THINKING OF GIFTING A GIFT CARD THIS HOLIDAY SEASON? – READ THIS FIRST
Gift cards are a new fad - easy, convenient and impersonal (not that there is anything wrong with that).
Let’s see what gift cards to your loved one is saying:
“Hi! I wanted to get you a gift but I don’t know what to get you, and can’t be bothered thinking about you and your interests. I am already very busy communicating with you through phone voicemails, forwarding you funny or Dalai Lama meaningful emails, sending you Emoji emotions by text, and liking your posts on Facebook. I wanted to get you a present and here is nicely packed money so you can get yourself whatever you want!!! Listen, I am not shooting here for the greatest family/friend award here, I just want to get through these holidays with as little emotional and time-consuming involvement as possible, and I want you to stay being my friend on FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram...”
No gift cards this season then? Don’t be silly! Of course you should give them but when you do, exercise caution. Here are some simple rules to get you through this holiday season.
GIVING A GIFT CARD RULE No.1 – GIFT CARDS ARE FOR COLLEAGUES
Gift cards are a great ‘go-to’ for coworkers who’s presents need to include equality, professionalism, and care all in one gift. Kudos to all the employees who use them! However, before you prepare to exercise this last-minute thoughtfulness be aware of what your company policy is: do you have a cap on the max? In the financial and banking industry, for example, there is $25 cap for gift giving to promote honesty and prevent bribery.
GIVING A GIFT CARD RULE No.2 – GIFT CARDS ARE FOR GRANDCHILDREN
Gift cards are also great for bridging the generation gap between the technology-obsessed grandchildren and giving grandparents who are struggling to keep up with the Wii’s and Xbox’s of the world and raging hormones that cause teens to change their minds minds faster than the New England weather.
GIVING A GIFT CARD RULE No.3 – GIFT CARDS ARE FOR STUDENTS
There is no one that appreciates them more than ‘starving’ students who spend so much money on books and going out with friends they can't even afford clothes that fit! They have to wear those baggy pants that are three sizes too big bigger or shirts that are so small they expose their midriffs!
GIVING A GIFT CARD RULE No.4 – NOT ALL GIFT CARDS ARE CREATED EQUAL
When choosing the gift card make sure to know which store they shop at or which store they would most likely like. What do they usually buy or what do they need at this point in their life? Try and show thoughtfulness and gratitude toward their aspirations.
If someone is complaining about how he or she stopped exercising for lack of motivation don’t get him or her a gift card to a local gym. Try to get them a gift card from a clothing store they often shop at or a book store they get their favorite book and a cup of coffee from. An iTunes gift card can be a great gift for the pre-teens and teens.
You are treading on a thin ground here with a gift card so don’t send a message of what YOU would like this person to want or do, but get them a gift card for what SHE or HE would like to buy or do. If you have not spent at least three years with a partner please do not get them a Victoria Secret Gift Card (easy counting for man: after the first anniversary you remembered). If someone likes shopping at discount stores please do not get them a gift certificate to an upscale retail store – they will see it as a criticism.
Lastly, generic, professional gift card option – Starbucks gift card unless they prefer Dunkin Donuts (there is a little bit of Coke/Pepsi vibe here).
Worst gift-card for the loved one? Definitely a gift-card to the local grocery store.
GIVING A GIFT CARD RULE No.5 – JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT
Like the colors of flowers, the amount of the gift-card can send a message. For an employer or a co-worker, a $25-$50 gift card to a local coffee shop is a great gift. If you are giving to a family member or friend please think twice before you choose the amount: $50 -$100 is a nice gesture. If you are giving to a student all rules are off: they need as much money as you can spare!
The amount should generally depend on the means and comfort of the person you are giving to so as please make them feel good about accepting it and not embarrassed that they couldn’t afford the same amount for your present.
Follow these two steps to ensure the proper amount: First, choose the amount before you go shopping to ensure you thought it through. Second, don’t try to overcompensate for the un-thoughtfulness of the gift card with the amount. Just think what would you spend for a gift and apply it to the card. No, it is not too little. Read on!
GIVING A GIFT CARD RULE No.6– WRITE THE AMOUNT ON THE CARD
Unless you are giving different amounts to people in the same group or trying to play mind-games please include the amount. You will make it easier for them to shop and spare them from searching for it on the internet.
GIVING A GIFT CARD RULE No.7 – SPEND TIME ON PACKAGING
So, you opted for an easy way out on a gift – at least spend some time on the packaging. Playing off the first impression analogy, make sure you impress them with the packaging! Go to a local pharmacy or grocery store and get a nice packaging for it: a beautiful nice size box, a nice gift-bag, and with an appropriate card. You can also fill the box or bag with fancy colorful paper to make it look fuller/less empty.
GIVING A GIFT CARD RULE No.8 – WRITE A THOUGHTFUL CARD
Write a personal note with a reference of something you wish to improve in this person’s life for next year and place the gift card inside the card. A personal note saying that you do care after all and that what the friendship is all about: caring, supporting, and hearing each other. Gift is just the representation of these three things. Now you just said it with so many words!
GIVING A GIFT CARD RULE No.9 – PRESENT IT WELL!
This is the final stage of your impression! When presenting the gift make eye contact and as you present them with the gift, announce it like you would an entrance of the royal family member “This is from me to you. I very much hope you will like this. You/ our relationship/ our friendship means very much to me!”. This is the true meaning of holidays: connecting and reminding her/him that they mean very much to you! If you have enough courage to say that while looking them in the eyes in front of the whole family… you have raised the bar in that family forever!
GIVING A GIFT CARD RULE No.10 – ONCE EVERY THREE YEARS!
Unless you are an employer and you give a gift card to your employees, in which all previous remarks fall into water! You are the greatest employer ever!
For everyone else please follow the rule "limit gift cards to once every few years per person’… especially if you want to keep this friend. What constitutes once in an while? Once every three years. Hopefully, in the meantime show this person that you care in oh so many other ways throughout the year, and with a well thought out personalized gift during the holidays.
LAST MUNUTE WAY OUT OF GIFT CARDS!
You gave a gift card last year so now you have to wait another three years before you can give one again. There is only a few days left of the holidays and now there is no time to think about the gift, let alone shop for one. There is a way out: theatre tickets, movie tickets (with a box of popcorn), or a class for the two of you. For example a Fine Dining Workshop for you and your loved one (not to be presumptuous), a cooking class for couples at Create-A-Cook that the two of you can enjoy together, a massage at Spa Envy or H2O…the options are endless. Don’t forget the packaging!
OK, we got you through this holiday season in style but don’t make the habit of this. As you spend a few minutes with this person while you are presenting this gift try to figure out what to get them next year and write it down next to their multiple contact info on your newest iGadget…you made enough time to get for yourself. :)
The Etiquette Academy of New England
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