I told you about the “invaluable” $10 Gap gift certificate AT&T sent me.
Tom Williams writes: “I once did a favor for someone who, as an expression of thanks, gave me a $30 gift certificate for an expensive men’s clothing store. I felt obligated to use the certificate but had to spend significant extra money just to get a necktie. The point being that a gift certificate is often worthless and may actually have a negative value. Good luck shopping at the Gap. I’ll be interested to hear what wonderful thing you are able to purchase with your $10 certificate. Maybe a Gap pocket handkerchief or some Gap shoelaces.”
Actually, I like the Gap, but knew I’d lose the gift certificate, so I gave it to a friend. But I know what you mean.
What a great business gift certificates are. First the store gets an interest-free loan until the recipients use them. And surely 5% of them — if not 20% — just never get used. And some nice proportion of the 80% or 95% that do get used get used by folks who wouldn’t normally have shopped there . . . so you draw in some new customers. And often they will, like Tom, wind up spending more than the value of the certificate anyway.
All this is innocent enough — the Gap is doing nothing at all wrong by offering gift certificates. But if I ever figured out how to charge you for this column, one of the first things I would do is find a way to sell you gift certificates as well.
Meanwhile, the ever-inventive Brooks Hilliard suggests, “You might try auctioning off your gift certificate for charity. I’ve seen $10 items go for considerably more (say $12.75 and up) in such auctions. I’d be happy to start the bidding at $7.35. This approach would add some ambiguity to the value (or invalue, as the case may be).”
Do I hear $20?
Quote of the Day
If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.'~Martin Luther King, Jr.
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