Thursday, March 06, 2008

DO LOOK YOUR GIFT CARD IN THE MOUTH!


Grab any gift cards you have and go on a shopping spree. I know, I know; I am the same way. I like the idea of having a stash of cash (via gift card) which is earmarked for shopping. I may not always know how I want or need to spend that particular card. I may be saving it to use for buying that special birthday gift for someone else. Perhaps you are like me and put yours away in a "special" place and now can't find it Or, unlike me, you really don't like to shop.

Consumers spent an estimated $26.3 billion in gift cards at retailers alone last holiday season, compared with $24.8 billion in 2006 and $18.48 in 2005, according to the National Retail Federation. However:.... About 27% of adults who received gift cards during last year's holiday season still hadn't used them nearly a year later, according to an October survey by Consumer Reports. That was up from 19% the previous year.

Sharper Image announced late last month that it was suspending the acceptance of gift cards, at least temporarily. It urged shoppers to check the company WebSite later this month for an update. That is typical of businesses that reorganize under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which treats gift cards as a loan, not as cash.

As more retailers file for bankruptcy or go out of business, gift cards are turning into worthless pieces of plastic. The number of bankruptcies and liquidations this year is expected to reach the highest levels since the recession in 1991. And because gift card holders fall into the class of unsecured creditors, experts say they're "low in the pecking order" of people that businesses need to pay back. One analyst estimates that shoppers could lose 75 million dollars as restaurants and stores close.

So, my advice is to grab those cards and go shopping! And if you are really one of those people who hate to shop; send an early birthday gift to someone who has a birthday coming up, i.e. your grandson who would love to use it on a video game for his xBox 360, your granddaughter who would love to use it on iTunes purchases or to a dear friend - just because.

An interesting side development in all of this is that competitors of bankrupt companies may start offering discounts on certain cards. Sharper Image's rival, Brookstone Inc., is capitalizing on the situation by announcing last week that it would exchange now worthless Sharper Image gift cards, for 25 percent off any purchase.

But, I would not wait around to see how far that goes; I am off to start drinking my Grande Soy Lattes with the gift cards from my son. I have two right now, because I hoard them for special times. I guess I shall start having more "special" times.

1 comment:

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