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Gift cards were a great idea — until Big Business thought it up

Gift cards for food and beverage businesses sit on display for sale at a retail store in Dallas on Nov. 16, 2021.LM Otero/Associated Press

All of my adult life I have been amazed at the ability of American marketing to create a perceived “need” for unnecessary products in the minds of consumers (“You can return an ugly sweater. What about a gift card you don’t want?,” The Fine Print, Business, Jan. 7).

More than 50 years ago, my mother used to give gift cards that she made herself. She would cut out a picture of the suggested gift from a catalog or advertisement and paste it on an ordinary envelope. She would place sufficient cash in the envelope, seal it, and give it to the recipient. No fees, no expiration, no need to cash it in, and it was good practically anywhere in the world. My mother, without thinking about it, had anticipated and solved all of the problems detailed in Sean P. Murphy’s column. The only problem with her scheme was that she never came up with a way to profit from it.


James W. Slack