Reflections: Christmas and the art of giving

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By Thomas W. Ivines

It's the same thing every year. My wife and I heatedly discuss what we will buy everyone for Christmas, and in the end we buy what she wants. At Christmas, it seems, I am just a laborer elf. Well, this year it will be much different because most everyone will be getting gift certificates. That will take a whole lot less effort and time.

Getting gift certificates for Christmas does not seem too exciting on Christmas morning but that all changes once you get to the store where the certificate was issued. For the grandchildren it's Toys-R-Us, and for the adults it's Macy's and major restaurants.

Can you picture the grandchildren as they explore the shelves of Toys-R-Us looking for that perfect toy? That's something neither grandpa nor grandma could provide. If only the parents would let them buy what they really want, like that electric set of drums. Oops! At least it's their problem now.

The nice thing about restaurant gift certificates for adult children, special friends and other relatives, is now you can get one card that covers multiple restaurants. That way they get to choose the one they want.

Besides, what you would normally spend on a gift will cover more than one meal. I suspect my adult children will want to eat out when they are busy returning gifts they got from other relatives. Relatives never know what size to buy, you see, and it is usually clothing.

Speaking of returning Christmas gifts, have you heard the new policies most department stores are enacting this year? They will take returns, of course, but they are now going to charge a restocking fee. That will probably make the lines angrier and longer.

Even Wal-Mart is changing its return policy. Well, yes they are still taking returns but only a limited amount. And, if you do not have a receipt you will be held to returning only one item a month.

As you read this, there are only 12 days left to Christmas shop. That's hardly enough time to Internet shop. Chances are, the items you order will not get here until after Christmas, especially with the mail slowing this time of year.

You will just have to get up and go out and fight the crowds. But remember, it takes far less time to buy gift certificates.

One more thing to mention about gift certificates; if you buy them as gifts this year; most of them have expiration dates, so you might want to mention that to the recipients.

Most gift certificates are only good for six months. It would be a shame if you spent the money only to fatten the pockets of the merchants.

A little note on the card you give to them with the gift certificate is sufficient and will ensure they use the gift in time.