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Gift Cards — Why Now?
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Gift Cards

I just learned an important lesson today – if you receive a gift card, use it immediately!

Family members feel obligated to buy me presents, but have no idea what to buy, so I get gift cards. I had three gift cards to the same unnamed Bookstore chaiN, two from last year. I would normally use them on the ‘Net, but this Bookstore chaiN has an annoying policy about gifts cards on the ‘Net – you may only use one card per transaction. Say you want to buy something worth $60 from them and you have two cards worth $75, you can only use one of those cards and must use a credit card for the difference.

Now if you make the trek to a local store in this Bookstore chaiN, you can use multiple cards, but everything in the store is full retail price. They win and you lose.

The other thing they don’t really mention anywhere, is that while the cards technically don’t expire, after some unknown period of time you are charged for not using the card in a timely manner. The charges are sufficient to reduce a $50 gift card to $8 in one year. They really aren’t very nice people and should not expect to receive any further custom from me until sometime after the next blizzard in the seventh circle or I finish two terms as President.

There are times when I grow nostalgic for the ability to pick up a radio and call in an airstrike, but people would probably be annoyed if I did.


1 Michael { 01.04.08 at 10:00 pm }

The law on that just changed. If there’s an expiration date or a fee, they have to mention it on the card or the associated materials.

2 hipparchia { 01.04.08 at 10:07 pm }

i made the mistake of giving those same gift cards one year. there wasn’t a problem with the expiration date, we’re a bookish family after all, but that internet vs store thingy caused the recipients some aggravation.

3 Bryan { 01.04.08 at 10:40 pm }

I was spoiled by the Amazon procedure where you just dump it into your account and use it as necessary. What was really annoying is that I avoided book purchases after September and left hints for my Mother to parcel out regarding books I would like but haven’t bought, and I got the cards anyway. The cretins make approximately $8 billion dollars per year with this scheme. It really ticks me off. Most of the books I bought last year were work related and I needed to charge them to business expenses. I am really ticked off as I had a 30 mile round trip to find this out, and at $3.13/gallon even in the Honda that adds up.

I really miss my Walden Books. I got discounts and coupons and book bags and special sales – all kinds of things – and now I’m stuck with this Bookstore ChaiN. The ‘Net has good prices, but I like to browse.

4 Michael { 01.04.08 at 11:52 pm }

Here in Berkeley, a Bookstore chaiN opened across the street from a local bookseller, and failed. The local bookseller remains in business.

5 Bryan { 01.05.08 at 12:13 am }

I’m glad to hear it, because I’m really disheartened by the thought that all people want is low price or coffee shops when they go to a bookstore.

It’s nice to walk in and have someone you recognize tell you they have something you will probably be interested in looking at, if not buying. Or going to the register and having them reach under the counter and hand you another book that they saved for you because they knew you would come looking for it.

The BookchaiNs can kiss my grits.

6 Michael { 01.05.08 at 3:05 pm }

As a huge bibliophile and a graduate student in a discipline that runs on the printed word, I’ve gotta say I tend to prefer the online merchants to the locals. We had an independent bookstore in this town for a lot of years–and it folded the instant Barnes & Noble opened a small retail store clear on the other side of town, and Borders opened a larger one across the street from that B&N store. Didn’t even wait around to see if it could compete.

I tend to suspect that it couldn’t have, because I could never find anything I really wanted in that independent store anyway. They had a lot of whatever was most popular at the moment, but no real depth. The local B&N store is more oriented toward music and videos than books, so I hardly ever go in there–but I buy a ton of stuff from B&N online and happily pay the $25 membership fee each year, since I routinely save four or five times that much when I buy my textbooks or research materials.

I avoid Amazon because I don’t care for their joke of a privacy policy. However, Amazon’s foreign affiliates are about the only game in town if I want to buy French or German or Canadian books that I can’t get in this country. (And that happens fairly often.)

I don’t care for Borders online that much, since it’s effectively store-based. But I do patronize the local Borders from time to time. What I’d really like is a good used book store. We’ve had a couple over the years, but they’ve never been able to stay afloat–probably because they’ve been located too far away from the university for it to be convenient for students to get there. (I can recall at least two or three used bookstores within walking distance of campus in both Urbana-Champaign and Boulder, not to mention Hyde Park in Chicago.) But still, I doubt they’d be able to compete with the network at Alibris or ABEbooks. Bottom line–if I need the book, I’ll go where it’s most convenient to get it, and at a price I consider reasonable. If that’s a local emporium, great. If not, fine.

7 Bryan { 01.05.08 at 5:46 pm }

I don’t mind paying more for service, but most of these chains charge more for less.

Walden was eaten by Borders and is tied to Amazon.com, but they moved everything to Pensacola after a Booksamillion moved in and discounted prices for several months. Now Booksamillion charges full retail.

We do have a used bookstore, but it caters to the tourists. It was a good place to find Canadian books when we had a significant number of “Snowbirds”, but the Hedgemony has destroyed that.

8 Michael { 01.05.08 at 7:21 pm }

Well, I actually think before Borders & B&N came in to markets like Pittsburgh, the big discount chains like Atlantic Books and mall-store B. Dalton and Waldenbooks were practically all there were, and those were considerably worse. There’s still a couple good local bookstores around there, I remember a Mystery Bookstore in a little town called Oakmont. Lots of local nooks in different neighborhoods, anyhow.

Berkeley’s different in a lot of ways. Completely different, really. The idea of corporate culture is uniformity, that Pittsburgh and Berkeley should look the same is absurd.

9 Bryan { 01.05.08 at 9:27 pm }

Bezerkly is definitely different in a lot of ways. I have a nephew who graduated from UC Berkeley and I’ve been there a few times. They support independent stores, where most cities don’t.

10 ellroon { 01.05.08 at 11:53 pm }

Some gift cards don’t keep track of what is on it, so I’ve started keeping the last receipt wrapped around it in my wallet. I think Borders allows you to use the gift cards as money in that you can use the coupons and specials with them. I don’t think they expire within a year, but am not sure because I always use the card within a few months. (Bought my xmas books with them this year: Valerie Plame’s book, Naomi Wolfe: The End of America, Naomi Klein: the Shock Doctrine)

11 Bryan { 01.06.08 at 12:15 am }

Every card is different, with different rules and different procedures. I’m going back to checks and avoid these problems, even if some think the cards are less “tacky” or something.