Feeble Arguments

Via The Agitator, I find that some pathetic dweeb doesn't like gift cards. I'm finding this just a bit hard to take seriously. Radley Balko has some excellent points in defense of the gift card, and I could make a few more. First, however, I'm going to mock the author shamelessly because I feel like it.

Really, out all the things in the world to get upset about, you choose gift cards? Do you also get mad because your bank gave you an ATM card in an attempt to be more useful to you, its customer? Are you upset that businesses offer a service that consumers obviously find valuable, since people spent upwards of $40 billion on them? Let's get at the real issue here: for some unfathomable reason, Mr. Gross doesn't like gift cards. Like all scary control freaks, he wants us to hate gift cards with him. I think he wants our company because then he won't feel so alone when he rails about the next modern convenience that disturbs him, like electric lights or that dastardly automobile thing of Mr. Ford's. He lays out a few reasons why we should join him in his crusade, but I think the real issue is that he was horribly mutilated in a tragic gift card accident as a small child. The incident left him both physically and mentally scarred and he has yet to recover. I pulled the backstory right out of my ass, but it makes about as much sense as any of his reasons.

One reason he gives is that you, the dumb consumer, are in effect giving the store a free loan. Yeah, and your point would be? Welcome to business in the 21st century, writer boy. This process happens every day in almost every commercial transaction imaginable. When you sign up for a magazine subscription and mark "Bill me later" on the card, what are you getting? An interest-free loan! That grace period for new purchases on your credit card? That's an interest-free loan from your card issuer! Wow, those cursed interest-free loans pop-up everywhere. In fact, if you don't render payment at the moment services or goods are received, you are in effect getting an interest-free loan from your vendor. However, since I benefit from the process on a fairly regular basis, I don't see that I should object when someone else does either. When Mr. Gross is prepared to do without all the ones he gets, and I'm sure there's a few, maybe he can bitch about extending that same courtesy to some other commercial entity.

He also complains that when people redeem gift cards, they usually spend some additional money. He refers to this a "price" and implies that it's bad thing through an inapt comparison with fasting and a buffet line. Of course, he's got this completely messed up. There is no additional long-term cost associated with spending more, no matter what he implies. In fact, the real truth is, a gift card allows the recipient's money to go farther. How this translates to a price is beyond me, but then I didn't see any of this argument as being all that valid. Because after all, when someone gives you something for free, and you spend some of your own money after that, the gift had a price! Of zero dollars, but I guess that's too much.

Finally, he says that gift cards allow you to be patronizing and controlling. I have two responses to this argument. One the one hand, when dealing with adults, that's probably the most specious line of bullshit I've ever heard in my life. Unless you're the kind of dick that would give an atheist a gift card to a Christian bookstore or a teetotaler a gift card to the liquor store, this really isn't an issue for adults. (If you're in the habit of making unsubtle hints like that, I'm sure that you're incredibly self-righteous and have no friends anyway.) When you're dealing with those under the age of majority, that's often exactly the point. If I give a 14 year old a gift card to the Gap (which we did last year) there's a limit to the amount of trouble they can get into shopping there. On the other hand, cash can be spent in any fashion the budding young deviants can imagine. Sometimes a little control is a good thing, unless Mr. Gross thinks 16 year olds are capable of making life decisions.

Finally, doesn't the whole article ooze with that "consumer culture is evil" condescension that left-leaning idiots like to spout these days? The basic attack on free-market capitalism is a bit obvious these days, so instead they sneer at the innumerable smaller pieces that make up a vibrant economy. Of course, I could be reading this wrong. Maybe it's just the elitist condescension of someone who's above all the mess and can really see the truth behind gift cards that all us silly fools miss. Either way it makes me think two things: Mr. Gross is full of crap and gives really crappy gifts.


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