Why Gift card/voucher?

A gift might look like a tangible object but it is much more than that. Price tag is only one of the artifacts of this and very few people rank their gifts solely based on it.

A flower might not have any utility or economic value, yet it shows that the person remembered you.  They consider you worth the pains to plan for its collection/gathering/logistics. Similarly you cherish some of the trinkets because of the words inscribed on them or the memories associated with it.

Sometimes you gift items because they are hard to get otherwise. This could include a favorite childhood candy/toy that is not available today. Essentially it is not the price but the thought and the process that is more important. People go in so many pains to gift wrap and decorate because of this very same reason.

On the other hand, you might gift a dishwasher/roomba to your aunt/mother simply because she has a need for it, but if given a choice she might never buy it for herself. I might never buy an expensive watch/mobile phone for myself, but would be exalted if my spouse bought it for me. It does not matter if I will be the one, who would eventually pay for the purchase. A gift is a comfortable guilt free mode of occasional indulgence.

You might gift someone a deodorant as a prank, but essentially the message is to reinforce the bond by telling them that you understand them. You know what the other person likes, needs and desires. A gift card unlike a greeting card does not even remotely come close in expressing the same feeling.

A typical gift card would have the fine print/terms and conditions like below:

  1. It is valid for <some> months from issue and cannot be extended or exchanged for cash
  2. Cannot be clubbed with promotions/discounts/schemes etc.
  3. Not applicable for a particular category of products (say electronics, gold jewelry etc.)
  4. It has to be redeemed in full and any partial redeemed value would expire automatically
  5. Merchant has right to refuse redeeming it or modify its terms of use

All this makes me wonder why would anybody exchange cash for a gift card? Money is infinitely more flexible and convenient to handle than any gift card. Gift card is not a gift because the piece of paper (sometimes it is delivered virtually) has no other utility/function except for forcing you to go to a particular store/brand to redeem it within the stipulated time.

To me a gift is a small token of appreciation for the other individual, giftee. It is no brainer that an individual would understand their needs better than the giftor yet you don’t normally dole out cash because it is cold and impersonal. Imagine a repercussion of handing your girlfriend a fist full of cash after an evening together. But is gift card a remedy?

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