Our Gift To You: The Consumerist Anti-Gift Card

Why do gift cards suck? Let’s see, how about expiration dates? Upfront and back-end fees? And, oh, the fact that if a retailer goes bankrupt, that shiny piece of plastic may become worthless (unless you know that fancy trick that lets you use it to pick locks). Yes, we know the government is working on fixing some of the most egregious problems with gift cards. But in the meantime, what can you do if you have no idea what to give someone? We’ve got the answer: It’s called cash, and we’re here to help make it easier for you to give it.

Our gift to you this holiday season is the Consumerist Anti-Gift Card. Printed on glossy card stock, and packaged in a classy little envelope, it’s the perfect gift for that hard-to-please person on your list. If you slip a couple of bills into the envelope with it, that is.

To get one, just send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to:

Consumerist Anti-Gift Card
101 Truman Avenue
Yonkers, NY 10703

To get more than one, send more than one self-addressed, stamped envelope. Give them to all your friends. And don’t forget the cash!

(And if, by any chance, you’d like to make a donation to The Consumerist, feel free to put a check or money order in the envelope along with your SASE. Checks or money orders should be made out to “Consumer Reports Foundation: Consumerist Fund.” We’re a non-profit, and every donation helps us do our work. And, sorry; as much as we like cash, please do not send any to us! If you’d like to donate by credit card, you can do so here.)

Comments

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  1. NeverLetMeDown says:

    To confirm, are donations to the Consumerist Fund deductible (in other words, is the consumer fund a portion of the 501(c)3)?

  2. Gnort says:

    I’m fairly fond of getting gift cards here…but where I live it is illegal to expire a purchased gift card. There may be other laws too, because if want a $20 gift card, you hand the cashier $20. Then when it comes time to spend, you use it exactly like cash.

    These are all the store specific cards though, I’m sure some of the crappy “credit card” gift cards cause more trouble.

  3. B says:

    Why settle for an ordinary gift card, when you can give the most ridiculous gift card ever imagined? A $5 million gift card to Halycon Jets. That’s a cool 5 mil to spend on chartered flights. Order now, before the company is shut down for fraud and racketeering.

  4. Jesse says:

    Cash is king, even for gifts. I would rather get money that I can go out and buy what I want vs. the crapshoot of opening presents. I typically get gifts straight out of left field like a weather station that will sit unopened forever.

  5. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Can we give you cash4cats?

  6. shawnr3150 says:

    but i wanna pay $29.95 for a $25 gift card!

  7. Brazell says:

    I like receiving Gift Cards. Why? Because I spend cash on boring things, or I put it in the bank, or I put it to some bill, or I piss it away at the bar on a Friday night. I like getting gift cards and being able to say “I am going to use this Best Buy gift card on a videogame,” or “this Starbucks card will carry my coffee fix for the next two weeks.” When people give me cash, it gets lumped in with the rest of my cash and I just forget about it.

    So.

    It may be declared that they suck, but I like them more than cash. And, as a gift card buyer for some family and friends, I’ve never been charged more than the gift card is worth.

    • utensil42 says:

      Ditto. I like gift cards because it makes me purchase a “gift”–something I’d like but would probably not purchase for myself without the gift card.

    • tbax929 says:

      I like them, too. I especially love when someone takes the time to get me a gift card for a place they know I love. That shows me they put some thought into my gift card. Love them.

    • Hank Scorpio says:

      I agree. Plus, if you get a bunch of cards from one place (I put Amazon gift cards on my list this year), you can buy one really nice thing, instead of getting a bunch of small, just “okay” things.

      • trentblase says:

        I still like the cash. Plus, if you get cash, you can buy one really nice thing (from anywhere you like!), instead of getting a bunch of small, just “okay” things.

    • CompyPaq says:

      Same. When I receive cash, I just put it in my bank account and use it for bills. When I receive a gift card, I feel that I have to use it. But I would also like the discretion to use it on what I actually want. Often I receive gift cards for store I never and never will shop at and those sit around unused, but if I receive a card to somewhere that sells everything like Amazon or Walmart (I know, but at least they don’t expire) I will use it and appreciate it.

    • madanthony says:

      I like them if they are for somewhere I actually shop at. I go to Target all the time and buy from amazon pretty frequently, so gift cards there are golden. Plus both of them have reasonable terms – I know Target doesn’t charge fees and they don’t expire.

      OTOH, I have an uncle who usually give out Sears gift cards every Christmas. I never shop at Sears, so it’s a pain to have to go out of my way to get there and try to find something to buy with it.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Does he like stuff from Sears? If so, just take his gift card and use it to buy his Christmas gift.

  8. qcgallus says:

    2 words: Love it!

  9. diasdiem says:

    Seriously, friends and family. Don’t try to hide the fact that you have no idea what I’d want or that you put the minimum possible effort in finding my gift by getting a gift card. They’re just as impersonal as cash, but only a fraction as useful.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I’m actually really happy that this year, everyone is asking what we want instead of wondering and guessing. Yes, it ruins the surprise a little, but I’d rather it not be a surprise but be something I’ll actually use and something I actually wanted, rather than be surprised and get something I would never, ever use or buy, or even look at.

      I just hate it when relatives spend hard earned money on wasted effort. If they would only just ask they would save themselves all the trouble. And then I wouldn’t have to pretend I like the technicolor dreamcoat sweater and scarf set.

      • diasdiem says:

        That falls through for me, as we all typically buy what we want ourselves, and the things we want but don’t buy are out of the standard Christmas gift price range. Which is why money is better in these situations, as you can add it to what you’re saving up for a big purchase. I wouldn’t say no to a little extra to go towards my car payment.

        But really, my favorite kind of gift is something I’d like but would never actually get myself because I have more important things to spend my money on.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          Unfortunately, there aren’t many things that I want that I wouldn’t be willing to get for myself – not because they’re expensive, and I spend a lot of money, but because the things I like are books and movies, relatively low-cost items. I have no room for more kitchen gadgets, though I’d like a breadmaker. I just don’t have room for it. So I take a tally of the things that I had been wanting to get for myself, and I give that list to family and friends. They don’t have to buy me something if they don’t want to, but they always ask, and my requests are always so small or inexpensive.

  10. copious28 says:

    I think it would be more helpful to produce a list of top companies and their debt rating and the fees, if any, associated with the gift cards. I dont think everyone would like to make a political statement to their families for Christmas, no matter how good it might feel.

  11. Jake @ Dollar Commentary says:

    While cash is SO much better than gift cards, there are ways to get deals and incentives with those cards. For example, some retailers will offer discounts on gift cards or extra items for free with your purchase, designed simply to get you in the door in hopes you’ll spend money on additional things.

    Also, there is a thriving community avaliable for those wanting to turn their gift cards into cash at sites such as giftcardrescue.com, plasticjungle.com, and even Ebay.

  12. Blueskylaw says:

    My Christmas shopping takes me all of one hour. Unless you tell me what you want I buy a Christmas card and put cash in it. Since I haven’t had a request for anything in a long time I assume people enjoy the gift that can be spent anywhere on anything with no fees and expiration dates. I have also put some stock (oil and financial) in my nieces and nephews accounts so in the 15 years before college the dividends and appreciation will hopefully help pay the way.

  13. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    My parents are getting Mr. Pi a gift card for Christmas. Not a store gift card, but a regular Visa one. I wish they would have just ordered some of the things that he needs (I sent a list) but I understand why they would do the gift card route – they’re busy people, and waiting for items, hoping they didn’t screw up the order, having to chase down customer service people – it makes sense. Also, my mom’s not fond of online shopping. That I don’t understand, but the whole waiting for packages thing, I get.

  14. utensil42 says:

    Here’s why I don’t like giving gift cards (and it kind of makes me an asshole): I don’t like people knowing how much money I spent on their gift. Whether it’s a lot or a little, a gift should not have a dollar figure attached to it.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I’m going to surmise that you’ve never gone online to look up the cost of your gift, have you? I’ve done this, not because I wanted to know how much people spent on me, but because I didn’t have a gift receipt, and I wanted to know what store it came from in case I needed to return or exchange it, and I wanted to “guess” without having to ask the person who gave it to me – I don’t like making people feel like they did something wrong if I have to return or exchange something.

      I would be willing to bet that a lot of people look up the cost of their gift.

      • utensil42 says:

        Most of my gifts cannot be looked up because I bought them from obscure places, art fairs, etc. or hand-knit or sewed it. But yes, I suppose some people do look up the price of some gifts.

        • Brazell says:

          Ohhh… you’re one of THOSE Gift givers…..

          ;-)

          • pecan 3.14159265 says:

            Hahaha. I’ve actually been having a conversation with a coworker about how her aunt gives her these horrible art fair paintings, and that she just keeps receiving them and has no idea how to end the cycle. Some art fair stuff can be cute and interesting – most of it though, is terrible.

            The issue for me when it comes to people buying me obscure or handmade things is that if they know me at all, it’s just not the way to go. I don’t like art fair stuff, I don’t have any use for a hand-knitted sweater, I don’t need another decorative bowl made my mentally challenged kids. I don’t have room for any of it, and what I actually want are books and a new pot, and a dutch oven, and kitchen utensils like spatulas, and not another knicknack.

    • Red Cat Linux says:

      I don’t think it makes you an asshole. Because that bugs me too. When I started buying gifts for people as a kid my mother stressed (all the time!) that you remove the price portion of the tag, or black it out, or otherwise remove just the price.

      My mother in law is one to leave the price on, and I was always scandalized by this because of dear old mom’s training.

      I guess there are some members of the family who fuss about how much who spent on whom, and so forth, so to bypass the drama, she removed the prices whether she spent a little or a lot.

  15. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    For those that want to see a nice full view of them, you can find it here: http://web1.twitpic.com/img/46554044-a6aafb5c80d90898049479c58d5a9882.4b154015-full.png I sent two out the other day to some fellow readers, and they love them, or so they say.

  16. Trai_Dep says:

    If I contribute $20, do I get a ConsumeristCat card?
    I think Earl Tigré would look quite fetching in a fedora.

  17. Trai_Dep says:

    Cash is snazzy. Cash is neat
    Hard cold cash makes me feel elite
    I love ‘em greenbacks. I love ‘em so
    C’mon little honeys, grow, grow, GROW!

    I use it for breakfast,
    I use it for lunch.
    I use cash to wipe my mouth
    When I’ve scarfed a bit too much.

    It buys toys when my kittys’ bitter
    It makes ‘em purr as they play
    It makes for clean kitty litter
    (to which everyone agrees: hooray!)

    It won’t get me love
    It can’t find me friends
    But when those I have enough
    It’s something upon which I can depend.

    Cash is king
    Loans are a chore
    Let it ring,
    “Gimme MORE!”

    • Tim says:

      You what that reminds me of …

      Stop wasting my time
      You know what I want
      You know what I need
      Or maybe you don’t

      Do I have to come right flat out and tell you everything?

      Gimme some money
      Gimme some money

      (Spinal Tap – Gimme Some Money)

    • ZeusThaber says:

      Unlike those gift cards
      The customs’ been legal tender
      Now I just don’t know

      A haiku by Z. Thaber

  18. vladthepaler says:

    Can I donate a gift card?

  19. TouchMyMonkey says:

    Gift cards should be redeemable for cash. That would help a lot.

    • meb says:

      That would probably be the end of gift cards. My business does not expire cards or charge any fees, but they cost me $1 each and $.20 per transaction. So if someone bought a $20 gift card, as a merchant my cost is $.60 (if they paid for it with credit card ~3% merchant account fee) + $1 for the card + $.20 transaction fee when loading the card + $.20 transaction fee to check the account balance when redeeming for cash = $2.

    • thompson says:

      In California, they are (if the balance is less than $10)… they also can’t expire (those Visa/Amex cards notwithstanding) and all sorts of other pretty pro-consumer stuff.

      Check it out at the CA Department of Consumer Affairs.

  20. mitpatterson says:

    So can we just send a SASE with a note we want more than one or do we need to send multiple SASE, and can we put like 2 SASE in one envlope addressed to you guys? or can we bribe our way into getting more than one stuck in an envlope by sending a check?

    • psm321 says:

      I would like to know this too. I would much rather send a donation check and one SASE rather than bother to make out lots of SASEs

      • Marc Perton says:

        We want to be as fair as possible to all readers requesting cards. No donation is required, and making a donation will not have any effect on your card request. The one-card-per-SASE requirement applies to all requests.

        • mitpatterson says:

          So if i made on envlope addresed to Consumer’s Union and put lets say 5 envlopes addresed to my self with a stamp, would i end up getting 5 cards or just one? and as others have said, is there a way you can post a high res PDF of something of the cards so we can prnnt them our selves

  21. ElizabethD says:

    Cute idea! That being said: I find a crisp 50 or 100 dollar bill in a money envelope brings smiles to the big kids’ faces, card or no card. :-)

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      They’re thinking, “illicit beer money!”

      • Trai_Dep says:

        That’s why I tape a Twenty to a case of Guinness every Xmas for my nephews. In another five years, once they cross into puberty, it’ll grow hair on their chest!

      • ElizabethD says:

        Ha ha! Well, the 23 year old can buy beer with it if he wants but he’s more likely to put it toward another tattoo (sigh). The 19 year old heads straight for the JCrew Outlet with her dough. And the 17 year old blows it on food at da mall. ;-)

    • webweazel says:

      When I was a kid, we had a relative who would give money, but in creative ways. He always put it in a box to unwrap, in brand-new $1s, $5s and $10s. One year, he taped the bills together to equal our actual heights, another year, he crumpled the bills up and mixed them into packing peanuts. Money is still money, but this way, it was fun, too. And memorable all these, what, 30 years later.

      • ElizabethD says:

        My dad loved doing that! He taped 50 ones together in a long streamer and folded into a large envelope for my brother, who draped it around the tree upon opening it. :-)

  22. BleedBlueinFla says:

    So exactly how is The Consumerist supposed to charge the exhorborant fees that I have luckily dodged up to now If I send in cash???

  23. LESSTHANKIND says:

    I loooove gift cards. Nothing like being broke in June, and remembering that $25 supermarket or drugstore gift card you got for Christmas. $25 in cash wouldn’t still be there in June. I love putting all those holiday gift cards aside for the lean times, and that WHOO-HOO!!!! feeling they provide when you remember you have them.

    But that’s just me. We all have our quirks. :-)

    • SugarMag says:

      I like that too….I get 5-10 gift cards each xmas on average…I specifically wait until I am “broke” – I enjoy them much more that way then using them when I am “loaded”.

  24. jamar0303 says:

    Also, gift cards work better for some online purchases. Example- I want to buy from iTunes Japan. Can’t buy without a Japanese credit card (I have no credit history in my home country or one I’m in now, let alone Japan). But I can do it with a Japanese gift card. A trip to eBay or asking someone who’s there and I can buy music from Japanese indie bands that don’t quite make it to the US store.

  25. coren says:

    I sent in a story, but especially beware of the Visa (and I assume other bank/credit card company issued gift cards) – they try to fuck you over even if you live in a state that already regulates expiration and maintenance fees on gift cards.

  26. activist9 says:

    Every dealer of gift cards knows that a certain portion of those sold will have been lost, forgotten about, or somehow destroyed. That’s what the merchants are hoping for, and those pure profits are in their marketing equation. Still, we send gift cards of REPUTABLE places where the recipients truly partronize anyway, and in doing so, save on having them to return items they didn’t want in the first place, exchanging for different sizes, etc. Restaurant gift cards are the best.

  27. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I will be giving these out this year as I have been wanting to give cash for awhile now, but needed a cute/novel way to do it. Not that I am against giftcards. I actually collect them. I have almost 40 now! http://s165.photobucket.com/albums/u45/gitemstevedave/Giftcards/?action=view&current=100_1454.jpg

  28. NickelMD says:

    Love it Consumerist!

    But, why send more than one SASE to get 10? (I actually need six…..)

    Alternatively, could you post a PDF so those of us who have a nice printer can print our own? Then we save both the money for the stamp and the extra paper to save the environment?

    You guys RAWK! This is exactly what I was looking for!

  29. Chuck Norris' wig says:

    Why would anyone want a handful of this:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fe/China_coin1.JPG

    When you can have nice shiny plastic?

  30. H3ion says:

    A winning combination: a Consumerist anti-gift card and Nigerian cash. Any takers?

  31. friday3 says:

    Actually for many clients I am purchasing gift cards because they are worth MORE than their face value.If I spend $100 in gift cards I am getting a $20 bonus. Many retailers an food establishments are offering these deals. As an FYI, the dirty secret in the gift card business is, that a little over 20 per cent never get redeemed.

  32. Andrew360 says:

    I love it, Consumerist!

  33. BytheSea says:

    Cute

  34. raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

    I’m sending my brothers a few random fun gifts for xmas this year, but included with their presents will be some cash. I liked getting cash when I was their ages. If I can get my scattered wits together I’m totally going to fill out a pile of SASE’s. They can be sent bundled in a larger envelope, correct?

    The problem that I’ve always had with gift cards is that when distant relatives buy them for me, they get gift cards for nationwide chains that are local for THEM, but where I was, in rural NC, it was a good hour’s (or longer!) drive to most of the places where the gift card was good. This was, unfortunately, before they had the “use online” option. And you still can’t really use a movie theater gift card online when the nearest branch for that company is 6 hours away.

  35. JenniferJuniper says:

    I like to use my gift cards to buy Christmas presents the next year. Little does my family know that they are essentially buying their own presents each year.