In this the holiday season, I wish to take a moment to discuss a timely issue: that of gift cards. When one does not know what to buy another in celebration of the darkest days of the year, the trend is to buy a card which commits the receiver to spending time and energy in a particular store. The logic is "you like stuff, right? Well, I went into a store that sells stuff, and basically told the guy there that you can come in and take 10 dollars worth of stuff for free." Nice gesture. Instead of my buying you stuff you don't like, I am letting you choose your own stuff. I'm awesome for freeing you up to buy something in a store you might not otherwise frequent.
This morning, I stopped on the way to work so that my daughter (whom I love dearly) could buy a Starbucks gift card for her classmate. Because what else would a 16 year old want for the holidays but a cup of coffee? Parents rejoice -- Juan Valdez has supplanted Kris Kringle! I shan't waste your time complaining about coffee for youngsters, the difference between a pour over, an Americano and a goddam cuppa or an order which takes 5 minutes to recite and has fractions and foreign words in it. And she has to buy it for the Jewish equivalent of a secret Santa. I didn't know that a Jewish version was necessary, but here we are and I won't belabor this point. I'm here to discuss gift cards.
So the child returns to the car a few minutes later. She had trouble picking between gift cards because they have become fashion choices. She went for the basic white, with no pictures of winter scenes and no loving sentiments emblazoned on it. I applaud this choice -- why worry about the design when the goal will be for this to end up in a landfill as soon as possible? So I asked, "How much is the card for?" (when one speaks with today's youth, it is considered "cool" to end sentences with a preposition or two) She told me, "Ten dollars." "OK," I responded coolly, without questioning whether ten dollars worth of coffee is enough or too much, "How much did it cost?" "Ten dollars," she replied.
So she went into a store and spent ten dollars on a gift card which gets the other person ten dollars. I asked her, "Why didn't you just give your friend 10 dollars, then?" She sighed. Apparently, I just don't get it.
Here's the thing and I don't think I'm wrong on this one: either the gift card should reward the purchaser, allowing me to buy 10 dollars worth of coffee for under 10 dollars because I have gone in to the store, and am encouraging others to go into the store (which should, in the long run, increase foot traffic and sales for them) or reward the receiver, with the purchaser paying a surcharge to cover the convenience and overhead while the receiver doesn't worry about this but gets the amount on the card. Bottom line, either it should have cost her 9 dollars or 11 dollars, depending on the economic model in play. The one thing it should not have cost was 10 dollars. So that's how much it cost.
This makes no sense to me. This is why I hate the holidays.