Redeem Those Gift Cards, Everyone.

Did you get a gift card for Christmas? Did you redeem it yet? For many of you, the answers will be “yes” and “no,” in that order. We often put them aside until later, and later never comes.

We should designate one weekend a year, say the last weekend of January, to gift card redemption. We can all go through our houses looking for lost and abandoned gift cards, then take the rest of the weekend to spend them. We may not do anything else. We will just spend our gift cards.

Someone paid for you to have a meal, or buy a shirt, or go to a movie, and you completely forgot. The gift card sits in a drawer in your kitchen or bedroom, and you are blithely unaware that your friend or family member just donated some money to a company on your behalf. Not even to a charity! To a profitable business.

These cards are a great way to give a gift to someone when you don’t know what to get them. I have no idea what the young people in my life like to wear or listen to, so I buy them gift cards. They can choose their own gift and get something they actually want rather than returning a gift that I chose for them. Similarly, the older people in my life have pretty much everything they need already, and I cannot for the life of me think of something they might enjoy.

I want to give gifts, but I find it increasingly difficult to do so successfully. I sometimes wander around department stores and shopping centres for hours, hoping to find an appropriate gift. Usually, I end up buying something for myself and nothing for the person I have in mind. It’s not that I’m self-centred—at least, not too self-centred—but I just know myself so much better than I know the person for whom I’m supposed to be buying.

It used to be that you could buy a gift card only at the store named on the card. Now, though, you can go to any grocery store or department store and see dozens of them in racks. You can even buy them in packs of three! Clearly, these businesses know when they are on to a good thing. They want us to buy lots of them. They also want us to leave them in the kitchen drawer.

It seems to me that charities need to get in on this act. Right now it’s a bit of a pain to make a charitable donation on behalf of someone else. You have to fill out lengthy forms. If they were smart, they’d just sell gift cards in the grocery store as all the other businesses do. The people buying them could send in the store receipts to the charity and get the charitable donation receipt for their tax returns. When we receive a charity gift card, we could decide online whether we want it to buy a goat, or a school desk, or construction materials, and type in the card number. Easy.

Now, go use those cards, everyone! And maybe buy a goat.




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