Are gift cards wonderful, or do they show you didn’t care enough to send the very best?

Are gift cards wonderful, or do they show you didn’t care enough to send the very best?

The Editor’s Desk: Gift cards, yes or no?

And other holiday shopping tips to (hopefully) save you some grief.

I want to get a head start on my Christmas shopping, and I have a few questions. Gosh, you’ve been lively lately.

I didn’t really want to bother you over the summer. I appreciate that. Fire away!

Gift cards: yes or no? Ah, that’s a tricky one. For every person who loves giving and/or receiving gift cards, there is someone who thinks they’re a very short step above putting cash in an envelope and calling it a day in terms of a gift that says “When you care enough to give something impersonal”.

Where do you stand? I’m in the “I like gift cards” category, myself; as long as the gift card is for a place I actually shop or eat at. That’s not a difficult thing to find out, and it saves a lot of potential grief.

Such as? Let’s take The Body Shop as an example. Now, you might be in the position of buying a gift for a woman in your life, and you know she likes The Body Shop. So you stop in there, and are immediately overwhelmed by the variety. Is she a tea tree oil kind of gal, or would she prefer something in the hemp line? Vitamin E or olive oil? You have two choices: grab something and hope she likes it, or get a gift card and let her pick out what she wants. If you choose the latter route, she won’t end up with a bottle of satsuma body wash that she will never in a million years use.

Good point. And don’t forget about gift certificates, the gift card’s close cousin. Many small local businesses have gift certificates available (and if they don’t could probably make one up for you).

Any tips for the office Secret Santa gift exchange? Make sure there’s a firm (and not outrageously high) upper spending limit, and don’t be the person who goes way above (or worse, way below) it. Joke gifts are something to steer clear of; humour is very subjective, and you have no way of knowing if the recipient shares your taste. In a perfect world no one would ever know who the gift came from you, but these things get out.

What are some types of gifts to avoid? Humorist Peg Bracken said her family called certain types of gifts “sidesaddles”. These are the things you really want but that you get for someone else in the family: a book you want to read goes to your husband, a kitchen gadget you really want goes to your wife, the hockey enthusiast gets the whole family tickets to a Blazers game.

I get the drift. What about buying gifts for children? Be very, very precise, especially with young children. They want what they want with the burning hot passion of a million blazing suns, so going with a “surprise” gift can backfire spectacularly. If the children in question aren’t your own, check with Mom or Dad first.

Any other tips? Avoid any gift that you think might elicit a truly sincere response of “Oh, you really shouldn’t have.” These are often gifts from so far out in left field they’re in another time zone, or anything to which the term “whimsical” could be attached (unless you are absolutely, 100 per cent, take it to the bank certain, and even then I’d think twice).

Thanks for the help. No problem! And don’t leave it until December 24 to shop.

How did you know? Just a hunch.

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