12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
A dozen days of gift ideas
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Money cards have become a viable gift option. An abundance of cards can be purchased at grocery stores and online.
Gift certificates are no longer considered tacky
11TH OF 12 PARTS
There was a time, not so long ago, when gift certificates, like the gift of money, were considered taboo or tacky. It was an admission of one's lack of imagination as well as an indication to the giftee that he or she was not worth expending the time, energy or thought to come up with that specific special something.
But years of bad gifts have left us older and wiser.
"It's hard to get it right," said Steve Kam (no relation), senior manager of communications for giftcertificates.com, who says that's the reason "the stigma's gone."
"Gift certificates put an end to the unwanted gift," he said.
According to a 2005 Christmas spending survey by Deloitte & Touche, 67 percent of holiday shoppers are expected to choose gift cards or certificates for Christmas this year, purchasing an average of 4.9 cards/certificates each, and making card/certificates the No. 1 gift. What's more, 53.3 percent of consumers want to receive gift cards/certificates for Christmas, up from 41.3 percent in 2003, according to the National Retail Federation.
These days, you don't have to go far to pick up a card or certificate. Grocery stores such as Safeway carry a variety of cards from retailers ranging from Old Navy to Home Depot. You may not even need to get in your car -- giftcertificates.com makes it possible to shop for certificates from more than 300 companies.
"If I get a gift certificate, I can shop for what I want," Kam said, "and for those on the receiving end, if people come close to choosing the right store, that in itself is satisfying."
Kam, who grew up in Hawaii and now lives in Seattle, Wash., said he's learned certificates come in handy when trying to buy for friends and family out of town.
"If you know what the person likes and where they like to shop, it's so convenient. Like, I know my mom likes Macy's, she likes apparel, so I could get her the specific Macy's certificate, which is just like one you'd buy at the store."
On the other hand, he also has to contend with noncommunicative teen nieces and nephews, who tend to respond to requests for gift suggestions with a mumbled "I don't know."
"I don't really know what they want, but I know they like Niketown," he said.
There is no extra charge for using the Web site. The amount you pay is the face value of the certificate, although specific vendor rules regarding fees and expiration dates apply.
Giftcertificates.com also offers a Super Certificate with no expiration date, good for any of its vendors.
"What we're seeing is a lot more experiential gift giving, like a white-water rafting trip, allowing someone to drive a simulated Nascar or go hot-air ballooning," Kam said. "We're like a one-stop shop for universal gifts."
But recipients beware. According to a ValueLink study, a full 50 percent of gift card/certificate recipients end up spending more than the face value of their certificates.
Last-minute shopping at the supermarket