Gift cards are a handy way to give a gift when you’re not totally sure what someone wants. However, when you give them, you’re kind of giving your recipient extra work. In some cases, you might want to skip them.
As advice site Art of Manliness explains, gift cards come with a hidden demand for work. If the recipient wants to get some value out of the gift card they have received, they have to put in effort to find something they can buy with it. Specific gift cards like for a restaurant are easier, but a Westfields or Visa gift card can be used for nearly everything. The gift giver has offloaded the task of finding a gift to the recipient. That’s fine if your recipient would prefer it that way, but it could also be considered lazy or insensitive. You’ve basically given the recipient more work to do:
The traditional idea behind giving gifts is that the giver spends time and thought coming up with just the right present for a particular person. They take into consideration the recipient’s likes, dislikes, and hobbies, search what’s out there, and then choose (or make) a gift they believe best intersects with the person’s interests and tastes. A gift’s thoughtfulness is in proportion to the sacrifice in energy the giver seemingly made in deciding on it (as well as the sacrifice the giver had been making all along in the relationship, in paying dedicated attention to the recipient’s expressed desires).
In giving a gift card, however, the giver takes the time, energy, and thought required by this process, and outsources it to the recipient. It’s now their job to think about what they’d like, comb through what’s out there, weigh different options, and make the purchase.
Of course, not everyone feels this way. Some people actually prefer gift cards because they like the flexibility it gives them. Rather than avoid gift cards altogether, consider the needs and desires of the person you’re giving to. If they’d benefit more from a thoughtful gift you invested time in, maybe step away from the card kiosk for a moment.
Down With Gift Cards! [The Art of Manliness]