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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gift Cards

Cell phones, gift cards, cash
Marcel's post on this subject opened a door in my brain, and this fell out.

At Costco the other day they were selling $100 gift cards for something like $60. I think they were for something other than Costco, but I don’t remember what. I didn't buy any.

My family uses gift cards as gifts for co-workers, mostly. I hate the things, though I do carry one from Powell's (City of Books). I go there at least once a year and usually spend around a hundred dollars. Since it's in downtown Portland, going there is a bit of an expedition, so we'll load up the rejects (all the books we don't want) and cart them down there as well. Powell's buys used books, but not everything is worth money. Last time we went I think they only took about a quarter of what we had. Drivel isn't worth much. They will dispose of the dross if you like, or at least they used to. Who knows, the way things are going there might be a disposal fee for unwanted books now.

The point (I almost forgot what I was trying to say) is that while Powell's will pay you cash for your used books, you can get a gift card instead and the value on the card is like 20 or 30% higher. Of course it's only good at Powell's. I have one in my wallet now. It's been there so long I have no idea how much money is on it. Might be $50. All I have to do is carry it around for the next six months until I go to Powell's again, and then I have to remember I have it with me when I go to check out. At this point I've done it often enough that it is kind of engraved on my brain. On the other hand, my brain is so old that some of the detailed engravings are starting to fade. So, like many things in life, it's a crap shoot as to whether I will ever get my money out of it.

When our kids were kids we used to buy them presents for Christmas and birthdays. When they got to high school birthday presents turned into simple cell phone service for a year (simple as opposed to smart. That smart s***'s expensive). That was relatively cheap and simple. It also put a glaze on my parsimonious nature. A 'real' daddy would have automagically provided cell phone service for his little darlings AND given them glorious presents. Now we just give them cash.

Which reminds me that when I was a kid, the story was that Jews gave each other cash for Christmas. Pardon me, Hanuka. Somehow this was considered gauche. Our kind of people gave presents. Something about knowing the person and knowing what they would like, or need, or perhaps because you could make something that wouldn't cost you any of money you didn't have, and hand made presents are always more highly valued. I still have half a dozen items my kids made when they were little, back before they knew what money was.

The thing about Jews was kind of weird. They were Jews, and we were not, though I'm not really sure what we were. Scientists, maybe? You couldn't really tell who was a Jew just by seeing them, but if you got to know them it quickly became obvious. Or sometimes not so quickly, sometimes it was only eventually. I guess it depends on what kind of relationship you have and how much you care about this.

These days I tend to think the Jews preference for giving cash reflects a more hard bitten view of how the world works. Nobody cares about trinkets and gee-gaws, cash is what makes the world go round, and if you run short you run the risk of falling in a hole and disappearing. People who give physical gifts are either living in a fantasy world where nothing bad can ever happen, or they are too broke to buy anything and so spent their evenings for the last six weeks hand carving the whatever it is.

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