2007.12.05 Please don't card me again this Christmas

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

Has everyone finished their Christmas shopping yet? Get with it, folks, there’s just over two weeks to go and you don’t want to end up buying gift cards, do you?

I get a kick out of the publicity that gift cards get this time of year, with sellers offering them as an alleged “perfect” gift. What makes them better than just giving the recipient cash? Very little more thought is involved, and neither is much more effort. You can buy many major name gift cards at pharmacies, gas stations and department stores these days without even having to visit the actual store named on the card.

And unlike cash, you’re allowing the person to buy whatever they want only as long as it’s available at the store in question, they don’t misplace the card and it doesn’t expire before they get around to using it. And what happens to the remainder of the amount on the card?

I’m carrying two gift cards right now. One has 48 cents left, spendable at a national chain pharmacy. The other contains a balance of a whopping 46 cents, ready to blow at a famous discount store. Is it worth going back to buy something else just so I don’t waste such small amounts? Pack of gum, anyone?

Besides, there’s no reason to settle for a mundane gift card when a multitude of stupid gifts are available in all price ranges. Take, for instance, a Major League Baseball casket.

Yes, now you can be buried in a fully-licensed coffin decorated in the colors of your favorite baseball team, complete with team logos. Chicago Cubs fans have waited an eternity for the team to win the World Series, now they can spend eternity in an official Cubs casket, just $3,500. Rather be cremated? No problem, team urns are a bargain $700.

Too morbid? A Toledo company is offering what I’d never think of for a gift idea (not that I’d considered coffins, either). The ad reads, “Hey, guys...Take a tip from Santa. Forget diamonds or a fur coat. Get what she secretly wants and desires.” Sounds good, except the ad is for bathtub reglazing. “Gifts certificates available,” the ad continues. Give one of these to that special woman in your life and you just might need that casket sooner than you thought.

Another retailer is offering gift ideas for various budgets. In the under five dollar category is a set of three storage boxes. Yes, nothing says “I love you” like not one, not two, but three empty boxes.

A different company is offering two canvas shopping bags with the company logo for only five dollars. Perfect for carrying around your empty boxes.

Or why not give someone half a gift? One famous retailer is advertising a twin size airbed or a 12 volt pump, your choice, $10 each. “Here, honey, I couldn’t afford both the bed and the pump, so I just got you the pump.” Yeah, that’ll impress her.

I like how some companies are branching out into new areas. For instance, the Black & Decker firm, long famous for power tools, is now making toasters. I would expect that to be a tough, long-lasting unit, ready to handle any and all industrial toasting needs I might have for many years to come.

But what if manufacturers of “softer” goods resent this encroachment on their territory? Can we expect, for instance,  a Martha Stewart brand chain saw in retaliation next Christmas? Hey, Martha! Don’t forget, it was my idea.

Or how about a prop replica from a decades-old Christmas movie? Remember “A Christmas Story,” in which the late Darren McGavin’s character wins a lamp shaped like a woman’s leg? You don’t? Nonetheless, over 20 years after the movie went to video, a line of merchandise has hit the market, including greeting cards and the lamp in three sizes (as a full size lamp, a smaller tea light holder or a night light). I think I’ll pass.

And since no one bought them last year, the George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton dancing and singing action figures are back. Remember, if you must have one, wait until after Christmas and pick up as many as you want for 75 percent off. They’ll be right next to the Chia Pets.

The more I think about it, the gift card idea isn’t sounding all that bad. But why waste the gas going to a store? Just send me cash, I’ll buy my own stupid gift. They still make The Clapper, don’t they?

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