To give or not to give … vouchers

gutscheinI love giving books for Christmas and birthdays, but for some people this is not feasible, as they don’t like reading or don’t like movies, or I just don’t know enough about their tastes to choose just the right gift for them. This leaves me with edibles (excellent gifts! as long as you’re sure about people’s tastes, and in this case, food allergies …), pretty pieces for decorations (excellent for those who like to decorate their houses – otherwise, not), vouchers and … cash.

I dislike giving cash as a gift. It’s old-fashioned of me, I know, but I only do it in very special cases.

I quite like giving vouchers. The problem here, of course, is that you must be absolutely certain that the shop you get the voucher from is one where the person you want to give it to really likes to shop. Some friends gave me a voucher from a bookstore last year, a very sweet idea, but they chose the one store in town that has lousy service and where I buy only when I can avoid it.

When my mother-in-law asked what to give me for Christmas this year, my husband (whom I’d primed, anticipating the question) told her I’d be really pleased by a voucher for a very smart store in Munich, which she also likes. I’ll see whether she likes the suggestion or not!

I have also given and received vouchers for online stores, but in this case I was particularly careful to ensure this was where my friend actually shopped.

I shy away from giving vouchers from perfumeries, as I know a number of people who prefer to buy their toiletries at the pharmacy.

Do you give vouchers, and do you like receiving them? For what sorts of shops you think vouchers the perfect gift?

– Rike Horstmann

6 thoughts on “To give or not to give … vouchers

  1. Tee

    Hi, Rike. First of all, I’m assuming vouchers in Germany are synonymous with gift certificates, the term we use here in the States. I have always thought they worked well as gifts, as long as you’re aware of the tastes of the individual at a particular store, as you mentioned. Sometimes, certificates can be purchased to be used at any store in a specified mall and that sounds good, too.

    I believe, though, here anyway, that you need to make sure there are no strings attached to it. For instance, sometimes they latch on a cost to be deducted when it’s first used. Or they charge a certain amount of interest for each month until it’s used up. One needs to know up front if there are any hidden costs to the consumer, so that a $50 certificate is just that, or will it be less when initially using the card.

    Secondly, and this has happened to me only a couple of times, but the gift card doesn’t work when trying to use it. The waiter will come back and say there’s nothing left on this card or it hasn’t been registered. Something obviously went wrong on the purchasing end of it, but you really can’t prove it, unless you have the original receipt. Even then, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the establishment has to take it.

    Another one is that the gift card recipient files it away for future use and never uses it. Bummer. My husband is like that. We’ve found a couple of gift cards he received a year ago from co-workers unused. So, you need to know if there is an expiration date. Some cards will begin deducting a certain amount each month past a specified date if the card isn’t being used.

    These are pitfalls that only happen occasionally, of course. If one is going to go thru the process of standing in line and getting a card, why not just give the person money instead. You can buy an inexpensive token gift, something cute, wrap it up and maybe fan-fold the paper money you give and gather it in the middle to make a bow. Or just include it in the envelope. That way they really can do whatever they want with it. I know giving money sounds cold, but definitely not to the younger set. My kids used to enjoy taking advantage of the after-Christmas sales. They really purchased some great clothes.

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  2. Rike

    Tee,
    of course I mean gift certificates. Perhaps I got “vouchers” from British English? Thanks anyway for pointing this out!
    It has never happened to me that I was confronted with expiry dates or hidden costs like you describe. I seem to recall that a rather high court here settled the question of expiry dates on gift certificates, and as far as I recall they were either deemed illegal, or had to be pushed back by years. I’d have to look it up! Anyway, it always pays to read the fine print ;-) .
    As for gift certificates not working, I always keep the receipts for those I buy for at least a year, so in case anthing’s wrong with it the person I gave it to could contact me. There has never been a problem with online gift certificates for me, either as the person to gave them, or received them. Perhaps they are the safer way?
    As for the after-Christmas sales, I love them, too …

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  3. Tee

    Rike: Tee,
    of course I mean gift certificates. Perhaps I got “vouchers” from British English?

    Oh, I wasn’t criticizing—I hope you know that, Rike. I always think it’s cute when I hear something described from another country in a different word or version from ours. For instance, I’ve heard some people in other areas of the world refer to air conditioning as only “AC.” Here we tend to use the two words, surprisingly, since Americans seems to enjoy abbreviating practically everything or using initials instead. I just wanted to make sure vouchers was what I thought it was—and it was.

    Good luck in getting what you want from your mother-in-law for Christmas and that the shop she chooses is one that you like, too.

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  4. LeeB.

    I love giving gift vouchers/gift cards/gift certificates and love receiving them. I generally tend to give out ones for stores (like B&N) that I know people can use in the actual store or online.

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  5. Jane AAR

    I don’t always like GIVING gift cards, but I like receiving them. As a 21 (almost 22) year old, I don’t always trust my parents’ tastes in clothes, books, etc. for me. They tend to be hit and miss, and I don’t like the diea of them spending money on a shirt or something that I’ll never wear. iTunes cards are also always a good gift– everyone likes music, right?

    Though Tee made a good point– sometimes something goes wrong in the purchase, and the card doesn’t work. That has happened to me, with a Subway card. I asked for them one year because I ate Subway for lunch really frequently, but the first time I used the card it didn’t work. Frustrating, and not much you can do about it.

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  6. xina

    I have given many gift certificates/vouchers from Amazon. I am amazed at how many love this. I have several people who are hard to buy for but loved the GC from Amazon last year. Am doing the same for them this year.

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