Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Show Me the Gift Cars (the money !)

Originally published for as part of the writing team.
Everyone can understand technology; sometimes it just takes a little translating.


The love of gift cards is the root of all that is evil with money… or so say shopping purists who frown on those who purchase gift cards as lazy or lacking in the “social skills” to find the perfect gift for a friend or loved one.

Cash from Grandma on a birthday or a check as a graduation gift to many seems appropriate and a acceptable gift. I strongly prefer a Christmas bonus from an employer rather than a frozen turkey, box of chocolates or a dinner. Once I won a $200.00 Home Depot gift card in a belt sander race that went toward a new kitchen back door. Cash or a gift card is always good !

The National Retail Federation (NRF), ranked gift cards as the third most desirable category on consumers' wish list after CDs/DVDs and clothing. Source: Money.CNN

So why the pushback on gift cards? Slate columnist Dan Gross offers up his take on how the cards are both a blessing and a curse for retailers and consumers via a NPR broadcast. or his Slate article.

Says Dan:

“Retailers love gift cards most of all. They're high-margin, low-maintenance sales that can be easily conducted online. They stimulate much-wanted traffic in the post-holiday season doldrums of January and February, especially at restaurants.”

“And gift cards frequently carry a price for their recipients. Walking into a store with free money in your pocket is like walking into an all-you-can-eat buffet after fasting—you'll feel psychologically impelled and entitled to consume more than usual, because the short-term cost will seem lower.”

From my viewpoint, I’ve received a Visa gift card in the form of a Cingular $50.00 rebate check. The trouble is what do I do with the leftover $3.26 before the card expires? Did I just benefit a Cingular shareholder by adding $3.26 to the bottom line? And I don’t like trying to find something to purchase like several pounds of bananas at the local Wal-Mart just to redeem the balance on the gift card.

Once I received a Starbucks card for $40.00 that took me over two years to redeem; over that period of time, my conversion as a non-frequenter transformed me into a semi-regular customer one venti coffee at a time.

Virtually every retailer (and restaurant) produces a gift card or at least, offers a paper gift certificate. Target has taken the business of gift cards to a high standard as a marketing tool to brand their store as a shopping destination by featuring Bullseye and a manufacturer's cross merchandising in collaborative branding.

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Gift cards featuring Bullseye - a Bull Terrier and trademark of Target Brands, a subsidiary of Target Corporation. The Puppy Pine Air Freshener comes in cellophane wrapped envelope!

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Several examples of the diversity of gift card designs; some are 3-D, glow-in-the-dark, molded rubber, embossed and oversized.

Last Christmas, I noticed unique gift cards from Target promoting the Wii, PlayStation 3 and XBox 360 among their other unique designs - which sparked my curiosity to later begin collecting their gift cards as a hobby.

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The XBox 360 giftcard emits a sound; PlayStation 3 reflects a spectrum of light; Christmas tree rapidly blinks with red lights; record and playback in a Chip Munk voice and see life through the eyes of a fly in Fly-O-Vision!

I contacted the corporate office of Target about this article. The response? “Thanks for writing about Target GiftCards. Many organizations make such requests. I’m sorry for any disappointment, but we must decline these opportunities. Information about our Target GiftCard business is considered proprietary or confidential. Thanks for shopping with us. We'll see you again soon at Target.”

A Wikipedia on Target states: “The Target GiftCard is the retailing division's stored-value card or gift card. Target sells more gift cards than any other retailer in the world. The unique designs of their cards contribute to their higher sales. Past and current designs include "scratch and sniff" (such as peppermint during the Christmas season), glow in the dark, LED light-up, a gift card on the side of a bubble blower, a gift card that can function as a CD-ROM, and even a gift card that allows the sender to record a voice message.”

I have become quite smitten of Target GiftCards as collectable items and a fun hobby. Just recently, I acquired thirty-nine! new designs.

Chris and Ketzra from Maryland, USA are reputed to have the most complete collection of Target GiftCards with 778 to date. Visit their gallery... They also have a trade list available.

Here are some of my favorites:

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Tickle Elmo via a button and hear Elmo LOL...

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Press the start button for the blue LEDs on all four sides...

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Inside of a Wii giftcard with the LED lights...

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And the latest - a plastic vase that holds water for a flower and a Hello Kitty mini change purse - both examples of "outside the box thinking" of standard sized credit card sized gift cards!

Anybody else collecting gift cards from Target or other retailers ?

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