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Christmas gift cards.

I don't get the concept. This time of year I try to figure out what the point is of gift cards. You go to a store, give them money and you get a little plastic card that entitles the card bearer to the amount of money paid. You then give this card to a loved one, and this recipient then goes and exchanges this little card for some merchandise.

OK. But what value is added by inserting this card into the process? Why not just give the loved one cash or an actual gift?

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It just seems to me that, at best, a gift card conveys the message "I don't know what exactly you'd like or need but I figured you'd like something from store X at least".

At worst it says "hey I don't know what to get you, but I don't want to give you cash because I am a jerk and only want you to buy something from a specific store since I don't trust you'd spend the money the way I'd like you to".

@msh That's easy.

If you have cash, but also adult responsibilities, you'll feel guilty spending the cash on something fun.

If you give someone cash, you're either paying their boring expenses, or giving them the gift of guilt.

If you want to give someone a FUN gift, cash isn't really a good choice unless they're already affluent enough that they spend all their extra money on fun stuff.

@msh So sure, buying gift cards is logically ridiculous, but psychologically useful because human minds aren't logical.

@apLundell I'm pretty sure my mind is atypical.

I'm not offended in the least at receiving gift cards. I generally give the person the benefit of the doubt that they just think I'd like to get something from that particular establishment. But as I just posted I think some people might interpret it differently so I really don't like giving such cards.

Also I actually would like that any money I gave was used for "boring" stuff if the recipient has needs.

@apLundell ...by the same token many people I know are also financially secure and I would fully expect them to spend my gift on something fun.

Also if it is someone I care about and know well yet I still can't think of a "thing" as a gift then I like to do something like take them to dinner or a show, and if they spend money I give them on something fun like that it's great. Can't figure out why someone would feel guilty over that.

@msh

I'm not sure how to explain why people will feel guilty wasting money even when it's a gift, but take my word for it, people do.

Look at it this way: The $40 I might spend on someone for Christmas won't change their financial situation.

A man who makes $1000 and feels guilty when he wastes money is still going to feel the same if he makes $1040.

@apLundell Huh. I suppose I can see how that would be. It *is* an unsolicited gift without conditions though, not money asked for, so I hope that anyone who gets a money gift from me who is of modest means wouldn't feel bad enjoying the money. People of any means are entitled to enjoyment now and then.

I usually think of guilt associated with gifts being related to not having a gift to give in return rather than the nature of the gift itself.

Maybe guilt over money gifts is more a thing in USA

@msh Simple:

1) We don't know what that person wants.
2) We cannot care enough to go and pick out a gift.
3) Bearer bonds are not that slick anymore.

Gift cards are the best bearer-bond replacement.

Also, side note on gifts: If you hear someone say "This is cool, but not worth the money," it is the optimal gift. If you can afford it, it is the best shot, since by your buying it, you remove the buyer's guilt.

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