gift card gaffes and how to avoid them

photo by steed media service

I offer my mea culpa. I am guilty of committing the holiday faux pas of
squandering a gift card. My transgression, in fact, took place during
the last holiday season. My younger sister, catering to my voracious
appetite to devour books, gave me a gift card to buy a particular
selection at Borders Books & Music. One year later, I have yet to
cash that card in. I don’t even know where that card is. And if I
even happened upon it, I probably wouldn’t be able to use it anymore.

It was, quite frankly, a waste of a nice gesture on the part of my sister, not to mention a waste of her money.

Apparently, I am not alone, not by a long shot. Millions of Americans
each year waste gift cards by the truckloads — and the only
beneficiaries are the stores that get to keep the money. The situation
is so pathetic, in fact, that advocacy group Consumer Reports will take
out a very expensive ad in The New York Times, according to, to announce the commencement of an education campaign to
prevent massive gift card waste. It reads: “Dear Shopper, last year,
shoppers like you were out of $8 billion because of unused, lost, or
expired gift cards. Easy money for retailers. Lost money for you. Yours
truly, Consumer Reports.”

Let’s break it down another way. The Consumer Reports survey found that
62 percent of consumers will probably buy gift cards this year. The
problem is that almost 30 percent of American consumers, or 1 out of 3,
will not use them. The excuses are as numerous as as they are pathetic.
Some cite lack of time to redeem the cards, which doesn’t sound that
plausible. Some said they couldn’t find anything they wanted, which is
much more believable. Nearly one-third said they simple forgot they had
the cards and allowed them to expire. Now that’s believable.

Consumer Reports is obviously putting serial gift card waste at the top
of their Top Ten List of things to slay. They’re actually launching a
Holiday Shopping Hub Web site that will contain tales of gift card woes
as well as ways to detour around such predicaments. It will admonish
buyers to be wary of bankcards, because they usually have higher fees
and restrictions than gift cards from traditional stores. Consumer
Reports also implores consumers to check the store’s pricing to ensure
that the gift card amount you purchase is sufficient for your
recipient’s buying wishes. Other recommendations include registering
the card, cashing in the card expeditiously, and spending the entire
amount of the card value. terry shropshire

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