Aaron vs. Gift Cards
Ho, ho, ho . . . 'tis the season for giving, or so they say. I certainly wouldn't know, what with being the broke critic that I am (and a soullessly bankrupt person besides). Plus, I'm quite embittered, or so they say; so don't bring any of those prostitutional chants of goodwill around my block, I don't want them.
But if you would like to give me a gift this year, please send cash. Why go through all that hard work picking out something you think I'll like only to have me then go through all that hard work returning it? Unless it's something you made yourself (where the thought really does count), I'm perfectly fine using holiday donations to go shopping for myself. I'm a big boy now, all growed up.
Let's get something clear though. If you can't think of something non-commercial to get me, but you don't want to be so thoughtless as to give me cash, don't get me anything. A gift card is pure evil, distributed in various plastic denominations.
First off, you can't return it. Second, it's impossible to spend EXACTLY the total value of the card, so at some point, I'll have to waste my hard-earned money. Third, why should my choices be limited to the confines of one store? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of Democracy? Where's my personal freedom of choice? Let's be honest: these gift cards don't accrue interest and I'm not likely to need $100 worth of books at Barnes & Noble at any given time. (Not that I won't spend it; I'm a bibliophile.) Chances are, when I see an item I really want, I probably won't even have the gift card with me. Cash is a bit more liquid, you'll have to agree.
Now, Sharon, a friend of mine, pointed out a new form of gift currency going around on courtesy of American Express. It's basically a pre-paid debit card, insured and all. But then you're spending extra cash on a middle-man instead of just paying me off for your happy holiday. Plus, then all my transactions are visible to the public, and last time I checked, drug dealers didn't accept plastic. Not really a problem for me; I'm just saying. . . . Anyway, I suppose you could always take that debit card to the bank and make a full withdrawal, but then again, I suppose you could've just given me cash to begin with. I can imagine the awkward conversations already: "So, son, what did you spend your credit on?" "Well, Dad, I bought some cash." "Cash?" "Cash. Merry Christmas."
What, are you worried that I'm going to take your cash and use it to buy other people belated presents? Relax, I could just as easily do that with your gift cards, let alone your actual crummy presents. Look, you can trust me: and if you can't, I'm not quite sure why you're giving me a gift at all. (Unless it's a payoff, some sort of money-laundering thing. Again, I'm not really a product of the underworld, so I don't know anything about that.)
So this holiday season, don't get cutesy, don't try to be sweet. Nothing warms the soul like some cold, hard cash. Or a hot cocoa. With marshmallows. But hey, don't go getting any funny ideas. Give me the money, I'd rather buy my own!